Tag Archives: writing

7 year retrospective

Good morning all. Apparently, it’s my anniversary. According to WordPress, I started blogging on this day, exactly seven years ago. 🙂

To be honest, all I remember about that day, and that first post, is that I didn’t expect anyone to read it. Nevertheless, I decided that if I really did need to have a blog [as all the pundits said], it would be about my passions rather than just ‘marketing’. So I dusted off my soapbox, hopped on and let rip about climate change.

Sadly, little has changed between then and now. In case you’re interested, this is my very first post, dated December 29, 2011:

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When I first started writing science fiction, I was aware of climate change, but I blush to say I did not take it very seriously. I assumed that global warming would be ‘fixed’, like the hole in the ozone layer, before it could become a genuine cause for concern. Oops…

Fast forward ten years and climate change is one of the hottest topics in the media. Thanks to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, climate change has become a part of mainstream consciousness. Yet despite multiple summits – Durban being the latest – and enough talk to float a thousand zeppelins, we seem to be further from a genuine solution than ever before. Everyone knows that the world should move to a low carbon economy, but no-one wants to suffer in the process. Understandable, but just a tad short-sighted given how much suffering there is likely to be if we don’t.

So who are the protagonists in this tragic comedy? Well, in terms of sheer numbers, ordinary people like you and me are at the top of the list. We don’t understand the science – no surprise there – so we only know what the media choose to tell us, and the media are having a field day playing both sides against the middle.

On the one hand they are gleefully telling us about island nations like Tuvalu that are already beginning to disappear beneath rising sea levels, but on the other hand, they are also telling us that scientists are divided about whether climate change is real or not.

To keep the pot boiling, the media give equal air time [and validity] to crackpots  like Lord Monckton who know less about the science than I do. They also keep us guessing by all the things they don’t say. For example when they talk about dissent in the scientific ranks they fail to mention that most of the dissenting scientists are not in the climate change discipline.

However the strangest aspect of the media coverage, is their lack of interest in ferreting out who is paying whom to say what.  I have yet to see a single mainstream article that names climate change skeptics who are paid thousands of dollars per day to ‘consult’ with the very industries that have the most to gain from raising doubt about the science.

These industries  [petroleum and coal spring to mind but they are not the only ones] are using the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco used so successfully to drag the smoking ‘debate’ out for thirty years or more. They are funding genuine scientists, as well as those with no credentials whatsoever, to raise doubt in the minds of governments and ordinary citizens alike in order to delay action on climate change for as long as possible. These delaying tactics translate into profit for them, and helpless confusion for the rest of us.

And the media either can’t or won’t report it.

I am realistic enough to know that libel laws make this kind of reporting difficult, however I can’t help thinking that a certain amount of editorial gagging is also going on. After all, the media is now run by a few, very large, very powerful media barons who have connections to other equally powerful corporate players, and all of them have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo [business as usual].

Little wonder then that ordinary people are confused. But what of governments? Surely they should be better informed than we are?

The problem with governments all over the world is that they are run by politicians who have all the same failings as ordinary people. Some are stupid, some are greedy, some are self-centred and ambitious, and some are simply short-sighted. They know that climate change is real and they know that hard decisions will have to be taken if we are to avoid the worst of the consequences climate change will bring, but they are afraid of what will happen now if they try to do anything. Millions of people are already out of work, and the industries that used to employ them are tottering on the brink of collapse. Surely now is not the time to slap them with a carbon tax. Surely now is not the time to insist that they clean up their act. Surely now is not the time to rock the boat.

Or is it?

Perhaps I have spent too long playing with plot lines, but it seems to me that this is a perfect time for Darwin’s theory of natural selection to kick in. I say we should let the deadwood die instead of propping it up with financial assistance that simply ends up in the pockets of those who caused the mess in the first place.

And while the market is sorting out which companies are the fittest,  government support can be given to  all the new, emerging, low carbon industries that have been starved of funding for so long.

Let’s reward these new industries for being innovative and efficient. Let’s reward them for being lean and mean. Let’s allow them to move into the spaces left by the old dinosaurs. Let’s allow them to revive our flagging economies, and in the process give jobs to those people prepared to learn the relevant new skills.

Yes, there will be disruptions and yes, we may have to adjust our standard of living a little, but surely that is better than suddenly waking up to find that the global markets have collapsed completely because every nation on earth is threatened by rising sea levels, crop failures, famine, floods, fires, drought, disease and all the other lovely things nature can throw at us?

I love the good things in life as much as anyone, so I too I like things the way they are now. Nonetheless, if things must change then I’d rather get used to those changes gradually. And I’d rather have some choice in the matter.

– If  power production is part of the problem [as it is] then I’d rather pay a competitive price for solar panels than keep on  paying for dirty power.

