Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Lost in Writing

I was shooting at the Pagoda shoot run by the Royal Richmond Archery Club.

I'm having one of those days when my doubts are at the forefront of my mind. Which considering my new word count last week met my targets seems a little bit odd to me. Clearly my emotions are rumbling in the background, and doubt seems to be my special friend.

Also, self-deprecation is a peculiarly British trait.

Now I sit here typing thinking what makes me write? I keep being told it should be fun; happy, happy words flow. But while I find myself typing I can't always say it feels like fun. Doesn't feel like work either. I just feel lost.

This is probably because I'm writing into the dark, which is a new thing for me. I no longer know what is going to happen. Well, more correctly speaking, how "what" is going to happen.

Targets out at 80 yards.
In the meantime I've been shooting. First competition of the year, where I placed last in my category having completely failed to sort out a sight picture at 80 yards. Sucks to be me.


Last week I wrote 8,190 words, which took 27.5 hours, averaging 297 words per hour.

It was cold and then it began to rain. With Chris and Richard from my club.

Thursday, 12 April 2018


My partner found this, the site is here.

I have RollaBots in my third novel Ghost Dog, and this real world project has given me a few extra ideas to add a bit of gloss to their description in the novel.

You've got to love it when real life brings you stuff like this.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 3

This is the third part of a series on mil-sf. Here are the links to parts one and two.

To say that the discussions around military SF can become somewhat fraught, as a result of the conflict generated amongst the readers, is probably an understatement.

Hence this series of blog posts to raise these issues, and address them.  Especially the opinion that people who read military SF are in some way bad, and that those authors who write the stories have a conservative political agenda.

Taking the latter point first.

While some authors do write from a conservative perspective, not all writers do. Therefore to make such an argument is to fall into the trap that has a number of different logical fallacies.

As for readers of military SF being somehow bad, from a notion that they have been brainwashed by right wing propaganda, and will therefore end up as sociopaths, I can only sigh.

I repeat again that this argument is based on logical fallacies that do not stand up to scrutiny. The research on the subject of the influence of media on the behaviours of people can at best show correlation. And correlation is not causation.

The difference between the two being that it's easy to correlate connections between events, but that doesn’t mean that one caused the other.

This is as a result of how we think by using heuristic analysis to come to conclusions.

The research into thinking processes has revealed that we have a large number of cognitive biases, and that the beliefs and opinions we hold are more likely to be wrong than right.

Let me repeat that.

Our beliefs and opinions that we hold are more likely to be wrong than right.

People tend to believe that they come to hold their opinions from looking at the evidence, but the research shows that people form opinions, and then look for evidence that supports their choice.

Furthermore, people tend to discount evidence that challenges their beliefs.


So, if anything I've said has caused a strong emotional response, that's a clue that an underlying assumption has been triggered. The thing about emotions is that they should serve you, not you serve them.

War is the ultimate expression of conflict. And just because some authors write about conflict in ways trigger a strong negative response, doesn't mean that writing about war is wrong.

What the research into reading and playing games about warfare shows is that the assumptions being made about what that does to people is flawed.

Conflict is at the heart of the human condition and avoidance does not serve us well.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, what if anything do stories about war tell us about what war is good for?

Probably not a lot in the bigger scheme of things, because telling people what war is good for is probably not the primary remit of story telling in Western culture.

However, wars are fought for a wide number of reasons.

When those reasons ally with the maintenance of one’s society in the face of others who want to force change where change is unwanted, and though war involves lots of bad things happening to good people, good things are created too. The argument of avoiding war is one that has to be tempered with the costs of avoiding war, because while wars are frightening things, they're an illustration that there are no simple answers to some problems in life.

If science fiction is a genre that speculates about the effects of technological progress on society, where technological changes are driven by the need for victory, then military SF stories must therefore be a valid topic.

However, as I have observed, war is more than individual fighting; war is an institution.

Therefore like all institutions the people who work within the confines of the military hierarchy have a set of beliefs and theories based on reasoning from years of tradition as supporting evidence. If military SF fails anywhere it is in focusing on tactics, and not giving the reader a strategic context, with the necessary understanding of the operational problems that the military has to face.

The old adage in the military is that amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics underpins my observation.

I can see that this makes writing a military story that works at the level of the character motivation a bit of a challenge. Especially if one wants to keep the story interesting; as descriptions of sergeants reading of f loading manifests is probably not going to make for the most exciting conflicts.

Though as I write this I know I have a scene about checking the manifests of containers about to be loaded on trucks for a mission. So it can be done.

Assuming that one agrees that stories are driven by conflicts arising between characters and events; otherwise known as the plot, then yes, one can argue about the merits of each individual story, and its value.

But here’s the thing; if you don’t like a story it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been written. Or that people should stop reading it, because that's an opinion.

Remembering that opinions may be driven by feelings, because opinions are things that we hold dear. As such emotions/feeling cannot be subject to rigorous testing to be used as proof of anything much.

Final part will be out on Friday. See you then.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 1

Military science fiction is a sub-set of the SF genre, and readers of mainstream SF novels can be quite divided in their opinions about the merits of such stories.

