Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Big Slice of Waffle from the Past.

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It’s the weekend, so here we go again – I’ve got some good posts back there during the last year, but unfortunately, I’ve got some waffly bits, too (no surprise there), yet this one caught my eyes and the theme is basically sound, so let’s look at some tech stuff (don’t worry, it’s not that tech), this time exploring why I mix some technologies in the sci-fi I write – I apologize in advance for wandering off course during this post-from-the-past and go on about living on the land, but do bear with me, my waffle does circle around and comes back to danger and guns (mostly ignoring the danger and leaving the guns inside) which hopefully shows the mentality that downplays a need, and also results in people choosing low-tech over high.

I almost edited out the waffle, but then you’d wonder what had been there, so I may as well leave it as is.

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It Happens Like This.

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Mistakes! Argh! – I hate them (don’t we all) – Yesterday I wrote and edited the phrase “an assortment of characters”, turning it into “a range of characters” – only, of course, I changed the word “assorted” to “range” but not the “an” to “a” – so out it popped, showing the world that here’s one “writer” who hasn’t got a handle on grammar – IT’S NOT TRUE, I TELL YOU, it’s the flaw of fast editing!

I do read what I post. Honestly. I read it several times as I write it up, again before I hit that publish button, and – fortunately – once more after it’s out there. Perhaps seeing it in a different format has things jump out that I otherwise miss, but I DO see the errors (and yes, fix them).

Meanwhile, of course, a bunch of people have already seen my fumbling result and the whole stands out like clear advertising that I really don’t have a handle on writing!!!

Heck yes, spelling and grammatical mistakes annoy the [insert expletive-of-your-choice] out of me, but only when those mistakes are mine.

On a scale of 1 to 10, it pans out like this:

Other people’s errors… 1
Other people’s errors in books… 3
My errors… 12
My errors in books… 375

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Something for Everyone.

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It’s impossible to please everyone – we all know that – but it is quite possible to please a broader band of individuals in the same way that a manufacturer of, say, chocolates can satisfy more people with a box of many flavors – People like variety, and writers, too, can offer up more than one flavor, more than one hero and more than one plotline, so, anyhoo, welcome to my assorted box of characters.

One of the reasons I run with a multitude of threads is that it allows for a range of characters to take lead, and different characters appeal to different people in different moods (hopefully a multitude of characters appeal to a multitude of readers).

That does not mean that every character gets to take lead, but there will always be a handful of them that do.

I love to get inside characters’ heads and I love to bring their inner being out for all to see. Whether it’s a villain you can understand and relate to (Sturn, Sevi), a villain you watch develop and feel for (Va’el – yes, wait for it, on the latter), gentle Good Guys (Raoul, Charlie, Morragt), tougher, let’s-get-at-you Good Guys (Jackie, Jim, Diego), comedians (Jim, Diego), sexy women (Sevi, Jackie), full on male-fantasy-girl (Sasha), kids with attitude (Mij, Va’el), or characters that take off on their own with force and determination (Sevi, Va’el), oh, and don’t forget the “something different” aliens (Thain, Tannik), I’ve pretty well got something for everyone.

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Hydroxyapatite implant – Bet you didn’t know I was going to say that!

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Great word, huh – No, I didn’t make it up, the name is real, but what’s really great is that doing proper research brings you extra gifts, it throws into the open these wonderful little details that capture the imagination more than the main theme does – so, in the case of a hydroxyapatite implant (a prosthetic eye), the name is wonderful, but the real gem for me is the fact that the material comes from reef coral, giving you that little extra depth of information that you can relate to, something that brings a sense of wonder from outside your normal sphere of existence (assuming you’re not an engineer of surgical gadgets and/or prostheses).

The material from reef coral, coated with sclera to make it smooth, is perfect for being both lightweight and porous, it means the muscles, blood vessels and nerves can attach to it, making it permanently set in place and able to move naturally. It becomes, in effect, part of the body. I love that! How ingenious the human animal is!

It’s the detail that does it. I do love that sort of accurate detail in a book, the things that lift the story right out of the pages and brings it to life. This is where research trumps made up stuff every time. Made up stuff doesn’t bring forward this sort of item detail (I’m not talking plot here, which, of course, can be brilliantly detailed and complex).

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Pinging elastic bands across the room is not an option.

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Get going, you tell yourself, the morning is disappearing fast and you’ve got stuff to do – Get on with it, make a move, any move, but then you sit there distracting yourself with one thing after another under the pretense that you’re thinking, only of course what you are really doing is delaying.

Writers can delay awfully well.

Then there’s the coffee routine – can’t get going without a cuppa – only there’s something wrong with the first one, so you’d better try again. Or it’s good, perfect even, so nice in fact, you want another. Either way, you get into your second cup and maybe a third, followed up by the inevitable trip to the bathroom – it’s more distraction.

You play with words in your head, only the words roam off and become other things completely. You start working main-character to main-character dialogue and end up wondering if today’s the day you’re supposed to put the rubbish out, or if a slice of mudcake would go really well with that new cup of coffee you’ve just made.

It doesn’t work, folks, and pinging elastic bands across the room is not an option. You’re not even pretending to work with that one.

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CANNOT appreciate Political Horror Sci-fi.

