#The Guardian #Progress Report No: 8

If you have been following all of my posts, you will have seen in Tuesday’s post how I go about visualising my female characters when writing my books.

https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/visualising-my-female-characters/

In it I mentioned the fact that I was still searching for a photograph, illustration or painting of a beautiful, full bodied honey blond who says Lynne Crawford to me. If you are wondering, she is my primary female character in The Guardian. While chatting via Facebook on Tuesday night to Robynn Gabel, a fellow writer, and dear friend of mine, she pointed out the blindingly obvious – why not simply Google honey blonds and see what’s on offer. Sometimes, like a lot of other writers, I get so totally engrossed with the mechanics of writing a story, that often I don’t see the wood for the trees. Following her advice, I finally found Lynne.

Here she is:

honey-blonde-hair

I have absolutely no idea who the beautiful young woman is. But for my purposes, what is important is that hers is the image (near as dammit) which I’ve been carrying round in my head for several months now, of how I imagine Lynne looks. Before any of you who are familiar with my description of her in past progress reports feel the need to say anything, yes I do realise that her hairdo is not Lynne’s trademark severe crew cut. This is how my hero Adler, and myself I might add, eventually want her to look. Always providing that he can convince her to let her soft honey blond hair grow that is. Maybe I’ve already pursuaded him to convince her. Maybe I haven’t. You will have to wait to find out when you read The Guardian won’t you.

***

Now for an update on the progress I’m making in writing the first draft of The Guardian. Yesterday morning I finally passed the ten thousand word mark while still writing chapter five. Why has it taken me so long to reach that number of words? Because with each twist and turn of the plot, I seriously need to think about it before I commit to this laptop’s screen. Plus I need to ensure that each and every word is not only correct, but also relevant. Every problem I can eliminate now, during the process of writing the first draft, is one less to worry about once I begin editing, expanding or contracting later on.

At least one thing is finally sorted out – the cover. I know that I’ve previously produced it here. But not everyone who follows my blog will necessarily have seen it. So for those who missed it, here it is:

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Finally – purely for anyone who may be interested, here is my list of characters:

Major Adler Stevens – ex UK Military Police
Lieutenant Lynne Crawford – ex fighter-bomber pilot Canadian Airforce
Professor Ephraim Adelmann – speciality, ancient languages
Captain Brett Abbot – ex Royal Marines – speciality, sniping and close quarter assassination
Master Sergeant Clifford Mayhew Jr – ex US Special Forces – speciality, demolitions
Sergeant Bayla Lombroso – ex Israeli Defence Force – speciality, medic
Lieutenant Moshe Baranovichi – ex Israeli Defence Force – childhood friend of Bayla – speciality, rifleman
Lieutenant-commander Karin Haigh – ex US Navy Seal – speciality, electronic warfare (satellite eavesdropping)
Captain Phillipe Bordeaux – ex Armée de terre (French Army) – speciality, sharpshooter
Senior Praporshchik (Senior Warrant Officer) Anatole Belakov – ex Vozdushno Desantnye Voyska (Russian Airborn Troops) – speciality, Light Machine Gunner

Plus, let us not forget the whole reason for writing this book in the first place, The Guardian itself, which will remain an enigma as far as all of them are concerned for some time to come.

PS – Did you notice the hashtags in the post title? I’ve finally decided to take Chris the story reading ape’s advice to use them to help spread the word about The Guardian. Only time will tell if they work. He reassures me that they do. We’ll see…

More later

😉

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 Guardian – Another Progress Report

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Is one of these The Guardian?

As I’m halfway through writing chapter two of The Guardian, I need to take a break while I do some more thinking. Without giving too much away, I will say that at this stage in the novel there is an undeniable sexual tension gradually developing between the two main human characters – Adler and Lynne. Whether or not they become lovers, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve just introduced a third human character Professor Ephraim Adelmann, an old friend of Adler’s. Lynne is not best pleased by his attitude towards women.

Like most of the academics I formerly worked with for twenty-five years at the University of Waikato back in New Zealand, while academically brilliant, Ephraim wouldn’t last five minutes in the real world. His speciality is ancient languages. I based him on a particular academic I have admired for years who works in the British Museum, Irving Finkel, who is an acknowledged expert on ancient languages.

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          Irving Finkel

I’m finding it difficult not to spill the beans when it comes to clues regarding The Guardian, which is why I constantly need to step back and seriously think about what I am going to say next. In the past, especially with my archaeological adventure The Forgotten Age it was fairly obvious what was going on. As a consequence it was an easy book to write. Well not this time. By hook or by crook I’m determined to keeping you guessing until its time for Adler and Lynne to encounter The Guardian.

