Here’s something…

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…for you all to ponder.

What does a killer look like? Certainly not like the woman above. She’s too obvious, too Hollywood!!! For all you know the person involved may be a member of your family, or a neighbour. Maybe even a work colleague. Perhaps even someone you meet socially! Maybe it’s you?

For weeks now, usually in the early hours of the mornings, I’ve had an idea that simply won’t go away. I often wake with another piece of the puzzle thought through…

Imagine if you will that there is someone you know living somewhere on the planet who is not exactly in your good books. Would you want that person dead?

If your answer is in the affirmative, read on.

~~~

My idea is that the assassin is an enigma. There is no discernible pattern to the apparent deaths. Nor is there any evidence to show that a crime may have been committed. No DNA. No forensics whatsoever. Nothing! My anti-hero, or heroine has devised and developed several ways of getting rid of people without having to be near them.

Only once does someone actually witness a killing – the first. When questioned, they told the local police that they saw the victim’s twin apparently kill him, then vanish before the witness’s eyes less than a nanosecond after the victim died.

Even my favourite television cop the Sicilian Inspector Salvo Montalbano, who always thinks outside the box, would be hard pressed to work this one out! After all, how would you make any connection between what seem to be totally random suicides spread across the entire world?

At long last Salvo and his often comical male colleagues (they’re Italian for goodness sake, making them natural clowns) is back on the BBC in a brand new series, based on the novels of the Italian author Andrea Camillari…

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Now here’s the thing – how do they know who to kill? No money ever changes hands between client and executioner. No traceable requests are made, because the identity and gender of the assassin, not to mention their location, are unknown.

That’s for me to know and you to ponder about. For your sake, it’s better that way. Otherwise you might be one of the victims in the book I may write, if you get too inquisitive. Remember – curiosity killed the cat. Now all I have to do is write a short story from the point of view of the assassin about the first murder they commit to see if my idea is feasible as a novel.

And you thought all I was doing is a major re-write of a couple of my books…

More later

😉

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An unfinished story

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If you read yesterday’s post, you will know I mentioned where on occasion I never finished a story for various reasons. Here is an example:

Retaking London

Adolf Hitler’s dream of a united Europe ruled over by Germany finally came true in the guise of the European Union and its stranglehold on the countries under its banner. A massive seed change occurred when two decades after its formation, in no time at all, the EU decreed that the common man cost too much to maintain.

Billions were instantly thrown out of work. Daily, the numbers of people starving to death grew. Wars sprung up across the world, stirred up by the EU to keep its enemies divided.

Meantime it ensured that its own private army threw a military cordon around each of the new city states, formerly the capitals of the countries who had joined the EU, as impregnable walls were rapidly erected by slave labourers behind endless minefields, sown in land now devoid of all life, to keep out the common man. Once the walls were finally constructed, the labourers were executed by firing squad. George Orwell’s frightening scenario in his dystopian novel 1984 had become reality.

Food production and manufacturing moved to the Far East where massive farms and factories controlled by the highly paid mercenary army of the EU, using expendable forced labour from among the local indigenous populations, worked to death to create all that is necessary to maintain the lifestyle of the EU city-state elite.

Former provincial cities across Europe were forcibly abandoned and then levelled, leaving nowhere for the starving billions to live. Each new city-state behind its impregnable wall, built massive airports for cargo planes transporting food for each of them from the far eastern factories. Beyond the walls surrounding each of them, lay fields of death sown with landmines.

The one thing that the EU could not concieve of was a fight back by pockets of determined men and women.

~~~

Here in England campfires dot the Chiltern Hills, mirroring similar makeshift campsites elsewhere across the entire European continent. In the distance the glow from London lights up the night sky. Everywhere the whimpering cries of the sick and starving fill the air in all campsites.

Four men, Hassan, Dmitri, Rodrigo and Michael sat talking together on an old log, illuminated by the flames of their fire. “So, we begin tonight,” Dmitri declared as he stirred the embers. His companions all nodded in agreement. Michael and Hassan had recently returned after an exploratory mission north in search of food and medicines. What they found lit the fires of hopeful rebellion among their comrades.

