Reading Thoughts, and Visiting an (Extremely Possessive) Old Friend!

READING NOW

‘The Gathering Storm’ by Brandon Sanderson (Book 12 of the ‘Wheel of Time’ series)

ONGOING THOUGHTS

The one thing that was regularly levelled at the series was how it seemed to get too involved in the micro-management of the characters.  Yes, the evil is seeping is back into the world, we understand that is affecting everyone.  The cast of central characters is large, without even looking at the first- and second-level supporting characters.

It is still there, but Brandon is doing a wonderful job in balancing the scale.  There are still the first- and second-level characters, but putting them into scenes together instead of giving them their own sections does not make it seem so much like padding.

Enjoying it so far, but there is still over three quarters of the book to go (200 of 824).  Brandon is proving that his choice to complete the WoT series was a very good one =)

– X –

I admit that, due to other tasks having been set, my ‘Big Project’ has been sorely neglected.  Efforts to find a readable and study-worthy copy of Avicenna or Galen’s medical manuals have been fruitless, and caused the complete stall of Chapter 4.

The purpose of my short stories was to give a break from a stalled project, and hopefully connect the neurons through another outlet.  ‘Mune and Mura’ helped to a degree, as ti got me through ‘Big Project’ Chapter 3 and up into Chapter 4.  OVCC#9 got started, and was going great guns until ‘Sayeh and Zia’ popped into my head once Chapter 2 was completed.

And now that OVCC#9 and S&Z are being juggled, the brain has (somewhat) unconsciously returned my focus to the ‘Big Project’.  The weather data tracking is now up to Book 6, and the brain is doing everything it can to keep me focused on getting all the locale weather data up to date RIGHT NOW!

This was a slightly long-winded way of apologising again for my Muse trying to throw many balls at me to juggle.  The data tracking will be completed tonight, in time for the Easter long weekend.  Four whole days!  My solemn vow is that there will be a scene from both OVCC#9 and S&Z posted by the end of this long weekend, and I will do my utmost to get some scenes ahead so my stalled brain does not cause lacking posts.

– X –

Post 146.  Five more to go…

Reading Thoughts, Long-Term Research Projects, Reader Feedback Request, and Inadvertent Spoilers!

JUST FINISHED

‘Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves’ by Matthew Reilly

VERDICT

As with every book written by this man, all the time and sweat and fingertip blisters he puts into his writing leads to a book that is read in two days!  I am not sure if reading a book so quickly is a good or bad thing.  The story was exciting, the exclamation points flying thick and fast towards the end, and a few extremely unlikely escapes (what is called a ‘one-percenter’) has you calling bulls*** while you can’t put it down =)

READING NOW

‘Siege of Darkness’ by R.A.  Salvatore (Book 9 of the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series)

– X –

It took a very long time, but there is a bit of motivation for the big Project!  It is not in the writing, unfortunately, but in the research to make the world work.  The research can be fully accomplished by one extremely awesome website, called Accuweather.  Not a stretch to figure out what the research entails =)

– X –

In a slightly annoying trend, my science fiction short story seems to keep stalling me.  The religion of the country that Barney is now in is predominantly Christian (80%).  The remaining 20% is split somewhat evenly between Islam and traditional religions.  I hope that the ‘traditional religion’ involves Shamanism, because that would be very handy.

Should religion be brought into a science fiction story?

– X –

The plan for Post #151 seems to have been spoiled by a test run.  Well done to one of my very observant followers who realised what was happening and correctly put two and two together =)

By the way, Post #142.  We edge ever closer…

Considering Life and Philosophical questions

JUST FINISHED

‘The Gold of Cuzco’ by A.B. Daniel (Book 2 in the ‘Inca’ series)

VERDICT

This story was better than the first, which is a promising sign for the final book in the series.  The language used did not have out-of-place words, which kept me more invested in the story world than in the first book.

JUST STARTED

‘A Betrayal in Winter’ by Daniel Abraham (Book 2 in the ‘Long Price’ series)

– X –

Philosophical ideas are playing a part in my big project.  It was mainly to give me something to differentiates the nine countries and one ‘independent state’ that are part of it, and provide the opportunity to put ideas out there (I doubt mine will be anything new, but nothing ever is supposedly).

