Month: March 2010


OK all the readers who are going to complete my draft have completed it and I have all the feedback. It makes for very interesting reading. The curious thing – which I didn’t expect but probably should have, is that they all completely disagree.

While one person thinks that one chapter or section is boring, for another it is their favourite part. This makes it quite difficult to do any editing at all although there were some areas that all felt could be improved. A secondary problem arose from that though:

For instance one passage that several felt was really extraneous I deleted, and then did a kind of flash-back just for the vital details of that section – like a summary. But then people said it sounded like I was rushing on to the next bit. Even worse, one reader said that for the next section there then wasn’t enough background so that I even contemplated putting the original section back in.

I am going to have to let it all sink in and then come to an overall picture of how it should be.

In the mean time work continues on the new story – the sci-fi one, but slowly. I often find myself writing just a paragraph or so in an evening and then deciding its no good anyway. This is often because I am looking for the ‘tone’ of the story. I came up with a lovely phrase last night and until that point I had thought that I wanted to write something a little more poetic than the last story; something beautiful. But then the next phrase was equally good and yet had a trashy feel. I then had to think ‘well am I writing something beautiful or Raymond Chandler?’

It has caused me to pause and think. If one is writing something that you want to be poetic and beautiful, can you then include a phrase that is very descriptive but of something that is ugly?

Offering Choice of Pace

In my novel Insanity, some readers have preferred certain parts and others have felt they are too long or too detailed so I am thinking of offering an ‘extended’ version of the book, like a ‘directors cut’ which will have the longer air battle and the whole chapter in Bulgaria for those who want more background. it just seems a shame to cut out all of this which some have liked. in fact some wanted more air battles.

What do you think of this idea? It might offer people the choice of what sort of pace they want.
Incidentally what do you think of the title? Do you think it should be shortened?

Sci-fi Top Trumps

Welcome to the first one of a series of Sci-fi Top Trumps. In actual fact they will be Iron Top Trumps because that is the provisional name of my new sci-fi novel. Its set mainly on Io, moon of Jupiter and Io has an iron core. There’s something about the Iron Cross as well but don’t get the wrong idea. Also there is a deeper meaning but that will only become apparent much later if you read the story.

So what Top Trumps? For those of you that haven’t come across them before they are a pack of cards with items on which have varying numbers of points attached to them depending on the quality/attributes of the item. For instance for cars you might have a card for a Mini and an E-Type Jaguar. Clearly the Jag is heavier, faster and more powerful than the mini so it would beat it on every attribute in a game of cards where you call out your strongest attribute. So for my Iron Top Trumps the attributes are:

Futurosity (how far in the future you might have to go to get one)
Weakness (lowest score wins)

Scores are out of 10

And for my first Top Trump we have:


Coolnest: 9
Cost: 7
Usefulness: 9
Futurosity: 6
Weakness: 3

Description: S-grav is simulated gravity (although many think it stands for Synthetic gravity). It arose from the problem I had with a Command vehicle (the MCS but that will be another trump). Large crews spend many months aboard, based on the surface of planets or moons and particularly on Io where the gravity is 1/8th that of Earth – similar to the moon’s, in order to show normal day-to-day living I needed some form of artificial gravity. Hence S-grav.

How does it work?
It is constructed on site by creating a singularity (black hole) 1000 feet below the Station using a drill. Solid rock to a depth of at least 2500 feet is needed for safety so it has limited use but provides a much better quality of life for soldiers where it can be deployed.
The singularity needs to be at a depth of 1000 ft to create an even pull on the vehicle above which in this case is about 160 feet long.

In Iron the MCS is fitted with S-Grav Type 4 which is a lot more stable than the Type 3; its governor is accurate to 14 -10 Volts, which it has to be to keep the singularity weak enough to be safe but strong enough to work effectively. Micro-singularities are inherently unstable anyway for safety reasons (ie if the voltage varies too much or anything else fails like the governor then it is simply extinguished) but the governor itself is the only real vulnerability in the Type 4.
If it is destroyed without damaging the singularity cage itself then the singularity voltage could increase and the singularity become out of control, in theory creating a mighty big explosion. In practise though, as the governor is only a few centimetres from the singularity and both at a depth of 1000 ft in solid rock, it is very difficult to damage the governor alone.

Actually come to think of it Syn-G may be a better name but I suspect that would the version available for the public and doesn’t sound quite so authentic. I doubt that would be able to use a singularity at great depth so maybe that would be magnetic boots or something. Any ideas?

Tell me what you think of the S-grav. More Top Trumps to follow soon.

Reviews – Anonyma – The Downfall of Berlin and Road of No Return

Well I had a week of work last week and I watched lots of films. Some were so-so like ‘Anonyma – The Downfall of Berlin’ and others I didn’t like ‘Road of No Return’

Anonyma tells the story of a German journalist who goes back to Berlin in the last day of April, 1945 to witness the end of Nazism and gets caught up in the Russian takeover. They could have made a lot more of the fact that she was a journalist – in fact the only observation that really resonated was when she mentioned that they could feel Berlin becoming ‘Russian’ by the hour. Apparently a true story written anonymously in the 40s or 50s and the author herself was so castigated that she withdrew all further editions of the book after the first.

