Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas 2018


The above picture was taken by my wife as per the technical information listed above. A remarkable piece of photography given that we live in London and one cannot see that many stars with the naked eye.

We've done all the essential food shopping. Anyone would think we were laying in for a siege, and of course the tree is up with presents to be opened.

Anyway, I hope you all will enjoy the break and so I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Monday, 10 December 2018

More Reading

 

More books I have read, and as promised a review of A Fistful of Elven Gold by Alex Stewart aka Sandy Mitchell of the Ciaphas Cain series.

Though the title playfully makes one think of the film A Fistful of Dollars, which itself was a homage to Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, this tale of a gnome on a mission owes more to Terry Pratchetti with a soupçon of Tolkien for flavour. Not my usual reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed the romp, may there be more.

Next up was James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes, which I decided to get after watching the first two seasons of The Expanse.


I wanted to compare and contrast the TV show's treatment of the story with the source material. So this was very much a study assignment. So what I have to say is a reaction to the treatment of the story in two different mediums.

The book covers more than the first season of the show, which for me was a bonus as it resolves the first story arc. However, I can't fault where they broke the story for the show, because it certainly left one wanting more. Good technique.

Story wise I think the show ends up being a slicker version of the book story. The second season therefore also only gives about half the story contained in Caliban's War.


I read the second book while watching the second season of the show. I enjoyed the TV show more because the actors brought the characters to life. Especially, Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays Chrisjen Avasarala the UN Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration. Her performance is riveting.

By the time I reached the end of the show and reading the books I had gained some insights into the similarities and differences between the two forms that arise from the difference between filming a scene and writing it.

After this, and given how I've been feeling, I decided to delve into my to be read pile. I've been putting off reading the last two Iain M. Banks books because it still makes me sad that there won't be any more new Culture stories.

By mistake I read Hydrogen Sonata first, which meant I read them out of publication order. I should've read Surface Detail first, though in fact from the Culture timeline on Wikipedia says the latter takes place after the former. So not really a problem.


Reflecting now on the order I read these two books, I'm glad I chose to read to read Hydrogen Sonata first because I really enjoyed the elegiac feeling that the story provoked as a reflection of Iain's passing. My favourite Culture novel still remains Excession, but this is a strong contender for second place.

 

Then I read Surface Detail, which was a bit of a curates egg.

It's a richly detailed story, but I found myself disinterested in several of the POVs for different reasons. The Hell universes were just unpleasant, and the time spent in them dragged. The main villain, Veppers, just didn't do it for me. However, what I took away from this was that even an author of Iain M. Banks status doesn't always hit it out of the park.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Ghost Dog Hardcovers

 

As the above picture shows, the hardcover copies of Ghost Dog have arrived. I've done the Library of Congress registration and sent copies out to them, and my Beta readers.

As the Star Trek song says, "It's been a long road getting from there to here." And this being real life and all, there have been some obstacles along the way that I couldn't foresee. But, while the learning curve has seemed steep, I've come a long way in understanding and being able to do the things necessary to bring a book out.

And I've had a lot of fun whilst doing so.

OK, not all of it has been fun, but seeing my books in print and the reviews of the first have all substantiated my belief that I can achieve my goal.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

On Franchises & Reboots


I've been struggling with writing words for a while. However, this week my consultant reduced one of my medications, which seems to have helped. It may be too early too really tell, but I'm sleeping better, and my head is starting to have thoughts again.

Anyway, my blog is a place where I can write about what I write, acting both as a diary and a place to work out ideas. And I have had some ideas about the propensity for Hollywood to reboot popular franchises, and by extension retell the same stories.

My friends on Facebook often ask the question why-oh-why can't Hollywood do new stories, instead of rebooting "old" stories?

Having just finished watching Star Wars Rebels season four I can think of several good reasons for why reboots are so common. The first is simply, money.

Or the cost versus benefits relating to loss.

It's certainly the answer that most people I talk to roll out as an explanation. It makes sense. Risk aversion is part of the human condition and it drives/hinders taking action, which leads to prevarication.

However, if one studies stories, taking time to examine the structure of stories, then it soon becomes apparent that there are a number of forms or plots. Plots have themes, and stories are driven by conflict or opposition.

A long while back I wrote about reading Booker's The Seven Basic Plots. A book that should be titled seven traditional plots and the two or three new ones. OK, I'll admit that's not a snappy title, but then again The Seven Basic Plots is not a snappy book.

There are of course other opinions.

Writers have been writing about writing stories for a very long time. But if I boil the essence of what has been said, it comes down to this. The more you look at stories throughout the ages the more you realise that there are no new plots, only new treatments.

So, from this perspective reboots are more of a feature of story telling, rather than a bug. The big problem of this process is that reboots often fail to provide a fresh treatment, and I would argue that this is what drives peoples dissatisfaction with reboots.

Returning to Star Wars Rebels, and arguably the other animated series in the franchise, what they have managed to do is to bring a fresh treatment of the basic story to viewers. The big failing of The Last Jedi can be reframed as stemming from a failure to make the story feel fresh.

I've been a fan of Star Wars and take an interest in the buzz that surrounds the films. In my opinion, the problems of the prequels and the latest sequel arise from the fear of failure. Lucas and those who follow him are caught by the burden of expectations, which causes them to doubt themselves and lose their trust in the story-telling process.

Stories have structure that readers come to expect. I wrote about this  when I read John Yorke's Into the Woods. That and having quotable dialogue. OK, that's enough for now as we have to go shopping to get some food for tonight's meal.

On that note, let me finish by wishing all my American readers a happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Gate Walkers Trilogy


All three books are available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover. The ebooks are all now $4.99, and if you buy a print copy at the same time there's a matchbook deal to get both together.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

From Russia with Love

 

I wrote this piece for the retro chronicles of Galactic Journey. It didn't get used, but rather than letting it go to waste I present it now.

The sequel to Dr. No has arrived with much fanfare. Highly anticipated by the general public and James Bond fans alike. Aficionados of the books will not be disappointed by the film, which raises the bar for the film franchise.