Firstly, some definitions of philosophy, so we know what we’re talking about:

1. The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

2. Any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, which are accepted as composing this study.

3. A system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza.

4. The critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.

5. A system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.

Let’s throw a question out there to get some views and opinions.  My discussion will link closest to definitions 1 and 5.

As writers create their story worlds, we’ll start with:

Why is the world the way it is?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, evolution is a topic of interest.  This is due to so many factors existing throughout all history that it can only be described as Chaos Theory, where so many things play a part in plotting the future course of events it is practically impossible to figure out why things are the way they are.

I flicked past a Sir David Attenborough show entitled ‘Life in the Undergrowth’. I stayed on the channel because I heard the word ‘Peru’, which was the basis of my most recent book.  He described how in their forests, there is a path of tree growth called ‘The Devil’s Path’.  Only one type of tree grows in this ‘path’, and any other tree species that tries to interrupt the path dies.  It was found recently that this one tree type is a magnet for ants, who use its growths (a Venus Flytrap-like item) to make nests.  Another tree type trying to grow in the ‘path’ is attacked by the ants, who eat through its stems and inject their fluids to kill it quicker.  That way, the one tree type of the most use to the ants in the future continues to create offshoots, allowing the ants to increase their numbers.

That, in a nutshell, is what evolution is; a conscious effort by a group to sustain an agreed method of survival into the foreseeable future.

If lifeforms as small as ants can do it, it has to apply to larger lifeforms also.  Humanity has shown many pretty dastardly ways of acting as ‘a group to sustain an agreed method of survival into the foreseeable future’, which has included world wars, crusades, genocides, gang wars, and abandonment or otherwise of unwanted children.

Though they are distasteful events, each of those events occurred because groups of varying size decided this was what needed to be done to ensure their survival.  World wars were fought because two different sides had two different opinions on the idea of ‘master race’. Crusades were fought when religious ideologies fought over geographical locations.  Genocides were fought for the purpose of removing the threat to survival posed by one’s enemies.  Gang wars could be considered genocides with less people involved, but are usually associated with drugs and gangs desiring to be the biggest supplier.  Abandonment or otherwise of unwanted children happened due to honour codes and/or societal opinions, or due to the events before or during a pregnancy prompting the decision.

And some of the decisions made by groups may have been to preserve a trivial trait.  The overwhelming stereotypes of the Swedish population are Sven and Inga, attractive people with blonde hair and blue eyes.  Having never been to Sweden, I cannot categorically confirm its truth.  But a stereotype is created out of a trait being the most common of a group, which prompts the idea that a group of people in the past agreed that these traits were the best way to ensure survival.  Blonde hair and blue eyes is not a guarantee of the pinnacle of evolution.

The idea of what traits we choose as the agreed method of survival is even more complicated today.  There is a greater appreciation for the mental aspects of people, though other aspects of them may not be desirable.  Stephen Hawking is a prominent example of a great mind, but a physical body very few would want.  Autism is a new focus in the modern day, and became known to me once my son was diagnosed with it.  It has been proven that a great many people with the ‘disorder’ may actually be more talented or intelligent than the average person due to their one-eyed focus on one particular thing.  Examples of autistic people are Stephen Wiltshire, who can draw unbelievably detailed cityscapes from memory, and Temple Grandin, a lady who helped redesign farm layouts to improve the life of animals.  Both have websites, at http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk and http://www.templegrandin.com, and Temple actually had a movie made about her (Clare Danes played Temple).  Their talents show that what is usually considered a ‘disorder’ can be the complete opposite, and it is unsettling how such people would have likely been outcast in the not too distant past.

I could keep going, but it proves that so many things need to be considered just to understand ourselves, before we even begin to understand why the wider world is the way it is.  With so many species of animals, and their ways of evolving to where they are today, it is practically impossible to know everything that happened in the past to lead us to this point in time.

