Friday, 17 September 2021

Understanding Stories


The Die Hard Pitch Meeting above is quite funny, but it was one of the first Screen Rant pitch skits that made me realize they're not as clever as they think they are. There again, I'm not as smart as I think I am either.

Still, fun to watch.

So this is another state of the writer post. I'm in a better place. The best place mentally that I've been in for a long time.

Several years in fact. Those few followers who have been reading my blog know I've been stuck, and not making much progress on finishing the next novel.

Part of this down to the medication, and part of it is from taking the time to be kind to myself. Allowing myself time to do other stuff. Getting back into my hobbies and learning new painting tricks, which you can see on my other blog

The link between the two being that making models of my ideas then sparks other ideas. And, after much procrastination, I've figured out some important story development for my Gate Walker series.

Let me explain.

When I had the idea that spurred me to write Bad Dog, by the end of the story I also knew where the next two books would go, as the first sequel drove where the next novel would go too.

During the writing of the first story I knew that I wanted to set the stories in a holographic multiverse. From this came the pillars.

I even figured out what they are and why they do what they do, but this is not actually their true purpose, or the reason why they exist. 

However, I didn't bother with working out the details of why they exist, because I didn't need to know why for the stories I was writing. Any characters guesses are just that, their best guess.

However, the next novel is developing the whole holographic multiverse setting.

When I fell ill, my ability to think went into the mental equivalent of the trashcan. I had ideas, but they didn't float my boat.

Good news, I've started having ideas again over the last few months.

In better news, I'm having ideas that excite me. There's nothing worse when writing if your ideas feel humdrum to you then they'll certainly feel humdrum to the reader. So that's the current state of me, the writer.

Now all I have to do is get back in the saddle. I'm working on it.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

An Epiphany and Revelation


Epiphany

A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.

‘Then, as if we all have an epiphany at the same moment, we simultaneously yell out.’

Revelation

Used to emphasize the remarkable quality of someone or something.

‘seeing them play at international level was a revelation’

I couldn't resist the Agent Smith call out for the title. Consider it a Mum joke. The change forced on the Wachowskis's while making their movie to change humans from CPUs into batteries, is now a meme.

The joke is that social media marketing algorithms exploit human behaviours to turn us into 'batteries' to power businesses is a tad ironic. Here's a link to a book extract on Amazon I read:

 Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Makes you think.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Staycation

Holiday memories: another time, another place.

We're having a staycation.  Susan took some time off so we can stay at home and chillax, as the kids use to say, because I'm sure that if I know the word, the kids have moved on to another. That's what the young do.

Hey, even old fogeys like me can learn new words, though I no longer feel the need to differentiate myself from the older generation.

That must be what it means to be mature. Acceptance of who you are. I don't know.

The only thing I'm sure of is that I was born, I've paid taxes, and one day I will die. That, and I know there's a lot of stuff I don't know. Stuff that everybody else thinks they know, but they don't really know as much as they think.

So, I'm painting, which has become my therapy in these troubled time. My time to put aside thoughts and be mindful.

As a result, my mood is lighter. It helps that the treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis is working and I can now hold a paint brush without pain. The simple things in life bring joy. Especially so when the pain stops.

Normal service will be resumed soon.*

NB: for definitions of soon that remain undefined at this point in time.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

State of the Writing

New news: I've managed to get my ass into gear and I'm now working on my Cthulhu mythos novel, The Bureau. Currently editing/revising chapters: three down, a bunch more to go.

Two Moons is in the equivalent of pre-production hell. New ideas, new science discoveries, and new unintended consequences are driving the project around in circles.

I have also gotten to grips with one of my stalled short stories, but other projects are taking all of my time.

Being the long time SF fan I am, who went to her first convention in 1976, I've also been working on making and painting models for playing tabletop miniature wargames, see here. And let's not start on all the other things I'm into.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Ask Lovecraft - Metaphors


Metaphors are the terrible fate that comes to take reason and sanity from 'English majors,' assuming they had any to begin with. Considered yourself warned. Step back from the metaphor.