Road of no Return has David Carradine, which is why I watched it. I vaguely thought this must be his final film (he died earlier last year)but actually he made loads of films in his last year. The plot was OK and most of the acting was fine although the little girl is not convincing. The film didn’t work for me though. Carradine has an important part as a Government agent but he had this strange lisp which I can only assume is real and must have been sustained since I last saw him in a film. It was really distracting and would have been great if one had been informed that it was ‘acting’ in some way. One of the other characters could have mentioned it or something. Instead I spent all the time he was on screen wondering if it was acting or not.

I also saw The Hurt Locker. I didn’t expect to like it but I did. Its unusual direction left me disoriented at times. It was really an ensemble piece for the actors and hard to pick anybody out as giving a better performance than anybody else. One character does become centre-stage and its really quite subtle and unexpected.

I have finished the first draft of Chapter 1 of my new book. I think I will pause there while I tidy up Insanity. I am going to have to think about the length of the book and how to divide it up in to chapters.

On Screen now

Before I forget, I have been reading Tolkien’s letters which I thoroughly recommend to anybody who is a big Tolkien fan, as I am. I have been reading it on screen though which I don’t recommend.

It has made me think about e-books and whether they really will catch on. I am not (or haven’t been until now) one of those luddites who hold to the view that paper books are it and that e-books go against the grain of what a reader really wants – that sensual experience. but frankly I may change my mind. There really is something kinda (did you see what I did there?) anti-ceptic about reading on-screen. I don’t know what it is. I think in some way one feels that the computer is dictating terms in that it is ’emitting’ light and decides the format of the page as in fact the format of the page doesn’t normally seem to suit me on screen. I will have to investigate further but I just published one of my books as an e-book and I am wondering now if I should do this.

I also became involved in s discussion about writing erotic/sexual scenes in novels the other day. Personally I like books to have some erotic scenes in them because intimate scenes are often where we learn a lot more about a character’s true nature and I just like the sensuality too. Of course there are books which do not have sex in them that I like but there are only 3 that spring to mind: Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bible. I wouldn’t aspire to write such a great book myself and it would have to be that great to appeal to everybody and therefore not really need any sex in it. Sex is just such a part of our daily lives that it is hard to see a story feeling ‘true’ without it. I don’t mean necessarily full-on sex either. I just mean that what drives most men, most of the time is sex and it is behind many of their actions.

Having said that one does have to be really writing it and I know some readers, especially women, do not like sex-scenes at all in books so there is an argument for leaving them out. I try to get help from a woman when writing such a scene so that it is sensitive to a woman’s sensibilities as well as men’s.

My really bad period of luck seems to be passing. It reminds me of something implied by Dante: you have to go through Hell to get to Heaven, although he put it much more graphically (and biologically).

Just as a note: I see that Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars – he played COL. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. I tipped him in my post on 22 January.

The Straw that Built the Camel’s Bridge

Wow! 2 Followers now. I guess that means I really should try and write something interesting.

When the Sun of true power,
Send’s forth its glow,
Take care where you tread
for the flowers below,
are the souls of friends.

I have had a couple of really bad days luck wise and its got (I reserve the right to use bad grammar including ‘got’ on my blog) me focused again on luck. The title of this post refers to the fact that sometimes, out of the direst bad luck you can bring out something goo. Its not easy though. I am not sure if I have been unlucky or maybe its a bit of evil finding its way back into my life. If its the latter then why now? And anyway I haven’t been feeling the presence that I usually feel when its around. So for the time being I think I have to put it down to very bad luck. Just little things really. Yesterday everything I did and touched went wrong. It was just continuous and I ended up knackered just trying to get through the day and I didn’t get anything done at all that I intended to do.

Just out of interest here is an edited version of my diary notes of luck/evil for the last month. What does anybody make of it. Do you have any similar experiences?


3 evil
4 evil
5 evil
6 Unlucky
7 Lucky
8 Average
9 Average
10 Average
11 Unlucky
12 V Unlucky low confidence
13 started v unlucky but ended up good
14 ok
15 Luckyish
16 Lucky
17 v lucky
18 neutral
19 Very tired but neutral luck
20 normal
21 luckyish
22 lucky until I started to go to bed
23 Lucky
24 Lucky
25 Lucky bloody tired
26 Lucky except in evening became unlucky after feeling a presence
27 ok
28 unlucky
1 unlucky
2 V Unlucky
3 ok
4 ok
5 unlucky
6 ok
7 V V unlucky (evil?)

As for writing, I am waiting for readers to finish my draft of ‘Insanity or The Vampire Snake Killers’. One reader is at the climax of the last chapter so it shouldn’t be long. Once I have one more reading after this I will do the last rewrite and then I can publish.

I have seen a couple of films lately. I saw Antichrist the other night and I actually don’t recommend it. Its very tough to watch and I didn’t get much out of it. In fact I had a restless night after.

I saw an old Brando film by accident called Sayonara a week or two ago. I thought it would be the usually trashy film of the 50s cos TCM only gives the titles and brief description without telling you who is in it. I was really bored so gave it a go and hey presto Brando! He was unbelievably cool. He just seemed like a visitor from the future. Its about US pilots in Korea and how they were forbidden from having relationships with Asian women but many did and some even married. Brando manages to get off with an Asian girl who is a dancer in a sacred temple so she is doubly forbidden. He lounges about with much soave insouciance and he is touchingly intimate with the Japanese girl. Worth a watch if you like Brando.