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I had a shocking thought today, that some people think this way about ALL science fiction , worse, they expect this with ALL science fiction, so I have to make this absolutely clear – and excuse me while I get shouty for a bit – I CANNOT read and WILL NOT write “Aren’t-we-an-awful-species” anti-human propaganda – Sorry, guys, I simply am not into “Let-me-show-you-how-bad-the-world-is-in-a-political-sense” sci-fi – It’s the very sci-fi I hated as a child and the very sci-fi that sent me into the world determined to write better (happier) sci-fi!

I am sure I’m not the only one to think the future will be a better place.

For years our fears have been that “things are getting worse”. Every generation since the 1800s has been taught that our future is going to be bad and it’s down hill from here on in. It doesn’t help if writers encourage it. It doesn’t have to pass from generation to generation, yet we as a species we seem to insist on doing it! Some people in our world today are doing their best to perpetuate that fear and to make such a negative prophesy come true, and they have brought much destruction and human misery – all of it pointless – but that still doesn’t mean we have to believe we have reached our height as human beings or that we have to accept that wonderful times are no longer ahead.

Yes, yes, I know, my own sci-fi has issues and challenges, of course it does – I even have a massive war going on between the Khekarians and the Chiddran – but I am not in the human-caused-this-or-that-doom-and-gloom of it, nor the hatred of it, and will never settle into the “Aren’t-we-awful!” type of story.

Frankly, that’s not fun. Not only is it not fun, I don’t want to go there. I especially don’t want to take you there. So, don’t come to me looking for doom-and-gloom. I don’t write dystopian science fiction!

I write about individuals and their strengths, from high places and low. Not necessarily heroes, any of them, but they have a sense of humor, they have loves and hates and worries and fears. They have goals and ambitions. I write escapism and adventure, yes, with sad bits and painful bits and bloody rough bits, yes, there has to be challenges, but you won’t find any trace of the “Let’s-hate-ourselves-some-more” sort.

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Sunday Pick of the Past – The Torture Thing.

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Oh, good title, sounds like I’ve been here F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but never mind – this one looks at an interesting possibility that I decided to turn into a method of torture – aren’t I a jolly fun person to know!

I’ve updated this post-from-the-past and neatened it a bit with a touch of rewrite (it needed it), but generally speaking, it’s all there.

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Upgrading and Downgrading my weekends.

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What the heck does THAT mean? Okay, okay, I’ll tell you – I like to chat, you probably noticed, I would like to post something every day of the week (I post five and sometimes six times per week now, so I’m close), at the same time, though, I recognize that I simply cannot devote every day to blogging while I’m writing a book if I expect that book to be brilliant (and I do – shameless plug, there) and on time.

My nifty solutions is simply to point back in time to some of my earlier posts – easy-peasy, there are a few of them now. As very few of you have been with me from the start, there’s got to be some new stuff back there. Anyway, I’ll try to pick out some good ones.

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Gotta Keep Going!

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We writers are a weird breed, we are so tied into what we do, we are not happy creatures unless we produce something every day – and I don’t mean blogging – there is a sense of wasted time or, worse, a wasted life unless something is written and some character or plot has grown.

The answer seems obvious. Write something. We all get mired in some part of our projects, so the trick seems to be to write something else. Each story has length, so if you’re momentarily stuck in one section, go work on another. If that doesn’t work for you, there’s always another story – something, somewhere, it will make you feel that you’ve got something done.

Sometimes I blog by sitting down and just writing something – rambling mainly until a theme takes charge, then I hone it down and end up with something to say. The same can be done in your writing. Sometimes just the action of writing out a sentence or a paragraph can be enough to start the ball rolling. Many a time I’ve wanted to capture that one sentence, only to end up with pages. It’s a great feeling. That’s also why I get up in the middle of the night if those words are forming because I just know it will keep going.

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Action ideas – Clashes and Stacks.

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First of all I formulate a group of action ideas – the clashes that will happen and other problems and hurdles the Good Guys must encounter, not forgetting a few nasty ways the Bad Guys can work them over and/or get the upper hand – then I stack the scenes together in the order that makes sense (THIS because of THIS because of THAT) and throw the conclusion in at the end, which, by the way, would have been one of the action ideas because I never launch into writing a book without that all important conclusion to aim for – and BAM, we have the makings of a book!

That “BAM”, be warned, might take anywhere from weeks to months (or even years), depending on available time and the size and complexity of the story.

Then the work kicks in as the journey is composed, the getting from (or to) action scene A to action scene B to action scene C, etc., down through the line.

Of course, other action scenes pop up along the way, making the whole thing much more fun. Characterization develops, too, adding surprises. Additional characters are brought in as necessary for both background and foreground, adding depth and detail.

Research, naturally, must take place. Someone somewhere is going to specialize. Even if you have mundane characters doing mundane things (ordinary folk in an ordinary story), you want the psychology to be right and you’re going to need variation if you don’t want all your characters to look and sound the same.

Other research is necessary, also, not just where someone specializes. The How, the What, the Who of any area you, as a person, are unfamiliar with must be examined. You can’t just make stuff up about weapons handling, for instance, or factory safety, or emergency procedures for evacuating a hospital (just plucking stuff out of the air here – of these examples, I only wrote about the weapons handling – but you see what I’m saying).

By this stage, a writer wants to know each individual character quite well so that they can step forward and automatically be themselves whenever called upon. This takes some of the effort out of it – you don’t have to THINK about how this or that character will respond, you KNOW. All you have to do is bring them forward and watch it happen.

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