– If petrol driven cars are part of the problem [as they are] then let me choose to buy a hybrid or electric car instead [which I can then charge from those lovely solar panels I put in].

– If shipping food from one end of the globe to the other is part of the problem then let me choose to eat only food that is in season and grown locally.

Adjusting to change does not have to be horrendous. Those who have money only have to change their priorities. Those who do not have money should get assistance, and most importantly re-training opportunities so they can take advantage of the new jobs the new industries will bring.

A smooth transition is possible, but only if we get our collective heads out of the sand, and only if we recognize that helping the most vulnerable amongst us is not charity but an investment in the future.

As a writer I can see the possibilities for a better, brighter future, but only time will tell whether we make the transition smoothly, or fall in a heap as a species.

As a human being I’m hoping we don’t go the way of the real dinosaurs, but as a writer I have to acknowledge that at the moment, an end-of-the-world scenario is more likely.

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Thank you to all my online friends. You’ve made the last seven years fun. I hope the next seven are even better!

-hugs-

Meeks


House hunting in Paris

I went looking for an apartment in Paris that would fit Jason Armitage’s lifestyle. Get ready to drool. 🙂

This first pic shows the massive skylight and two floors of luxury living:

I have no idea what 2.5 million EUR is in Australian dollars, but it seems a lot for a three bedroom apartment. Then again, it is in the most expensive part of Paris. Here are a few more pics to make you weep:

and

These last two shots are from a different apartment, but I had to include them in Jason’s dream apartment as they both have a view of the Eiffel tower in the distance:

When I was 21, I spent a semester studying French at the Sorbonne and living with a rather well-to-do family as their au pair. I remember that I had to get off at Trocadero metro station to get to the apartment. It wasn’t quite as beautiful as the one shown in the pics above, but it was big enough for a master bedroom, kids’ bedroom and a spare bedroom with ensuite for the live in nanny: me.

I enjoyed looking after Bruno and Eric, but I didn’t appreciate my huge good fortune in landing that job until just now. Room and board for a few hours of kid-sitting. I was even invited to go on holidays with them.

As an au pair, I wasn’t paid a wage, but I did receive ‘pocket money’. It was more than enough to cover my expenses to and from the Sorbonne, plus evenings at the local cafe, dining on Croque Monsieur et cafe au lait. In those days I could drink coffee all night and still sleep like a baby. 🙂

Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying myself. Oh and my words finally passed the necessary daily count: 1782. I’m still behind, but writing is fun again so I’m pretty confident I’ll catch up.

cheers

Meeks


Sainte Anne, psychiatric hospital in Paris

I’ve been researching psychiatric conditions because the story of P7698 starts with two Innerscape Residents needing treatment. One of them is Keith Marsden, a minor but charming character who appeared in both ‘Miira’ and ‘Nabatea’.

Anyway, the Residents respond better to therapy when it occurs in a hospital setting so suddenly, I needed a mental hospital. As Keith Marsden lives in Paris, it seemed reasonable to start my search there. And boy did I hit pay dirt!

The link below leads to an article with lots of pictures of this amazing hospital, right in the heart of Paris. Not only is it an utterly beautiful place, it’s a good hospital too. If you read the history, you’ll realise that much of modern psychiatry originated at Sainte Anne:

https://www.cherrychapman.com/2014/05/05/sainte-anne-psychiatric-hospital-in-paris-a-hidden-sanctuary-of-nature-and-art/

For those who don’t want to read it all, here are some pictures. First up a map showing Paris:

By ThePromenader at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1753317

The thick brown line denotes the original arrondissements of Paris. Within that shape, the area shaded in dark orange is the 14th arrondissement where Sainte Anne is located.

The next picture is of one of the old buildings. The campus is huge.

This pic gives you some idea of the gardens too. Back when there were no treatments for psychiatric conditions, patients were encouraged to work in the gardens – fresh air, sunshine, purpose, exercise. These days we’d call it occupational therapy.

Anyway, the setting is superb and gives me a great location to work with.

Happy Weekend!

Meeks

 


Yes! New music for writing

Nano took a back seat this morning as I’ve been searching for the ‘right’, writing music. I listened to new music by old favourites, but nothing really matched how I feel about this new story. So in desperation I went to SoundCloud and there, thanks to SoundClouds great recommendation engine, I found…

Jon Altino

This is the playlist I just put together. It’s a bit rough as I just grabbed songs as I heard them, but the very first one – A World Asleep – is glorious and should give you some idea of the kind of music I need this year.

Jon Altino? If you’re reading this, I wanted to buy the album, but iTunes only offered Superhero. Please, please put a new album up there!

