Tag Archives: Projects

The four thousand word a day challenge: day one

Harper Vector are opening their books to new authors without agents for two weeks from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. They are looking for new science fiction and fantasy authors for an assault on the eBook marketplace. I have a novel I’d like to submit, but the problem is it’s all notes and fragments, and there’s two weeks to go before the submission floodgates open.

No agent has seen fit to respond to my many missives about other work over the years, and I’m pretty sure my work has gone unread and straight into the shredder. No agent, and no publisher will even look at your work. Not even into their slush piles. However, there is a window of opportunity here, and I’m going for it. At a target of four thousand words a day starting yesterday.

Word count for the first novel in the Cerberus series started at 20338 16th September. Current word count 25982 Tuesday 18th September 08:40am Pacific Standard Time. 1500 pretty good words since 6:10am this morning. Another thousand before 10am when I go off to the day job, and another 1500 after I get home around 6pm. Add in cooking breakfasts, making tea and suppers for both Angie and I, cleaning kitchen, brushing dog, and acting as Angie’s home tech support, plus watching a movie with her, and I have a full day. Tonight’s movie fare will be the Bourne Supremacy.

I have to keep up this work rate for fourteen whole days. I’m currently out of my office and working in the kitchen almost full time. Which seems to work. Back in 1987 I put together a 40,000 word novella, ‘Machine’ from scratch in thirty days using an old Imperial Safari. So work rate isn’t a problem. Hodder and Stoughton did ask me about writing a series back then, but I felt the character of the ‘Machine’ didn’t have enough in him to justify extending the franchise. I still have the old MSS, and revisit it from time to time. Just to see if I can pick holes in it. Oddly enough, that was written in a kitchen too.

Right. 9am. Break over. Back to work.

The hardest part of bringing characters to light and bolting them into a riveting story is the opening and closing sequences. Those I have. The rest of the story is mostly a detective whodunnit with some serious sci-fi roots. I’ve also managed to get a handle on who Paul Calvin is. A psychic cop with a conscience in a crumbling society, but that is all I’m giving away on this blog.

Cerberus; an epiphany

This morning I got talking to Angie about matter, and how I looked at a mundane thing such as a fist. Half an hours breakfast conversation turned into a seven hundred word intro, which finally broke a logjam of ideas stalling the Cerberus project.

Now I’ve finally opened the floodgates into a massive story, which I’ve been trying to do for over five years. A series of eBooks about Paul Calvin, renegade cop with a psychic talent. the third in the series almost wrote itself, but I hadn’t a clue how to build the rest of the story arc. Until this mornings little epiphany.

Watch this space. 1400 words of really first class copy today, and what even my wife calls ‘electric’ reading. Cerberus has just been raised from the almost dead. Even I think it’s good.

I’m now a ‘literary luminary’

Martyn Jones at November book signingFinally got the picture taken of me, grinning like a maniac at my first ever book signing. Still not comfortable with seeing myself smiling, or the shine off my head. However, life moves on, and despite not doing much writing over Christmas, things have been moving gradually in the right direction.

Helping out with taking down our local Museums ‘La Belle Epoque’ display and gossiping with display guru Rick Slingerland about various things, when Amy, the museums Programs Director wanders into the display area we were taking down, sees me lying on on my back undoing bolts with an electric screwdriver in hand and asks to talk to me “When you’re vertical.”
“Sure.” Said I, finished what I was doing, and being a gentleman stood up to talk to her.

the upshot of our conversation was that I’ve been invited to do a presentation as one of the local ‘Literary Luminaries’, in which local writers get to do short presentations about their work on the 26th February. Although at the time of writing my name isn’t on the blog or any visible online publicity yet, but then I wasn’t asked until shortly before 11. Even in these days of instant connectivity, Facebook and Twitter, someone has to write the news down first.

Feeling mildly pleased with myself. Must get a couple of posters and some promotional stuff made. Fortunately I picked up some extra work over Christmas which will pay for such small expenses. I’m almost looking forward to it; which is unusual for me and public appearances.