More later…

😉 😉 😉

At the moment, The Guardian is a red pen free zone

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Is this The Guardian? Wait and see…

One of the joys of writing a first draft is that it is a red pen free zone. Until you reach the end of the story, anything goes, incorrect spelling, incorrect punctuation, even the wrong words and phrases – you name it and you will find you have added it. Beginning the first of many editing sessions is the time to take a critical look at what you had initially written over the many months since you started.

By not worrying too much about what you have written in the first draft, it allows you to get that idea out of your head and onto paper, or in my case, this laptop’s screen. Initially you can write the way you think, instead of observing the standard form of English required for the finished product. To look at it another way, just imagine that at this stage your WIP (work in progress) is nothing more than a very long letter to a friend or relative. While it tells the tale, inevitably it is a tad mixed up. Everything you wanted to say is right there in front of you. Now all you have to do is make sense of it.

The time when you have to become your own worst critic comes much later when you begin that first editing session. To achieve this you have no choice but to become totally ruthless – not an easy process when it comes to your literary toddler. But until you delete some passages, replacing them with others. Cut and paste a particular sentence, or sentences, into the correct place, or maybe even totally rewrite a paragraph or chapter, you haven’t edited it properly.

As for my new science fiction novel, The Guardian, I have finally written the core of chapter one in just 1,996 words. In it I have established the three principal characters Major Adler Stevens, Lieutenant Lynne Crawford, and The Guardian itself. All the way through the chapter, the characteristics, quirks, likes and dislikes, all part of the relationship between the two humans, have been revealed. Not so with The Guardian. All you know about it at this stage is that it watches anyone it deems to be a threat, and…

Oops almost gave something away then LOL.

Fleshing out the chapters will come much later, once I have finished writing the first draft. Now it’s on to chapter two for me.

More later, be good.

😉

There Is Far Too Much Emphasis Placed On Planning

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I know I’ve spoken about planning in the past. But like a lot of seriously overused writing crutches, it bears talking about yet again.

So many new and not so new writers insist on planning every single detail in their current work in progress almost to the point of being totally paranoid about it. It’s as if they need an Idiot’s How To Guide to be able to write. It has to be said that following this inflexible method leaves nothing to be desired. Neither does it make you think before you write. Nor does it allow you to make use of your imagination, not to mention being adventurous and therefore spontaneous. Give me research and spontaneity over planning any day.

It’s fine if you are just another hack with no imagination whatsover, ghost writing for a living. But I ask you, where’s the fun in that? Where is the creativity? Where is that spontaneity I spoke of? Where is the unique thinking?

As far as planning goes, all you really need is the beginnings of an idea. From that comes the who, why, what, where and when.

Do what I do. Sit and think about it long and hard while doing something else entirely. This blog post is a classic example. I was thinking it through while writing a bit more of the first chapter of The Guardian earlier today. But before you planners out there who by now are bristling with indignation say anything, remember that there is a fundamental difference between what you do and thinking about what to say.

Once you have a vague notion, make a few notes about where the story will take place, how many characters, their names etc. There is no need to go into great detail. From my point of view, as far as planning is concerned, that’s it! There is no need to continue. Instead, start writing.

If you want to use a specific location, research everything you can find out about it before you begin to write. The same goes for the nationalities of your characters. Each nation, even ancient ones, has its own peculiarities which inevitably become typical character traits. Remember, research, don’t plan!

Take my tip. Forget about planning out everything. If you plan then you already know where and how the story will end. Inevitably you will write to that conclusion. It’s far too restrictive and therefore predictable. In fact it guarantees to kill off any ‘out of the box’ thinking which is a basic fundamental to all writing, necessary to keep your readers guessing. I far prefer to find out what happens next as it occurs in any given moment in any story I write, just like my readers will when they eventually read it for themselves.

How do I achieve this? First of all keep the number of characters to a workable minimum. Get to know them by clearly establishing who they are. How? By letting them talk to each other. Listen to them. Put yourself in their place for any given situation. Then all you have to do is ask yourself what they would do. It makes no difference whether or not they are good, bad or indifferent. Sly, honest or dishonest. Handsome or ugly. Old or young. Male or female. The point is that you as the writer must know each character inside out before you begin to engage them in anything more than conversation. Why? Because you need to know their strength’s and weaknesses before you put them into a situation that may prove detrimental to their health.

Of course if you intend killing them off at some stage of the proceedings, it doesn’t really matter. Which is a pity, as by now you have invested a lot of time, effort and thought in getting to know them. Most writers do kill off the odd character or two. That’s fine just so long as they are not the principal ones. In other words your heroes or heroines.