This has been a Public Health Warning for Metaphors. Stay safe, avoid analyzing stories for metaphors.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Tomorrow War: A Paradox

I'm now going to defend The Tomorrow War by dismantling the criticism I've seen on social media. Wish me luck. Rule number of of time travel paradox movies is that it's a paradox. As such the ending will always seem contradictory.

At the beginning of the story, travelers arrive from the future and announce they are the few remaining survivors and blah, blah, blah.

Notice that the story then skips forward by a year.

That's important.

Also remember that time continues to flow.

Therefore, any sensible response that you can think, of has happened.

For example. We now know that time travel is possible and we start researching how to make a machine, because why wouldn't you?

We also know in passing that the world's militaries rally the troops and send them forward to fight.

Yay!

A Year later the losses are horrendous.

Boo!

Thirty years of preparation go by, but guess what? The aliens don't land in a fancy spaceship, and have bred vast hordes in the faraway places, and before you know it countries start to fall.

Okay, that's a bit farfetched, but assuming no one goes nuclear, it's as plausible as World War Zombie.

The creature breed like rabbits, eat like locusts, and by the time the nuclear option is on the table it's too late.

But at least they have the time machine, and can go back and try again.

We have a hint that this has happened because the heroes daughter tells him how after he came back from his week long tour he was a changed man.

And there's the paradox.

Each time the machine is used you get a slightly different outcome until the time comes when you solve the problem.

Really, is it all that hard for people to see this?

Have at it, roast me social media.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

What I've Watched

To say I've been incredibly under active, and incredibly feeling down over the last two years would be rather obvious. I've found myself rather affected by the deaths of some acquaintances, who in most cases died far too young. But, the whole world has been turned upside down, so it's not just about me.

Needless to say we have watched an incredible amount of shows on Netflix and Amazon.

Here's two that we found incredibly entertaining.

First the fun happy one. Queens Gambit, which I wasn't at first all that keen on watching. Probably down to the way it was 'sold' by Netflix with the blurb, "Orphaned at the tender age of nine, prodigious introvert Beth Harmon discovers and masters the game of chess in 1960s USA. But child stardom comes at a price."

Yeah.

Other reviews used big words like intersectionalism. Ignore them. Yes the show used the trope of drug and alcohol dependency, but it is so much more than that. It's about the passion for chess that the lead character is obsessed with, and how she overcomes problems. I like shows where characters grow by overcoming problems.

The other show that knocked my little cotton socks offs was Dark. Another Netflix show, not only made in Germany, but also in German. We watched it with subtitles, there is the option of an English dub. But, Susan has a fair grasp of German, and I soak up tone and accents from listening to foreign languages. It was how I learnt a lot of Japanese.

But that's a digression.

Dark has three seasons for a total of 26 episodes. It's a complete story, and tightly plotted. Think "By His Bootstraps' by R. A. Heinlein. I described it to a friend as a cross between The 12 Monkeys TV show, with the technical obsession of the movie Primer.

Also, the music is outstanding, both diegetic and non-diegetic (music heard by the characters and music for atmosphere and soundtrack. I loved it. Susan found it difficult to keep track of the the familial relationships, which is complicated. Not helped I imagine by the different time periods and the aging of characters by using different actors.

Regardless. Compelling viewing if you like time travel paradoxes, mysteries, and psychological dread.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Other Dimensions

I'm not qualified to answer the question. Not sure anyone is, as in can we take some theory and try to prove it/disprove it? 

Still, I like to think that we do live in a universe with more than three dimensions and time because the idea fascinates me with so many what ifs?

What ifs? are at the foundation of the SF. It is what makes SF a genre. Not mundane what ifs? But the big questions about life, the universe and everything. Cue standard response...

Things are difficult at the moment for me. So, just another post as proof of life. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Dark Matter: The Situation has Changed

My takeaway, caveat I'm not a physicist, this is a bit like the concept of 'wavicles' in quantum physics. So fields and particles equals fieldacles or partifields, I don't know, just saying.

Still, as some one who is interested in how science advances, it's just plain fascinating to see how theories evolve through the process of the 'scientific method.' Nothing is proven, it's only not disproven. A way of thinking that most people seem to have a hard time getting their heads around.

