Category Archives: science-fiction

Pushing water uphill?

I just stumbled across this video, and it’s amazing! It may be physics, but most home cooks will recognize this weird phenomenon. 😀

cheers,
Meeks


Excel 2016 – how to fill a series… backwards

I’ve used Excel for a very long time, but I literally just discovered this neat trick so I’m going to share. 🙂

Ok, to start at the beginning, I started an Excel spreadsheet to create a super accurate timeline of the Vokhtah story. To track the number of days of the timeline, I created a column and ‘filled’ it with a sequence of numbers. Most people know how to do this but I’ll cover it nonetheless:

Step 1 Type in two consecutive numbers and then select both together:

Selecting these two consecutive numbers tells Excel the step order – i.e. 1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, 3 + 1 = 4 etc. If you typed in 10 followed by 20, Excel would know the step order was 10 + 10 = 20, 20 + 10 = 30, etc.

Once Excel knows the step order, clicking and holding the small square [as shown below] allows you to drag that step order to as many cells as you wish:

In the screenshot above, I dragged the handle down to the 7th cell, filling all the cells with the correct sequence of numbers.

So far so good? Stay with me. This is where it gets exciting. Being able to fill a series of cells with consecutive numbers was perfect for tracking how many days there were in the timeline, but that didn’t help me work out on which calendar day the journey/story began.

To put this as simply as possible, imagine a task takes you 10 days to complete, and you finish it on the last day of March [which has 31 days]. Now imagine if someone asked you which day of the month you started the task. If it’s only a few days you can easily count backwards, but if it’s more than a few days, you might have to drag out a calendar to work it out.

On Vokhtah, there are no months per se. Instead, there are 4 seasons which have an irregular number of days. Book 1 of Vokhtah takes place during the season of Tohoh, which has 100 days. To find out which calendar day the story began, I needed to do a backwards fill. This is how I did it.

  1. Click in a vacant cell.
  2. Look at the top right corner of the Excel toolbar and click the small arrow next to the ‘Fill’ icon:

This will display a small, drop down menu.

  1. Select the ‘UP’ option from the drop down menu.
  2. Now type the last number of your desired fill sequence in the cell.
  3. Next, type the second last number of your desired fill sequence in the next cell up.
  4. Select both cells.
  5. Click-hold-drag the small square box UP to fill the cells from last to first [or any point in between]:

In the example shown above, I only dragged the small square as far as the number 4. In my real spreadsheet I dragged it from 100:

to Tohoh 42 – i.e. the day of the season on which the journey/story began:

I know a lot of writers out there will be shaking their heads right about now. “Use a spreadsheet? No way!”

To be honest, as a pantster, I would never have thought of using a spreadsheet to work out how the story should progress. But once I started writing books in a series, I had to make sure that info. in the first book married up to info in the second and third books. And that’s where Excel comes in because it allows me to outline in reverse.

So there you have it. Outlining in reverse aided by a backwards fill from Excel. It’s been a good day. 🙂

cheers,
Meeks


Do you re-read old favourites?

My thanks to Audrey Driscoll for her post about re-reading The Lord of the Rings and the magnificent song that went with it:

I have re-read The Lord of the Rings, about three times. I’ve also re-read the entire Dune series about eight times and the Death Gate cycle at least three times, the most recent being just a couple of years ago. But… I’ve never re-read any of the books on my Kindle.

Is that because there are so many new books available to read?

In her hugely successful blog posts about the TBR [To Be Read] list, D. Wallace Peach brought a touch of humour to the phenomenon of buying and downloading hundreds of books that people never end up reading. I didn’t contribute because I don’t actually have a TBR. I’m a voracious reader and get seriously anxious if I don’t have something new lined up to read, but now I have to wonder: why does my reading have to be ‘new’? Why don’t I re-read any of the books on my Kindle when I do re-read at least some of my paperbacks?

I know the answer doesn’t lie in the quality of books on my Kindle; a lot of them are as good as The Lord of the Rings, Dune, or any of my other favourite paperbacks. The answer can’t be readability either because my eyesight is not great any more so paperbacks are actually harder for me to read. So what is it?