In my new WIP, so far I have just three characters. Like all of my recent books I prefer to listen to them before writing from the point of view of each one. One is a typical by the book ex British Army officer. The next is a no nonsense veteran bomber pilot, formerly in the Canadian Airforce. As for the third, it is The Guardian itself. The only thing I will say about the latter is that it’s been around for several millenia.

PS – I almost forgot. As of this morning – Saturday the third of January 2015, I’ve written 1,310 words (three pages) in the first chapter of The Guardian, slow by most writer’s standards. But not so, if like me, you want to produce a work of fiction that keeps the reader’s attention from page one until the end.

More later.

😉

The Guardian Begins

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Well, it’s New Year’s day in my other home – New Zealand, even though it’s still December the thirty-first here in the UK. So I have begun to write my new science fiction novel. I have settled on The Guardian as the title. For the few who bothered to at least read https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/the-first-version-of-the-hook/#comment-3442, let alone the six who I am indebted to for offering their opinions, and whose advice I took note of, here is my New Year’s gift to you – the reconstructed Hook and a short extract.

***

The guardian’s dark pitiless eyes surveyed the scene one last time. Satisfied that the threat was finally eliminated, it returned to its duties while awaiting the return of its masters. Three weeks later, while on patrol, something on one of the video screens in the mine operations centre got its full attention. More trouble was on the way. Intruders had just arrived. Until they were dealt with, the guardian could not even begin to repair the damage they had caused. But at least it could finish sealing the entrance to the inner sanctum.