In an abandoned factory complex in the former manufacturing heart of the British Isles, the Midlands, they found forgotten supplies of chemicals. In another location they came across a herd of over a thousand pigs, which initially were earmarked for food. But when Hassan came up with his idea they became what he hoped would be the second ingredient needed for their plan to retake London.

Before the madness from Brussels had set in, Hassan held the chair in medieval history at Southampton University. Rodrigo and Dmitri, before arriving illegally in the UK hidden in one of the last eighteen wheeler trucks to cross the English Channel from Calais by ferry, both worked as miners in their respective home countries. Michael formerly worked as a laboratory technician at the defence research facility at Porton Down. Six weeks after the forcible eviction of the majority of London’s population, Hassan and Michael met on the exodus towards the Chiltern Hills.

For man to survive the EU had to be defeated, fortified city-state by fortified city-state. If they were successful in retaking London, word would quickly spread to other groups across the whole of the Continent.

Hassan soon became all too aware from talking with those excluded from London that no military presence extended beyond the wall’s limits in any shape or form other than the fields of landmines. Nor where the walls manned with observation points. The city was seen as impregnable by its inhabitants.

A germ of an idea began to form in Hassan’s mind as he and Michael talked about how to retake Britain’s capital. Now that they had teamed up with Dmitri and Rodrigo, they had the nucleus of an army of determined fighters.

While scavenging teams were employed to find food and uncontaminated water for all, Michael began assembling and training sabotage teams. Meanwhile Rodrigo and Dmitri organised scouting units tasked with searching out potential weaknesses in London’s perimeter wall. Eventually two were found.

At London’s former westernmost point on the outskirts of what had once been Heathrow Airport, close to where the suburb of Hounslow once stood, lay a disused railway track linked to the old London Underground network. A few miles away, the totally unguarded fresh water reservoirs south of Staines were still linked to London’s water supply via underground pipe lines.

Rodrigo and Dmitri explored along the entire length of the now disused line to where it descended below ground level. London’s perimeter wall was built two miles away beyond the underground entrance. The railway line allowed them access to explore at their leasure, entirely unobserved. As they slowly walked along the tunnel, their path was eventually impeded by the wall’s foundations blocking the way forward.

In the meantime Hassan organised teams to pinpoint which rivers lead into London’s former Central Business District where the rich now lived, cocooned from everything beyond the wall.

Michael began work manufacturing waterborne chemical weapons, ably assisted by volunteers consisting of former high street pharmacists and chemistry teachers. Rodrigo and Dmitri trained vast armies of willing volunteers in mining techniques. As more and more weaknesses were found, teams of miners began work, chipping away at the wall’s foundations beneath ground level.

Under Michael’s leadership work also began on all water supply pipes leading into London. At the junction of each pipe a chemical cocktail would be triggered by an explosive clockwork mechanism, releasing it into London’s water supply in a progressive sequence when required.

