A walk on the dark side of Science Fiction ©
I’ve been thinking about experimenting with the way a story is told for some time now. A new tool has dropped into the box called Prezi, which is intrinsically a tool to create shareable presentations. I’ve decided to convert a couple of short stories into this format when I make the time. Just to see what they look like as a kind of visual précis.
In the meantime, progress on all other projects is slow. There’s too much going on in the real, paying the bills part of my life at the moment, and when I’m done there rarely seems to be enough energy to plough full steam ahead with ‘Darkness’ or ‘A Falling of Angels’. Maybe I should do the Prezi thing to help clear the junk out of my head, post a link or two and see what feedback happens.
Angie wants us to move, so a lot of time is currently being spent on looking for a new home further south. I need, and am actively looking for, a new job in the Victoria area to help pay the bills. I’m also signing up on Simon Fraser Universities Techcomm courses to update my billable skillset. All of which detract from writing the next books. Although I’m sure there’s time to be squeezed into the schedule somehow.
The food was Cantonese.
The roses, wine and candles were red.
The moon was full.
Managed to pick up some form of bug the other week while visiting Vancouver. The result of which was a thick head and snivelling cold. Neither of which have been conducive to laying down a sensible sentence. I’ve simply not had the mental reserves to push ahead strongly enough with narrative, and have found myself picking and chipping away at paragraphs and dialogue, deleting the odd pronoun here, checking tenses and points of view fiddling, not really writing at all.
Still feeling a bit post viral two weeks on, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep.
Angie gets back from England tonight on the eleven thirty flight from Vancouver. Much to my relief. Cooking for one is difficult. While she’s been over the other side of the pond on family business, I’ve been busying myself with various paperwork, job hunting and looking for new accommodation. Somewhere more convenient for Metro Vancouver.
‘A Falling of Angels’ has found its final direction and with luck I’ll have the manuscript finished for first proof and edit by April. About 25,000 words to go, with the ending planned and plotted. The story threads are set to tie up neatly, with the bad guys (mostly) caught and brought to trial, my hero redeemed and on a new start in life. Until the next volume of course.
‘Falling through the Stars’ unfortunately, is crawling along very slowly. There’s a whole chunk of storyline that’s simply not working and has to be junked. I’ll just do what I normally do, cut and paste the offending section into a separate file. For future use. Maybe.
While Angie has been away, I’ve been doing a little reading to help keep my Technical writing skills current. One note of enlightenment came from an old copy of Arthur Plotnik’s “The Elements of Editing“. Although it’s a little dated, reading certain sections rather confirmed my suspicions about why so many submissions to publishers go unanswered.
Have just added an odd excerpt to the site under the ‘A Falling of Angels‘ tab. Just a taster of what’s in store.
While struggling a little with the major projects, I’ve amused myself with rearranging the site menu a little, creating a sub page and section for short stories no-one would really be interested in.
First offering is an odd little tale entitled ‘Christmas in Space‘. I’ve got a few others, but I’m wondering whether I’m brave enough to let them out into the public domain. For what that’s worth.
Times are tight, as is the money supply, and this year we’ll be sending gifts and money to close friends and family as usual. As well as sponsorship for youngest daughter, who is firewalking for charity this year. But with the kids (Grown up young women really) and other family on the other side of the Atlantic and Pacific, Angie and I will be making this festive season a very low key affair. We’ll have a guest and friends over for Christmas eve and day but won’t be making a big thing of it. Don’t think I’ll bother with a tree. I might string up a few lights, but that’s all. I’ve even managed to avoid the day job Christmas party. Which gets me out of the interminable gift giving I can’t afford to people I hardly know. Fine if you’re well paid and have money to spare. Not so fine if you aren’t and haven’t. My boss was surprised when I told her I didn’t want to come, but respects what I do, at least enough to acquiesce. She even sat down as if expecting an explanation. I just hunkered down to begin my shift and said it would take a decade to explain why this time of year always makes me uncomfortable. Which it does.