Getting ready for festivities

Yesterday I had a minor baptism of fire regarding Christmas trees. On Friday, Angie and I were outside our local supermarket discussing buying a tree for Christmas. Angie was fretting about one shedding needles all over the place, and I was just letting her concerns just bounce off me. One of the locals noticed our dilemma, stopped by and was pretty disparaging about the quality of Supermarket trees. “Go see Mike’s place.” He advised, referring to Mike Gogo’s sawmill and Christmas tree farm on Nanaimo Lakes Road.
“Sure, I know where that is.” I said naively. So off we went.

Drove round to the sawmill to be greeted with a “Looking for a Christmas tree?” from the man himself, followed by “Follow me.” As he drove his car out of the Sawmill yard. So we followed to the sign where it says ‘Office’.
“Okay. How does it work?” We asked after the usual British Columbian small talk was exchanged.
“Take this saw. Go pick your tree. Twenty five dollars.” Said one of Mike’s girls, handing me a yellow twenty four inch bow saw. I left Angie at the office to pay our twenty five bucks while I went hunting the twenty plus acre site for a suitable sized tree.

After about twenty five minutes and several false alarm, plus a lot of tripping and muted anglo-saxon over frosty ground, I found a tree that would serve our purpose. At a gnats over eight feet high, it looked just the ticket. Trimming away enough of the straggly lower boughs, I took ten minutes to fell the nine year old fir with the little hand saw. Then fifteen minutes carrying my sixty pound plus trophy back to our car, where my wife announced that she hadn’t been able to pay as Mike only took cash, and she hadn’t brought any. After a moments chagrin and embarrassment, we asked if we could put the tree aside and pick it up when we paid on Saturday. “No problem.” Was the reply.

On Saturday morning, Joanna, my younger Stepdaughter drove us over to the Christmas tree farm, where the tree was christened ‘Douglas’ (Don’t ask) and cargo strapped onto her cars roof rack for transport home. No prizes for guessing who was given the task of clearing most of the bugs off the tree and erecting said item. So, here it is. with me smiling. Sorry about the smile. I’m not very good at them. Always think I look like a grinning idiot.

Will catch up with Twitter and Facebook too in a while. Providing I’m not running Christmas errands. At present all my major projects are on hold as the ‘important’ things like the festive season take precedence. Although ‘The Odd Machine’ should be accepted for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore fairly shortly if my latest ‘fix’ for the project works (See previous post). Once that’s done, I can pitch back into working on the promised ‘Cerberus’ Novellas and final volume of the Stars trilogy.

In addition, my issues with online readings have been resolved. My cameras data card required reformatting, as the little tinker was throwing up memory controller data errors when downloading onto my venerable desktop. This little frustration was probably down to memory fragments from repeated downloads clogging up my SD card. After formatting, all is functional again.

As soon as I can finish a reading without too many fluffs and interruptions, I’ll post a couple on Youtube and embed them on a blog page.

Destroying Brussels

Despite the title of this post, I actually like Brussels as a city, and have fond memories of visiting friends who used to live there (Hi Ralph & Sheena).

In the late 21st Century of the ‘Stars’ trilogy, I’ve used the city for a more sinister purpose. Brussels becomes the headquarters of the Gaian European Republic, a thoroughly unpleasant bunch of oligarchs. A superficially theocratic republic where dissidents are routinely murdered for parts of their brains which form the processing cores for the Gaians war machines. Where people’s remains are cultured and rendered to form ‘Go-Quarn’, a Tofu like substance given to citizens as part of a ‘healthy vegetarian diet’. They were great fun to write. Even more fun to destroy.

This is the great thing about writing science fiction on the grand scale. You can have a great deal of fun simply blowing things (Places, Cities, even whole planets) up. Although in the imaginary future of the ‘Stars’ trilogy, the Gaians see democracy as a primary threat, and spend a great deal of time trying to wipe out said dangerous creed. So it could be argued that the Gaians got what was coming to them.