I have no answers on this one so I’ll throw the question out to all of you:

Do you re-read books and if so, are they print books or ebooks?

Puzzled,
Meeks


Free book schedule

All my science fiction books have now been reduced to 99c, and they’re now on Kindle Unlimited as well. As promised, I’ve also set up the free book schedule on Amazon. Starting January 19, 2021, Miira will be free for five consecutive days. The other five books are scheduled to be free as per the following table:

As you can see, the last book ends its free run on April the 3rd. I had to mess around with the dates a bit to make sure it didn’t finish on April Fool’s Day! -cough-

The 99c price point is so no one who wants a book misses out. If possible, though, please grab the book[s] during the free promotion. And it goes without saying that I would love reviews, any kind of reviews, even critical ones.

And finally an apology. I’ll be talking about these books a lot in the weeks ahead. I’ll try not to bore you silly, but there’s only so many ways of saying ‘read my book’. Bear with me!

-hugs-
Meeks


Cover feedback please!

Back in January, many of my Aussie writer friends joined together to produce an anthology of short stories and poetry, with the proceeds going to bushfire relief. I didn’t join in because I’m not very good at short stories, but I’ve wanted to do something ever since. And now there’s this damn virus…

Anyway, to do my bit, I’ve poured all three books of Innerscape into one omnibus, and I’m going to be offering the omnibus for a limited time – basically the 90 days Amazon requires in order to give readers 5 free days. After the 5 free days are done, the omnibus will revert to 0.99 cents. I wish I could offer the whole 90 days for free, but Amazon won’t let me.

So…I’ve done the formatting and the omnibus is ready to go, but I need to settle on a cover. These are the three I knocked up yesterday:

Version 1

The version 1 cover at thumbnail size

I quite like this one as the white squares can be either shoji screens or the ‘catacombs’, both of which feature in the story. But…the image will only have meaning for those who have already read the whole story. I fear that it will do nothing for potential new readers.

Version 2

The version 2 cover at thumbnail size

This is the one I prefer, aesthetically, plus it’s more consistent with the individual covers, but will the contrast between the ideal beach and the circuitry intrigue readers enough to give the story a go? No idea.

Version 3

Okay, this is the one I like the least, but it may well be the one that most closely fits the scifi/thriller genre of the story. As my Indies Unlimited buddy, Lynne Cantwell wrote in her post about covers:

‘My cover was terrible. Oh, it’s pretty enough. But I’d been marketing the book as urban fantasy, and the cover screamed women’s fiction. The image was all wrong. The font was all wrong. Even the title was all wrong. There was nothing there to entice a reader of urban fantasy to click through and buy my book.’

How to Match Your Cover to Your Genre : https://indiesunlimited.com/2020/03/10/how-to-match-your-cover-to-your-genre/

I know my covers are never going to match either genre exactly because the typical sci-fi cover has stars and space ships, while many thrillers include images of weapons. Still, I’d like the cover of the omnibus to convey something of the two genres, and the simple circuit board of version 3 may just be it.

I would really love your feedback on the three versions, or if none of them appeal, suggestions as to how I could make the look and feel of the cover better.

Thanks in advance,

Meeks


Miira and Jaimie

I am working on another how-to post, really, but all work and no play isn’t healthy so…. tah dah 🙂

This one’s a little out of sequence, but those who’ve read The Godsend may recognize the scene it was adapted from. The core thing I’ve learned since experimenting with this kind of visual storytelling is that you can never reproduce a scene exactly. 🙂

I now have so much more sympathy for movie boffins who adapt much loved books to the visual medium!

Have a great weekend!

Meeks


Vokhtah has 16 reviews!

When D.Wallace Peach [Diana to her friends] said that she was going to read Vokhtah, I warned her. I said that the story was nothing like Innerscape. I told her that there were no humans in it, that it was all about these weird aliens on another planet…

And then I promptly forgot about it because I didn’t expect her to finish Vokhtah, and I certainly didn’t expect her to review it. But she did, she did. 🙂

Forgive me for posting Diana’s review in full, but Vokhtah is my firstborn, and I still think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.