Rodrigo and Dmitri employed the tried and tested ancient medieval technique of undermining, using piled up wood and the slain pigs to break through the wall’s foundations that blocked off the old underground railway system directly beneath London’s CBD in several places, creating volcano like temperatures to melt the mix of concrete, reinforced steel, brick and stone used in the wall’s construction, enabling Michael to employ his latest batch of chemical weapons in the heart of London’s water storage system. In a stealthy operation worthy of any covert military attack force, Michael and his two assistants stole quietly along the now disused underground railway system, heading towards the old Canary Wharf underground station.

~~~

And that’s as far as I got with this one before I abandoned it. At the time my heart wasn’t in it. Dystopia really isn’t my thing. Too depressing for my liking. Will I finish it? Maybe one day. Maybe not…

😉

The Sixth Guardian Progress Report

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This is my creator’s eighth book in twenty years of slaving over a computer keyboard, so pay attention to what he has to say about it humans, or else!!!

Sorry about that, it can get a little tetchy at times, par for the course for something like The Guardian. Your all right, you don’t have to work with it on a daily basis. Now, before it comes back, read on…

***

I’m about to start writing chapter four. I’m more or less happy with the core of chapter three. As I said previously, I’ve begun to ramp up the action somewhat. I’ve also added a bit more for you to surmise about. I’m talking about the relationship, if you can call it that, between Lynne and Adler. I’ve decided to add one of the three new characters – Brett, Cliff and Bayla, into the mix as a possible rival for Lynne’s affections if Adler doesn’t declare his feelings for her one way or another. Which one of them it is, and why, you will just have to find out when you read the novel won’t you. It might be that a love triangle develops – only what I’m thinking at the time will determine what happens between Lynne and Adler. I’m still undecided about that situation at the moment.

I’ve also introduced a few items that they need to protect themselves like LSAT Assault Rifles and the XM25 air burst grenade launcher, as well as the M110 Sniper Rifle, all of them actual weapons, but still under development and testing at the moment, plus C4 plastic explosive, fragmentation grenades and Claymore mines. Even though the story is set in the twenty-second century, twentieth century explosives like C4 and the highly effective Claymore mine, still have their uses in the eyes of my team of ex military personnel.

Meanwhile The Guardian is always somewhere, waiting, watching, hatching plans, and now keeping its eye not only on me, but you too. I beg you, for my sake be careful not to upset it. It is gradually becoming more involved, making its presence felt, not only to me, but also as the story unfolds. Now its time for more thinking. I most certainly don’t want to get on its wrong side by taking some time off for myself now do I.

More later

😉

The First Version Of The Hook

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Ok folks, if you have been keeping up with my blog, you will have already read my previous post on the subject of the Hook. If not here is it’s link – https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/writing-the-hook/.

Now then, all I need from the three hundred and twenty-two people who currently follow my blog is for you all to read through the first version of the Hook shown below.

Don’t just click ‘like’ and move on, or ignore it. Here is your one and only chance to partake in the birth of a new novel. I really need your totally unbiased opinions. Even if science fiction does nothing for you, I still want to know whether or not the Hook works. In other words did it get your attention to the point where you want to know more? One other thing, forget about the character names. At this stage of the proceedings, they are very temporary. I just used them to give you the two character’s points of view.

***

   Dark pitiless eyes surveyed the scene one last time. Satisfied that the threat was eliminated, it turned to head back to its hiding place. Something on one of the screens temporarily caught its attention. More trouble was on the way down to the surface.
                                                                                         ~~~
  “Why us?” Cal grumbled. Like Mike he already knew the answer. Tradition demands that the questions be asked by anyone crazy enough to have agreed to be sent on a mission like this. Both men were ex-military. Mike was a former sergeant in the Military Police, while Cal was an ex fighter pilot, making them ideal as trouble-shooters in the eyes of the company, even though they were not expected to survive. If they managed to work out what had happened, all well and good. If not, someone else would be sent in their place. “What’s so all-fired important about an automated mining operation on Mars?” Cal continued, “and why the hell are we on this stinking ancient solar transporter. Why didn’t they get us seats on something more luxurious for the trip?”