There have even been editorial opinion pieces in on-line media. The Guardian, for example, ran an article complaining that using imagery of future wars to entertain reveals deluded beliefs that writers hold about modern conflict. The writer then proceeded to use this assumption to divide the genre into good versus bad stories. Not on the merit of the story, but judging them through the lens of political beliefs, and starting their polemic by quoting from Edwin Starr’s song War with its chorus line response of, "absolutely nothing!"

Therefore to write a military SF story as one’s debut novel into the field can be seen as a message about the author’s political stance.

However, stories involve conflict, and stories about war are just about conflict writ large.

Over the years I have commented on military science fiction books that I love, and on reflection my feelings remain the same. Avoidance of, or failure to discuss the importance of conflict, and the cultures that arise from conflict is to put one's head in the sand.

If you've never read any military science fiction I recommend the following without equivocation.

Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein, I discussed it more back here. A book that can easily be misunderstood and misconstrued. It's theme is service, and the responsibility citizens have to defend their polity, which I see as a discussion of Greek City States. In short, we can learn from history.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, also discussed at the link above, is a book that talks about alienation from society, through the lens of time-dilation, which makes it SF. Far less controversial than Starship Troopers, because it's talking about the human condition, rather than politics.

Orphanage by Robert Buettner, which I discussed here, also talks about alienation of soldiers from society. But in this case, the effects of training to become a soldier, which the title of the series alludes to. Unlike the first two standalone books this is a series of five novels.

The Heritage Trilogy by Ian Douglas starts with Semper Mars. I discussed it here. It's a favourite of mine, but it also talks about culture. In this case, the culture of the Marines, which is a lot of fun. And it's a trilogy of trilogies.

The Compleat Bolo by Keith Laumer. Again the first link will take you to where I discussed his work. This collection of stories about self-aware tanks are seminal to the concepts of artificial intelligence in the science fiction genre. I recently re-read my copy to reacquaint myself with the tales, which was a surprise, because my recall of them was different than the experience of the re-read.

It gave me lots of ideas for my The World of Drei homage to Laumer.

On that note, I will finish. More in part two.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Inspiration for a Cybertank Design

When I'm not obsessing over combat armour suits, I'm generally noodling stuff about cybertanks.

It's one of my passions. I have many like it.

Obyekt 279 was a Soviet era prototype tank designed during the Cold War with the expectation that atomic weapons would be in use. Here's an uncommon picture from the rear.

You can find out more about this interesting design here. I liked this rather nice quote from Wikipedia.
This special purpose tank was intended to fight on cross country terrain, inaccessible to conventional tanks, acting as a heavy breakthrough tank, and if necessary withstanding even the shockwave of a nuclear explosion. It was planned as a tank of the Supreme Command Reserve.
So we stole the divided track feature for the Panzer Jager Mark One that appears in The World of Drei series I blogged about here.

And over on YouTube there's this video.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Writing Log 2018-03-23

Not a productive week for me.

A hospital check-up has resulted in a referral for a steroidal injection into my wrist, and I'm waiting to hear the results of the x-ray results, which may or may not lead to me having to restart taking medication. That's a worry.

So Monday was a write-off. Tuesday and Wednesday I was working on my Galactic Journey piece. I then worked on and finished the edits for Strike Dog, which meant I could put it up for pre-order. That was a definite win.

Thursday and Friday I struggled with finishing Break Out and failed. Met a block that slowed me to a halt. That's always a bit of a bugger. The problem was how to show not tell in a scene where there's a lot to tell and very little to show. I think I've cracked it, but I've not managed to finish the story.

So, this week I wrote 699 words, which took 12 hours, which means I managed 58 words per hour. I should take myself outside and put myself out of my misery.

My beloved is having a two week break, so I'm taking time off to do some archery, a lot of archery. One competition at Aquarius Archery and preparing for the big Pagoda Shoot run by the Royal Richmond Archery Club, which is a big deal.

So the next two weeks look like the words will remain thin on the ground too. Still, it will give me a chance to post some other stuff up that I've prepared for just this eventuality.

Finish Break Out
Start the edits on Ghost Dog
Get the print versions of Strike Dog sorted out 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Writing Log 2018-03-16

Last week was one of editing and then prepping the third story in my The World of Drei series, Regroup, for publishing. Which turned out to be a proverbial pain to get right, and illuminated some other problems.

My Beta reader, Brian, pointed out that I had used inconsistent spellings for the same term. This happened because transliteration of Russian words are not standardized. So I had to go back and revise Mission One, all because yefréytor and efreitor were the same word.

I had been under the mistaken belief that yefréytor stood for corporal.

Instead, both words are transliterations of senior private. OK, perhaps I should have guessed that, but I had taken my original source at face value. And furthermore, to add insult to injury, the Russian Army doesn't have corporal's. There's no rank between between junior sergeant and senior private.

I made the mistake of not double checking my original source.


Anyway, a book arrived to brighten up this week. GURPS: Russia by John Ross.

I found a copy for a reasonable price of £13.50/$19.00 on eBay. I've seen it offered for exorbitant amounts, so I snapped it up. A cheaper option, for those who prefer, is the PDF. I read that Steve Jackson Games plan to eventually offer all their GURPs titles as POD books. Though this will cost at an estimated $35.00, which makes the copy I found still look like a bargain.