Well, time to put this lovely music to the test and fire up StoryBox.  I have this feeling P7698 is going to flow a whole lot better today than yesterday.

cheers

Meeks


Indie Writing – about outlining in reverse

Most Indie writers will be aware of the two extremes of writing technique: pantsting and outlining. Well, I’m kind of a hybrid. Most of the time I write as a ‘pantster’, meaning that I allow my sub-conscious to direct the flow of the story rather than planning it out ahead of time. The trouble is, after a certain point, my stories become rather complex and convoluted, so I do have to think ahead, at least a little.

Nevertheless, my ‘thinking ahead’ still doesn’t constitute an outline. For me, outlining is something that happens after the story is told, not before. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three days. I’ve been going through Vokhtah, line by line, noting down all the bits and pieces that make up the story. These include the plot, of course, but also things like timelines, motivation/backstory and the introduction of Vokhtan vocabulary.

All in all, my reverse outlining takes up 19 pages of notations. This is just one of them:

As you can see, its data in the raw, and tomorrow I’ll have to massage it into some sort of order that goes beyond the simple chronology of the story. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, I need a coffee and a walk around the garden with the ‘kids’.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


More play time for writers :)

My thanks to Dancingpalmtrees for introducing me to this fun app:

https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/m1bt/curse-of-surreal-pipe.html

The example you see there was created by Dancingpalmtrees, and she kindly gave me permission to use it to show you what the app does. 😀

To give it a try yourselves, just scroll down a little until you reach a big green button that says ‘Write a horror plot like this’.

That button will take you to a kind of form where you simply fill in the blanks with whatever takes your fancy. When you’re finished, the app. will scramble it all up and create a ‘story’ out of the elements you’ve provided.

Alternatively, you can scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen to a button that says ‘Create New’. Clicking this button takes you to a screen where you can choose to create something in sci-fi, romance, like the Bronte sisters etc, etc. Select whichever options appeals to you, click it and you’ll get the same form. Just fill it in and sit back to have a good giggle.

Go on, give it a go! You’re welcome. 😀

cheers
Meeks


I write like H.G.Wells?

I’m normally a skeptic when it comes to apps that purport to analyse this, that or the other but…this tool is spot on. It’s spooky how accurate it is…

Okay so ‘what’ is it?

‘It’ is an online app that analyses your writing based on a sample that you cut and paste onto the webiste. This is the sample I used from the Prologue of Vokhtah [and yes, I rewrote it some time ago to make it less drawn-out-prologue and more succinct intro.].

‘Tohoh was always a desperate time of year. The shimmering heat of the dry season tested every living thing on the planet, but with the red sun drawing ever closer, the winnowing of the weakest was accelerating.

Out on the plains, the scorched grass trembled in the heat haze, and the heavy seed heads hung limp on brittle stalks. Nothing moved, not even the herds of hungry akaht. They, like all the other beasts, knew when to shelter from the suns’ ill-temper.

Only on the very fringes of the grassland, where rock met soil, was there any movement. There, the black shapes of iVokh foragers trudged slowly through the waist-high grass, their long, leathery wings tucked into their sides as they harvested the seeds the akaht had missed.

As the day wore on, and the heat intensified, the eyes of the Foragers lingered ever longer on the patches of deep shade. They longed for the day to end so they could return to the cool of the Settlement, but the approach of true dark brought its own dangers, for that was when the to’pak awoke, and they were always hungry.’

In less that half a second, the app. came back with this:

‘About H. G. Wells

Picture of H. G. Wells

Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was a British author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”.

Wells’s earliest specialized training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as the beginning of the First World War) sympathizing with pacifist views.

Whilst I did read H.G.Wells in my late teens, I swear on a stack of bibles that I knew nothing about his background, especially the bits highlighted in blue. More importantly, I’ve never seen him as a major influence in my work. Ursula K. LeGuin, yes. Frank Herbert, yes. H.G.Wells? Um…

I have absolutely no idea how the app. does what it does but I’m about to try it on Miira. And then, just for giggles, I’ll try it on one of the How-to books.

If you’re a writer and you want to see what your own writing style is like, go here:

https://iwl.me/s/a85d5606

cheers

Meeks

 


Neural network needs help with novel writing

I couldn’t resist this one. A neural network [human brain-like computer] needs thousands of ‘first sentences’ from novels to learn how to write a first sentence of its own. Think of this as teaching baby to become Shakespeare. 🙂

In order to feed baby with enough first sentences, Janelle Shane of ‘Ai Weirdness’ is asking netizens to donate first sentences from their own novels, their favourite novels, or any novels on their bookshelves [or Kindles]. These first sentences will be fed to baby to improve its current, um, not-so-creative efforts. Some of its first sentences are hilarious.

I’ve donated first sentences from my books so why not jump in and donate some from yours? No need to register or even leave an email address so it’s super quick and easy. You can read the article and find the form here:

http://aiweirdness.com/post/167049313837/a-neural-network-tries-writing-the-first-sentence

Go on, do it!

