Stage One

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Stage One of the research I need for my next book has drawn to its conclusion. I have been reading about Machiavelli and Caravaggio in search of the traits my new chief character needs. From Machiavelli comes intrigue and deviousness. From Caravaggio comes hotheadedness, raging against the world and murderous intent.

While I was reading about both men an idea for a working title sprang to mind – Good Never Triumphs.

As yet I still have to determine the gender of the character, and the time in which it will be set. Before you ask ; no it will not be set in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. I have also decided that he, or she, will be a sailor wandering the seven seas. This is where I can draw on my own life as I spent many years doing just that, first in the Pacific in the Royal New Zealand Navy, then the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean in the Merchant Marine and much later on my own sailboat off New Zealand’s East Coast. What he or she gets up too is still undecided. Might he or she be a murderer one step ahead of the authorities? Perhaps they are involved in the drug or contraband or people smuggling game! At this stage its anyones guess.

I’m in no steaming hurry to begin writing. But mark my words, by hook or by crook it will be written. This will be the first time in twenty-three years that my main character will be thoroughly evil.

In the meantime I have a lot of thinking to do…

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Employing new characters

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To my fellow writers I do apologize for what I’m about to say. But for the sake of the non writers among you it needs to be said, if only to confirm your thoughts (if you had any that is) on the subject of fictional characters.

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If there is one thing all writers love to do, it’s to come up with characters specific to their book’s needs, as and when required. In my latest work in progress, the historical adventure Autumn 1066, I have a mix of characters from the historical events that actually occurred, together with fictional ones.

While once again working my way through what I’ve written so far, the one type of fictional character I didn’t have need of until now was a villain, or in this case a pair of them. So its time to add a scheming priest and a wolf-coat to the mix. If you want to know what a wolf-coat is, I’m not about to explain it to you here. Instead I suggest you look it up. Whether or not you the readers think they are the type of individuals I’m suggesting here, is entirely up to you to decide.

I have yet to decide whether or not either of them will survive. Because they’re fictional, only the storyline will determine their ultimate fate…

What you have to remember is that when writing any story, the author has the ultimate power of life and death over his or her characters. We determine our character’s fate, who they are and their purpose for being. Regarding the two new characters, like all of my other fictional characters in the book, their part will gradually unfold as the story progresses. And before you ask – no I’m not going to reveal what I have in store for either of them, nor for that matter will I divulge anything about any of the other fictional characters. In other words – THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS.

On a more serious note, the one thing I must not change in the book, no matter how tempting it might be, is to alter what actually happened to the historical characters. To do so would be foolish in the extreme.

The time for all of you to find out what happens will be when you purchase a copy and read it for yourselves.

I’ve decided that this book will initially be published as a paperback. Why? Read Derek Haines’ blog post for an explanation of the subject here.

To give any new work of fiction a fighting chance, means that those who normally harshly criticize any book that appears solely in ebook form, must initially be denied the chance. As Derek says, a paperback version of any new book always stands a far better chance of gaining favourable reviews. When the time comes to publish the ebook version, they can always be included as a promotional tool. After that, what the trolls say about the ebook version will be seen as nothing more than sour grapes on their part by the general public.

Well, If you will excuse me, the story won’t write itself you know…

More later

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It begins

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And we’re off, much earlier than expected. I wrote the first two paragraphs of my new historical fiction story yesterday. I have all my notes, historical figures and research references, plus my characters sorted out.

Thereby hangs a tale. To avoid criticism from anal rententives aka nitpickers, whatever I do I must ensure that anything I say about any actual historical character is accurate. It’s not as easy as it sounds when the historical records are not only thin on the ground, but also often sparsely written. Which is not surprising when you consider that at the time the nearest individual to a war correspondent was a court chronicler. Worse, one tasked with writing down what happened for the first time, a mere fifty years after the event.

I also have to ensure that the same goes for the nationalities involved, the historical locations, and the armour and the weapons used. Even the fictitious character’s names I’m employing must be correct.

As far as is possible I’ll be following the historical event as it happened. In other words I can’t say that group A were in location X when history says they weren’t!

With the written information on the historical event being sketchy at best, there will always be a danger of this story ending early. I’m hopeful it will wind up novella length. For it to become a novel might prove to be stretching things to far. But at the moment I’m putting any thoughts in that direction to the back of my mind while I concentrate on getting the story that is feverishly swirling around inside my head written down.

