Tag Archives: random thoughts and mutterings

Beating your own drum

I am a natural to self promotion in much the same way that an African bull elephant is a natural to riding a unicycle. Which is why this blog is only active in spasms, I mostly ignore my twitter account and Facebook I primarily use to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Self promotion is not my thing, I’m not good at putting myself forward, my sense of humour leans towards self deprecation and I am on the whole a very private person*.

Why do I mention this?

Well as I put up on my previous blog entry last weekend I was at Octocon 2015, I was a speaker on five of the discussion panels which covered topics like the dangers of time travel, how much military science fiction borrows from the past and renewing genres. All good stuff and I had a great time, in fact the panels all went a lot better than I expected. There is no doubt that in recent years I have become a lot better at public speaking and actually if you’re looking for public speaking experience, a panel is potentially a good place to get it since if you do stall out, one of your fellow panelists is probably waiting to jump in.

When I released the Nameless War back in 2011 it was sent off without any form of advertising or promotion. The book was launched off into the world and…

Bell curveas I’ve said in an earlier blog post from what I can tell – because hard numbers are few and far between and my links to the writing community in Dublin are tentative at most – I’ve done a lot better than average. Without advertising*2. Which was fine by me. There was the potential to be interviewed on local radio during this year but unfortunately that fell through and most of the other things that so many writing advice websites will grandly declare you have to do, I haven’t. Because I don’t enjoy self promotion and because by books did so well, it was an aspect of the whole process that I continue to know very little about*3.

I guess one of the things that fears/concerns/worries I have when it come to promotion is that I’ll get boring, that if I continue to endlessly beat the same drum there likely won’t be any unpleasantness but will become part of the white noise of life.  There’s also that irritating tendency to do myself down and diminish my own work. As I said someone not that long ago ‘don’t do yourself down, there are plenty of people who will happily do it for you‘ very much in finest traditions of suggest to other advice you should take yourself.

So on that note without self deprecation or false modesty, let me say that I am an author, a modestly successful one in an industry where such an achievement is a mighty one and what I have achieved so far is just the beginning.

 

 

* Yes, I am aware of the contradiction of saying that on a blog that potentially be read by anyone in the world with an internet connection.

*2 Up to now but that’s something for another day.

*3 Actually Octocon had a panel on Friday night entitled Promotion in the Age of Social Media which I would have like to have attended but basically, I was hungry.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Ireland, Random Rants, Self Publishing, Writing

Good, Bad or Indifferent?

I started this blog entry two weeks ago, I meant to get it done before going on my holidays but… well that just didn’t happen so I’ll have to see if I can pick up the thread again.

 

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the recent fuss over the Hugo science fiction award then I for one am in no position to criticize  since I’ve only vaguely been listening to what turned into a fairly unedifying spectacle. So what the heck was it all about? A group calling themselves the Sad Puppies made a public attempt to push through their nominations by gaming the voting system. On face of it a clash between liberal and reactionary elements, the latter being a white-boy club trying to keep ‘thems girls and blacks out of ‘our’ competition’, much like the whole Gamersgate thing of a few months ago that I paid even less attention to.

On further examination though, the situation is… less clear cut.

Going be what I’ve read, there is no doubt that the Sad Puppies included in their numbers some individuals who seemed to be unpleasant pieces of work, unfortunately it would appear that exactly the same could be same of their opposition, respectively Theodore Beale and Benjanun Sriduangkaew AKA rage-blogger Requires Hate. While I think it was probably right that the Sad Puppy nominations were ultimately voted down, I also think that no matter what some say, this was far from a victory for anyone.

Let me give an excerpt from Guardian Newspaper:

A snapshot of today’s sci-fi publishing industry – as opposed to the fandom that ultimately underwrites the industry’s business – does not show a diverse picture. Both bookshelves and cinema screens are currently dominated by the Matt Damon/Andy Weir vehicle The Martian and its archaically old-fashioned (and vastly overrated) SF. The lead sci-fi news story of recent weeks is Ernest Cline’s high seven-figure advance for a third novel, which will presumably pander to exactly the same Beavis and Butthead demographic as Ready Player One and Armada.

I’ve highlighted the line I find the most important. I enjoyed The Martian* while the winner of last years Hugo for best novel was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, left me underwhelm. The idea that someone doesn’t like the Martian or does like Ancillary Justice does not in anyway offend me. What I do find unacceptable from both side of the Sad Puppies argument is the sense that you are not permitted to have your own preference.  Certainly I’ve heard individuals attempting to get in a few digs about self-publishers and the supposed crap they produce, which mostly rolls off my back because it is so blatantly self serving. What I do find irritating however is the self proclaimed experts – such as the one above – who plainly believe the average reader should not be allowed to decide for themselves what they enjoy.