The opening sequence that follows the United Artists logo is the same as Dr. No. A series of white circles resolves into a scene of James Bond walking along, as seen through the barrel of a gun. The tempo of the music rises with the twang of the guitar acting as a counterpoint to the main rhythm. The audience is captivated, and a hush descends over the auditorium as we cut to a night scene.

Here we're shown Sean Connery stalking through the grounds of a mansion, while in turn being shadowed by a tall blond thug who gets the drop on our hero, killing him with a garrotte: a wicked-looking wire that the villain draws from his wristwatch. And for a moment the film teases us with Bond's death.

However, all is not what it seems.

Lights from the mansion reveal this to be a SPECTRE training ground, and the dead Sean Connery, a man wearing a convincing rubber mask. The music by John Barry then plays the theme tune as the opening credits are presented, the words moving over scantily clad women dancing to the theme tune.

It is mesmerizing. Everybody in the auditorium is silent with anticipation of what comes next. The sheer audacity and inventiveness of the opening having overridden the usual rustling and coughs that accompany most films. I've never experienced anything like it before.

With this film, James Bond has become a phenomenon that transcends the limitations of its genre, turning into a spectacle that sweeps the viewer into the exotic world of espionage.

Then the audience is introduced to the plot via the introduction of the villains discussing their plans.
We meet three of SPECTRE's leaders: Number One, the chief executive who remains unnamed during the film; Number Three, Rosa Klebb a former Russian SMERSH agent who has defected to SPECTRE; and Number Five, Kronsteen who is SPECTRE's chief planner.

During this exposition we only see Klebb and Kronsteen, with the camera cutting between their faces and the hands of their leader who strokes a white cat as he listens to the details of the complex plot of From Russia with Love.

Kronsteen has devised a scheme that involves luring the British with the opportunity to get their hands on a Russian cryptographic machine, called a Lektor, which is used to decode orders sent by Moscow. The operation will take place in Turkey, which lies between Russia and the West. The plan involves playing the British intelligence station against the Russian consulate, and in the confusion steal the Lektor from the British, who will get the blame for stealing it from the Russians.

Klebb's assesses Donald "Red" Grant, the male agent who we saw in the opening sequence garrotting Sean Connery, who is tasked with killing Bond for real this time. But ordered to wait until after 007 retrieves the Lektor. Klebb then dupes a beautiful woman from the Russian consulate into believing she's working for Russian intelligence, to lure Bond to retrieve the Lektor.

Interestingly, there is a sexual frisson in both these scenes, revealing Klebb as a sexual predator, when she displays undue interest in both the male and female agents she recruits.

From here the film switches to London where M informs James Bond that the cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova has fallen in love with him, and wants to defect to the West, bringing with her the top secret Lektor device. Both Bond and M understand this is a "Honey Trap," but the chance to get hold of the Lektor is too good to turn down.

The audience knows SPECTREs plans, and the sudden excitement this produces when watching the film is physical. One really fears for what will happen next.

Before setting off to Istanbul, Bond is supplied with a special attaché case with a tear gas booby trap containing a folding AR-7 Armalite sniper rifle. The case also comes equipped with a throwing knife. All will be used during the film.

Bond travels to Istanbul and meets up with Kerim Bey, the British intelligence station chief, who will help 007 retrieve the Lektor. Bey describes to Bond the situation in Turkey where the British and Russians have a truce of sorts. Both sides routinely spy on each other, but use proxies for plausible deniability when taking action against each other. The British have in their employ gypsies and the Russians use their Bulgarians allies.

Then the SPECTRE plans kicks into action as Red Grant kills a Bulgarian secret agent tailing Bond and Bey to provoke the Russians into attacking the British. Their response is to bomb the British intelligence station.

This forces Bond to leave Istanbul until things cool down. Bey takes him to a gypsy camp, but soon after they arrive the Bulgarians attack, and everyone is as each other's throats. The action comes thick and fast demonstrating how effective Red Grant is in shadowing Bond.

The plot twists and turns, luring us deeper into the world, until Bond meets Romanova who is waiting for him in his bed. Unknown to them both, SPECTRE has set up a camera to film their love making, which they plan to use this to discredit Bond and British intelligence.

The plot then focuses on Bond and Bey's plan on how to steal the Lektor. Afterwards Bond escapes with the Romanova, and Bey aboard the Orient Express. However, they are being tailed by a Russian security officer who has to be dealt with.

This results in the death of Kerim Bey, Bond's ally at the hands of Red Grant, who has proved himself to be a formidable adversary. Unlike Bond, the audience is aware that Red Grant has been shadowing the hero throughout the film. So the viewer is left wondering when the villain will strike next.

When Red Grant appears, pretending to be an agent sent by M to help Bond, it raises the tension further. When the confrontation kicks off, the fight between them is fast, furious, and brutal in its intensity. Arguably, one of the most realistic fight scenes ever choreographed on film. The booby trapped attaché case and hidden knife helps Bond secure his triumph over his adversary.

In any other film this would probably mark the end of the story, but here it serves as the starting point for a series of three encounters, the plans for which are introduced through a scene where we return to SPECTRE HQ.

In a tense scene, Klebb and Kronsteen are brought to account over the failure of the plan with Red Grant's death. Number One has his henchman stab Kronsteen with a poisoned dagger concealed within the soul of a boot. Then Klebb is ordered to retrieve the Lektor, and as can be imagined, she's highly motivated to want to succeed in this task.

The first attempt to intercept Bond sees him being chased by SPECTRE henchmen in a helicopter. Bond defeats them using the sniper rifle. We then move to the final chase in a boat where he and Romanova are being pursued. To escape Bond releases the boat's fuel canisters, which he detonates with a flare gun. The scene is frighteningly realistic in its portrayal of the fear and confusion as the crews of the boats are engulfed in flames.