Only natural, as it's contrary to our normal way of thinking and how we take advantage of heuristics to save energy: from an evolutionary, Darwinian perspective thinking a lot is not maximally effective of making the best of minimal resources.

Anyway, enough bloviating.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Archived Episode 22: Another Military Sci-Fi Panel!

Now up on YouTube a podcast that I appeared on (can be heard on) from the Blasters and Blades Podcast with: Doc Cisca (Uber Book Fan and Army Medic); JR Handley (Author and Grunt); Nick Garber (Comic Book Artist and Super Grunt).

They're talking with me Ralph Kern and Tim C. Taylor. Check it out.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Writing Log 210516

Nothing to see here. Just me recording my first week where I've tried to write everyday.

Target 400 words per day

Weekly target 2800

Monday    177

Tuesday    0

Wednesday    261

Thursday    0

Friday    0

Saturday    0

Sunday    0  

Total    438

Had a week with few spoons.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Writing Log 210509

Again, nothing to see here. Just me recording my second week where I've tried to write everyday.

Target 400 words per day

Weekly target 2800

Monday    0

Tuesday    987

Wednesday    0 (Reading research for Two Moons).

Thursday    43

Friday    175

Saturday    0

Sunday    0  

Total    1205

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Starship Lands on Fifth

 

Go for launch, lands on fifth. I'm sure there would've been a good Star Wars meme had SpaceX launched Starship on the fourth of May, but to stick the landing this time is great news.

Our space ambitions are starting to look like what we imagined was possible back in 1950s during the Golden Age of SF, unless one thinks that happened earlier, or is happening now? It all depends on the definition of what makes something 'golden?'

I don't know. I'm not that smart, and who cares? It's all good.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Augmented Reality

 

The US Army's New Augmented Reality Goggles Look Like 1970s Sci-Fi is the title header. Bit what is more important is that this is the development of the 5G system I shared back here.

This is totally rocking the idea that I described in Bad Dog when the Marines are searching under the mountain trying to find the lost Special Forces team that had gone missing.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Writing Log 210502

Nothing to see here. Just me recording my first week where I've tried to write everyday.

Target 400 words per day

Weekly target 2800

Monday    0

Tuesday    443

Wednesday    268

Thursday    214

Friday    771

Saturday    695

Sunday    0  

Total    2391

Friday, 30 April 2021

Harlan Ellison's Watching 11

Got to love old Uncle Harlan (RIP). He was/is a divisive figure, but that is all part and parcel of the human condition. Not everyone will like you no matter how good you are/were, or hate you no matter how bad you were/are.

As a writer of little means Harlan stands as a giant. Someone I can learn from both good and bad.

Anyway, those of you who are eagle-eyed will have spotted some minor changes on the blog. Mostly down to labels and how I tag my posts.

I'm making an attempt to get back into the saddle. Regular weekly posts, but these posts may just be a record of the number of words written. Namely a writing log. Not much to see for the casual reader, just my diary, which was the original purpose of starting the blog.

Some of the pieces I post will include stuff I've found interesting. Just like I've done in the past, but I'm taking the pressure off having to do this every week. It's too distracting from my core concern to write more.

That is all. I will tag the diary posts with Writing Log, so readers can skip them. And I will only share blog posts that have something more to offer than my writing log.

Carpe diem. That's all for now.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

A review of Bad Dog


I caught this on Zepp Jamieson's 's blog. Found through David Brin's blog that hosts very lively discussions on everything SF. Both are worth checking out if you're into science fiction. Anyways, here's a snip of the review. Click on the link for the full review.

I’ve mentioned Groundhog Day, Russian Doll and Haldeman in this review, but in the end, Bad Dog wound up reminding me of something far grander and more ambitious: The Expanse. The blurb on the cover promises that Bad Dog is only the first novel in a Gate Walkers series, and if Pollard’s first novel is the metric to go by, she’ll give The Expanse a run for its money.

I look forward to the next installment.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Focused on Writing Rules

A blast from the Mummerset campaign: 3rd Battle of South Boring from Operation Sand Box.