This RPG game supplement is simply stunning. I spent most of a day reading it, and learning stuff. The bibliography is excellent. And for me, I found it most helpful in understanding the way Russia thinks about things.

By that, I mean what stories they tell themselves.

And useful facts. Like after Moscow, Kiev is historically considered by Russia to be one of its the three most important cities. The other two are St. Petersburg (better known to me as Leningrad), and Novogorod.

More to the point, it's a bit of an oops for Russia, since Kiev is now the capital of the Ukraine. For me, knowing this puts a totally different perspective on the current political maneuvering's going on there. And serendipitously feeds into my The World of Drei series.

So, I found myself making notes and planning what to write next, which was all well and good until I found I had two characters with the same name in Break Out. So, instead of writing, I spent a whole day double-checking every name, and constructing a series bible that has all the named characters listed in alphabetical order.

That was headache inducing.

Also, my internet friend, Jason, sent me a bunch of Russian military information too. So I now have a lot more reading ahead of me.

Therefore last week I only managed to write 461 new words, over the course of about two hours, which is 230 words per hour. Too few new words, I know.

Finish Break Out and send it off to my Alpha reader
Finally finish the editing of Strike Dog done so that it's ready for publication

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Regroup – Now Available

Now ready for sale, Regroup, sequel to Mission One the third story in The World of Drei series now available.

Plot Summary
Sergeant Alisa Volkova was having a bad day. A very bad day. An enemy cybertank had blown her truck over when it attacked the command post. 
It could be worse, she could be dead. Her life would be a lot easier if she were dead.
Volkova now not only has to save herself, but also save her wounded commander. 
Just to make life worse, she finds herself trapped behind enemy lines, facing the worst winter in Russia's long history of bad winters. 
Regroup is the next exciting sequel in The World of Drei series, following on from Terror Tree, and Mission One.

Buy This Book

Important Note: If you already have a copy of Mission One, I've updated the text. If you wish to have the new version, go to your digital library, there you will see on the far right side of the screen, opposite books that have been updated, a button that says "Newer version available."

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A Brief Time in History

That moment we all knew would come, has happened. Dr. Stephen Hawking has died. My partner was fortunate enough to see him at his last lecture at Imperial College.

I read his A Brief History of Time when it first came out. The concepts were the stuff that makes for great science fiction.

Others, I know, found his book a hard read, Critics and wags said the book that people bought, but never finished reading. That's funny, but also a little bit sad that people think that it's funny. But there again, it sums up life.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Writing Log 2018-03-09

Another week, another reflective log. With added soulful, haunting melody of a Cossack dying under the green willow tree.

This last week was quite productive, despite not finishing Break Out, the next story in my The World of Drei series. It helps that I'm not feeling ill anymore.

I managed to focus and my diary records 25.5 hours at the keyboard. I produced 6,536 words, which comes out at 256 words per hour. My target was 7,500 words, which clearly I missed, but it's still my second best total for a week's writing this year.

The problem of speed remains.

At my best I peak around 600 words per hour. But, I'm losing writing time from having to go away and do research, and then getting distracted. Also, in other shocking news–not–I'm just so not a morning person, I'm really not.

However, on the good news front, I've gotten back Regroup from my Beta reader.

My plan for today is to go through the edits and get the story up hopefully by tomorrow. One annoying thing, was discovering a research error, and mistaking two translations as being different ranks, whereas in fact they were different transliterations of the same rank. Doh!

And worse still, it means I have to go through and correct the following story so as to not repeat the mistake.

This means I will also have to go back and update Mission One too.

Deep sigh.

Action Plan
Revise Regroup and publish.
Finish first draft of Breakout
Then finish edits on Strike Dog, deadline end of March.
Start next story

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Mecha Size Comparison: Real Robo

A USMC Abrams MBT next to an Armored Trooper VOTOMS Scopedog. Both 1/144th scale models by Takara.

Back here I did a post about the size of the combat armour I feature in my books.

Being a science fiction fan, for as long as I can remember, I've had a penchant for playing wargames with models. It's my hobby. One of the arguments against using walking armour suits is their size, which you can see from one perspective is a thing, but from another maybe not so much.

USMC Abrams MBT next to an Armored Trooper VOTOMS Scopedog.

If, and the if is important, one can accept humanoid tanks that can move like humans can, then there will be trade off between being compact and low slung like a tank versus mobile and able to change posture to take advantage of the terrain.

And that in a nutshell is what drives my stories.

Working out when and where mecha (a term used to describe walking vehicles in Japan, for any reader who is puzzled by the term) would make sense.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Writing Log 2018-03-02

I've been researching and planning the big battle for my next bit of writing, and as you can see this includes working out the Battalion Tactical Group formation, Takticheskaya Gruppa Batal'onov, for Operation Winter Storm. Why yes, this is the length I go too, to get the details right.

Without whining about how ill I've felt I've been using said sick time to do things I can manage. By that I mean things that don't require me to be in my creative head space, which is difficult to do when feeling under the weather. Therefore, this week I spent a lot of time doing edits on Strike Dog. I read through forty chapters, 60,000 words, tightening up the pacing to address Beta reader feedback that the middle of novel felt slow.

In between, I've been trying to do some research.

Unlike America, the details of Russian military formations is much harder to get to grips with. I don't speak or read Russian, which doesn't help either.