Many different groups of many different species made a conscious effort to sustain an agreed method of survival into the foreseeable future.  In an extremely large nutshell, I believe that is why the world is the way it is.

Story World Focus, Real-World Research and Game World Feel

As mentioned in the last post, I am now writing Chapter 4.  Having completed Scene 1, the realisation has hit that I know next to nothing about agriculture as a whole.  The set aim of writing 1000 words a day is being defeated by the need for research.  You can research what sorts of foods are grown in an area, but that is all well and good if the current locale has bounteous supply of the materials for it.  When your planned city is surrounded by mountains and deserts for close to five hundred miles in every direction, you need to know a bit about agriculture and how you could possibly make that city exist.

So, first things first… let’s go and do some research on soil.  The lengths one must go to to ensure that there are no gaping holes in the mechanics of their story world.

– X –

An unfortunate side effect of my old thumb drive refusing to work was losing research on the companies I had applied to for a job.  I had a phone interview for a job back in November, and I had downloaded annual reports and written down notes to prepare.  Unfortunately, I did not get considered for the role past that phone interview.  I kept my typed up notes on my old thumb drive, and threw out the written notes.  Step forward two months, and another role appears with the same company.  Applied for it, had another brief phone interview but this time managed to make to the next stage of interviews.  Here is hoping it goes well, because the company sounds awesome and the medium- to long-term opportunities with them are just as good =)

All I need to do is do all that research again!  Aagh!

– X –

A trio of games I have played in the past are the Metroid Prime games.  After a combined 40 hours of playing, I have almost completed the final game.  The feeling of playing the games is peculiar, as the first two were designed so the protagonist is going solo into a foreign planet to defeat the bad guys.  But the third… there is interaction with fleet commanders, soldiers and other bounty hunters as well as the bad guys.  It gives a much greater gravity to your actions, as you can see that these bad guys exist outside the planets you visited in the first two games, and they will go attack the rest of the universe if they stop you.

Basically, I feel more scared playing the third game than I ever did playing the first two.

– X –

Back to researching soil… it is actually quite interesting.  I must be weird =P

Planned Reading and Recommendation Request

Three days into the New Year, and I have managed 5.5 pages.  The thing tripping me up with writing is the layout of the Bazaar the character is walking through.  Instead of writing, a hour or so was spent drawing the main city layout to see where the main pathways cut through the market.  But, once that is clarified, I am finally at the point where the story can flow on easily.

The rest of this post is digressive, but please indulge me =)

As mentioned in my previous post, I am trying to get some different genres in my reading.  When it comes to science fiction, it seems that I am highly biased towards Philip K Dick.  I was fascinated by the ‘Total Recall’ movie when I was younger, and that moved to ‘Blade Runner’ and my later buying a five volume collection of his short stories.  That also influenced my picking up a three-book series by Joel Shepherd, focused on a character named Cassandra Kresnov.  The three books in their order are ‘Crossover’, ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Killswitch’.  If you are a fan of the Blade Runner dystopian feel, the series keeps it well as well as mixing in an Asian feel.

I searched the international network for some suggestions.  I found some stories by authors previously read, new authors who have won numerous awards, some well-known authors, and some that sound interesting.

As I am allowed to buy one book a month (once I have a job), below is the current list of 12 books I plan to procure and read:

‘He Walked Among Us’ by Norman Spinrad    (I read another book of his called ‘The Druid King’, which followed the life of Vercingetorix.  All who have read the ‘Asterix’ series would know who that is.)

‘Cosmonaut Keep’ by Ken MacLeod

‘Dark Light’ by Ken MacLeod

‘Engine City’ by Ken MacLeod

‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline  (the 2012 Prometheus Award winning novel)

‘Glasshouse’ by Charles Stross  (the 2007 Prometheus Award winning novel)

‘Cybernetic Samurai’ by Victor Milan  (The 1986 Prometheus Award winning novel.  As the Tokugawa Shogunate played a supporting role in my ‘Mune and Mura’ short story, this tickled my fancy.)