Chapter One

“Why us?” Lynne grumbled, once they had arrived at the Space Port in stationary orbit above Mars. Even though she already knew the answer, she still needed to vocalise it, if only to emphasise her displeasure at being volunteered. She had driven her new boss crazy with endless questions like this during the month long journey aboard the robotic solar-wind powered transport. They both knew that this was likely a suicide mission. “What’s so all-fired important about an automated mining operation on Mars?” she continued, “and why the hell did we have to put up with that stinking ancient transporter. Why didn’t the cheapskates get us seats on something more luxurious for the trip?”
“For Christ sake woman will you give it a rest, quit bellyaching! At the moment I’m guessing that the bastards have downed tools over pay and conditions. You’ve read the brief from Earth Corp, therefore you know as well as I that we are to establish why the Olivine mining has stopped. 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 brought up here to the Space Port to be loaded aboard unmanned transporters like the one we just arrived on for the return journey to Earth. Which means someone like you has to fly the damned cargo shuttles back and forth. Until we get there, we’re only speculating. The first thing we have to do is talk to the mine boss, David Malcolmson. He and everyone else is housed in an accommodation block just inside the mine in Ganges Chasma, an eastern branch of Valles Marineris.
If you are wondering what Olivine is used for, it is the principal component in the carbon dioxide sequester process back on Earth. You know how bad our atmosphere is, thanks to heavy industry. According to Earth Corp, the last load to arrive back home was six months ago. Before that the mine was sending regular monthly consignments. Any more questions? No? Good. Now quit complaining and get us the hell down there!”
Adler shook his head as he strapped himself into the seat behind Lynne. Why the hell he had to be saddled with this totally unpleasant woman was beyond him. Surely there must have been other pilots to choose from?
As far as Earth Corp was concerned, being ex-military, both Major Adler Stevens and Lieutenant Lynne Crawford were the obvious candidates for the job, and therefore expendable. The CEO of Earth Corp saw no good reason to send one of her own on such a hazardous mission. If they managed to work out what had happened, fix it, and send back a report to say that everything was back to normal, all well and good. If not, someone else would soon be sent in their place. After all, since war was declared illegal, there were plenty like Adler and Lynne to choose from. They had been given precisely one week after their arrival to investigate before they must send that report to Earth Corp.

~~~

The guardian watched the shuttle descend to the loading bay airlock inside the mine entrance from inside the inner sanctum. It heard the unmistakeable sound of the outer door closing, sealing off the mine from Mars’ atmosphere, which is one hundred times thinner than that of Earth, being mostly carbon dioxide, and the hiss as the now sealed loading bay automatically pressurised as oxygen was pumped in to allow whoever was inside the shuttle to enter the mine reception centre. It watched as Adler and Lynne walked across to the door connecting the airlock with the living quarters.

***

So, there it is. With this one, I’m in no steaming hurry. I just want it to enthral the reader all the way through to the end. That requires hours of thought and endless rewriting on my part. To achieve my aim, I’ve given myself the whole of two thousand and fifteen to complete the task.

I’ll keep you all up to date as I progress. Have a happy New Year.

😀 😀 😀

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…

😀

Progress Report 13

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It might be here

Well folks, yet another progress report for you. I’ve been up since 4.30 am just to finish the revamped Chapter Eight, having axed the original after merging the two preceeding chapters into one, which gave me the opportunity to steer that part of the story in a more logical direction. The word count now stands at 21,858 and almost forty-two A4 pages.

I changed my mind, yet again, about the cover. I’m betting that despite what he said to me yesterday, the Story Reading Ape is quietly cursing me about it. Still, because of the troublesome new OS software on his Mac, at least he hadn’t got as far as beginning to work on what I had originally asked of him, or so he says.

Believe it or not, but I’ve been having fun developing Briggs’ love affair. Normally I steer well clear of the depths I have entered into with the subject, preferring to simply suggest any romantic involvements, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. But, as this highly controversial love affair is an integral part of the plot it needs to be spelt out, but only by writing it as tastefully as is humanly possible.

Since doing the major edit of the first seven chapters, I became aware of something I’d normally not pick up on until the final edit – inconsistency. For instance, you can’t have a character enter stage left in one paragraph, only to say later in another that he entered stage right when reminding the reader about his entrance, now can you.

Well that’s about it for now, except that I’ve a feeling that it will end up as a novella by the way its going.

PS – still confused by the pictures I put up for each progress report? Good, that’s precisely my aim, to get you curious enough to want to buy yourselves a copy when I publish it. They may be relevent to the story, or they may just be nothing more than red herrings. You’ll have to wait and see won’t you.

I’m exhausted, so I’m taking tomorrow (Sunday) off. Chapter nine will begin on Monday morning.

More later.

😀 😀

Progress Report 10

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Could this be it, or is it yet another Red Herring?

Well folks the word count now stands at 15,333 (29 A4 pages). I’m at the beginning of chapter eight. Things are really hotting up. I have included a love interest with a difference (note I did say with a difference) for the primary character Dr Gilbert Briggs. Not that he needs the distraction, or so he says. Hah – yeh right Gilbert. Pull the other one, its got bells on it mate! All I’m saying about her for now is that her name is Arianna, and she’s an absolute stunner.

Before I got too far along I decided to make a ‘Table of Contents’ page with hyperlinks to each chapter, enabling you to go straight to any chapter. Unfortunately its not the same process as adding hyperlinks for my other eBooks on Amazon. So I had to ask my good friend and fellow writer Derek Haines how to go about it. In response, he sent me the link to a ‘how to’ video –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpB9hmlgeU4  If you have wondered how to do it, click on the link and take a look for yourselves. Just remember that the version of MS Word he uses for the demonstation is old. I halved the number of steps he takes to get the job done with my up to date version of Word. Once you have done it for the first chapter, its dead easy to remember each time you add another chapter.

One other thing – To Hell With The Trolls! This one will not only be in paperback, but also eBook. But if your hoping to get a free copy, I’m sorry but because of the trolls it ain’t going to happen. Nor will the eBook be priced at US$0.99 either. I’m thinking somewhere around US$3.00. That way, if they want to tear it apart in their usual way (one star reviews), they’ll damn well have to buy a copy like everyone else. Once again, sorry about that folks…

More later.

😀

Progress Report 9

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It might even be here. What might?

Well folks, the word count now stands at 13,119. Or if you prefer it, twenty-five A4 pages. I’m still working on Chapter Seven. While I’ve added those two extra characters I was talking about in Progress Report 8, I’m still trying to work out how I draw one particularly nasty individual out into the open – the second of the new characters. There are so many ways to achieve this. I just have to decide which is the best scenario, considering my main characters and the way they react when it comes to any form of danger to themselves. To that end, progress in this chapter is slow. But, I’ll get there.

This story is definitely dictating how it wants to be written. So far I have broached two highly controversial subjects, Religion and Sexual Identity, within the context of the story. My character’s views on both thorny issues are guaranteed to upset some thin skinned people out there who are easily offended. All I will say is that they/you need to remember one thing. When you read this novel, it isn’t reality. It’s nothing more than a fictitious tale. That’s the beauty of fiction. You can ask questions, or suggest explanations for practically anything you care to name, without it reflecting your own personal beliefs and prejudices. Some individuals forget that when they read a book.

With all of the clues I’ve given you so far, do you think you know what the story is all about yet? Maybe they’re not clues at all. Why have I used photographs of various cityscapes for each of these progress reports? Could they be Red Herrings? You’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you. Even some of the categories listed below this and all of the ‘Progress Reports’ could be nothing more than Red Herrings.

More later, but only if you’re good.

😉