So I have two questions that I haven't been able to answer: 
1. Does anyone what order do units name themselves the modern Russian army, though I'll take Red Army traditions too??

In the USMC it's largest formation to smallest i.e. 7th Company, 3rd Platoon, 2nd Squad.

In the USAR it smallest to largest so it would be 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, 7th Company.

2. Power armour literally translates as silovaya bronya, but there again literal translations aren't always used, as the words may not mean what they're supposed to mean.

So, does anyone know the Russian name for power armour?  Given the popularity of such things in the media I imagine they might have a unique term.
Went with my partner to see the specialist about her recent health scare, and everything looks good. Also, been to my doctor this week for my six-month routine check-up, which was routine. So double-plus good.

So another week, and because of being under the weather I only managed 3,588 new words, which was 15.5 hours of writing, for an average of 231 words per hour. 

Finish the Strike Dog edits. Deadline, end of March.
Get Regroup, part three of The World of Drei out. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-23

So, this is the last writing diary/log for February.

Where am I? What have I learnt? What have I achieved?

With my writing, I've sent out a novelette called Regroup to my Beta reader, and I'm nearing the end of another novelette called Break Out. With Terror Tree and Mission One, these make up part one of my The World of Drei series. Once I finish Break Out I will start the next part of the story, called Mission Two.

I will need to commission another illustration for these short-stories come novelettes.

A reminder for those not into the definitions of story lengths: a short story is less than 7,500 words; a novelette is less than 17.500 words; and a novella is less than 40,000 words.

My plan is to eventually compile all the novelettes into a series of short novels. By short I mean running less than 60,000 words.

On the learning front, I've discovered how much time I waste or lose to other things when trying to write.

Some recent inefficiencies have been down to colds, which are outside of my control. Other things are down to me being human, as in susceptible to distractions from things that take my interest. For example, my hobbies like wargaming and archery, or my tendency to be an information magpie.

I admit I can't resist researching history snippets.

Also, editing detracts from producing new words. It takes time to edit, and worse still, it put me into what I call 'critical thinking' mode, which means my creative side gets side-tracked. And that makes writing new words harder.


I the first two months of 2018 I have brought my first novel to market, put up one novelette. I've also made some sales, more than my target number, but less than my dreamed goal, but that would've required Bad Dog becoming a break out novel.

So this week I spent five hours writing, producing 861 words, which is 170 words per hour. Only two days writing in the last week, due to time lost from  other commitments, and having a cold.

Strike Dog edits. It will cost me new words, but I have to bite this bullet. Deadline, end of March.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-16

Not much of a writing log this week for lots of good reasons.

Busy doing other stuff: celebrating my birthday–yay me; a morning spent shooting, because we missed out the previous Saturday; PicoCon 35; writing an article for Galactic Journey; getting Mission One out of the door and up an Amazon.

All of this meant that I only spent two days writing, and I wasn't terribly productive on either day. Mostly down to stopping to do research on the fly. I managed 1,444 words, taking 9.75 hours, which was 148 words per hour.

And this week doesn't look to be any more productive due to annual health checks, which start with a blood test and then a couple of other follow-up appointments scheduled. It all eats into my time.

I also provoked my partner into drawing up a cybertank design for The World of Drei series. Original sketch on the back of a napkin lost, as it was used as a napkin. My doodle is above.

Then I remembered a link to a 1950s idea for a Baby Assault tank, which looks rather similar.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

PicoCon 35

The theme was harmony.

Falling the day after my birthday, this year I went alone to PicoCon, run by the students from the Imperial College Science Fiction & Fantasy Society. Susan was off on an archery coaching training course, so she missed the fun. Still, I had me some fun, bought a couple of secondhand Andre Norton novels for Susan, and saw friends.

The illustrator at work.

This year the first two speakers were unknown to me. However, they weren't exactly unknowns. Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell did a two hour talk, overrunning a bit. There was a toilet break, so all was good. Paul Stewart is a writer and Chris Riddell is an illustrator and political cartoonist who does a bit of writing too. Their talk had to be the most original presentation I've ever seen at any convention.

Looking like he's about to perform a magic trick.

They talked about their books while Chris Riddell drew cartoons that commented on the presentation in an amusing manner. He was slick, producing drawings on the fly that were shown through an overhead projector. They joked, bantered, and they were entertaining.

Then we had a break for lunch.

She said she was very nervous.

Next up was the charming Emma Newman, who instead of talking about her books and writing, instead chose to talk about her work as an audio book narrator. At any other event this would have been a standout presentation in its own right.

The hand of the illustrator.

Finally, there was an author panel to answer audience questions, where Ben Aaronovitch turned up. Another very entertaining panel, enhanced by Chris Riddell's off the cuff illustrations.

As always, my friend Chad Dixon covered the event, streaming it live.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Celebrate the Year of the Dog Read Bad Dog

You will die like a dog for no good reason.
—Ernest Hemingway 

Story Summary
In 2071, Sergeant Tachikoma leads a Marine combat armor squad. She knows the Corps never promised her a rose garden, only the chance to fight for her country.

Now, she faces her greatest challenge, two terrifying alien pillars that trapped her into reliving the same day again. The day she dies.

