# Tag Archives: author

## The Race Against Time

I’ve talked about beta readers before, and how vital they are for Indie writers. Well, Chris James, author of The Race Against Time, has been one of mine for a very long time. And I’ve been one of his since Repulse, the novel that started his climb to fame.

I am now very proud to announce that the latest novel in the story arc, The Race Against Time, is not only published, it’s hit the top of the best seller lists in the UK:

You can read Chris’ post about The Race here, and garden lovers can also check out some truly gorgeous photos of tulips (grown by Mrs James). ๐

As someone who loves good science fiction, I can tell you that it was hard to focus on the technicalities of The Race because I kept wanting to read what happened next. That’s one of the pitfalls of beta reading when you grow to love the characters, which I do.

The Repulse Chronicles encompass one of the most innovative, immersive and, dare I say it, topical story arcs in modern science fiction. Chris James lives in Poland with his wife and family, and the story is about the invasion of Europe in the future. I say no more.

Congratulations to Chris for a job very well done. ๐

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. ๐

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. ๐

cheers,
Meeks

## Mary Smith – a life well lived

Mary Smith came into my life via her blog posts about cancer, her cancer, but she stays in my memory because of her book :

That book opened my eyes to the power of Afghan women. They are not the meek, retiring people I’d imagined. Like Mary herself, they are strong and fearless.

I can’t call Mary ‘friend’ because I did not know her beyond the pages of a book or the posts on a blog. That lack became incredibly clear today as I watched the live stream of her memorial service. What she accomplished, with integrity and compassion, are an example to us all.

Many years ago at university, I discovered the concept of Eudaimon. It’s an impossible concept to distil into just a few words, but what stayed with me was the image of a man lying on his deathbed, looking back over his life and having no regrets. To live a whole life so well that you feel no regret over anything…that is an accomplishment few of us can claim. I think Mary can though.

Vale, Mary. You will not be forgotten.

love
Meeks

## Guest post: The First Year of the Third Decade of the Age of Stupid, by the Venerable Bede

###### Scifi author Chris James has a secret talent – he channels a Venerable from the 6th century called Bede. Chris was kind enough to allow me to reproduce some of the great man’s words of wisdom to start the New Year.

โAnd lo, at the beginning of the First Year of the Third Decade of the Age of Stupid, a Great Pestilence did make its way from the East along the Silk Road, and did cause much harm and bring vast Misery and Death to the countries of the West and the New World.

โBut this was the Age of Stupid, when people turned their backs on the Men and Women of Knowledge. Yay, verily, in the New World, the disciples and acolytes of the Orange Shit-Gibbon did follow their Masterโs teachings, unto the arms of Death itself, for they did not believe the Great Pestilence was real because they could not see it with their own eyes. Indeed, His disciples and acolytes did curse and spit on the Men and Women of Knowledge, and did reject the evidence that Knowledge brought forth even as the Great Pestilence did fill their lungs with foul liquid and they breathed their last. Such was the Age of Stupid.

โIn Perfidious Albion, the Greased Albino Piglet strove to pretend to care for all the common people; but, lo, He gave out all of the Gold to His associates of knaves and charlatans, who did cluster about Him in the same manner as insects do weave and dive and fret about excrement. In Perfidious Albion, too, did thousands perish needlessly from the Great Pestilence, but this did not matter because the Hoarders of the Gold could protect themselves, and did reason that because they hoarded all of the Gold, they were better and their lives worth more than the common people. Such was the Age of Stupid….

Sadly, the Venerable Bede had no words of wisdom about the #LiarFromTheShire in the Antipodes, but I guess travel was a bit restricted back then.

Have fun, and may the Bede be with you. ๐

Meeks

p.s. Just corrected a boo boo I made when copy pasting the opening paragraphs of Chris’ post!

## Ursula K. LeGuin, 1929 – 2018

To say that Ursula K. LeGuin has been an influence in my writing life would be a woeful understatement. Her Hugo award winning novel ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ opened my eyes to what could be done. By women. With courage.

The world has changed a great deal since LeGuin finally found a publisher for Left Hand of Darkness, but the book still stands as a beacon to all writers: stay true to yourself, be brave, sometimes merit is recognized.