Over the last week my mind has been focused on writing a set of wargame rules.

For far too long I've been trapped, procrastinating over the mechanics of play, and the game setting. I'm still undecided about the setting details, but yesterday I was managed to spend the day working on them.

I really got into my writing groove, and produced just over 1800 words.

Colour me amazed. I haven't written that many words in a day for far too long.

While yesterday's writing was amazing, I didn't sleep much last night, because my mind was racing with ideas. So, I got up and wrote notes instead of tossing turning in bed. All things considered, this has left me feeling a little bit fragile today.

Still, I've managed to do some more writing today.

Mostly down in the weeds. Working through the rule mechanics , and checking my assumptions arising thereof. It is a thing.

That's it for now. Catch you all on the bounce!

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Fusion Plants

Six years ago, General Fusion announced that they're working on  a fusion reactor.

The general consensus from Susan's colleagues at Imperial College was that this General Fusion doing some hand-waving to stimulate their stock prices. Colour us cynical.

Then there was Los Alamos National Lab 2016 announcement. With a promise of a first working model in five years or so (2021ish), and not only that but it would fit in a shipping container too! Again, we discussed how they might have found a trick that would allow them to deliver on their announcement.

Either way, the reaction in the Parker-Pollard household was wouldn't that be nice, if it comes true. Wishing for a better future for all mankind.

Friday, 26 March 2021

The Secret to Making Plotting Easier

 
 
I came across John Brown's Novel Writing Tips, aka the John Brown Story Framework, after listening to him and Larry Correia on the Blades and Blasters Podcast, which is well worth listening too.

I even left a comment on YouTube to John. Anyway, that's all I have for now. Catch y'all later.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Fell Off the Map, Again


I'm good, as in still alive and kicking. Not a certainty in these troubled time given I've just heard that a close friend's father died two weeks ago. 

I've got my first Covid jab, and no real side-effects from the vaccine apart from finding my rheumatoid arthritis flared up, which has affected the quality of my sleep. For me this isn't painful as such, it's more that I get really hot at night and that wakes me up and I throw the cover off to cool down. 

If I fall to sleep, while the cover is off, then I wake up cold and stiff as a board. It's a fine balance.

Anyway, end result is that I'm so far behind on all my projects that I've come full circle and it all feels like doing things afresh. That's a joke JIC.

Catch you all later.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Sharing Because

  

I'm sharing a link to another blog, Wing and a Whim by Dorothy Grant because she reviews two books that she and her husband found helpful dealing with living with PTSD. One book is for the spouse, the other is for the soldier.

So a special not to my friends David and Candace, I think if you have the money and time these books might be of help. The books are:

Arsenal of Hope: Tactics for Taking on PTSD, Together

All Secure: A Special Operations Soldier's Fight to Survive on the Battlefield and the Homefront

Please feel free to share this around to anyone who might be in need in these troubled times.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

TIGER X1: Unmanned Mobility Vehicle



My friend Alex Stewart sent me this link. Thanks for thinking of me, Alex.

The video shows the development of a hybrid walking/wheeled vehicle, which is fascinating.

Too good not to share as soon as I could here on the blog.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Myths About Race

 

So, we're all different, yet somehow we're all the same. When you use race in an argument it automatically become political. Not rational, scientific or objective, just your opinion based on a political ideology.
 
I would argue, that if you want to talk political ideology then go talk to someone who also wants said discussion. It's fine by me. None of my business what's done between consenting adults.
 
If you want to come to me or someone else and proselytize your particular political ideology, don't be surprised if I or they are not interested. If you then call me or them a 'racist' for not wanting to engage in your political ideology, then the real racist is you, because not all of us share the idea that political ideologies have to start from race.
 
While an argument about power can often include skin colour, or religion etc. these things are just labels obscuring the use of power to control others, and even that position has nuance, because societies have to have structures that are enforced by the power of law. This is in and of itself neither a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a necessity for example, to stop idiots from shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre.
 
I have spoken! This is the way.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

February Has Come: A Reflection

It has been a long while since I've been able to objectively assess myself. What I have gone through over the last two years has left me being drowned by my emotions. But, it's not all about me, the last year has been difficult for everyone due to Covid19.

