Monday, 26 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-23

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

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

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

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

A reminder for those not into the definitions of story lengths: a short story is less than 7,500 words; a novelette is less than 17,500 words; and a novella is less than 40,000 words.

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

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

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

I admit I can't resist researching history snippets.

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


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

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

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

Monday, 19 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 February 2018

PicoCon 35

The theme was harmony.

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

The illustrator at work.

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

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

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

Then we had a break for lunch.

She said she was very nervous.

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

The hand of the illustrator.

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

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

Friday, 16 February 2018

Celebrate the Year of the Dog Read Bad Dog

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

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

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

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

– Sgt D. Barrow, USMC

Buy This Book

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Mission One - Now Available

Up today, Amazon's KDP comes through in record time is Mission One, the first story in the World of Drei series now available.

Seventh Company's Lieutenant Morozova and Sergeant Rozhkov face an enemy that knows no fear, cannot be reasoned with, and does not stop until destroyed. On the verge of defeat, win or die, they must fight.

The first story of a future Russian civil war set in the World of Drei universe, "Mission One" tells of the desperate fight for survival against an enemy cybertank.

Buy This Book

DE Amazon

Important Note: If you already have a copy of this series, 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."

Monday, 12 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-09

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

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

BTW. Victor Sorokin has an amazing voice.

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

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

I'm kinda of doing the opposite.

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

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

So I'm having fun.

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

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

Monday, 5 February 2018

Writing Log 2018-02-02

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

But you may be asking why the Russian thing?

Indeed, you may ask.

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

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

So, this is me writing from my roots.

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

Just as an aside.

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

So progress this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's it for another week.

Projects in Progress

The World of Drei – The war is the dawn of artificial intelligence

Strike Dog – Edit and layout begun

Ghost Dog – Still on hold, until I've finished Strike Dog

The Bureau – Still on hold, see above for reasons

Two Moons – Sidequel story, still noodling

Dead Dogs – First in a new trilogy, still noodling

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Compleat Bolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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