Adventures with a hairy four year old

I’ve come to the conclusion that pets are just hairy four year olds.

Editing space

A_broken_pencilI’ve been stuck in “Editing Space” for the past two months, working on chapters 1-3 of The Tome.

Editing Space is curved in on itself, and time doesn’t quite work the same as out here in Normal Space. In Normal Space, time is linear, a progression, point A to point B.

Editing Space works differently. Here time is circular, a backwards and forwards progression from point A to point B, to point A again, maybe including point C or D if you’re very lucky, but then the loop begins again.

In short, if I’m editing, it will go on and on and on.

There are tricks to get me out of this, and return to Normal Space.

Reading out loud helps A Lot. It seems to interrupt the spacetime continuum of Editing Space. It means that I can hear the words and trip over the stuff I thought was clever or interesting, turning them to pale brown mush, like the chocolate mousse which I was trying to whip up last Sunday but never actually managed to get the consistency right. Mainly because I had RSI of the elbow. No food mixer you see.

I said tricks, but I haven’t found any more than that one. There’s got to be others out there. This is working for me right now.

In related news, I found this today: Here’s how to finish that fucking book you monster by Chuck Wendig.


Printing postcards on the Xerox CM305DF printer

209px-Albion_Press,_1830s_woodcut_by_George_BaxterThis is potentially a bit of a hack, and not the way to print postcards.

However, it worked for me so I’m documenting for future reference.

  • On the printer: Settings > Tray > Tray1 > Paper > Thick Card
  • On the computer:Print the document
  • On the printer:  when it goes bananas, open tray 1, and close tray 1
  • Wait for your page to print.

Viola! Sorted!


Armchair criticism: Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

star_trek_vi_the_undiscovered_countryThe Undiscovered Country (TUD), was the last of the “original” cast Star Trek movies. Directed by Nicholas Meyer (of many movies and books fame, particularly the best of the Star Trek movies, Wrath of Khan), TUD premiered in 1991.

I’ve wanted to analyse the mystery for a while so since writers block is holding back the book edit, today’s clearly the day.

The premise

At the time the movie came out, the Cold War was pretty much at an end, and Glasnost was flowing across the world like Vodka at an after party.

So writers Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy used this as the premise of TUD: The bad guys are in trouble, and need the good guy’s help; peace between the two old enemies is now possible. But there are those on both sides who don’t like the idea of a “brave new world”, the Undiscovered Country of the movie’s title. They work together to end any chance of peace.

The execution

The execution of the story begins quite literally with the murder of the Klingon leader, Chancellor Gorkon (played by the ever interesting David Warner).

It’s a real “Oh Shit” moment; the Enterprise has apparently fired on the Klingon ship, Kronos One; we’ve seen Starfleet officers kill the Chancellor and transport away, all the while our heroes have been “Caught with their britches down”.

At this point, everyone is scrambling for answers while the Klingon ship is coming around to fire back. War seems imminent.

A lesser Captain might have stood and fought. But thanks to Captain Spock’s intervention, Kirk is in charge. And he does the unexpected.

He surrenders.

The end of act one has us on the knife edge; The Chancellor is dead, Kirk and McCoy have been arrested, the Enterprise may have fired the shots.

The mystery unfolds

As the story progresses, various people are identified as collaborators and active participants in an attempt to bring the two sides to war.

By the end of the movie, all is well in the Star Trek universe. But should it be?

Transporters can go anywhere

Where the Assassins go next is problematic.

Scenario one

If the Assassins transport to the Klingon ship that really did fire the shots, the Klingons have them. They can say they’ve caught the murderers and start a shooting war.

This would make for a quite short movie, so we go to Scenario Two.

Scenario two

The Assassins transport back to the Enterprise. This shows they are definitely Starfleet.

Finding these people becomes Captain Spock’s priority. But if he does, his options are limited.

First problem: they’re Starfleet, which is grounds for the Klingons to go to war.

Second problem: he has to get to them while they’re still alive and hope they know who hired them for the job. If they were approached by a guy in a pub, the game is over.

That said, the assassins also have problems, specifically their guns, uniforms and magnetic boots.

You or I might just put them all back where they found them. However, as we found in Star Trek the Motion Picture, the computer keeps a record of things like this (as it should).