Nuclear Fusion and Starship design – a few thoughts -Part 2

Having nailed my colours to the mast with regards to my fictional version of Nuclear Fusion, I’d like to continue digging my literary grave with a few thoughts on faster than light travel and Starship construction.

Current thinking seems to favour the ‘space warp’ / wormhole method of sidestepping ‘normal’ space times limitations as documented in the writings and theories of Albert Einstein and others.

Now as far as travel through such portals is concerned, my own thinking is in total concurrence. The only way of transcending the speed of light is via some other dimension or set of dimensions, like the theoretical realms of sub space or hyperspace. Where my view diverges from many of the concepts on offer is in the areas of field dynamics and thus starship design, and here I would like to offer the following thoughts, structured as postulates.

Postulate 1; Such a ‘Starship Drive’ would require power in the Gigawatt, Terawatt, and possibly even the Petawatt range, from a Nuclear Fusion reaction.

Postulate 2; Such a starship could only travel through the realms of sub or hyperspace in a heavily magnetically shielded ‘warp’. Unshielded media, signals or ordinary matter, even if they could enter such a realm, such as by a ‘Stargate’ type device would immediately become disorganised and lose cohesion. Perhaps explosively so. This would rule out any form of Teleportation of unprotected matter.

Postulate 3; Star ship design would have to be governed by the field dynamics of an electromagnetic field. Using this paradigm, the most efficient shape for a starship would be perfectly globular or cylindrical to provide a medium to establish a tight magnetic circuit close to the hull. At least field densities sufficient to allow a transition to a different set of space time dimensions.

In my fictional universe, Starship design favours blank cylinders with no windows, only camera and radar displays to show the outside. Also sub space, at least to our eyes, would be effectively invisible, as our eyes and senses are limited to the wavelengths of the visible electromagnetic spectrum, which might not be valid in a sub or hyperspace type transition. We would have no means of directly viewing such a set of dimensions, except being able to view the inside of a magnetic field boundary, which I describe as a uniform silky black.

My reasoning is thus; whilst all the external bits and pieces bolted on look very pretty, Starships of the “Enterprise” or irregular hull shapes would likely require too much energy, and the field shape would contain too many irregularities for the magnetic field to properly protect and enable translation between transitional space time and normal space time. A smooth and regular field shape is more desirable and easier to maintain than one that is all odd angles.

This issue is addressed in The ‘Sky full of Stars’, where a flaw in field dynamics design results in ‘Quantum foam‘ damage to the hull of the ‘Vancouver’ (A transport starship), nearly results in disaster for Paul Stovek and Lan Yue.

Quantum foam being microscopic vortices of subspace that momentarily exist in the wake of a subspace field collapse during transition to ‘normal’ space. The end result is transforming solid material into a porous sponge like lattice of hull material. In the case of the narrative, a titanium alloy. Such is my fictional interpretation of current thinking, anyway.

Nuclear Fusion and Starship design – a few thoughts – part 1

I’ve been re-reading ‘The Sky Full of Stars‘ again, trying to poke holes (well, more holes than necessary) in the narrative, and thought I might blog a few explanatory notes behind my vision of the technology. Today’s subject is Nuclear Fusion as a means for providing the energy for a Starship Drive. This is nothing new. Fusion as a literary device has a long and venerable history. Nuclear Fusion, and the wealth of energy it could theoretically deliver is a goal (currently) beyond the dreams of Physicists.

Real world Nuclear Fusion ‘in the wild’ occurs when a sufficient mass of hydrogen atoms are sufficiently compressed to create the fireball that becomes a star. ‘Star nurseries‘, where this process has been observed are a well known astronomical phenomenon. It is also observable in H-Bombs, which are a relatively crude means of getting hydrogen to fuse in sufficient quantities for a multi-megaton yield explosive device.