It is what it is.

Looking back, I can see my journey when my rheumatoid arthritis flared up, and my immediate reaction to the steroid injection. Still, I was optimistic that the treatment would work. I trusted my consultant and her team because I have worked in the NHS and know the system. 

While my physical symptoms did improve, what I didn't notice was the decline in my mental state.

I'm pretty resilient about setbacks, but hadn't realised that my mood was being affected by the medication. Being a former nurse, I'm aware that when nurses become ill they somehow always seem to get the worse of it.

It's a medical trope of sorts. 

Joked about amongst staff when someone becomes ill, because humour among medical professionals tends to be dark.

When my mood worsened, I went and saw my doctor. I probably scared the bejesus out of her when I told her what I was going through.

She wanted to refer me to mental health team, but I said there was no point, given that I had no intention to act on my negative thoughts and, perhaps arrogantly I stated why waste their time with me when they have others who don't have my knowledge to cope.

Even at my lowest, I still retained enough perspective to be objective about my distress. So yay me! So looking back on 2020. What a year!

I find it difficult to sort out what I managed to write, but it is easier to look at what I published.

In January 2020 I released book four in my World of Drei series, Mission Two. I also released the compilation of the first three World of Drei books, Year One: The Last War.

Writing wise I finished nothing, as I had nothing new to publish.

However, I started a short story about the lost robot team from Strike Dog, which currently stands at 1,346 words.

I'm fiddling with the draft of Two Moons current version stands at 22,885 words; a variable figure as I shuffle scenes between it and the next Tachikoma novel, Red Dogs that stands at 13,964 words. The shuffling of scenes is being driven by the difference between an action led story team, versus a mystery led story team.

Started an edit on the 69,664 words of my novel The Bureau, but it got put aside, lost from being overwhelmed by all the furore going on in the world.

Made notes and a rough draft outline for a set of wargame rules, currently running at 8,381 words.

Obviously, I wrote 32 pieces for this blog, and put up 43 model making and painting posts on my Paint it Pink blog. Can't tell you how many words because I seem to have lost the will to compile the word counts for 2019 and 2020.

Again, it is what it is.

The bright part of 2020, for definitions of bright where Terms & Conditions Apply, was pushing myself to do a bunch of online writing courses. To better the quality of my writing by acquiring the skills to improve characterization, my descriptions of setting, and understand how different genres drive the structure of a story.

This leaves me with the task of assimilating all this learning into my writing, which is a thing in and of itself. That's where I am now.

Hopefully, I will be able to move forward as the world around me improves.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

A Study in Story Telling

I posted a link to my Facebook page about Outside the Wire with a short tag.  

We watched this last night. It has combat robots and drones and action and stuff, but did I mention cool combat robots? Worth giving this a watch if you like combat robots battling other combat robots.

A long thread followed. One friend commented he liked how the the robot was able to manipulate it's programming as being stupid scary. While another friend thought Leo started to display all the unfortunate traits of a Bond villain or Doctor Evil.

I tend to agree with the former comment, because even though the end is not all it could be, I enjoyed it enough to give it a pass. And because the end was far better than I thought it would be.

But I disagree that Leo failed by becoming a Bond villain or Doctor Evil.

Why? Because I don't think his goal was what it appeared to be. But I would fully admit that I might be projecting the direction of the story on what I would've written. Let me unpack my understanding of what Outside the Wire was all about.

The plot of any story is basically a series of linked events driven by the sequence of outcomes (so called try/fail cycles), from the decisions the characters make when faced with problems they have to solve.

The theme of a story is what the story is actually about.

Harp's story starts by revealing he's a drone pilot. When faced with a problem his actions shows us who he is.

A character who eats Gummy bears and is super cool under pressure. Smart and emotionally cold, or able to distance himself from his emotions. So much so that he can to make a really hard choice; sacrifice the lives of two Marines to save the other 38 people in the platoon.

This is the core of his character. Someone who is capable of sacrificing lives for the greater good.