But we have a problem here too.

Computers are fallible

A second plot point is that the Enterprise computers have been altered to show she fired on Kronos One. This is eventually proved incorrect with a visual confirmation of torpedoes by Mr. Scott and Captain Spock.

But that takes time, which could easily be used to erase the record of the guns, spacesuits and gravity boots being taken for the assassination.

Who has done this is a much more logical (haha) mystery to solve. If you identify them, you identify someone with enough knowledge of the operation to be of use.

But again, they’re starfleet. Which gives the Klingons a shooting war.

It’s not what you know, it’s who

Valeris (Kim Cattral in a pre Sex in the City role) is the leader on the Enterprise, and knows the whole story.

An interesting side note: Nicholas Meyer originally wanted the turncoat role to be Lt. Saavik, who featured in the second, third and fourth Star Trek movies. Dramatically this would have been far more dark, but he was vetoed by Gene Roddenberry.

Valeris reveals the three main conspirators, one from Starfleet, one Romulan, and one Klingon.

Again, this is hearsay, even if Captain Spock dragged it from her head via a Mind Meld.

So again, we’ve got a war. Even if you’ve got the conspirators, the Chancellor was murdered by human Starfleet officers.

Once more unto the breach

With Kirk back in command, the mystery solved, there’s still another assassination to avert. This time, it’s the President of the Federation, Starfleet’s political boss, in the crosshairs.

But standing between the crew of the Enterprise is the same Klingon ship that fired the shots in the first place. The cat and mouse fight is reminiscent of Star Trek II in the Mutara Nebula; one ship can’t see the other. And the dialogue between Kirk and Christopher Plummer’s General Chang ups the tension greatly.

But the bottom line is that this ship is concrete evidence of the conspiracy, and proves the Klingons were involved with the assassination of their own leader. With it, Starfleet has a tool to balance the books and potentially avert war.

But with its destruction they’ve got nothing. And that’s what happens. Basically what looked good on celluloid was a poor plot choice.

The final denunciation

Our heroes transport into the peace conference; Scotty goes in search of the assassin, while the others beat their way through the throng save the President, while the Assassin is shot.

The day is saved. Or is it?

Houston, we have a problem

The only thing Starfleet has on its side is that it’s been proved the Enterprise did not fire the first shots.

But the rest is not good for our heroes.

Gorkon’s assassins were human. And they were killed most likely by Valeris, another Starfleet officer.

Valeris has admitted her involvement and given hearsay suggesting General Chang, a high ranking Klingon commander, was involved.

But Chang can’t be questioned because he was on the Klingon ship which was destroyed and is now raining down on the planet in tiny little pieces.

Finally, the second assassin looks Klingon, but upon closer examination turns out to be human.

At the end of the movie, all the evidence points to a Starfleet conspiracy to start a war. And at that point, the Klingon Empire would be well within their rights to call the whole peace conference off and declare war.

In conclusion

I’m a writer and this was an interesting exercise. The story stands on its own, is perfectly enjoyable, and has far less plot holes than the first or second “New” Trek movies.

So I’ll still watch this than “Into Darkness“.



The long dark

Dirt_and_Mud_007_-_Mud-500xSome people hate winter. I like it. I like being able to rug up, hide under blankets with a hot water bottle. I like the chill on the air and the sense of losing feeling in my wrists while typing. Well, not that part, but you get the idea.

Summer is, on the other hand, a special hell. The sun is too bright, too intense, my clothes stick to me and whether I’m exerting myself or sitting quite still, I’m covered in sweat. The sweat is moist and uncomfortable — sidebar: I once read a survey that suggested that certain genders “preferred” (if you can call it that) one of two words: Moist, or Soiled — and there’s just no escaping it. Sure I can turn on the new Airconditioner, but that’ll only hammer my electricity bill and a single room for the duration it’s on.

Why am I writing this? No idea, I came here for something else. Ranty McRantFace has taken control and I’m now at a loss.

Ah yes, Grammar.

I’m a writer. Once I’m published I’ll be an author, a singular distinction and subtle but fundamental difference to the former.

And being a writer, I toil over a hot processor for long hours determining the order of words. English ones in this case. Trouble is, I belong to a generation of kids that the “Education System” decided not to bother teaching English Grammar.

