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.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Editing

Shooting at 80 yards: first time I've gotten all six arrows onto the target while shooting left-handed.

It has been a week of editing.

Did a few new words on Two Moons in the moments in-between grappling with Ghost Dog, but only managed 1,474 new words, averaging 235 words per hour.

Putting that into perspective, I cut 8,511 out of Ghost Dog, which is a thing. The third novel now runs at 89,476 words, which hopefully means it will read faster. And be more fun to read too.

My weekend was spent doing archery. Practice on Saturday, then the Tri-club shoot on Sunday. I managed to shoot ten points over my handicap, which I was very pleased with.

Plan
Out loud read of Ghost Dog, then new words. Need to get back into my writing groove.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Covers from Models


I make models, I just do. It's my thing.

I've also been known on occasion to play games with them. Above is the model reference picture I sent to the artist who drew my cover for Bad Dog. I have made up several models of my CASE-2X Dogs, each of them a representation of one of the characters combat armour suits in the story.

As I made the models, I found ways to make each a little more interesting through slight variants in the pose or choice of weapons. The Dog here is the second attempt of capturing Sergeant Tachikoma's ride in Bad Dog.


And this is the picture I sent my artist for the cover of Strike Dog.

Because Tachikoma is now a Lieutenant she gets to ride in a CASE-2XC command variant. As you can see, I added antennae to the back of the Dog, and changed the head of the suit too. I added the shoulder mounted missile pack to match the description in the book.

Things got changed for the cover, but I'd rather have a dynamic cover to sell the book than a precise representation of the model.

Below is one of the pictures I've sent to my artist as reference for making the cover of Ghost Dog. On the left is Master Sergeant Ferretti's Air Force security Buster CAS-C4P. It's a glorified mobile command-and-control center for running combat androids.


On the right is Captain Tachikoma's upgraded CASE-2XC-Mod-2, special forces command variant. Making this has given me ideas for CASE-2X-Mod-2 models I could make.

I can't wait to see what the cover will look like.

Summary

Last week was taken up with things other than writing stories. For example, I spent two days writing an article for the Galactic Journey blog. They always take time, because of the research I have to do, and finding suitable pictures.

I then drew up a brief for the Ghost Dog cover, and started talking my artist about what I wanted. Which is what inspired this blog.

Despite all that, I manage to produce 1,275 words in the spaces between doing all the other stuff. I didn't keep a precise record of the time, but about two hours typing, so an average of 633 words per hour. Mostly done in fifteen minute segments.

NB: For those of you who my be interested in my model making you can see more here.

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.

Summary

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

RollaBot


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.

Summary

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.

Plan
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.

Sigh...

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.

Plan
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. 

Priorities
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.

Summary

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.

Priorities
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.

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