When I’m relatively happy with it I’ll expand on various elements within the whole, bearing in mind that my often acid tongued detractors will be looking for any excuse to find fault. Unfortunately, in this business putting up with their rants, sorry I meant to say their reviews, is the price you pay for writing a tale they couldn’t, or wouldn’t know how to write in a month of Sundays, bless their often ill educated black hearts.

As always I’ll keep you informed with regular progress reports.

More later…

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At long last, another milestone has been reached

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The significance of the burning eyes on the cover will only become apparent once you read the novella

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I’ve finally reached another important milestone during the writing of my latest science fiction work in progress – The Guardian. It seems to have taken me simply forever to reach this point. But at long last I have finally passed the magic twenty-thousand word barrier after endless rewrites, the way I far prefer to go about writing these days, over any other method you care to name. Why? Because it is how I ensure that no inexplicable turns in the storyline have occurred. Or maybe something was glossed over, (the latter thanks to Bob Van Laerhoven, who kindly pointing out a couple of missing pieces of information to me the other day, after I had asked him to read through what I have written so far) as well as eliminating any punctuation and spellign errors. Damn! There’s one for a start.Β  πŸ˜‰

Now for the last few thousand words, which like the rest of the story, I’ll constantly be rewriting as I go. Not for the first time has the story dictated where it wants to go next. This time I need to split the characters up into two man teams, which means thatΒ the enigmatic guardian would appear to have a tactical advantage over them as it is thoroughly familiar with it’s own home territory, meaning that it instinctively knows every nook and cranny, hiding place and ambush point, unlike my characters. Although I have to say in their defence that they are learning. Maybe it will be triumphant. Maybe they will. Either way I’m really going to need to be on top of my game as I now intend writing the rest of the story from each team’s particular point of view, while at the same time continuing to write it from an overall perspective. A literary challenge definitely not for the faint hearted, if there ever was one. Meanwhile I’ll continue on in the same vein until this particular novella is as error free and near word perfect as I can possibly make it for all of you.

More later

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My favourite subject as a writer – my leading ladies

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My latest leading lady – Lieutenant Lynne Crawford as I envision her

❀ xxx

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It’s a fact that with every book I write, I push the envelope that bit further. If you have ever read any of them you will know that without exception each and every one of my female characters is not only loyal, fiesty, beautiful and strong minded, but also determined and vulnerable. In my latest scifi WIP, The Guardian, Lieutenant Lynne Crawford is no different.

When it comes to creating each of them I always ask myself what it is about them that would make me, as a mere male, sit up and take notice. It is true to say that with each principal female character that I have created over the years, while writing about them, inevitably I always fall head over heels in love, even today at my age (67). After bearing my soul somewhat, by now the more astute among you will have deduced that I adore any and all women exhibiting all of the above qualities.

Remember, no matter the age of the writer, we’re all still human. By that I mean that specific characters we create, we absolutely want to get to know, even though its only in a story. The beautiful Lynne is the latest in a long line of my leading ladies who I’m currently spending time with – lucky, lucky me.Β  πŸ˜‰

With no more distractions other than my blog to contend with, I’m now back working full time on The Guardian, adding more personal details about my characters, not just Lynne. I have to say, the more she and Adler fall in love, the more I grow jealous of him. At this stage of the game I’m really beginning to hate him!

As their creator, while any story I come up with tends to write itself, I still hold the ultimate power of life and death over my characters. All I’ll add to that is to say he’d better treat her right – or else!

While I’m still uncertain how the story will end, I can tell you this, the love affair between them is rapidly gaining a full head of steam. To that end I’m leaving little to the reader’s undoubted vivid imagination when it comes to their relationship, as you will find earlier on in the story when I describe her on the day when Adler first encounters her out of uniform, dressed in civvies.

In the past I have merely skirted around any love affair between my hero and the woman in his life by employing the old writer’s standbys of insinuation, inference and allusion when it comes to what is actually going on between them. But not this time round. Because of the way the story is now developing, it demands that I spell this love affair out to a certain extent, making it definitely not a read for kids – i.e young adults. By that I mean that it has clearly wound up within the classification of erotic science fiction.