Today, she needs every ounce of courage to save her people from annihilation.
Based on cutting-edge theories on the nature of the universe, this white knuckle military SF thriller contains drama and mystery.
“This story is great, with a very firm grasp of the Marine Corps lifestyle.”

– Sgt D. Barrow, USMC

Buy This Book

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mission One - Now Available

Up today, Amazon's KDP comes through in record time, Mission One sequel to Terror Tree now available.

Plot Summary
Sergeant Sergei Rozhkov chose to face adversity with stoicism. He was Russian and held to a simple truth that everyone dies in the end.

Besides, there was always vodka if things went really bad.

Rozhkov had lost good people in the war. But, he didn't think that the war could get any worse than it already was.

Now, faced with a tank controlled by an artificial intelligence, Sergeant Rozhkov learns that life holds frightening surprises.

Mission One is the exciting sequel to Terror Tree, the military science fiction story in The World of Drei series that asks, how will humans survive on the cyber-battlefield of tomorrow?

Buy This Book

Monday, 12 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-09

Another week of me writing about the Russian winter in The World of Drei series...

And if you thought last weeks YouTube link was to a melancholic-jolly Russian folk song, just read the lyrics as they sing this one, which can loosely be translated as, Loving Brothers.

BTW. Victor Sorokin has an amazing voice.

Yep, a couple of short stories have turned into a bigger project. Though I still plan to publish this as a series of novelettes, I can see a novel–probably several novels in this universe. And by series, I mean this is a serial.

One of the things I quite like about classic SF was the fact that authors would write short stories and then link them together, called a fix-up, to produce a novel.

I'm kinda of doing the opposite.

I'm writing a novel or three, breaking them down into chunks for release, because ebooks makes this easy to do. And once I get enough words for a print edition, I'll package the stories as collections. But because I have a story arc from the get go, I can make the series flow.

And if I mess up, which can happen–hey this is an experiment–then I can correct the mistakes when I make the fix-up. See what I did there?

So I'm having fun.

Word count this week 4,028, which took 18 hours, so I averaged 212 words per hour. This is the fall out from having email problems that ate time, and one day cut in half due to other demands, which meant less writing got done.

Projects in Progress
The World of Drei – The war is the dawn of artificial intelligence, expands
Strike Dog – Edit and layout sidetracked by above fun
Ghost Dog – Still on hold, until I've finished Strike Dog, ditto
The Bureau – Still on hold, see above for reasons, likewise
Two Moons – Sidequel story, still noodling, basically on hold
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy, still noodling, ditto

Monday, 5 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-02

I've been playing When we were at war (Когда мы были на войне) all week as I write the next story in The World of Drei series. This song has an upbeat tune, but follow the lyrics and you will see a tale of a betrayal and depression. Very Russian, and yet, strangely uplifting.

But you may be asking why the Russian thing?

Indeed, you may ask.

Let me tell you about one of my favourite books, which isn't science fiction, but really ought to be considered the template for writing about an alien culture. I speak of James Clavell's Shogun.

I hadn't really though about how much of an impact Shogun had on me until I realized that I'm using the same tricks in my stories as he did in his. Introduce the reader to a foreign culture and drop snippets of the language into the story.

So, this is me writing from my roots.

In Bad Dog I use some Chinese phrases and titles. Strike Dog has an alien language that I made up for the novel. Ghost Dog doesn't, but that's because it has a 'big idea' at the core of the story, which took me in a different direction. However, The World of Drei has me playing with Russian words to immerse the reader into a story that is set in Russia. The folk songs are helping me to get my head around cultural assumptions

Just as an aside.

Susan and I were talking about my current writing, and she came up with this pithy elevator pitch for The World of Drei: It's Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising meets The Terminator. Oh, and I got back her comments on the second installment, she was gripped by the tension.

So progress this week.

I  spent 18.5 hours writing, and produced 5,021 new words, averaging 271 words per hour.  Which on the face of it, isn't all that good.

But, one day was spent editing Strike Dog, which meant zero new words. I should note that I have the best Beta readers ever, who keep me on track with getting factual information right. I learnt things that even careful research doesn't always reveal, or if it does, one doesn't realize the significance of said detail.

One other day was spent setting up the next The World of Drei story, which required a fair amount of research.

Unlike some authors, I don't spend months doing research before I start a project. I do my research on the fly. It works for me, but it does mean when I'm starting a story I can get bogged down by having to go off and look things up. In this case, it was Russian names. I've got a bunch, but I needed more, and I also wanted to make sure that every character had a different starting letter of the alphabet for their name.

Why you ask? Because it makes it a little bit easier for the reader to remember which character is who if their names are different.

I didn't fully succeed in this. I have a Kozlov and a Korolov, which are very similar. But Kozlov is a private who is a singer and dancer, and Korolov is the colonel in charge of the battalion. I'm hoping  that will be enough to differentiate the two. If not, I will find an alternative name for the singer.

That's it for another week.

Projects in Progress
The World of Drei – The war is the dawn of artificial intelligence
Strike Dog – Edit and layout begun
Ghost Dog – Still on hold, until I've finished Strike Dog
The Bureau – Still on hold, see above for reasons
Two Moons – Sidequel story, still noodling
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy, still noodling

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Compleat Bolo

The Compleat Bolo by Keith Laumer is one of those books that anyone who has an interest in military science fiction refers to. The eponymous Bolos are giant self aware tanks, which can also be referred to as cybertanks.