“They’ll pick it up”, seems to have been the pervading mindset. And in the time saved, we’ll teach the kids SPORT!

And what this taught me was a pervading dislike of team sports, at least the way they’re played in general. The concept of “sportsmanship” was replaced — to my eyes — with puffed chests and arrogance from the winners, the endless drubbing of the losers.

Again I’ve gone off on a tangent. That’s me I’m afraid. Easily distracted.

So, grammar is one of those things I don’t have much of a clue about. And many years ago I was asked to help edit a magazine. My contribution was in hindsight basic in nature. I could see when things weren’t working, and the “read it out loud” approach to editing would always save things. Try it, you’ll trip over words and sentences that are poorly phrased.

But here’s the odd thing.

The teachers were right in the end. Not about specific knowledge of the use of Adverbs and past participles, but that I picked up the language and could work out how to use it.

At least, that’s what I think. Subjectively I mean. Objectively I might be throwing words at the page like a kid throws mud at a wall. Only a future publisher will be able to tell me that. Which reminds me, I need to edit this damn book for a final time. And find an agent. And write a synopsis.

So enough distractions.

Moi Rools 4 Ritng

A_broken_pencilWritten as a reminder for editing purposes. Nothing to see here except cringe-worthy mistakes I’ve been guilty of in the past.

This is a growing list which may be categorised and expanded at a later date.

  • Simple wins.
  • Spellcheck is my friend.
  • Avoid MS Office.
  • Backup. Regularly. I mean it! And not just in one place.
  • An expert is, by definition, knowledgeable about a subject. Plot never trumps their expertise. See also, Prometheus.
  • Shoehorning plot into dialogue can be problematic.
  • Plot can be as complicated as I like, but at the end of the day, if I can’t understand it without an Ouija board and a flow-diagram, I need to simplify.
  • Two characters may know the backstory, but they shouldn’t explain it to each other.
  • Don’t labour the point; rewrite so it’s simple and clear.
  • Simple wins.
  • Did I mention about backing up?
  • Don’t oversimile; it’s as messy as a walrus who’s eaten a bad seal.
  • Conflict is good; melodrama is not. Telling the difference between the two may require downing tools and picking up at a later date.
  • Super-Characters (A.K.A. people who walk through the world without difficulty and who can catch bullets in their teeth) are boring. Think Indiana Jones and Ellen Ripley, not Superman.
  • Enjoyment comes from writing for me first, and if others like it, that’s great and may mean I get to eat this week.
  • Men are not superior to women.
  • Skin tone doesn’t matter.
  • Characters develop over time, so don’t just yank them out immediately.
  • If a character is in the story, it has to be for a plot related reason, not because it seemed like a good idea.
  • Reverse tropes wherever possible. Men are not manly; women are not feminine, people who are not lily white are not the enemy. Everyone’s people.


Should have been an Olympian

BillyMills_Crossing_Finish_Line_1964OlympicsJust completed the book, edit 10, which clocks in at 78,000 words.

It’s a bit of an anticlimax to be honest, especially in these days of Th€ O£ympic$ ©®™ and highly trained athletes crossing the finish line to the adoration of millions.

Writing isn’t a spectator sport. It’s held in quiet venues in the absence of an audience. It’s a sport for introverts. Watching it would be as dull as watching paint dry. There’s no competition here, it’s a series of personal bests; I finished that scene, that chapter, that book; I rewrote and it’s better. Every version is an improvement. I’m no Michael Moorcock; it took two years to get here. And I try not to say “I’ve finished” because people keep giving me funny looks. But I really am now. Honest. And besides, writing is like software development; you should never go with version 1. In Pseudocode terms;




Until done.

Determining “Done” is a goal unto itself. It’s four parts toil and one part perfectionism. But the trap for me has been to toil without feedback, because without it, I could never be truly objective. Constructive feedback is good — point out the shortcomings and the good stuff — so thanks to Gem and Monika for helping there. It’s also the editing. Because when you edit from the beginning, you can see what’s working and what has to go. This final version is 78,000 words, I’ve written and cut triple that.

Now there’s a final read-through to iron out any phrasing weirdness, and then the hard part: find an agent.

So if you know of anyone who handles Sci-Fi Mystery Thrillers, let me know.