It is unfortunate that we don’t appear to be will to accept that what constitutes ‘good’ is a deeply and purely personal determination. There is no such thing as single right answer but we don’t seem to be able to do that, instead we seek to make the whole thing adversarial and in the case of Hugos, slightly pointless. So let us all perhaps try to remember in future that works of fiction are primarily a form of leisure and whether we judge a book to be good or bad is according to whether it entertained, not whether it made the right political message.

 

 

*although I have low expectations of the film

 

Additional information on the whole saga can be found HERE

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

You can’t go back

A friend of mine, one who bounced ideas off for years, is currently hard at work on his first novel and now when our paths cross it’s his turn to bounce ideas off me – what comes around goes around. I won’t say anything about the nature of his work because that’s entirely his to introduce. What I will talk about it a sentence from him that started with: “I’m thinking about going back and-”

No

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes from mixing up character and place names to wacky typos to find and replace errors. All of which pale in comparison against the cardinal sin of writing that I have committed. Namely going back and tinkering. Now I will add a qualification. What I refer to is going back while writing the first draft. Yes, you will have to go back and make repeated passes through it if you have any sort of notion of putting the work forward for publication, because gods know, the chance of it being perfect on the first pass is about the same as the metaphorical thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters producing the works of Shakespeare.

Writing is by its nature a learning experience where to be honest I think the only way to stop learning is to stop writing but your first serious attempt is the one where you’ll learn the most the quickest. When I start a story I have one or two characters, some basics for the setting and maybe a couple of scenes. As you go a long things get fleshed out, gaps start to get filled in, you start to get a handle on the process, the words are starting to pour out of you. Then you look back.

That section or chapter you thought was great now seems clumsy or you’ve come up with a something that really needs to be put in a few chapter earlier. So you go back, you tinker.

You stop making forward progress.

A story, be it novel, novella or even short story, needs to have a start, a middle and an end. No matter how cracking the first line, paragraph or chapter is, it isn’t a story because it isn’t complete. Going back becomes a cycle. You go back to make a change and that change cause knock on changes so you end up working your way up through the existing text making more changes. By the time you get back to where you left off you’ve learned a few more things, had a few more ideas and you go back again and the cycle continues. All the while the story doesn’t get really any closer to actually being finished but does get closer to being abandoned.

The Nameless War was my slowest book to write, several years, because during the first and second draft I kept going back. The Last Charge was done in less than two because I was more disciplined, yes I did change my mind about details as I wrote but didn’t go back to change them straight away. In fact when I finished each chapter I tended to mutter to myself “That needs a lot of work.” then open a new file for the next chapter.

I’m currently writing a time travel story which as you might imagine does involve a lot of double checking but I’m not going back to change anything. Not yet. As I said before writing is a learning experience which makes going back a false economy. Changes while it is all work in progress could and likely will be changed again. With first drafts don’t be afraid of changes in writing style as you go, you’re learning. Once you have the full text, then you can apply all the things you have learned. If you are afraid of forgetting to make a change to an earlier chapter, then add a footnote to it.

But above all else, keep going forwards.

2 Comments

Filed under Random Rants, Self Publishing, Writing

Filling the gaps

I heard it said that there are basically three kinds of writers:

1) Those who plan everything to the Nth degree

2) Those who wing it

3) Those who fall somewhere between the two extremes

I’m a three leaning towards two, I did try writing out a plan for I think the Landfall Campaign but then once I started writing, never remembered to refer back to it. What I do have for each work is a set of mental notes in the form of key scenes. These might be battles or a brief conversation, either way they’re important points for the creation of the story. I like to think of it as an incomplete alphabet. When I know I have A, B and D, I know have to go through C to logically get from B to D. It helps break huge looming task that is book writing down into more manageable lumps while at the same time keeping at eye on the endgame*. There is no such thing as a one perfect method of writing that works for everyone – no matter what people who are usually trying to sell their ‘perfect’ method claim – what there are is a number of techniques and what you have to do is find the combination that works for you.

 

 

*Quite a few of the early Discworld books by the late Terry Pratchett were chapterless and I don’t know how he managed that.

 

I’ve now started twittering and can be found:

HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Rants, Self Publishing, Writing

History – picking the bits you like

This week I came across the following:

Verdun is an online video game where multiple players can take part in the fighting of World War I. The idea for the game was based on the 1916 Battle of Verdun.