To say that these stories are seminal to military SF is understating their importance.

Regardless of what one might think about the literary merits of classic SF, and the Bolo stories are rooted in sixties science fictional sensibilities. But their impact on the genre can be summed up by the fact that both TVTropes and Wikipedia have pages on the series.

I have my treasured copy of this book from 1990. And if you know me, you will know that I had to downsize my collection in the mid-nineties. This was one of the books I kept.

Anyway, The Compleat Bolo is a compilation of two previous Bolo books, and runs to 314 pages, about 110,000 words.

The two previous books were called, Bolo: The Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade, and Rogue Bolo.

The first book is a collection of six short stories. The second book has two longer stories. The first is the novella Rogue Bolo Book One, which runs out at 100 pages, roughly 35,000 words, and the second is the novelette Rogue Bolo Book Two, which runs to 50 pages, roughly 17,500 words.

The combined edition adds an extra bonus piece called, A Short History of Bolo Fighting Machines.

If you want a critique of the Bolo stories then I'm afraid you'll have to go elsewhere. I read for enjoyment, and these stories are still bringing me enjoyment nearly thirty years on. So much so, they have inspired me to write my own take on artificial intelligent tanks, and that I think that says it all.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Writing Log 2018-01-26

Hardcover copies of Bad Dog have arrived, taking my print ambitions to the next level. More importantly, I've now sent copies out to my Beta readers.

This week I've been working on my next short story in The World of Drei series. The first, Mission One, which evolved into  novelette, when I reached 9,706 words, has come back from my first reader. She likes it. So, I've sent it to one of my Beta readers for his comments.

For those who don't know, the definition of a short story is less than 7,500 words. A novelette is more than 7,500 but less than 17,500 words. A novella is more than 17,500 and less than 40,000.

An aside on my creative process...

Originally, when I first thought of this project I called it Territory. My idea was to do a homage to Keith Laumer's Bolo stories. But with a modern take, to address developments in our understanding of what artificial intelligence is.

Then I got stuck. Like one does.

I renamed Territory, and called it Terror Tree. But I was still stuck with what to do with the project.

As a novel I was struggling how to tell a story totally from the perspective of an evolving artificial intelligence. I was setting myself up to do the definitive work. That's a burden no author needs to carry, because it just setting yourself up to be in critical mode, rather than allowing the creative part of one's mind work.

Heck, over the last couple of years I've also been stuck because my day job was a tad demanding of me. It left me emotionally drained. Which is not a good place to write from either.

So to free myself, I chose to write a short story in The World of Drei series. After all, Terror Tree is a short story. One editor very nicely rejected it on account of it only being 1,419 words, calling it flash-fiction, which wasn't what they wanted.

At a stretch Terror Tree could even be considered poetry, of sorts. Well, it has a bit of poetry within the story. That counts, right?

Anyway, I've been writing the next story, Regroup, which is currently running at 8,506 words. So yes, still not a short story. What can I say? It's all very Russian; vodka and depression, with giant cybertanks, which is fun to write.

And fun is the key to being creative.

So this weeks summary. I wrote 7,191 new words, averaging 359 words per hour. I managed to spend 20 hours actually writing, rather than doing other stuff. Part of my publishing plans is to keep track of my writing time, drilling down into how I spend my day, to try and up my word count. Identifying what I'm doing with my time.

What's happening is that I'm wasting time by becoming distracted. Though some of the wasted time is actually research.

For example, I've been immersing myself in Russian culture; the songs, myths, and orthodox Russian church practices. Most of this won't be in the stories, it just provides me hooks and character perks to generate a setting that feels Russian. So its not all vodka and depression.

But the important bit is, that I've been enjoying my writing.

Projects in Progress
The World of Drei – Full on Russian stoicism in the face of adversity
Strike Dog – Fact checking, moving forward, but still a work in progress
Ghost Dog – On hold, as Strike Dog is still a work in progress
The Bureau – Still on hold
Two Moons – Sidequel story, still noodling
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy, still noodling

Monday, 22 January 2018

Writing Log 2018-01-19

Well, look what we have here.

Yep, bona fide paperback copies of Bad Dog. Colour me happy.

But that was a bit of a distraction on the day. So, this weeks work wise I managed 17.25 hours writing, wrote 5141 number of words, and averaged 298 words per hour.  The hourly word rate slightly down on last week, but not by much, and the total of number of new words written up by nearly 1300 words.

I'll take that as a win, even if I failed to reach my goal I still produced new words.

My World of Drei short story came back from my Alpha reader who told me it wasn't a short story, but rather it need to be longer. This story I'm focusing on openings, cliffhangers, and characters, as part of developing my craft. She liked it, but wanted more, because what I written didn't quite deliver what it promised.

Oh boy!

So, I expanded the short story from circa 5000 words so that now runs at a tad over 9600 words. From this I have an idea for a sequel short story, which again may end up longer than 7500 words.

Also, I have revised the cover and contents of Terror Tree, and enrolled it in Amazon's Kindle Direct program, which means it's now available as part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service. If anyone who has the first version wants the update, contact me through the site and we can sort something out.