This doesn’t mean I hate Christmas or any other time of year. No, I say live and let live. Respect the rights of others. If they want to participate, fine. Just don’t judge me for wanting to have a quiet time instead. Maybe work a little, go easy on the whole conspicuous overconsumption thing, smile affably, nod, walk on by. Chill away from the fuss, noise and ‘fun’. Most of it’s for the kids anyway.
John Grisham has a little novella called ‘Skipping Christmas’ about a couple who want to take a break from interminable ‘celebration’ and go on a cruise. Like all these cautionary tales it doesn’t end well for Luther and his wife. Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’ and other like works of emotional blackmail are, like Santa, fantasies for small children. “Be like everyone else or bad things will happen.” Is the implied threat. Real life is usually somewhat more forgiving. ‘Couple go away for Christmas, save money and have a really nice relaxing time’ wouldn’t have made much of a story.
As I shall be working on and off, as well as putting in time and energy on my major writing projects, the TV will stay tuned to Netflix and YouTube. We’ll spend time with close friends. New year calls for study, when I intend to improve my various Technical Writing certifications. Writing novels is all very well, but it’s not very good at paying the rent.
There’s been a trend for some time with TV shows for episodes given punnish titles intimating brief hints about the episode content. While with ‘Stars’ I went for the rather dry numerical convention like with a technical document. In the Cerberus series I’ve taken a leaf out of the TV playbook, and gone with the pun. Not so much in ‘Head of the Beast’, but definitely in ‘A Falling of Angels’. Three sample chapter headings being ‘Breaking the bad’, ‘The End of a Beginning’, and ‘Lloegr’ (Which means ‘England’ or more poetically ‘Lost Lands’ in Welsh). For an additional example, I’m currently writing a chapter entitled ‘Travelling in Hope class’ which starts to take my hero back to his beginning, and final confrontation with the current bad guys. Possibly. While pursued by another bunch of bad guys who have him pegged as a terrorist. Kind of.
It’s complicated. A lot of fun to write, but quite involved.
I’m sitting in our front room, looking out towards the islands, watching a very fine first snow fall. Tiny, uncertain flakes wending their way to the ground. Wandering with air currents, mostly down, sometimes up, but down they come, settling in small crystalline spots, lining up like migrating birds on top of the deck rail, blanketing windscreens in translucent white, but as yet not braving the ground.
Our local Ravens don’t seem to mind the extra crowded air. They sit on the wires as if critically examining each flake, discussing the merits of each ghostly crystal. “That one settle?”, “Nah, won’t last long.” before arguing and clumsily flapping off to some new perch.
So here I sit, dog at my feet, watching the visibility crowd slowly in, daydreaming of sunnier times before I finish my tea and start work.
For Christmas this year I’ve decided; I’m treating myself to a full copy of Corel WordPerfect. I’ve always liked its functionality as a piece of word processing software, and liked the way I could always get deep into the code of a document. Unlike Microsoft Word, or Lotus, or OpenOffice which are basically very similar. All right, they’re fine for the basics, but when you need to turn out a document untrammelled by spurious code, you can’t beat WordPerfect. The ‘Reveal Codes’ command is the kicker as far as I’m concerned. It reaches the parts all the others can’t or won’t. Takes the Bloat out of the Bloatware, and makes a nice clean job of it. Especially when outputting XML or HTML formats for web based documentation.
I’ve always liked WordPerfect for its virtuosity as a piece of word processing software, although it requires a higher level of expertise than all the others put together. Yes, maybe the menu system looks a bit complex and old fashioned, but once mastered, you can do far more with it as an application. What has brought this desire to change on is my increasing frustration with the self correcting facilities in Word, OpenOffice or Lotus. When saving across formats, I tend to lose language settings and special characters, which in documents over 50,000 words long means a lot of extra proofing and re-reading. I’ve tried switching these features off, but even then MS-Word, OpenOffice Write and Lotus keep on losing the details, which is very frustrating. I actually gave up working in MS-Word when I found code fragments creeping in and ruining anything up to two months of work during document conversion. Yes, fine, Word can output PDF’s, it’s fairly intuitive, but because the code structure is not completely transparent and correctable, Word and its various clones won’t let you clean the whole document up properly. This has previously cost me time, money and energy that I could better spend elsewhere. There’s also the issue that WordPerfect is often the choice of Law Offices because it is more secure than most.