With Fusion, the first trick seems to be to get plasma at sufficient heat, pressure and density into a single point to initiate a self sustaining reaction. The second is getting usable power out of such a reactor without melting the entire installation. Such is the potential violence from the theoretical energy release.

Creating a controlled superheated plasma has been achieved many times before, including actual incidences of fusion, but only sporadically. Part of the problem seems to be in the plasma streams themselves, which tend to ‘arc’ to earth quite readily like lightning bolts. Stopping the plasma behaving in this fashion is heavy on power input, because even with heavy duty superconductors, the amount of electricity needed for the required electromagnetic containment field outstrips any output many times over. Focussing a super powerful laser at a single pellet of hydrogen isotope has also been tried.

The only current means of achieving even partially controlled Nuclear Fusion require huge amounts of energy to spark off a reaction. This is the current reality of nuclear fusion technology. Unless some new fusion milestone has been passed recently, and skipped merrily under my radar.

In my fictional world, I have a vision of a controllable nuclear fusion reaction as a hybrid between the ‘Wiffleball’ or Polywell (WB-6, 7, 8 After the theoretical work of Robert Bussard, later Richard Nebel) and the more ‘conventional’ Tokamak based designs (ITER etc). A critical point of fusing hydrogen atoms (Forgetting the technicalities surrounding Isotopes of Hydrogen for the moment) is developed by focussing a number of plasma streams into a ‘pinch point’ at which the conditions for a fusion reaction become possible.

One of the phenomena that may make this vision possible is the ability of plasma to ‘self organise’ into helices if a sufficient charge of electric current is passed through the plasma itself (See this result from the RFP Experiment, Padova Italy in 2009). Thus reducing the propensity of the heated plasma to arc to the nearest earth. What I propose is arranging several lower power Tokamak type toroids on edge so they form a kind of ring doughnut shape with a pinch point in the centre, where all the plasma streams converge in a narrow central core; charging the plasma so it forms helices, then synchronising the helical plasma streams to create one or a series of hot spots where sustainable heat, pressure and plasma density for continuous and controllable nuclear fusion may be created.

Getting any power out, of course might prove a little tricky. Although a charged particle stream from a Fusion reaction should be enough to induce electrical current via a series of coil windings or discharge points, as well as some form of rapid heat transfer mechanism to create steam to drive an electricity generating turbine. Preventing those melting might prove an issue, but those are mere technicalities.

At the moment my conjecture is purely a literary device, rather like the use of the hypothetical realm of ‘subspace’ for faster than light travel, or ‘space warp’. Yet like so many literary devices, perhaps my version might give a real world physicist a second thought, which in turn might go some way to provide a workable solution for the dream of almost limitless energy. With Fusion, there is always the constant feeling that we are on the cusp of something great and powerful. Yet like so many other other inventions, like heavier than air powered flight and the mass mobility of the automobile, there are one or two missing pieces in the jigsaw before we have the whole picture.

Cerberus novella

Have been looking through my story notes and partial manuscripts for my ‘Cerberus’ series of Novels / Novellas. One of the thoughts occurs to me that perhaps it might be better if I kept the story length down to 20,000 – 30,000 words. At present I’m looking at throwing a couple out into the eBook market place at about $1-2.99 each. A serialisation. Like Stephen King originally did with the ‘Green Mile’.

Will be trying to follow Vonneguts eight rules for writing fiction:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Well, maybe I might play a bit fast and loose with rule 8.  A little suspense is no bad thing, and there’s nothing like a cliffhanger to spur the reader along.

Some notes on eBook formatting

Just had a story rejected as an eBook over formatting issues. Easily resolved, but a thoroughgoing pain to have to go over and redo work you thought you’d completed a month ago.

The trick seems to be that my specific eBook publisher needs the source document to have the story spilt into specific segments, like chapters. Now I find cutting up a story like this a bit limiting sometimes, as chapters can get in the way of a narrative flow by cutting it into distinct chunks. For some narratives they work, but for others, not. I find they tend to slow the flow of a story down too much, especially if you’re dealing with multiple related story lines.