Meeks


Sometimes I surprise even myself…

Apologies if I’ve been less visible of late, but I’ve started writing again, and that tends to give me tunnel vision. The story I’m writing is the long delayed, next chapter of the Vokhtah saga.

The story of my psychopathic hermaphrodites languished for four years while I wrote Innerscape, but now they’re back, and I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with their world all over again. Part of that process was to do a backwards outline of the original story, and that’s where this post comes in. I’d actually forgotten that I wrote this preface to the Vokhtan to English dictionary:

Due to the radical differences between Vokh and human physiology, this sound guide is an approximation only. Where humans speak by forcing air past their vocal chords and then shape the resultant sound in the mouth, the Vokh and iVokh use their mouths for eating only. Their lungs are located in their wings, and they inhale and exhale through hundreds of small cilia on the leading edges of their wings, by-passing the mouth entirely. Thus the sounds they produce are akin to the multiple sounds produced by a pipe organ. Even pure sounds have a resonance human speakers cannot match.

Adding to the difficulty of accurately representing the Vokhtan language is the native speakers’ habit of deliberately distorting their speech with ‘chords’, in order to convey tone and inflection. Harmonious ‘chords’ – like the major 5th in human music – denote agreement, pleasure, delight etc. Discords, on the other hand, can imply a range of emotions from disbelief to contempt. Yet despite the musical quality of Vokhtan, neither the Vokh nor the iVokh have ever developed the concept of music.

Vokhtan for human speakers is further complicated by the fact that the spoken language also includes an array of scent cues produced in glands at the base of each cilia. These scent cues are aspirated with certain audible sounds to form a combined sound/scent amalgam. For example, in the word ‘Vokh’ the ‘h’ at the end represents both the sound of the aspiration, and the scent denoting respect or admiration, something humans are incapable of reproducing.

Please keep these difficulties in mind when attempting to speak Vokhtan.

lol – I really did spend a lot of time thinking about the Vokh and the iVokh. From 2004 to 2012 to be exact. There was so much to discover about them. I mean, they all have sharp claws, right, even the much smaller, less aggressive iVokh. But sharp, pointed claws tend to get in the way when you’re not killing something, so how were the iVokh supposed to craft anything?

The ladies reading this post will immediately recognize the problem of nails that stick out half an inch past the end of your fingers. So how did the iVokh manage? By doing what we do, of course. They squared off the tips of their claws. But wait…how would they have cut their claws? Clearly they would need tools of some kind. Not scissors, no, but something like a small nail file perhaps. Except that nail files don’t grow on bushes. The iVokh would need Smiths to make the nail files, and the Smiths would need metal of some sort…

And so it went. Every idea came with its own baggage of pre-requisites, and each day of writing revealed some new discovery. It was an exciting time, but that was then. Now, I have to relearn all these tiny, yet important details so I don’t make any horrible mistakes, like saying that one iVokh punched another.

The iVokh certainly fight, but not with a clenched fist. Why? Two physiological reasons:

  1. Even with their claws blunted, striking with a clenched fist would drive the claws into their own palms, and
  2. Both iVokh and Vokh hands are quite weak in comparison to the rest of their bodies. They do have opposable thumbs, but they only have two fingers, and those fingers are long and spindly. A punch would probably break the whole hand.

And these are the little things that I have to learn all over again. If anyone’s interested, I’ve been trying to do a graphic of the hand. Still very much a work-in-progress, but here it is:

cheers

Meeks

 


#Innerscape and the joy of negative wordcounts

The title is a little misleading – I don’t actually have a negative wordcount, I have a positive wordcount of 137 for the day – but I am very, very happy.

Why? Because I know I’ve written much, much more than that today.

How much more?

I don’t know. I didn’t check my total wordcount in StoryBox before I deleted a huge chunk of verbiage this morning. That meant I started the day with a negative wordcount, and it’s taken me all day to fill up the gap. So the fact that I do have a positive wordcount is great news, especially as they are all good words, the kind of words I won’t want to delete when I start work on the story again tomorrow.

I know everyone says to ‘just write’ [and edit later], but that’s never been how I work. The story comes to me in fits and starts, and it’s often the nuances that point the way to the next scene. That’s why I write and delete and write again, groping for the story like a mole in a coal mine.

Writing isn’t always painful though. Sometimes I hit patches where everything is crystal clear in my mind, and the writing flows like a river in flood. Those are the times that keep me going because they produce a high that surely rivals the best drug on the market. And it’s free. 🙂

Sadly, the highs have been few and far between the last few months, but yesterday and today I began to see how Innerscape must end. I’m not quite there yet, but I know that when I eventually type the last word, it will be true to my two main characters – Miira and Kenneth.They’ve taken me on a very long journey, but I think I’ve finally done justice to their story. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. I’ve turned comments off because this is just me, high fiving myself at the end of a great day. -hugs-


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