Like most writers of my aquaintance, I leave anything which could be vaguely described as pornographic to the E.L James’ of this world. Besides which, my publisher (Amazon KDP) would never agree to publish it if it was – something every writer has to bear in mind when writing about what their characters get up to in private, especially when dealing with some American publishers.

Now I’d better get back to it. The lovers will be waking soon along with everyone else. I left them all utterly exhausted after their last encounter with The Guardian.

PS – I defy any male reader not to fall in lust with my Lynne when they read the book.

PPS – I keep a copy of the above photograph handy while I’m writing The Guardian WIP, purely for the purposes of inspiration and soul searching you understand. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Oh to be her age again (sigh)…

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At last, I’m back at the coalface once again

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How I picture my heroine, Lynne Crawford

After almost three weeks of endless pontificating I’m once again back writing my science fiction WIP, The Guardian.

The story was at a crossroads. I had several ways in mind for where it may go next. Each one wholly dependant on a specific character, or characters, and how they had reacted so far. I gradually eliminated each of them in my mind for varying reasons. That’s why it’s taken me all of this time to finally decide on which character, so that the story can continue.

If you are at all familiar with the way certain wooly headed academics behave, it will come as no great surprise that I’m using my character, Professor Ephraim Adelmann, once again. Having worked with academics like him for a quarter of a century, I know how they think. Most of the ones I knew seriously needed a notice slung from around their necks, clearly stating to all and sundry that under no circumstances should they ever be left alone for one second. When it comes to common sense, most truly classic academics have none. Ephraim is no exception. In short, he has… Whoops, I almost told you then. All you need to know for now is that this part of the story unfolds back where Adler and Lynne first became aware of just how much danger they faced when they arrived in the Valles Marineris on Mars.

Here’s hoping The Guardian keeps its distance!

More later

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Visualising My Female Characters

When it comes to the female characters in my books, I grow extremely fond of every one of them, even the evil ones. What can I say, when it comes to my fictional women, whatever they want me to say about them, happens. You would comply too if you have ever tried putting words in your female character’s mouth that you know full well she would never ever utter, or tried forcing her into a particular situation which a woman like her would never ever willingly enter into.

Believe me, when you live with one of them in your head as I do each time I write a book, for the sake of your sanity and a quiet life, you do as your character demands. If you think you are creating a character, forget it, your not. They creat and reveal themselves. All you as the writer have to do is listen to what they are saying. Having said that, before you reach for the phone to call the men in white coats to take me away in a straight-jacket, no I’m not mad. I’m just a writer.

It helps me enormously if I can either find a photograph of a particular individual closely resembling who I have in mind, or perhaps even an illustration or painting. For instance, in my best selling scifi adventure novel The Seventh Age, I needed to get a clear image in my head of the principal female character, an alien who tracks and protects the hero Nick Palmer, wherever he goes. It wasn’t until I was reading the late Mac Tonnies’ blog one day, that I came across the artwork for the cover of his book The Cryptoterrestrials, which I immediately bought a copy of, and thoroughly enjoyed reading. Staring back at me from the cover exactly as I had always imagined her, was the hauntingly beautiful face of Ithis, the androgynous alien inhabiting my mind at the time.

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When it came to writing my recent novella Cataclysm last year, the story has two strong feminine characters, Arianna a beautiful example of the third gender, who the hero Gilbert Briggs, falls head over heels in love with, and her nemesis Taliva, another member of the same Apex race as Arianna whose ancestors are responsible for creating mankind, as a docile slave race in the novella. In both cases it helped when I found two particular photographs. The one I used for Cataclysm’s cover depicting Taliva, is actually a photo of a mannequin.

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The other photograph which I came across while looking for an image that said Arianna to me is this one. The fact that the beautiful human being pictured is a real life Arianna, is neither here nor there.

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On the other hand when it comes to any of my male characters, I don’t need any form of visual representation. I find them much easier to come to terms with. All I need is to get their various physical characteristics, character traits, faults and prejudices etc firmly fixed in my mind for the duration of the write.

As for my current work in progress, The Guardian, when it comes to my latest heroine I’m still looking for a photograph that says Lynne Crawford to me. So if anyone knows of a photograph, illustration or painting, depicting a beautiful full bodied woman with honey blond hair in the form of a crew cut hairdo…

In the meantime the picture I currently have of her in my head will have to suffice. Not to worry. One day soon I will eventually find a representation of her, just as I did for all my others, hopefully before I’m halfway through writing my WIP.

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