 Even though the Battle of Verdun took place in 1916, two years after the Christmas Day Truce, the Verdun game designers decided to build in an extra section where gamers could call a truce in commemoration for the centenary of World War I,

The new sections give players the option to take a ceasefire and re-enact the truce. They can play football, have snow ball fights, make fires and sing Christmas carols with their opponents, rather than fighting.

The players can continue fighting at any point, but the designers felt it was a poignant feature to include at this time.

The Christmas Day Truce of 1914 is an iconic story and image of peace amongst bloodshed during World War I and still resonates today. Both sides of the conflict emerged from their trenches to meet in no-man’s land and enjoy a brief time of peace and festivities at Christmas.

The rest of the article can be found HERE but my first thought was ‘Presumably not getting hung up on fussy details like there were to the best of my knowledge no truces between the French and Germans (the French wanting the German out of their damn country), there were no Christmas truces in 1916 and last but not least the Battle of Verdun went from mid Feb 1916 to early Dec of the same year so didn’t actually straddle the Christmas.’ But on further reflection I find this kind of thing annoying.

The obvious response is, this is just a computer game, so who the heck cares? The answer I think is anyone who gives any kind of damn about history. At the start of this the centenary period I’ve largely been avoiding any kind of documentaries on the subject of World War One, which might surprise people as my interest in military history is well established. There has been a lot of what I wouldn’t even call revisionist history, I’d call fairytale history. The Christmas truce and football game in no-mans land is one of these fairy tales. Another popular one is tales of shell-shocked men dragged in front of kangaroo courts before being summarily shot. The problem with them, is that they aren’t actually true.

Certainly there were sections of the front where there were ceasefires on Christmas day 1914 but equally other sections saw fighting and casualties which because they don’t fit with the fairytale we don’t tend to hear about. Between the French and the Germans to the best of my knowledge there was no Christmas ceasefire because the French wanted the Germans out of their country! In the late eighties the BBC made a TV comedy series called Blackadder Goes Forth, which was set in the trenches of WW1. (Americans might not have heard of this one but it starred Rowan Atkinson also known for Mister Bean) It was really great, laugh out loud comedy with a final scene that remains powerful no matter how many times I’ve seen it but too many people seem to loose sight of the fact that it wasn’t a documentary.

The problem with fairytale history is that it at best twists that narrative puts a focus on items well out of proportion to their real relevance and at worst is used to justify personal agenda. So yes it is just a computer game, it is also spread falsehood and I believe that matters.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Rants

attaching something blunt and heavy.

Okay there has been a long hiatus on this blog, in part because frankly I’ve had nothing I really wanted to talk about and in part because WordPress has changed things, which in the finest traditions of the computer industry seems to be one step forward for five steps back – ho-hum.

On a mildly related note there was this story on NASA emailing a crescent wench into space. There is no doubt that currently 3D printing is a technology still in its infancy but it is a fascinating infancy. I’ve heard that the US Navy is currently testing the technology aboard some of its ships, where the motions of the ve3ssel are a distinct complicating factor. There are predictions that someday soon every household could have its own 3D printer. I’m not so sure on that one, especially if the manufacturers of paper printers get involved; my HP printer hasn’t seen the light of day in months because the cartridges cost €30 a pop and the ink somehow magically goes ‘off’ after a couple of months. But it is field of space travel where this technology could really come into its own. If the technology can be got to work reliably and can use local materials, then that spares us the difficulty of lugging everything from Earth.

It wasn’t a technology that existed when I started writing the Nameless War (a bit like e-readers), which I guess goes to show that the future will arrive sooner than you expect and won’t be what you expected.

Have a good Christmas folks.

5 Comments

Filed under Random Rants, Uncategorized

Once again – I ain’t dead

Okay quick update. I’m currently in the middle of my post book launch flounder. I don’t know how it works for other authors but I find writing can be broken down into two distinct categories. The first and frankly most enjoyable is the initial writing – the first draft, where you take a blank screen and attempt to fill it. The second is the the re-writing, tweaking, changing  and editing, all with the aim of turning the diamond in the rough into… well a diamond. Once the book hits the digital shelves then it is time to return to initial writing and find getting back into the zone takes me a few weeks. So I’ve decided to prioritize work on the second Ships of the Fleet book mainly because unlike the other project I mentioned, this is basically a blank sheet.

Here’s a little taste of what is to come.

Regards.

Protector MkIII colour bow closed

Leave a comment

Filed under Ship design, Ships of the Fleet, Writing