As always, thank you for reading.

Projects in Progress
Strike Dog – Fact checking still a work in progress
Ghost Dog – Editing continues, mostly because I didn't do any
World of Drei – See above
The Bureau – Still on hold
Two Moons – Sidequel story, still noodling
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy, still noodling

Monday, 15 January 2018

Writing Log 2018-01-12

The cover for Strike Dog is in, and as you can see it is epic in its awesomeness. The book is currently being factually proofed by a Marine and a Corpsman, and all I can say is thank you.

Work wise, I spent 13 hours writing out of 51 hours.

A lot of time went on sorting out the print editions for Bad Dog. Oh boy, was that Sisyphean task. So while I may think I'm a bit of a slacker without a work ethic, the evidence seems to contradict that belief. With the caveat that I have identified some bad habits which distract me from getting down to actually writing words.

Anyway, by the end of last week I had written 3965 new words, averaging 305 words per hour. My targets are 1500 new words each day, to produce 7500 new words per week.

Zen Moment
I failed to meet this goal, but success can only be achieved through failure, because success comes from trying to attain goals.
I completed a short story, set in The World of Drei universe. I'm running with the idea of writing this series as a serialization, and when I have enough words put a book out.

The World of Drei story also marks a change in my approach to how I write.

When I look back, I did eight major revisions of my first novel. My second went through six, and my third is on its fifth.

I need to find a better way to write a draft. This is part driven by the need to make the process easier, because at times over the last five years, writing has not been exactly what I call fun. Writing and re-writing, revising and rewriting again is soul sucking drudgery. And the key to being good at anything is to have fun while doing it.

And while I can accept that all this work was required to learn how to write a novel, I need to move forward.

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

Projects in Progress
Strike Dog – See comments above
Ghost Dog – Editing continues
World of Drei – Short story with my Alpha reader, and second story started
The Bureau – Got pushed down the list by World of Drei
Two Moons – A sidequel story planning and research in progress
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy still in research

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Bad Dog Combat Armour Size

This amateur CGI animation from YouTube gives you an idea of the size of the combat armour suits I imagined for my Bad Dog novel. The Japanese work that inspired the above was an anime show I have mentioned several times over the years called, Armored Troopers VOTOMS. Being a Japanese show VOTOMS stands for:
Vertical One-man Tank for Offense & ManeuverS
And yes, they must have had to work hard to make the acronym fit the name.

Arguably it doesn't make much sense to build walking tanks, because they stand taller than tracked tanks and small wheeled armoured cars that already provide infantry with armoured support.  But in the world of Bad Dog warfare has changed from the introduction of killer robots, which dominate the battlefield.

However, the infantry will still have to go in to secure an area, which means infantry are put in power armour so that they can survive against the machines.

And then there is the problem of urban areas, where tanks and other conventional vehicles are at a disadvantage also remains.

I imagined a world where the infantry started riding the robots that accompanied them into battle and saw an opportunity to make something that a person rode in that walked to accompany power armoured infantry.  I call this the combat armour suit.  Something one drives rather than wears, fulfilling a very similar function, but providing a platform that can carry greater fire-power, and be more manoeuvrable than a conventional tank or armoured car.

However, combat armour suits raise questions around doctrine, which is all about defining how the stuff the military has, is used; and of course, new equipment drive changes.

For more about doctrine go to my other blog, here.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Writing Log 2018-01-05

Another awesome sketch by Elartwyne Estole for Strike Dog

At the end of week one I've managed to write 727 words.

This was down to me not being able to protect my writing time. I'm trying to be mindful of the WIBBOW: Would I Be Better Off Writing?

My attempt at getting Bad Dog into print was also a complete and utter shambles. To say, I made every newbie mistake I could, is to say that this was a rich learning outcome. Printed On Demand may look easy, but there's an awful lot that can go wrong.

The good news is that everything is now sorted or in the process of being sorted, and I won't be making those mistakes again.

I hope.

I've also spent a big chunk of my week reviewing the copy edits for Strike Dog, and commissioning the art for the cover. So it's all coming together.

As part of my schedule self discipline I logged my time last week. Over the four days I worked 44 hours, which is not a complaint, it's just the time it took me to do all the tasks I set myself; and when I say do all the tasks, I mean do some of them–others still remain to be done.

Mostly I enjoyed myself.


There were a lost of frustrating things that were a result of me not knowing what I was doing. And, I didn't sleep all that well, due to anxiety over what I had to do and, had I done it right? Still, Strike Dog cover commission done, and as you can see, it's going to be another awesome cover. So, I'm now laying out the text in Vellum and everything is good, so far.

But, I need to write more new words.

New stories don't write themselves, and I have some great stories I want to tell.

