Friday, 26 July 2013

Different Skies: The Union and the Sun God

So last few days here the weather has been hot and sticky and since we British don't do air-conditioning writing has been an uphill chore. Still it's cooled down a little so back to the contents of Different Skies.

The title of this story seems rather portentous at first glance but that's rather deceptive since the story is probably the most low key in the collection. The title is actually an oblique reference to the 'Space Race' of the 1960s. In that context I'm sure most of you will guess that the sun god in question is Apollo and as for the Union well in Russian the word would be 'Soyuz'; and the spacecraft of that name is the mainstay of the Russian program to this day. So the title is just a cryptic version of 'Soyuz and Apollo'.

Now this is a work of alternate history but in this case both the origin of the change and its effect are not immediately obvious as the main character finds himself in Moscow a couple of years after the fall of the USSR. Disgusted at the way the city has been overrun with fast food joints and tacky tourist souvenirs he goes looking for something 'real' and finds it in a shop whose proprietor tells him the story of a forgotten tragedy of the early days of spaceflight and a fleeting moment of opportunity that slipped away and never came back.

As I said quite low key but it explores a what if that could easily have happened and had unexpected consequences. Anyway next time we come to the origins of 'Fourth Planet Problem' and that story is anything but low key...

Monday, 22 July 2013

Still trying for that perfect cover

Well as you can guess from the title another cover iteration is ready. I've tried a somewhat different look for the Secession Campaign this time:

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Home Stretch

So still at home job-searching and writing. Hard to say about how the former is going just yet but the latter is still making good progress. At the moment Different Skies and Secession Campaign both undergoing proofreading and the novelization of Fourth Planet problem might be finished by the end of the month.

Obviously there's still a fair amount of work to do to knock the latter into shape to be published but once the first draft is finished the main thing with $PP will be finding some 'beta readers' and so it's a question of what to work on next. The most likely plan is to move on to the Secession Campaign sequel 'Bridgehead Campaign' but there a re a couple of other ideas I might try and rough out synopses for.

As things are working out I'm more or less reduced to crossing my fingers that I'll have something ready to publish by September. The simple fact is getting feedback and critique on your work is an uphill struggle. it's not finding people who say they will read your work; it's finding ones who actually follow through...

Saturday, 13 July 2013


As I may have mentioned before I frequent the forum and a member started a new thread today that gave me the idea for this blog. Essentially their idea was that the RAF takes jet engines seriously much sooner and as a result they have jet fighters in the Battle of Britain. Now it's an interesting idea but the problem arose when the question was asked; 'how will the Germans react to this new development?' because the answer was 'they will just ignore it'.

This illustrates a problem that can creep in when you have characters who are definitely the heroes of the story; there's a risk that you pile all the virtue's and skills onto the protagonists and leave the antagonists as bumbling idiots but that's relatively easy to spot and correct. A slightly more subtle version that I have seen in a number of published works is that some of the 'bad guys' are good at their jobs but they are really good guys just on the wrong side. That is that competence becomes inextricably linked with morality and virtue; if the character is good at their job then they are morally good as well.

The real world of course illustrates that this is seldom the case; people can be truly great inventors, scientists, artists, or generals and yet be terrible human beings. You always need to bear in mind that most of the time the antagonists are every bit as convinced that they have right on their side as the protagonists do; and if you really want create a devious and twisted plot they might actually be correct in their assessment!

The other problem that can arise is what I think of as passive incompetence. Essentially this is what was happening in the example I gave at the beginning; the writer has such a clear idea of how they want things to turn out for the 'heroes' that the other side becomes simply props; they only do things when the protagonists interact with them. You can get away with that for a little while but eventually the reader is going to tire of antagonists whose only purpose is to demonstrate how awesome the protagonists are; they need to have an existence and a purpose even if it doesn't make it into the narrative itself...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Different Skies: Villainy

Been concentrating on writing and job-hunting this week. The former has been going pretty well and I'll just have to wait and see on the latter.

So getting back to the contents of Different Skies and despite what it says in the title of the piece there is no story called 'Villainy' in the collection; it's simply a catch-all description for four stories that all take place against the background of a world where a 'superhero' race takes place in instead of a 'space race'; a world where superheroes, and supervillains, are made not born.

This mini collection consists of four stories; 'Genealogy', 'Minion', Mandatory Origin Story', and 'Audition'

Genealogy takes the form of a series of excerpts from a book on the history of Superheroes from the Soviets taking an early lead and on through Vietnam to a present day where the collapse of the USSR has made the means to acquire super powers available to anyone with the money and the degree of insanity to risk using cheap Eastern European knock offs.

Minion is essentially about a man who works for a supervillain having a very bad day, while Mandatory Origin Story recounts how a US government superhero turns into a supervillain and Audition sees a washed up actor getting a very strange job offer.

You may have noticed I'm being rather stingy about the details of those last three; that's because in addition to being the three shortest stories in the book they have a central conceit that I really can't discuss without ruining. What I'm say is that you will have to read the book if you want to find out what they are all about...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Too Much Time?

So up until Wednesday it was a pretty ordinary week at work; then late in the afternoon it came to a sudden, and permanent halt. Things had not been going well for a while and a group of us were summoned to a meeting and given redundancy notices. Not exactly good news but I choose to see it as being on-board an aircraft where both wings have come off and grabbing a parachute rather than being aboard when it slams into the ground.

One positive side effect of this is of course more time available to write. problem with that though is that its all too easy to lose track of time when the familiar structure of the day has been removed. When you can sit down and write at any time it becomes all too easy to postpone it for five minutes, which can readily turn into five hours if you aren't careful.

It comes down to that other key requirement in writing; discipline. You have to make yourself write even when they are distractions or when your not in the mood. I tend to find that once I get started I build up momentum and it can be hard to stop. Of course it will be interesting to see how well I can follow my own advice in the coming days...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

One more cover

Another iteration of the cover art for Secession Campaign, this time with a bit more action:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A matter of time

Imagine if you will a rather odd conversation; one wherein you start discussing the 2012 Olympic 100m final and the person you are talking comments that they could be as fast as Usain Bolt if they only had the time to train. Or perhaps you are discussing the modern physics and your companion states that they could probably have made some great breakthrough but they've just never gotten round to it. 

You would probably regard such sentiments as 'naive' at best; after all we know there is something more to such achievements than simply a matter of taking the time to 'give it ago'. Now given that this blog is about writing I suspect you've guessed where this is going; the world appears full of otherwise sensible people who would never suggest they could be the next Bolt or Einstein and yet seem to harbour the belief that they could be JK Rowling if they just had the time. Why do some people seem to be so blase about the art of writing? Once again I have a theory.

In my opinion it all starts with the simple fact that most people can write; that is they know how to carry out the mechanical process of putting words on paper. They learned at school; they've done homework, essays, e-mails, Facebook updates, and writing a book is just that but more so right?

This contributes to writing being seen as a mundane thing where other arts retain a certain mystery; it may also partly be because sight tends to be the dominant sense and other art forms are more visual so we can appreciate the complexities better than with the visually dull collection of words on a page or screen that makes up a story.

Perhaps though its less that people are blasé about writing and more that it's superficial simplicity lends itself to daydreams of artistic ability thwarted by the demands of every day life; at least thinking that might make it easier to resist throttling the next person who says 'oh I've thought about writing...' :)