For my Novella, ‘The Odd Machine‘ which is out as an eBook, I had to chop the story into fourteen distinct ‘chunks’ to satisfy the eBook criteria, with the factual story notes as a fifteenth section. As someone who can read at over twelve hundred words a minute when the mood takes him, I find chapters in this format are often too short and detract from the pleasure of reading.

When formatting, the simple rules to follow seem to be these,
Firstly; ensure that all indented paragraphs have no extra tabs in them. Always use the ‘Paragraph format’ tool with the ‘first line’ option selected. If you can get away with it, don’t use tabs in your manuscript at all.
Secondly; in the MSS file, the eBook title should be in ‘Heading 1’
Thirdly; the chapter headings should be in ‘Heading 2’ and any subsections in ‘Heading 3’. Anything else doesn’t seem to work.

Following these simple rules should ensure that your eBook gets out into the marketplace without any unwarranted and annoying formatting related delays.


Am doing a first proof on a partial MSS I last worked on five years ago. I like it, but even I can see why the project ground to a halt though. The plot is too weak. The story runs out of steam at around the 45,000 word mark. Paints a great picture of a post-anarchy South London though.

My major issue is that in spite of there being enough detail, drama, sex and violence in the narrative, there are too many loose ends. No definite direction. Apart from that its very well written and has lots to maintain reader interest, including some quite elegant character quirks. Despite that, the MSS is in need of a revamp to get the story successfully from A to Z.

I think that apart from a jailbreak, the storyline tells little of my lead characters motivations and objectives. That is the projects main weakness. He’s swept along by events and doesn’t really take control of his destiny. He’s a great Deus ex machina, but needs a little something extra. In the words of Hitchcock, a Macguffin.

Aside from that, a little extra thought will make ‘Shifting States’ ready for market. Fifteen thousand words and a cliffhanger ending, perhaps. Four to six weeks work in between putting the last volume of the Stars Trilogy together, and beginning work on Earth’s Night.

Literary festival?

At a neighbours birthday party last night I got talking to a neighbour of mine (Kenn Joubert) who writes historical fiction (Even won an award for it), and we fell to discussing the issues surrounding self published works. Issues like the difficulties associated with getting your product to market. Most of them to do with distribution. Problems like Book shops being highly reluctant to stock non mainstream books except on terms that significantly reduce author royalties. Some who won’t even talk to self published authors, as though self publishing was some kind of communicable disease.

One of the ideas we bounced around was a regular series of Literary events for local self publish authors, purely on a co-operative basis. Nanaimo is a tourist stopover for Cruise ships, and the thought occurs that perhaps if we synchronised our events with cruise ship arrivals we might act firstly as a point of sale for member self publishers, secondly as an attraction for those cruise ship passengers who are looking for something to read where they can guarantee to talk to an author.

While the idea is all very nebulous at the moment, I can actually see it working; providing we get the mechanics of who does what agreed, and everyone sticks to their part of the ship. A downtown location would work best to make travel easier for visitors. A deal done with a local hotel, something that provides a focus for visitors. Like the Hay-on-Wye festival in the UK. Perhaps something coupled with a regular web presence. Rather than hiding our collective laurels under a bush, perhaps with a little goodwill such a concept can be made to work, and not cost us a fortune.

Work, work, work….

Have elected to rewrite Cerberus as a series of shorter works, as opposed to the original trilogy. Paul Calvin is too good a character to limit in that particular fashion. Telempathic Cop turned rebel solving mysteries? Shades of Sherlock Holmes, but not quite so full of himself. 50 – 60,000 words apiece, which should allow a higher output if there’s demand.

The follow on to the Stars trilogy I’m going to call ‘Earth’s Night’. No idea why. I just like the sound of it, that’s all. Similar format to the Stars trilogy, set two hundred years on. There’s a whole slew of ideas already in note form. All I have to do is finish ‘Darkness’ on schedule and move on.