D.W.Peach – 4/5 stars


This is a hard book to describe. “Pure Alien” is a good start, and I’m impressed by the author’s ambition and execution. Vokhtah is an alien planet and the characters are insect-like (my impression) creatures who engage in their own sort of political intrigue, espionage, and social caste system. They’re clever, dastardly, selfless, and selfish – much like humans – but there the similarities end.


The world-building is rather amazing and humans won’t find much that’s familiar here. Even the speech is different. The iVokh and Vokh are genderless “its” and don’t have names, referred to by their role in society, their ranking, and their talents. Social norms are dictated by groups and reinforce variations in dominance and subservience. It takes about a third of the book to get used to.


The story unfolds from multiple points of view, all alien. Flory doesn’t pamper the reader with backstory or explanation, but tosses us right into the strange world – sink or swim. The experience is immersive, but it requires patience to figure out who these aliens are and what the heck they’re doing. I enjoyed the story-telling, the fascinating world, the author’s imagination and writing skills. The pace was excellent and kept my interest.


I did spend a fair amount of the book confused about the characters, though. This is primarily, I think, because they don’t have names and, in many cases, go by multiple designations. For example, there are a number of Sixths and Sevenths. A Blue is also a Messenger who is also a Healer. A Teller is also a Trader, and is sometimes an Apprentice, so sometimes they’re the same character, sometimes not. There are a lot of identically designated characters as each location/eyrie in the story has the same basic social structure, and the book involves travel. I struggled to keep them straight until about 50% through when the plot began to narrow down the action and further define the characters’ personalities and motivations.


But then, I struggled to keep Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon straight. That one I gave up on; this one I didn’t. And it was worth it. By the end, I was ready for the next book in the series. I highly recommend Vokhtah to readers who love pure alien sci-fi, love a reading challenge, and want to engage with the work of a wonderfully creative imagination.

For those not familiar with ‘Gardens of the Moon‘, the book is the first volume in Steven Erikson’s mammoth Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It has an eye watering 1,221 ratings and an overall ranking of 4/5 stars.

To have something I’ve written even mentioned in the same sentence as ‘Gardens of the Moon’ makes my heart swell to epic proportions. But to have Diana say that she didn’t give up on Vokhtah when she did give up on Erikson’s first book…gods, I think my heart is going to burst!

To Diana, and every one of the amazing readers who read Vokhtah, and left a review, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Meeks


Update to Miira is permafree on Amazon

December 5, 2018 Update….I am officially an idiot. I was so excited to have Miira permafree on Amazon, I totally forgot to include the link for the book. Can I plead old age as an excuse?

A huge thank you to Cage Dunn for giving me a gentle nudge in the right direction. As Bluebottle would say: ‘I feel a proper fool’. 😦

Okay, here are the urls for Miira I should have included in the post, all of them:

Amazon

BnN
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miira-acflory/1127308201;jsessionid=0BF6E77AA708B377617AE0D06A618016.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940154886793

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/miira

Angus & Robertson [au]
https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/miira-acflory/p/9780648162728

Indigo
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/miira-innerscape/9780648162728-item.html?ikwid=Miira&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Now I can relax. -hugs to all-

Meeks

I’m so excited, I don’t know what to do with myself. I finally got up the courage to ask Amazon to make Miira [book 1 of Innerscape] permafree to match B&N, Kobo et al,… and it’s happening!

So far, I’ve checked amazon.com and amazon.com.au, and the ebook is $0.00 on both! Sadly, amazon.co.uk hasn’t gone to permafree yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. This has literally just happened, or at least I’ve only just noticed. If anyone sees Miira going permafree somewhere else, please let me know.

It’s odd, this feels like an early Christmas present. At least now I have the hope that more people will give Innerscape a try. And to celebrate, we’re getting pizza tonight.

-thinks- I might just indulge in some Cabernet Sauvignon as well. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘Oh  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that. So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?

Meeks


Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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