Bond and Romanova reach Venice, and the safety of being back in the West. But, Klebb appears in their hotel room disguised as a maid when she tries to kill Bond with a dagger hidden in her shoe. But the audience knows it's poisoned. This ups the tension to what, after Red Grant, would be a scene otherwise lacking in threat. Before he can be stabbed, Bond's life is saved by Romanova who shoots Klebb.

It may not sound it, but the relief was palpable. Bond is triumphant and gets the girl. It may be hackneyed, but the film never lets off the pressure, and the denouement is satisfying. The end credits reveal that Bond will be back in Goldfinger, and that's all we need to know.

Mark my words, James Bond 007 will be at the forefront of popular culture for years to come.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Reading

 

Being a bit under the weather I've taken to reading to cheer me up, a mixture of old and new. The re-reads are read with half-my-mind on how the author is doing what they do. The new stories are just read for enjoyment, and with half-an-eye on whether they are worth going back to re-read.

First up was a re-read. Ian Douglas aka William J. Keith's Heritage Trilogy. It's unashamedly a favourite of mine. I first came across Bill's work via FASA's Traveller RPG supplements and then the BattleTech novels, starting with Decision at Thunder Rift. Bill has an impressive bibliography, and you can find out more here.

What's even better is that I wrote him a fan letter, and he replied.

What I like about the Heritage trilogy, and the two sequels the Legacy and Inheritance trilogies, is the way he weaves a story across multiple generations of people and their descendants. Semper Mars starts with a mission to Mars to support a xenoarchaeology expedition that becomes a desperate journey across Mars.

Luna Marine and Europa Strike take the story out to the edge of the solar system. It was while re-reading these that I realised how much Bill influenced my own work. Well recommended.

 

I recently watched Ready Player One, which is a great movie, and I should probably buy the novel. However, looking around I found Nick Cole's Soda Pop Soldier, and bought it instead, because I was intrigued by his YouTube channel. I think there's a lesson to be learnt about discoverability from that chain of events.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the direction the story went in. A different take on conflict that made me think about how one tells stories.  Definitely on my pile to be re-read. Lots I can learn from him.

 

I then re-read another old favourite John Ringo's Aldenata Legacy series. The first book is A Hymn Before Battle, which kicks off the series with a bang, followed by Gust Front. The series was meant to be a trilogy, but it grew into a tetralogy when the third book, When the Devil Dances, had to be split into two books, the second part being called Hell's Faire.

Again, this was a re-read to study how he did... what he did. I noticed some interesting techniques that I hope to be able to use myself for my next The World of Drei novelette.

I also read another of the Harry Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Proven Guilty. While this is not a re-read for me, I was acutely aware of my writer brain taking note of how Jim tells a story. It left me much to think on.

 

Finally, I'm about to start A Fistful of Elven Gold by my friend Alex Stewart. Delayed because my beloved grabbed it first. All I can say is that Susan enjoyed the story. I will comment more when I've finished reading it.

That's it for now, catch you all on the bounce.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Fickle Fame

 
 
I caught this from David Langford of Ansible fame.
Paul Cornell, whose connections with Doctor Who include many tie-in novels since 1991 and scripts for three broadcast episodes, dared to tweet that Jodie Whittaker was "A great new Doctor'." He was swiftly put in his place by Twitter twit Jr Hunter with 'Yea... I could tell you never seen previous doctor who's'. (7 October) Another such pundit dealt with Neil Gaiman, also a long-time Who enthusiast and scriptwriter: "ahh so your a new fan because the doctor is a woman not a real fan of the show since the 60's then." Truly all knowledge is contained in Twitter.
Which I think just about goes to show that no matter how famous you are, or well known in a particular area that someone will not have heard of you.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Ghost Dog Print Pre-Order


Print editions available next week.

Amazon US isn't showing the ebook link, I don't know why, but I've queried them so hopefully this should be fixed soon. If US readers go to my author page the ebook link does appear there when you click on Ghost Dog.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

RollaBot



All Terrain Surveillance Robot - Guardbot. This version is a little bit, a lot, larger than the RollaBot I describe in my novels, but it gives one the general concept. Though if you go to their site they say it will come in a range of sizes, so that's good.

The problem is that when I started writing my trilogy back in 2012 the descriptions of the androids, RollaBots, and SnakeBots looked science fictional. Now it seems that will be sold on Amazon in the next few years.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Ghost Dog – Now Available


Story Summary

Newly promoted to the rank of Captain, Tachikoma will now lead another off-world mission. This time to retrieve advanced alien technology. 
The problem is that her team will have to travel to a planet where the pillars only open once every six months. The timing for their return is crucial to the success of the operation. 
Waiting for them is an unforeseen destiny. Can Tachikoma return all her people alive along with alien technology that will change the world? 
Cutting-edge scientific theories underpin the mystery that drive this thrilling military SF roller-coaster ride.
“This story is great, with a very firm grasp of the Marine Corps lifestyle.”

– Sgt D. Barrow, USMC
"High concept, high calibre character-driven Mil-SF. Compulsively readable."

– Alex Stewart aka Sandy Mitchell author of the Ciaphas Cain series


Buy This Book

Friday, 5 October 2018

Ghost Dog Cover Reveal


At last I'm getting to the point where the end is in sight. I've been doing the final copy edits on Ghost Dog and here's the cover sans typography. As you can see it's another great piece of artwork from Elartwyne Estole.

Meanwhile, I've been watching USMC shooting videos on YouTube. One of my Beta readers pointed out some procedural mistakes in how my main character was teaching another character to shoot. Since there's the right way, the wrong way, and the Marine Corps way, I'm revising the scene.

Hopefully, the electronic version of Ghost Dog will be up on Amazon by end of next week. 

Friday, 28 September 2018

Ghost Dog Cover Teaser Two


It has been a tough week for me, and the technical edits are still a work in progress on Ghost Dog, so here's another teaser for the cover.

This last week I've spent time working through The Bureau, which is weird. I'm re-reading my unfinished first novel with the intention of finishing what I started. Heinlein's rules of writing; finish what you start. Having written three other novels in the meantime, I can truly say it’s like reading another authors work.