“Quit bellyaching will you! Even though the system is automated, techs are still needed to keep an eye on the machinery and fix things when they break. Plus the ore has to be taken from the surface up to the space port to be loaded aboard unmanned transporters like this one for the return journey to Earth, which means someone has to fly the cargo shuttles. The whole operation demands that a small population lives in an accommodation block down inside the mine in Valles Marineris. According to the company, the last load of ore to arrive back home was six months ago. Before that the mine was sending regular monthly consignments. We’re being sent to find out why the operation has stopped. Any more questions? No? Good. Now let’s get down there.”

***

Ok, now you have read it, please think about it first, then leave your opinions below in the comments section. No idiotic ones thanks TSRA. For me, and every other published writer, this is a serious game. None of us are in it for the laughs – there are non to be had.

PS – until I’ve read all of your comments, I won’t continue on with the first chapter. So get busy, please..

😉

The Curse Of The Writer Strikes Yet Again!!!

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Valles Marinaris aka the Great Rift on Mars

Damn it to hell and back! The curse of the writer has struck once more. A couple of weeks ago, another pure science fiction story announced itself from the farthest reaches of my mind. I swore black and blue that when I published my adventure novella Cataclysm in November, that I would not contemplate another story until next year. So much for good intentions. My mind is already working overtime once again.

When an idea invades a writer’s consciousness, what can he or she do about it but go with the flow, or be driven crazy. We all have our various ways of tackling the problem. Yes, you heard me right, I did say problem. Because until a writer has exorcised the beast from his or her mind, they will know no peace. So what I have to do is get writing, reading and researching immediately, but not necessarily in that order. It’s the only way I know to solve the problem when confronted with a potential new story that just grows and grows in my mind.

The naive, and those gormless individuals who are always saying, “I could write a better book than that!” may believe writing is a walk in the park. It isn’t. Very soon they learn it is nothing but hard work, blood, sweat and tears. If you are at all serious about our craft, to survive, first of all you have to live with the twin beasts of inspiration and obsession, then the inevitable sleepless nights and hundreds of long hours spent typing.

It looks like I’ll be outlining various plot ideas throughout Christmas, the New Year and on into 2015. What it will be about as yet is undecided. But I already know where it will occur – Mars.

In the past I’ve used the Cydonia region of the red planet, the location of the so-called Mars Face in two of my previous science fiction novels. Not this time. I fancy delving down into the depths of the Valles Marinaris rift (see picture above). At 2,500 miles long, 120 miles wide and up to 23,000 ft deep, it offers plenty of scope for misadventure or adventure, intrigue, possibly even disaster. Who knows? At the moment anything and everything is a possibility. For now, no matter how vague a thought may be, none will be instantly dismissed out of hand, at least until I’ve tried it out for size.

As for the time period, my initial thoughts were to forget about setting it in this the twenty-first century, given how most within the current space exploration fraternity seem to be stuck on using rocket power, and building the vehicle here on Earth, instead of in space where size and shape don’t matter – see my blog post https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/why-reinvent-the-wheel/.

The chances are that because of their blinkered thinking it will be another century before man finally sets foot on the arid surface of Mars in any numbers. So I think I’ll be setting it in the twenty-second century, mainly to give Institutions like NASA a chance to catch up with my way of thinking. Either that or I may have to invent a propulsion system that they haven’t even thought of, in which case I can relent and set it in this century LOL.  😉

Whatever the case may be, it’s early days yet. Now that I know where and when, the next thing is to come up with the how, why and what, not forgetting a mix of characters. I know it all sounds extremely vague at the moment, but that’s the way a story is born. Ask any writer, they will tell you much the same thing. Vague notions, ideas, call them what you will, are the starting point. If it looks like it might pan out (once I written four or five thousand words), then and only then will I begin to get serious about it. It’s been a few years since I wrote a pure science fiction tale. I’m looking forward to it.

You have to remember one tiny point here. At the moment this is the way I’m thinking. But nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to what a writer does, says or thinks. But then again, I’ve always been a sucker for pure science fiction. It’s all Arthur C. Clark’s fault, and my father, for giving me one of Arthur’s books to read when I was eleven. As a consequence, scifi has always been my first love when it comes to literature.

If this new story doesn’t work out – c’est la vie…

😀

Why does the book I’m reading seem familiar?

477-197-2012-12-10967858Unusually for me, this post is a long one, (over a thousand words). So please bear with me and read it in its entirety. If you are a writer, the subject matters. Thank you.