‘Cybernetic Shogun’ by Victor Milan  (The sequel to the above.)

 

The books below are separate stories, but they are paired up in books called ‘Fractions’ and ‘Divisions’.  So, I can cheat and get 2 books for the price of 1.  Huzzah!

 

‘The Star Fraction’ by Ken MacLeod

‘The Stone Canal’ by Ken MacLeod

‘The Cassini Division’ by Ken MacLeod

‘The Sky Road’ by Ken MacLeod

 

Any person who reads my blogs who are well-read in the sci-fi genre, I would love some suggestions for any titles they’ve read that were written in the last 10-25 years.  When 7 of 12 books are by one author, a bit more variety may be needed =)

Double Dose: Sloth and Diligence, Gluttony and Temperance

My apologies for the double delay in posting.  More interviews to attend, more companies to research, and more anxious waiting for a decision.  And to add to the fun, my thumb drive with all my story information decided to stop working.  Thank goodness I backed it up two weeks earlier, though unfortunately I lost my new section of Chapter 3 and all the character questionnaires I had completed.  Darnfangled technomogy, dagnabbit!

But on the plus side, it means this entry is a double dosage.  We get to address the vices of sloth and gluttony, as well as the virtues of diligence and temperance… and no, I don’t mean Kathy Reich’s fictional forensic anthropologist.  The wife loving both the book and television series has fried the name into my brain, just as badly as her love for the CSI series has fried Horatio Kane in there too.

Back to business…

 

SLOTH

1)            (n) habitual disinclination to exertion; indolence; laziness.

The vice everybody will be suffering from post-Christmas.  This will be built into a character from one of the families in Book 1 (PoP), and it will be the cause of a pretty horrendous event that will haunt the character for the rest of their days.  Such a vice would have to mean they are stinky, wear dirty clothes, do not do much in the way of focused activity.  As such, they should not look particularly appealing.  Despite this, there will probably be an important twist in their background somewhere…

 How would you present a slovenly character into your stories?  Can you make the reader care about such a person?

DILIGENCE

1)            (n) constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.

This virtue is another that I would associate directly to a warrior type.  With all the drills and discipline involved in their training, it would have to be the number one attribute to have.  The character I have in mind is lined up for introduction in Book 3 (PoD) so far, though they have a quite similar background to Wrath.  A fake-out to who is which may be in order…

GLUTTONY

1)            (n) excessive eating and drinking.

The other vice that will be making itself known during the Holiday season.  This character will also be from  another of the families in Book 1, though they will probably the most unlikeable out of all of the main characters… well, in any case I don’t like them very much.

 

TEMPERANCE

1)            (n) moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.

The character with this will be tightly linked with the Diligence character.  Due to the connection, they will also find their way into the story in Book 3.  It is likely that this character will be of a religious bend, as the monks and practitioners of the day seemed to deny themselves a lot of the creature comforts that others would not forgo.  They will also play a part in expanding the story world east, as some parts of the world will be briefly addressed in Book 1 (PoP), and start the true world expansion will start in Book 2 (PoK).

The next post will be on Boxing Day.  Hope you all have a great Holiday Season, gets lots of pressies and that a few more notches in your belt buckle will help decide your New Year Resolutions =)

One world interrupts another!

To the very small surprise of that man living under a rock in Estonia, the events of the real world are causing massive disruption to the establishment of my story world.

I have finally had some interviews for jobs, after a 2-3 month lull in them.  The hope is that I have one ready to go for January, and I can get back to feeling financially productive.  The research time I dedicate to my stories has instead been focused on company research.  The aim is that, once a job starting date is secured, I can share the time before then between some online courses to increase my job skills and getting back into ‘Path of Prophecy’.

As an exercise, I would like to get some feedback on underlying ideas that I am thinking of using in my story.  When one writes in a vacuum, relying on Wikipedia for information, the odds are that perspective can be skewed.

I shall start the exercise on the next post.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I aim to make use of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues.  I shall discuss the opposing pairs and how I look to use them, and you can tell me what a load of bollocks my ideas are or if they have merit.

Now, back to company research…