I'm also evaluating a writing technique that was brought to my attention on this blog, called deep third POV. I'm still mulling it over. It could be the best thing since sliced bread, or just another tool to be used as and when.

Serendipitously, I began reading Dare to be a Great Writer by Leonard Bishop. And guess what, I found him discussing the pros and cons of using deep third POV, except he addresses under the title: the false limitations on first person narrators.

So, I learnt something new.

At the weekend I met up with some friends. The son of one of them was a song writer, and we had an interesting discussion on writing, comparing song writing process to novel writing. One thing that came out of it was that it made me think about grammar.

Grammar is the glue, not the work. The work is made of words that convey meaning, and grammar is just the glue that holds the story telling together. That may not be the worlds best metaphor, and probably only means something if you're at the stage where your ready for it.

And another observation from talking about how to write a novel.

The advice a beginner needs to hear is not the same as someone who has written a few novels, and is again not the same as a professional author who makes a living at writing.

My insight in all this comes from is the fact that as a former cognitive behavioural therapist my job was rooted in learning theory. Therapy is how do you get people to change habits that aren't working for them.

But like a lot of things in life, knowing something has to change is not the same as knowing what or how to change.

Friday, 21 September 2018

MorpHex MKI part 3


Thanks to David Barrow for finding this. We were talking about RollaBots, which appear in my novels and what they look like. Back here I posted my inspiration for my RollaBots. Here's another variant.

This week I finished the revision/edits for Mission Two, which my Alpha reader is now reading. My plan then is to talk to my artist about a cover for the story.

I've also been revising Ghost Dog. Technical edits to make sure I don't overdo the Moto-Marine thing. And, make sure my poor Japanese is up to snuff. Thanks to all the parties involved for helping me.

And I found some time to start working on The Bureau. Technically my first novel, with caveats on how one counts works in progress or that never get finished. But in this case, I'm determined to finish what I started.

The biggest problem is coming back to a story that I started writing so long ago is I can't remember what I've written.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Ghost Dog Cover Teaser


And here's a sketch to tease while you all wait for Ghost Dog to arrive. Copy edits are done, and I'm just waiting back on my Beta reader's technical edits (so far one omission found, a couple of technical edits, and no doubt more to come).

This week has been another one occupied by copy editing. This time on Mission Two, and it's taking me longer to do as I'm thinking about how I want to market the series, and how many episodes I want to write.

But the good news is that after some hard reflection on my failings, I'm still managing to produce new words in what some people might describe as difficult circumstances. I shall take that as a win.

However, half of my day today was taken with a hospital visit, which left me exhausted. I also have a series of blood tests to go to over the next three and a bit months too. So, onwards because words don't write themselves.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Motivation

This is cute: Death rides a pale horse.

I have a new slogan to motivate me.
Inspiration just called to tell you he’s not coming today, so start without him.
It made me laugh. But I'm funny like that. Also this one I made up.
You're sick, suck it up, the words won't write themselves.
Speaking of adversity this piece by Sarah A. Hoyt moved me. TL:DR: traditional publishing's promises are not worth the paper they're printed on. Speaking statistically, this outcome fits the definition of a confounding variable: something that can't be easily accounted for.

Moving on, it has been one of those weeks. Hell of a week. Because, copy editing is Hell. All I've been doing is copy editing Mission Two, which came back from my Beta reader Brian. He also added a lot of constructive questions that needed answering.

This is a good thing, but the amount of work, and therefore time that has been sucked up is beyond belief. It's also good because it has motivated me, despite how I'm feeling from my new medication regime. And regime is the word.

I was talking to my pharmacist about how anxious I was and whether or not this was because of the side-effects of the medication, or the fact that as a former health care professional I understood my diagnosis and what the long term effects of taking the medication were.

I made her laugh. I laughed. Medical profession sense of humour. Side-effects are another of life's confounding variables.

I also got a virus on my computer.

Nothing too serious, but it had to be dealt with. Can't remember the last time I got infected. Still, it meant redoing all my back up to make sure I hadn't backed up the virus. Ended up with a bunch of Time Machine files in the trash that couldn't be deleted.

Partly my fault because High Sierra requires you to go through the Time Machine app to delete its files. Whereas I just dragged them to the trash. Ended up having to start Terminal and go the whole cd /Volumes then ls and individually delete the files using sudo rm -rf 501/.

What a drag that was. Though I will admit to punching the air and uttering a jubilant expression of self-esteem when I finished.

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

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Magnetic Anomaly Project


I was talking with one of my readers about the things that got left out of my Bad Dog novel and its sequel Strike Dog. Things like risk mitigation etc. Also, why planet One-Nine-Six was chosen, and what about alien pathogens?

I had in an earlier draft of Strike Dog a whole chapter on atmosphere analysis and the reason for choosing to go to One-Nine-Six. While I imagine I could've found a way to make the chapter more interesting, the main problem was that it had people telling other people what they already knew. In short, classic info dump.

So it had to go.

Besides Tachikoma is a Marine, and there remains a few lines that refers to the outcome of all the discussions where she says,
"After weeks of arguments over which of the three worlds to go to, One-Nine-Six won. Mostly on the basis that a desert environment would be easier to drive out onto. That, and the fact that we could retrieve our robot teams that had either broken down, gotten lost, or fallen into a hole."
Which I judged as being all she would care about the things discussed in said meeting.

Anyway, meetings implies some sort of hierarchical structure. Here's what I wrote for my series bible:
The Magnetic Anomaly Project is the name I've given to the organization that discovers two alien pillars beneath a mountain in the Cascades. By the second book MAP has morphed into MAPCOM, a unified combatant command as a subsidiary of the North American Confederation Special Operations Command.