***

When it comes to the way you write, how original are you? These days so many of the books on offer sadly lack originality. Sometimes while reading a new book, if it’s got our attention, and we’re not drifting off bored out of our minds with the book about to fall from our hands, we say to ourselves, “wait a minute, this book reminds me of something I read about X recently. In fact I’d swear its almost a carbon copy of a newspaper report I read a few months back.” This is not necessarily a bad thing. Often newspaper and magazines articles spark an idea. But using the article in its entirety might be seen by a court of law as a case of blatant plagiarism, in other words copying large amounts of someone else’s work, claiming it as you’re own. This is just one aspect of the lack of originality these days.

Being original hardly seems to matter to a lot of today’s crop of writers, whether Indie or establishment. Many simply don’t bother, preferring to churn out whatever is currently popular, or trendy. Far too many writers are tempted to follow a formula, such as in the often tasteless pot boiler love stories, or totally predictable horror and crime stories that flood the world’s bookshelves. Take it from me when I say to you, leave that kind of writing to ghost writers paid by the word. It may be popular, but it hardly taxes the reader’s brain, plus it does your reputation as a writer no good at all to be associated with this kind of book. Remember, you will always be judged by what you write and as a consequence, either be written off, or accepted. You must rise above the mob. Not an easy thing to do.

In the case of the establishment writers, if they wish to remain employed, in a growing number of cases, what they write is largely dictated by what their publishers want. What a boring existence.

Recently a good friend of mine in the US plucked up the courage to submit her excellent fantasy novel – A Ranger’s Tale to a site called The Review Board to have it scrutinised, and to have fair minded reviews written about it. One particular reviewer stated that, “I have a few niggles about originality and character motivations, but nothing that prevented me from getting embroiled in the conflict.”

Another reviewer said, ” this story has several familiar elements throughout,” listing the following to show exactly what they meant: World of Warcraft for time setting purposes, Final Fantasy IX (for time setting purposes, as well as the cast of colorful characters reminiscent of those in the story), Star Wars (for certain story elements, not the futuristic aspect), and Coming to America (specifically, Calliphany’s parents). Unlike a lot of the reviewers on Amazon, who delight in destroying a writer’s confidence with their often vicious one star reviews, the reviewers on this site offered constructive criticism married with largely positive comments.

I have had one of my books – The Forgotten Age likened to an Indiana Jones adventure by one reviewer on Amazon under the heading Indiana Jones on Fast Forward!  Why she came up with that notion is beyond me, when I know that the reviewer in question is totally familiar with my work and knows full well that unlike most writers these days I strive for originality.

In the twenty years I have been writing, the very thought of including elements from films, television and computer games, even someone else’s book, as sources for ideas has never consciously entered my mind, while writing any of my books. In fact if I find myself writing a specific passage in any of my books in such a way, I immediately delete it.

Yes, I grant you a lot of my books do have what seem like similar historical elements in them. They are drawn from the writings of the people responsible for recording them several millennia ago.

On occasion I have even been known to write a fiction around a popular belief, like my book The Seventh Age where I used the notion totally believed by many New Agers, particularly in the US, about the Mayan calendar and the assumption that because it ended in 2012, the world as we know it was about to end, even though the Mayans never made such a claim. Needless to say it sold in its tens of thousands among the New Agers during 2012 and 2013. It still sells today along with my other books. Why? Because each one is an original, not the product of plagiarism.

For a while there, thanks to the popularity of Seventh Age, I thought I had finally arrived in this unforgiving world of words, when it easily passed twenty-five thousand copies sold. At that point I stopped counting. But it wasn’t to be. Even so, it was a nice feeling while it lasted.

If you can, be strong. Strive for originality. If you check out my list of books you will see that they number just seven, six of which are currently available. Not a large number by anyone’s standards. But then again, writing a book wholly new in every sense of the word to the market, is never an easy task. Which is possibly why so many writers cop out…

Always write the kinds of stories that you would like to read, not what the majority want. It might take you a while but you will always find a readership providing you stick to your guns.

Having said that, remember that nothing is new, only rediscovered. Wait a minute, I read that somewhere? Oh yes I remember, I wrote it in my recent post Is Science Fiction a Nineteenth or Twentieth Century Phenomena?

See what I mean about originality?

PS – If you are thinking of offering one of your books to The Review Board, forget it. They are booked up solid for the next two years.

PPS – I’m just waiting for some ignoramus to say that my fantasy anthology about five thoroughly likeable goblins –  Goblin Tales, is somehow Tolkienesque and therefore not original…

😉

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