The aftermath of his actions results in him being court-martialed, because he broke the chain-of-command when he disobeyed his orders. He is punished by being sent to the front to learn from experience,

When Harp arrives he is assigned to a Captain Leo.

During their initial conversation Leo reveals himself to be an advanced AI android who can pass as fully human; tells Harp that he asked specifically for him; tells Harp what he thinks of him, not good; finishes their conversation by blatantly asking Harp whether or not he trusts him?

Through the story we learn that Leo is smart, warm and empathic, and a highly capable combatant. This is the core of his character.

By the time we get to the climax, we have also learnt that Leo is easily able to manipulate the humans around him to achieve his plans. During his showdown with Harp, Leo outlines his plan to launch a nuclear strike against America, sacrificing millions of lives for the greater good of mankind.

Harp stops the plan, even though Leo could've easily killed Harp during their climactic fight.

However, I believe that Leo's plan was a charade, to highlight the danger of advanced generalized AI like him, and stop more of him from being deployed. Otherwise why would Leo go through all the trouble to set up this crazy complex plan to allow himself to be stopped?

I think the clue to answering this question is the opening of the movie. 

Harp is shown to have made the right choice (for example, easily proved with a forensic examination for chemical traces of the launcher rockets fuel in the ruins of the van), but he is still court-martialed for not following the chain-of-command. In a more generic war movie it would have been medals and home in time for tea (or coffee, or in Harp's case, Gummy bears.

The importance of following the chain-of-command, and the consequences for not doing so is shown. My takeaway is that an advanced generalized AI not following the chain-of-command is the real threat. Leo is setting himself up as an example of what could happen if more like him are deployed.

But, how can Leo be sure to convince people this is his plan?

My take is that it is easier to convince people what you say is true when they believe what they're being told is true. Leo can easily convince Harp that he intends to sacrifice millions of American lives, because his actions reflect what Harp did; sacrificing lives for the greater good.

That is why Leo chose Harp to join him.

Harp's chain-of-command wants smart, cool and capable people, but they can't have them not follow orders. Even if everyone in the chain-of-command realized they were being played, Leo is their worst nightmare. Smart capable, cool and will break the chain-of-command and sacrifice lives for the greater good.

Whether Leo's plan succeeded or failed didn't matter. It was the threat Leo posed that mattered. And that is why I think Leo allowed Harp to beat him, because his end goal was not to have more like him appear on the battlefields.

A programmable AI that doesn't follow orders is a good reason to cancel making more. 

Does this make Outside the Wire perfect? No, because the ending was not all it could be, because if it were then I wouldn't have to unpack it the way I did.

But as I said, "Worth giving this a watch if you like combat robots battling other combat robots."

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Post Annus Horribilis

Life would have more clarity if you could. Shit scary, but clarity.

I see everyone posting hopeful goodbye to 2020 and to a better 2012 (sic)... 2021 (doh!). Don't get me wrong, things will improve going forward, but a fixed date on the calendar isn't in and of itself a harbinger of change.

Last year I opined on how 2019 hadn't been a great year for me, but better than 2010. A year later I find myself again saying the obvious, 2020 wasn't great either. And funnily enough, still not worse for me than 2010, because no hospital admissions for emergency surgery for one.

This may sound callous, but in the bigger scheme of things I can only control those things I can control, and when it comes to my health, that isn't a certainty either.

We lost a lot of people to the global pandemic, but it could've been a whole lot worse, still shouldn't have been this bad (this isn't rocket science, just ask veterinarians on what to do).

My predictions for 2020 were pretty much spot on. 

If only I had thought to add something about a pandemic, people would've been amazed at my powers of prestidigitation. As it is, I can rest assured my lack in predicting the future will go unremarked. Which is a good thing. There's enough crazy in the world without me adding more.

My partner has been home for most of December, which has been lovely. It has helped me immensely too. The only intractable problem I appear to have at the moment is staying focused. I find myself distracted by things far too easily, and not in a good way.

You know? Oh look, something new and exciting... I must have the shiny thing kinda way.

Plans for this year: finish my next two novels, write a set of rules, and make and paint some more models. Simple goals that I can hope to achieve.

Catch you all on the bounce.

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