The organization for MAP was inspired by NASAs The Mars Science Laboratory.  So like them, I have five groups as follows:
Organic Geochemistry & Bio-Signatures 
Inorganic Geochemistry & Mineralogy
Atmosphere & Environment
Geology
Mathematics & Physics
As part of the backstory I created the Strategic Science Operations Team consists of the five following people, one of whom goes onto play a larger part in the storyline.
Dr. Carlyle: Organic Geochemistry & Bio-Signatures
Dr. John Cameron: Inorganic Geochemistry & Mineralogy
Dr. Carpenter: Atmosphere & Environment
Dr. Samantha Emmerich: Geology (alpha science team leader)
Dr. Linda Scott: Mathematics & Physics
At the end of the first three novels  I still have a lot of story to tell.

Friday, 31 August 2018

The Mighty English Longbow

I was advised to shoot higher than I thought I needed to.
Last week we went away for the Bank Holiday weekend. We had been invited by Pip Bickerstaffe to the Barlborough Longbow shoot run by the Sherwood Forresters Longbow Archery Club.

Saturday was a lovely day of shooting.

We were competing in what is called a Clout. Those of us with light bows were aiming at a flag placed 120 yards away (heavy bows were shooting at a flag 180 yards away), and the arrows are scored by how close they hit ground around the flag. We shot five dozen arrows in flights of six.

The first two ends were more about me finding my sight picture. The final dozen I found myself flagging a bit, because drawing a 32 pound longbow is a bit of thing. My recurve is 29 pound, though it should be said that they're not exactly equivalent to one another.

I didn't place, but I did OK.

After a short break there was a chance to shoot a moving target, a Red Jedi Knight standee that was drawn diagonally across the field at walking pace. Susan hit him in the eye which was quite an achievement, and got a certificate.

Sunday the weather was less clement. Rain coming sideways across the field at one point.

This time we were competing in a Rove: it's like a Clout, but you move around the field and sometimes there were animal targets. Susan hit an Owl that was suspended above the ground, at about 60 yards, and got another certificate. I came second in the Rove, which was a bit of a shock as I didn't think I'd done very well.

Barlborough Hall. A classic English country house with grounds, now a school.

As for my writing, I did an article for Galactic Journey, which took longer than expected.

I was a bit beat up from all the exertions of the weekend, as I over did it. However, I'm still on course to finish going through the copy edit of Ghost Dog by end of today. Next week I plan to look at my Beta reader's feedback on Mission Two: the next story in The World of Drei series that I'm writing.

One final note; I got my first review on Amazon for Mission One from the "Book Reader." Thank you for taking the time to read my story and write a few words. Most appreciated.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Ghost Dog Teaser


This is a picture I took after seeing the sketch for the cover of Ghost Dog. It features Captain Tachikoma's CASE-2XC-Mod 2 Dog standing back-to-back with Master Sergeant Ferretti's Air Force security Buster CAS-C4P.

Just a tease.

I've just received back the copy edit of Ghost Dog and my plan for the week is to go through and review all the edits. Once done, I'll send it off to my specialist Beta reader, because no matter how good my research is, a real US Marine knows the gribbly details far better than me.

Health wise, things are improving, slowly.

Realistically, I'm faced with taking medication for more than a year. Therefore, I'm pretty sure that before the treatment ends, there will be days when it will feel like two-steps-forward and one-step-back. Other than that, things are good.

Monday, 13 August 2018

WIP Update

A Moon shot from our flat window taken by my partner Susan.
OK, a quick update and status report on yours truly.

Last week I went to hospital for a review of my rheumatoid arthritis and the long and short of it is that I'm slightly less well than I thought I was. My usual response to a flare-up of symptoms is to take an ibuprofen tablet (Motrin or Advil in the States) and suck it up.

This time it seems I may have underestimated my symptoms: as in my doctor gave me slow release corticosteroid injection, then ordered blood tests, a chest x-ray, and I left with a bag of medication to start on, with a second to be added in three to four weeks (two part DMARD therapy).

So it's been a bit of a week.

But the upside is that it has clarified a lot of things that were niggling me, like feeling constantly tired and unable to sleep because of being woken by pain. And, with the clarity that comes from twenty-twenty hindsight, I can see that the problem grew over about three months, because there was a drop in my productivity.

And I also note, my archery scores. Not to mention my inability to hold tools to make models.

It may take three months to get me back to "normal," for definitions of normal that are set by age and diagnosis, but I'm determined to not let this bring me down. For a start, I know that even at my worst I can still write. Frustratingly slow, but a little each day adds up.

Projects

1. The World of Drei Mission Two is now at my Beta reader. Strike Back, the next installment is now at 2,955 words (episodes run between ten and twenty thousand words apiece).
2. Two Moons, a Gate Walkers sidequel featuring Mr. Anderson, is running at 11,532 words.
3. Red Dogs, the next Tachikoma novel, is running at 6,458 words.
4. The Bureau, my first novel that has been side-tracked by writing combat armour goodness, is still ongoing with 55,134 words, which is within striking distance of being completed.
So there's a lot in the pipeline, all I have to do is keep writing a few words each day, and while I expect my treatment will slow me down, new stories are coming. I'm having too much fun to stop writing now.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Mission One Free

 

For five days Mission One is free on Amazon.

And the sequel Regroup is only 0.99 pence too.

Blurb


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, sequel to Terror Tree, unfolds the setting of The World of Drei series. This is military science fiction that asks, what will humans have to do to survive on the cyber-battlefield of tomorrow?

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Keeping Fit

That is the look of the realization of how stiff I was going to be the next day.

We've been focused on life and health, because too often we take these for granted.

Part of not taking things for granted we've been doing things outside our comfort zone: as in outside of our regular routine. We'd met John Burns, aikido sensei, when we were on holiday in Provence and had been invited to attend a seminar he was holding at his dojo: Chishin Dojo.

So last Saturday saw us bright and early to drive to Coventry.

I used to be a very keen aikidoka, a practitioner of aikido, and I was once a sempai, senior student, to Tom & Maria Helsby of Brighton Airenjuko. After I went to London, I then practiced with Sue Smith and Chris Reid of Airenjuku Dojo.