With the climax of ‘A Falling of Angels’ looming on my mental horizon, I’d far rather be writing than constantly correcting stuff that was already corrected.
I’m in the middle of a story sequence that takes my hero and his not so dumb girlfriend through Rome on their way back to solving the main mystery in ‘A falling of Angels’. In the story, they are being stalked by a Sardinian boy with an unknown agenda. Also in the story, Rome, like so many major cities, is beset by a plague of enforcement cameras and sensors. Much to the annoyance of the public at large, and in response Paul Calvin, mind reading Detective Sergeant.
In response to such a circumstance, I find myself wondering if veiled hats might not make a comeback.
Originally part of ‘Widows weeds’ or to keep direct sunlight off delicate skin, the history of the veiled hat goes back to the 1200′s. Since then, net veils and veiled hats have popped in and out of western fashion for centuries. At present they are perennially popular at events like weddings and funerals, and occasionally as part of a stage outfit. Not so much at street level, but even there appearing more of an upmarket status symbol.
Perhaps using some form of Anti-infra red fabric, or ‘dazzle’ configuration, they might even cross the sex barrier to be adopted by security conscious men. Stranger things have happened.
I’ll write it and see how it feels.
Update: As an alternative, perhaps polarised sunshields might take off. Sun or ski goggles that cover most of the exposed face, or at least the visible brow and cheekbones most facial recognition software relies upon for its efficacy.
See this link for how modern facial recognition software works.
Back deep in the narrative guts of ‘A falling of Angels’ at present. In order to add another layer, I’ve decided to expand the role of my mind reading detective characters current girlfriend. Because he’s made a nuisance of himself with the powers that be (as usual), he’s been suspended for a month this time, and since she has lost her job, they’ve gone on holiday together. While on holiday, and in response to exposing another clue about his past, his girlfriend demonstrates practical surveillance busting skills which solve several issues. Nothing out of character, rather using her known skill set to best advantage. Flirting with a sales assistant to distract, using her initiative.
In the days when I used to watch Doctor Who, the characters who used to annoy me most were the Doctors ‘Assistants’ who would, at a story critical juncture, scream, break a heel, get captured by the monster and be generally about as much use as a chocolate kettle. Just so the Doctor can leap into the Tardis and save them. The other kind were the über feminists who were oh so much better than everyone else. If you’re going to have a useful female character with a life longer than a single episode, you’ve got to flesh them out a bit. Let them kick a Cyberman so hard his batteries fall off, be smart enough to blind a Dalek by sticking masking tape over its silly monocular eyepiece, vent a villain out of the airlock occasionally without needing the Doctors sonic screwdriver sort of thing. A bit more than just a victim, but not so much they take over the show. In Doctor Who, my particular favourite remains (Predictably) Louise Jameson as Leela during Tom Baker’s sojourn as the Doctor.
It’s what I hate about teen slasher movies. The helpless cheerleader stereotype who you know is going to get killed in the first few minutes because she can’t do anything but totter along on four inch heels and scream for help as the implausibly dressed villain stalks after her. Female (and male) characters need depth to be credible, otherwise they’re just yawn worthy. They have to be able to spring surprises now and again. Display hidden strengths. Not too many, and always in line with what we understand about them as people. Human enough to be fallible, but not so infallible as to lose their humanity. That’s what keeps me awake through a movie or book. By the same token, stereotypes induce almost instant somnolence.