Projects in Progress
Strike Dog – Being readied for publication
Ghost Dog – Third book of the Gate Walker Trilogy, out later this year
The Bureau – Lovecraftian Urban Fantasy novel
New short story, sequel to Terror Tree, set in the World of Drei universe
Two Moons – A sidequel story about Mr Anderson from Bad Dog
Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy

Friday, 5 January 2018

Summary of the Books I Read in 2017

So, now it's the time to reflect a bit on what I've read last year. I was determined to reduce the number of books on my to be read pile, which I counted at the beginning of the year revealing I had 30 unread novels. I've managed to read 29 of them this year.
Eric Frank Russell The Great Explosion (read over on Galactic Journey)
Arthur C. Clarke Childhood's End
Glen Cook The Dragon Never Sleeps
Jim Butcher Dead Beat
Larry Correia Hard Magic
Larry Correia Spellbound
Larry Correia Warbound
Larry Correia Monster Hunter Siege
Larry Correia Monster Hunter Alpha
Larry Correia & Mike Kupari Swords of the Exodus
William C. Deitz Andromeda's Fall
William C. Deitz Andromeda's Choice
William C. Deitz Andromeda's War 
David Hambling The Elder Ice (reviewed by my friend Roger here)
Sarah A. Hoyt A Few Good Men
Mike Kupari Her Brother's Keeper (also reviewed here by my friend Roger)
Andre Norton Star Rangers
Andre Norton Fore Runner
Andre Norton Fore Runner: The Second Venture 
Andre Norton Stargate
Christopher Rowley Starhammer
Christopher Rowley The Vang: The Military Form 
Christopher Rowley The Vang: The Battlemaster 
Tanya Huff A Piece Divided
Michelle Sagara Grave: Book 3 of The Queen of the Dead
Clifford D Simak Cosmic Engineers
A. E. van Vogt The Battle of Forever 
Michael Z. Williamson A Long Time Until Now 
Michael Z. Williamson When Diplomacy Fails
Disclaimer: Some of the links go to same page, and didn't get around to reviewing all the books I read this year.

After reading 29 books, I've just counted my remaining to be read pile, which now has 31 books. This makes me laugh. Besides the novels I read a number of non-fiction books too.
J. M. Bickham Elements of Fiction Writing - Scene & Structure
J. M. Bickham The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
J. M. Bickham Setting
Kristine Katherine Rusch The Freelancer’s Survival Guide
Robert Shufflebotham  InDesign in easy steps
Dean Wesley Smith Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline
Dwight V. Swain Creating Characters: How to Build Story People
NB: And the astute readers will have noted that I've gone through and revised all the tags on this blog. For two reasons. First this blog is now going to be more focused on what I've written, and secondly, it was all getting rather out of hand and overly long.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year: Reflecting Back on 2017

A planet with two moons is the setting for my next novel, Strike Dog.

Before I start, let me wish everyone the best for the new year ahead.

At this time I find myself reflecting on work, life, the universe, and everything. I can report that my NHS job has come to an end, which as one may imagine has caused a certain amount of emotional turmoil. After all, jobs are often linked to one's feeling of self worth.

So, I'm taking a long hard look at what I've actually written.

My productivity has not been helped by having the day job, but the worse thing is that I haven't focused on writing new words. Because only by writing new words does one improve. I could make a reasonable argument that all the re-writing I've done, to get my first three novels knocked into shape, was practice.

But, if this is true, then the time has come to move on with what I've learnt.

Totting everything up this is what I managed, while holding down what was effectively a full time job, this year.

Galactic Journey, twelve articles, which came to 11,839 words.
Paint it Pink blog, 56 pieces that came to 11,260 words.
This writing blog, 43 articles, which came to 12,598 words.
Two short reviews for Miniature Wargames magazine, 438 words.
Total: 36,310 words.
Looking Back:
2013; ARP 18,519; PiP 9,465; Five reviews 12,735; Total: 40,719 words.
2014; ARP 23,201; PiP 12,259; Four articles 11,166; Total: 46,626 words.
2015; ARP 30,638; PiP 14,113; Total: 44,751 words.
2016; ARP 18,155; PiP 12,682; GJ 8,230; Total: 39,067 words.
Over the last two years I have written less but, what I choose take away from all this noodling is that I write a bunch of non-fiction regardless of the demands on my life. It's not a large number of words, but I do consistently write.

However, while content will remain free to read, I've added a donate to support this blog PayPal button to the sidebar. I need income streams if I'm to continue writing, and the odd dollar here & there will help.

Aggregated that includes new scenes, and two short stories, 21,537 words.

Grand total:

57,407 words.
Which is just not enough to sustain any forward momentum to develop a writing career.

Looking at the editing come re-writing this year, then I know I did a draft of Strike Dog, which came to 101,638 words that has now come back from copy-editing. I've also did  a draft of Ghost Dog, which came to 96,518 words, and I'm currently re-writing it because, well just because I want it to be as good as I can make it, and my Beta reader pointed out some problems I agreed with.

So, bottom line here is, I averaged 1,103 new words per week, and re-wrote 198,156 words during the course of the year. This means 3,810 words each week that could have gone towards new novels, didn't. Add together that would've made 219,693 words, which is at least two novels. That's two novels worth of writing I will not get back.

New Year resolutions are generally pointless.

But, my first novel, Bad Dog, is out as an eBook, and by the end of the month I hope to have a paperback and hardcover versions for sale. Furthermore, the sequel, Strike Dog, is nearly ready to be published, all I've got to do is commission a cover, typeset it, and then I'll be good to go. And before the end of the year I will bring Ghost Dog to market

So my goal in 2018 is to have published my three novels, and I will write three new novels.

This year is new words. It just is.