However, I haven't practiced aikido for at least fourteen years. The last time I was on the mat was to go to a course lead by the late Mr. Smith.

Therefore, it's fair to point out it's an understatement when I say, it was a bit of a thing to step back into a dojo and practice again. I have to admit that I did step off the mat on a couple of occasions to catch my breath and take a drink of water, because it was just a little bit demanding, and I'm older now and out of condition.

Otherwise I think I did OK. I don't think I did anything to embarrass myself.

We drove back late on Saturday and got up on Sunday to shoot in a short metric championship. Yes, that was a thing. We were both stiff as a board, and the weather was abysmal. Needless to say neither of us shot our best. I even recorded a personal worse score.

However, last week I did write words. My records show 2,744 words.

New words. Words so fresh that no-one has seen them apart from me. I've also worked through what was blocking my progress on the next installment of my The World of Drei series. So double yay!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Quick Update: It's Hot Outside


Stating the bleeding obvious, but Britain is having a bit of a heat wave. Something to do with the sun being in the sky and all. Fortunately, we have aircon, but I do find the noise of it running a bit distracting. However, this is a First World problem, and one I'm glad to have.

The picture above is from Provence. Here because it reminds me of the ending in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. What's that got to do with anything? Well, not a lot I suppose, apart from the metaphor of the world adjusting to what is happening on it I suppose.

Bit of a stretch.

Anyway, I've been a bit distracted by health issues, so I'm behind on my work. However, while I may not be typing words like there's no tomorrow, I am back writing. I've got three projects on the go, so that when I'm blocked on one I start writing on another.

The words must flow.

Anyway, enough of me whinging, got work to do. Keep cool, drink plenty of water, and I'll catch you all on the bounce.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Back From Provence

Enjoying the day.

I've been away from my computer. We went to Provence to stay with very generous friends of ours, who spoilt us both rotten. Had a great time doing absolutely nothing.

Well, we got up late, ate breakfast, then went for a swim, ate some more, read books, and had long conversations with our friends and their other house guests: John and Chung.

Went to La Coste, a village mostly owned by Pierre Cardin, and the site of the Marquis de Sade's castle. All the villages in this area were subject to raids in historical times and are designed to hinder any attackers by funneling them through narrow streets.

Very defensible.

We also went to Goult and Bonnieux sightseeing and for fabulous meals. The French and cooking are synonymous for a reason.

Recommended.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

A Year On, A Reflection on Six Months

Walking the walk.

Last year I did a six-month reflection of my writing progress. You can compare and contrast what I said then to now by going here.

Like last year I've written a bunch of pieces for the Galactic Journey blog, which is in the running for Hugo this year.
The Big Freeze (news from a UK fan)
Still Snowing (an update on UK fandom)
March of Progress (the movie, Come Fly With Me)
Bully for Conventions (BullCon: The 1963 EasterCon)
More wooden acting (The British show, Space Patrol)
Damned if they do (the movie, The Damned)
This year I've been back writing full-time, though with caveats, as the writing also covers being my own publisher, which is something new I had to learn. Learning new stuff takes time, and I fear that I'm not as quick a learner as I imagine myself to be.

And I've got to admit, my energy levels aren't what they once were.

Anyway, I tallied my weekly running totals and double checked my figures against my two works in progress numbers. There was a slight mismatch, it seems I wrote a couple of thousand words more than I recorded.

Ooops.

Still, whether it's 68,000 words or 70,000 words, it really doesn't make a big difference in the greater scheme of things, as I've failed to meet my daily target that would've reached my target of 195,000 words.

However, I note that this is still more new words in six months than I wrote for last year. So a win for me since I have another six months to write more words.

My excuses.

Lost three weeks just down to life factors that were outside of my control. Far too many hospital visits both for myself and my partner who I accompanied for her tests, and results.

Editing Strike Dog and doing a structural edit on Ghost Dog. The former to Americanize the spelling, the latter to address pacing issues (stodgy middle). Both of these books took far more time and effort than I would have thought. Worse still, doing this put me into the wrong head-space to write creatively. They just did.

Strike Dog was 101,491 words, and Ghost Dog is 91,657. All the time I spent editing those words was time I lost writing new words. A lot of new words.

So, now I shall take my excuses outside and put them out of their misery.

Positive Takeaways.

Despite all of the above I did write some new words. I've started Two Moons, which means I'm 10,728 words into my next Gate Walker novel; a sidequel to the main Tachikoma narrative.

I've effectively written a short novel in The World of Drei series, which currently runs to 59,661 words: broken down into three novelettes and a novella. My plan is to keep writing standalone stories in The World of Drei series, and at some point I will make a print omnibus edition for those who don't like eBooks.

My ability to write a story in less drafts has improved. I think it would be fair to say that both my Alpha reader and my primary Beta reader have noticed a marked change in my writing.

I still intend to have completed three novel equivalents this year. I'm half way through the year and I've done one, and I've started on the second. Getting the third requires a Plan B, which mostly boils down to getting my fingers out and write more.

But if I fail to meet my target, at least I will have written a bunch of new words.

Monday, 25 June 2018

DARPA Reconfigurable Wheel Tracks




This has being doing the rounds, so I thought I'd post a link here for reference. My first thought was transformable wheels for combat armor suits. But you probably guessed that, given how mad keen I'm on mecha.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Light Mobility Suit



Billed as the Comau MATE – HUMANufacturing experience, this system would make a good basis for the various exoskeleton suits in my Gate Walker series. As is it would be a good start for the Light Mobility Suit used by my civilian characters, and the technology would be the basis for the PACE and MARPACE suits used by the military.

Just a few years ago this would have seen as being out of reach, but now it looks like technology is creating a future where exoskeletons will be everyday items, like cars, boats and planes.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Practice


I took up archery a couple of years ago. I've always had the thought in the back of my head that I would do Japanese archery, but as I've got older I've become less inclined to put up with the Zen mysticism of Japanese martial arts as practiced in Britain.

Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for those that do Japanese martial arts, and I practiced Aikido for 16 years, and Iaido for three, so this is just me saying as I've got older I've become a bit more cussed in outlook.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post.

I was talking to my partner about having changed from shooting my bow from right-hand to left-hand, and the difficulty I had shooting the Hereford at this year's Whiteleaf competition, which the above picture was taken at.

Last year I scored 482 points, this year 336. That looks, because it is, a drastic difference. But, when I checked my score sheets the real difference lay in the scores at 80 yards. My results for the 60 and 50 yard distances were almost identical: three points in it (175 last year versus 172 this).

Then Susan said, short-term pain for long-term gain.

And that is true of writing stories too. Transitioning from a writer with their first novel to one who has a second out, and soon a third novel is a learning process. And part of that learning process is practice. And as one practices one learns new ways of doing things.

So, while I'm not meeting my word targets, what I am managing is a reduction in the number of drafts and revisions I need to make to get a piece of writing finished. I'll take that as a win.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Break Out – Now Available


I'm happy to announce that Break Out, story four in The World Of Drei series is now available to buy on Amazon.

Plot Summary
The civil war rages as Russian Federal Republics forces continue fighting the Visegrád Baltic Alliance. The war carries on during the coldest winter to grip the country in more than a century.

In the midst of the confusion, a new threat emerges. An enemy cybertank that attacks without fear.

Now, Lieutenant Morozova must rise to the challenge and lead her platoon into battle. Seventh Rota's third platoon must be the eyes for the newly formed battalion tactical group, and seek out the enemy.

Break Out is the next episode in ongoing The World of Drei series, continuing on from Terror Tree, Mission One, and Regroup.


Buy This Book


If you've not yet read any of the stories in this series then all four of The World of Drei stories can be found here.

Reviews for Terror Tree



Very interesting. The character is an AI. Looking forward to more from Ashley. She is a very talented writer and story teller.

I really enjoyed this short story, the writer was able to bring the cold logical voice of the AI into the narrative and tell a story in the first person, which is no mean feat.

the reader is left wondering about the back story of this conflict as we only see it from the tanks perspective as it returns to combat, learning more and more on each occasion.

the first chapter of the next book, that is included has also wet my appetite and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this universe


An interesting POV take on where the future of AI driven armoured combat could go.

Particularly apposite with the recent news that Russia's military has a new armed robot tank (the Nerehta, which can be fitted with a 12.7mm or 7.62mm machine gun or an AG-30M grenade launcher) that outperformed manned vehicles in recent exercises, Colonel Oleg Pomazuev told the Russian news site Military Review, as well as Russia's taking a hard-line on the United Nations' proposed ban of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS).


  

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

General Data Protection Regulation Notice

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Generalizations Are False

Taken from All Generalization are False and adapted for fiction by me.
I follow a number of blogs, not all related to either my hobbies or writing science fiction. All Generalizations are False is blog about assessing the news one reads. She admits to a slight left of center position, but to my British sensibilities it looks pretty centrist to me.

Anyway, the point being is that she does a good job of analyzing new sources and looking for bias.

What she does, is pretty much what I was taught many years ago at Trent Polytechnic when I was doing my degree in photography and film studies.

But, it struck me, that  one could also use this as a basis for analyzing fiction.

As you can see above, I've put a yellow circle in to mark where I think I'm writing from. I may be wrong about this, and I'm open to people pointing out my blind spots. Fiction is not fact. Therefore, it's aim is not to present facts, but to tell stories; and in SF this is generally about how changes from technology might impact humanity.
Remember, stories: fictions, which are therefore not facts, rather they are imaginations that develop from "what ifs."
An important distinction. And, contrary to some authors statements, stories are not lies. Fictions are functionally different to lies. One is about imagination, the other about deception.

However, when I looked at the chart, I could easily see myself pining certain authors into areas on this illustration. As I'm sure my readers can too. And, just to be clear, I offer no judgement on the validity on any position, other than is it reasonable and supported by truth.

Not because I want to avoid arguments per se, but because my training was to be non-judgemental, and have unconditional positive regard for other people's opinions, because the bottom line is that other people's opinions are not my concern. Something drummed into me during my training in mental health.

Note: If I had a complaint about the above chart it would be the use of emotionally weighted language e.g.: unfair and nonsense. My thoughts would be to replace these with unreasonable and unsupportable, but there again I may be wrongly interpreting the original authors intent.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Reviews of Bad Dog


The latest review of Bad Dog up on Amazon from a 20 year Navy veteran has prompted me to post it here. I felt honoured to have had this man take the time and effort to write something about my work. Thank you sir.

Good sci-fi read with one foot planted solidly in the real world

Ok, I'm not a professional book reviewer. If you are looking for a critique on the art of writing, move along. I'm just a reader, and a retired military member and all of my thoughts start from there.

Truthfully, it is a pretty good story. I think it reads a bit like a short story, which I can appreciate. Don't get me wrong, I like a good Lord of the Rings style epic as much as the next guy, but now and again I like something shorter and to the point. This book scratched that itch. I found it pretty compelling from start to finish, and I can't wait for the next book to come out in print (I think it is already out in electronic format, but I like paper). I love a good near-future story where things are just different enough to make your imagination kick into gear, but not so foreign that I'm sitting around thinking "What's a flingledorp and why on Earth is this one attached to the hangwopper of a flogtrud?" Look, I want to follow the story without too much confusion. Pollard succeeded for me. I'm a 20 year veteran of the Navy and I'll say that about 99% of all the jargon, personalities, and events feel dead on which really added to my enjoyment and the believability of the story. For those of you with less military experience, Pollard does include a nice glossary in the back of the book so you don't get lost in all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms... military loves them).

I don't know if I have any downsides to relay, but I'm pretty easy to please. I'm hoping there is more to come soon.



And here three more reviews...
 

No gung-ho and serious SF Military reading

This the author first novel and I got totally absorbed from the first page to the end.