This is a screenshot of LeGuin’s author page on Amazon:

Such wonderful books, and now there’ll never be another.

Never being forgotten,

Meeks

## Intellectual Property – an Indie minefield

I am in no danger of having my intellectual property [IP] diddled away by some corporation waving a contract, but Kristine Kathryn Rusch* is, and her latest post was scary to say the least. Here’s a short quote:

‘Those companies can all acquire IP from stupid writers for less than \$10,000 per property forever. Just say the word โmovieโ or โTVโ and most stupid writers give away their IP for free, in the hopes of having a movie or TV show made from their property. The property they no longer own, by the way.’

It doesnโt matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. Theyโll register anyway, even before theyโve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and itโll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.

The bold emphasis is mine but the meaning is clear – one small Indie hasn’t a hope of fighting a company with millions of dollars in its war chest. Can you afford to take a production company to court to get your intellectual property back?

“Oh but if I’m being paid for it then it doesn’t matter.”

Yeah, that’s the big ‘if’, but sadly those contracts make sure you get little if anything in return.

I really, truly, strongly suggest you read the Rusch article, just in case….

I’ll confess, part of my outrage stems from the fact that I have day dreams too. I would love to see the Innerscape story turned into a movie or a big, beautiful game. I understand the desperation to have that kind of validation, because I share it. If someone came knocking, waving a contract in my face, I know I’d have stars in my eyes and the k-ching of cash registers in my ears too. But after this warning, I hope I remember that the one thing worse than never finding fame and fortune is being cheated out of it…by a corporate with lots of money and no scruples.

Meeks

*Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a Hugo award winning writer with her own wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristine_Kathryn_Rusch

## Open letter to author Ursula K. LeGuin

Most modern readers only know Ursula K. LeGuin for her Earthsea trilogy, but some of us were touched, and forever changed, by her science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness.

It was, and is, one of the best examples of ‘social science fiction’ ever written. It also happens to be a literary work that defeats many science fiction readers. Thus, although it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970 [science fiction’s equivalent of a Pulitzer], the novel did not become a bestseller. Perhaps that fact was preying on Ms LeGuin’s mind when she recently wrote an article about Amazon entitled:

Up the Amazon with the BS Machine,
or

by Ursula K. Le Guin

You can find the complete article here:

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/06/01/up-the-amazon/

For the record, I have loved Ursula K. LeGuin’s work since my early twenties. That’s close enough to 40 years. But whilst I still adore her writing, I’m saddened by her dislike of Amazon, especially as I do not understand it. Most of the criticisms she raises against Amazon in that article have nothing to do with Amazon at all. They would be better directed against the traditional publishing industry that has not supported her, perhaps because she was not a BS [best-selling] author.

I read the article on the Passive Guy’s blog and felt compelled to comment:

With much love and respect,

Andrea [Meeka] Flory

## Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a glowing review of Laurie Boris’ novel ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’ . You can find that review here. One of my favourite characters from that story was [and is] Charlie, the MC’s gay brother-in-law.

Sadly I knew Laurie did not write series, so I resigned myself to not meeting Charlie again. And then the woman tricked me [in the nicest possible way]. ๐

First, Laurie brought out a novella called ‘The Picture of Cool’ which you can buy on Amazon for the princely sum of \$1.

Now The Picture of Cool is a kind of sideways step in the series, and focuses on a part of Charlie’s life that is barely mentioned in Don’t Say Anything. In book 3 however, the Trager family story continues!

Not surprisingly, book three is called ‘Playing Charlie Cool’, and will be out in October, 2014. But! Thanks to Amazon finally giving us Indies the ability to promote the pre-ordering of our books, you can now pre-orderย ‘Playing Charlie Cool’ on Amazon. ๐

I’m seriously excited about both the book [which I have already pre-ordered] and this new ability Amazon has finally given us. If enough people pre-order, the sales spike on launch day will send the book zooming up the sales rankings. Andย that, my friends, can make the difference between success and failure. Put simply, with so many books available on Amazon, being seen in the crowd is the single biggest problem we face.

So please, give Laurie’s new book a fighting chance to be seen. Pre-order now!

-hugs-

Meeks