Ergo; Marcy, who first appears as Paul Calvin’s slightly slutty waitress girlfriend from ‘Head of the beast’ develops into a better defined character in ‘A falling of Angels’. She does things only she could do for reasons which matter to her, and in addition we learn facts about her designed to make a male reader nod with respect, and a female reader identify with. Both have to do with her family. Layers upon layers, a personality built up as she (and he) drive the story forward. It’s added over eight thousand words to the MSS over the past three days, and they all stand up to scrutiny. Another twenty thousand words or so and I’ll have finished this particular volume in the series. Yippee.
Currently playing physical therapist to my wife Angie. She has a muscle spasm in her back which is proving difficult to relieve. Essentially what has happened is that the big muscles either side of her spine have tensed up and are compressing her vertebrae. This causes a great deal of discomfort. Unfortunately once this type of spasm sets in it’s a bugger to shift. I’ve had them myself, and the memory of the pain alone is enough to make me wince in sympathy. Normally speaking this state of affairs eases after two or three days rest with alternating hot and cold compresses, twice daily massages and a little A-35 cream. Sometimes it takes longer. I’m sure a quick dose of muscle relaxant delivered at source would ‘unlock’ the spasm and provide almost instant relief, but actually getting Angie down the stairs and into the car to get to the Doctors office might prove a little too much for even my robust frame. So for the moment I’m keeping up the compresses and massages.
Getting Facebook invites I can’t possibly attend is proving mildly frustrating. But as a compromise, I’ll make it policy in future that if I get an invite to turn up in say, central London when I’m over here in Nanaimo BC. I’ll save myself the two thousand dollars it would cost me to skip over to the smoke for a mere two hours by sending a ‘Friend’ request to whoever has been kind and thoughtful enough to invite me.
Blog comments are far and few between, as are readers, but I regularly find random remarks that make no real sense in the nets of this blogs spam filter. Usually attached to spammy commercial website links, all of which go straight to deletion with only a minor furrowing of my brow, as if to say “What the hell was that all about?” I can only assume they’re written by those for whom ‘care in the community’ has been prescribed. I don’t want to be unkind, but some people really twist your arm. Maybe those dumb and desperate enough to be tempted by those “My Sisters boyfriends uncle Earns $25 an hour working from home.” Spamverts infesting poorly tended comment threads.
I make no claim to be a Hardy, Hemmingway, Austen, Bronte, Tolkein, Tolstoy, Steinbeck or anyone, all of whom I detest reading – de gustibus non est disputandum by the way.
Maybe I’m not ‘educated’ enough to ‘get’ much 18th, 19th and 20th Century literature. Apart from Yann Martels ‘Life of Pi’ I’ve never read a Booker prize winner I’d ever try to read again without a gun to my head. None of them appear on my bookshelves. I’ll happily delve into classical literature, from Aristotle to Dante, science fiction from Wells and Verne to Niven, Pournelle, Hamilton, Bear and a few others. Quite fond of reading Shakespeare, Donne, Chaucer, and a few of their contemporaries. My own stuff? Hey. I write what I write and if anyone else likes it I’m delighted.
Not much writing done today. Spent a good chunk of this morning sitting waiting while my car was being serviced. As I was leaving the house I grabbed my proof copy of ‘Head of the beast’ to pass the time. It’s a little wordy in places, but the dialogues fairly snappy, and as reads go, its as pleasant a walk in the dark as most places. I was so engrossed, the three hours at the dealership just flew by. Seeing as I wrote it, I’m quite pleased with the end result.
‘Head of the beast’ is a dark little story which speaks about how mundane the horrors can be, how those who are paid to cope with the darkness manage it, and how seemingly lofty motives can lead to appalling outcomes. As far as my sci-fi writings are concerned, it’s fairly typical. A mixture of the horrific and mundane. Rather like real life, really.
Ergo I’ve changed the header tagline from the rather anodyne ‘A science fiction writers web site and blog’, to the mildly blasé ‘A walk in the dark’. Which, I feel, is a little more me, and far more representative.
Have picked up the thread with ‘a falling of angels’ and am busy piling on the words as well as tidying up a loose end from ‘Head of the Beast’. Well I like it. Perhaps that’s all that matters.