This is SF Military but don't expect finding super-uber soldiers or extraterrestrial advanced enemies fighting each other in remote galaxies, no "Starship Troopers" rehearsal at all. On the contrary, set in in the last quarter of the XXI century, the book provides a glimpse of what could be a very realistic progressive evolution of modern tactical warfare and weapons... in a geopolitical context that will also be familiar to the reader, where a reconfigured US (called "Confederated States" but not yet explained in the book what happened) is challenged by an increasingly assertive China in a remote region in Afghanistan.


The book focuses in a Marine recon unit and the pace of the action is truly good.


The atmosphere is very realistic thanks to the extensive and thorough(full) military research undertaken by the author that you can follow in her personal blog.


After I finished reading the novel, I really eager for more. Luckily a second part is very close to publication.


I can strongly recommend the book and if the sequels are as good as the initial work, I can see Ashley Pollard becoming a reference in this writing genre

  
Excellent book. A fresh view on near future power armor warfare. I felt that I was reading a good story and not the writer's opinions on how they live their own life, which is hard to find these days in any genre.


This book caught me pleasantly by surprise. I had settled into the near-future military action and begun to suspect that powered suits were the extent of the Science Fiction, but then it took off in a totally unexpected direction which I won't spoil for you. I ended up thoroughly gripped and unable to put it down until I knew how it played out. I love SF and it's great to find a new writer with ideas as well as genuinely good writing. I look forward to more.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Strike Dog Hard Cover

The layout for the hardcover dustjacket.

As I said before, InDesign is one of those indispensable programs that is a bit of a bear to get to grips with. If I were a cover designer, then daily use would make things go a lot smoother. As it was, just getting my subscription re-enabled was a run-around to find the right link on Adobe's site.

It should be easier to renew than they make it. There again I suspect they don't get many people like me who only subscribe for the minimum period of a month and go without until the next time I need to make a cover.

After all that palaver, then it was down to figuring out all the correct metadata, to make sure that if you find Strike Dog you'll also find Bad Dog. Then converting the image from JPEG to PDF for Ingram Sparks. It all took a lot of time, time I didn't spend writing new words.

Good news is that the covers for Strike Dog were finished, files uploaded to Ingram Spark, and therefore the print versions should now be available.

Summary
Writing output has been reduced, in part because I had a steroid injection into my right wrist, which after the anesthetic wore off felt like someone had driven a nail through my hand. Still, I've managed to write 3,061 over the last two weeks.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Panzer Jäger Mark One – PJM1-M1

Work in Progress: four innocent Sheridan and one AMX Takara tank models went into the making of this pile of parts.

I have a plan...

I'm a model-maker. I can't help it, I just like making things. Don't ask me why, I just do. So, given I made models for the combat armour suits in my novels, it stands to reason I will want to make a cybertank.

Ogre, for those who don't know, is a boardgame from Steve Jackson Games that can also be played with miniatures. I have a few models (lots, but let's not go there) and like BattleTech it's one of my go to games.

I tag The World of Drei series as #OgreNotOgre for a reason.

But, when I write I want to write in my own universe.

To do so means I need to have in mind a picture of what I'm describing. The picture or in this case model, need not be a precise realization, just good enough to get the idea across to others that my cybertanks are different.

Writing Summary

The last couple of weeks have been chaotic. A combination of real life, weather, and Bank holiday sports, and finally getting the print version of Strike Dog up for sale.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Dragon Awards



Bad Dog is eligible for this years Dragon Awards. If you feel like voting that would be great.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Reading List

 

It has been a while since I've reviewed the books I've been reading.

Adiamante by L. E. Modesitt Jr. 1996: I really enjoyed this story. It has a strong anti-war theme, but it doesn't preach, but rather it's anti-war because wars have consequences. The perspective of the main POV character was nicely done, and if you're looking for something to read that comes at things from a different direction, then this book is well worth your time.


Into the Guns (America Rising Book #1) by William C. Dietz, 2016: I picked up this volume after reading his Andromeda Trilogy that I reviewed here; Liked it enough that I bought the second: Seek And Destroy (America Rising Book #2) by William C. Dietz, 2017; Likewise enjoyed this enough to pick up the third: Battle Hym (America Rising Book #3) by William C. Dietz, 2017.

Now having read all three books I have reservations over his research. All F111s were retired in 1998, which for a novel set circa 2018 is a thing. The M1A1 has the 120mm cannon, and not the original 105 mm.  If you can tolerate the gaffs, then it's an enjoyable read.


Altered Starscape (Andromedan Dark Book #1) by Ian Douglas, 2016 & Darkness Falling (Andromedan Dark Book #2) by Ian Douglas, 2017: I enjoyed these a lot. Very much what one has come to expect from Keith, super science, nanotech etc, and the story rollicks along. Can't wait for the next book.


The Human Division by John Scalzi, 2013: It has been a while since I've read anything from Scalzi. This is a series of interlinked short stories come novelettes and a novella as a book that first appeared as a serialization. I enjoyed this well enough, and I'm of a mind to read the final book in the series.


Alliance of Shadows (Dead Six series) by Larry Correia & Mike Kupari, 2016: I'm a big fan of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter series, even though the Dead Six books are action & adventure with no SF content, I was sucked into them because after I met Larry at a book signing at Forbidden Planet. I reviewed Swords of the Exodus here. Mike Kupari's book Her Brother's Keeper I reviewed here.

A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, which means you really need the other two books first. Go buy them now.


Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia, 2017: On a a whim, I bought this story in hardcover. I needed something to read that would cheer me up and this book deliver in spades. It also advances the plot, and if you like books with guns this is the book for you. If you don't enjoy such things, or references to Lovecraft, or books centered around the the idea of killing monsters is fun, then it's probably not for you.


The Two Moons (Compilation of Inherit the Stars 1977 & The Gentle Giants of Ganymede 1978) by James P. Hogan, 2006: Came across a recommendation for this series and found a compilation volume of the first two novels. By the time I had finished it I had gone and found the sequels too. In brief, written by Hogan as a response to seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey and him wanting a story that made a bit more sense.