Thursday, February 22, 2018

At least I've thought of a title




It's been a busy week on the writing front. When I'm working on a book I try to aim at one thousand words a day. I'm retired, so it's not a huge ask, but I find I need quite a bit of thinking time before I put the words on the page. I've been known to stand in my backyard, glass of wine in hand, rehearsing the dialogue for the next day. The lorikeets don't seem to  mind – as long as they get their apple juice.

When I get on a roll I might make fifteen hundred words, so I was pretty chuffed to make over two thousand the other day. We're getting there!

I'm in the middle part of the book, where the story can sag if you're not careful. But this is a crime mystery as much as a character study, so I've gone down the track of finding out more about Toreni as she investigates in her own special way. The team is staying in a guest house, and Toreni takes the chance to find out what she can from the proprietor. She uses the fact that she has been stereotyped into a box where she doesn't quite fit.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Toreni went in search of Suri Isshak as soon as they returned to the guest house. Following her nose, she found the woman in a kitchen smelling of roasting meat and herbs, and knocked on the door jamb.
Isshak looked up from stirring the contents of a large bowl on a central bench. "Oh hello. Is there a problem?"
"Not at all, Suri. It's just that Sunil told us you're a great cook?"
Isshak beamed, accentuating the creases around her eyes and mouth. "He's a nice lad. I like to cook."
Toreni took a step into the room. "So do I. I wonder if I could watch you cook this evening's meal? Maybe help?"
Isshak stopped her action mid-stir. "You cook? Really?"
If I had a credit for every time… Toreni smiled. "Yes, I do. I used to do the cooking for my squad when I served in Fleet, and I do all the cooking on our ship. I'm always looking for new ways with food, especially if you're using local products."
"I am. I'm cooking fish tonight, baked with tubers and greens. And I'm slow roasting a haunch of mountain goat. I'm making bread to serve with the food. As you can see."
Toreni stepped into a well-organized room equipped with plenty of cupboards and shelves, as well as ample bench space. Pots and pans hung from hooks, and a knife block stood in a corner. Isshak worked at an island bench in the middle, with easy access to the large hob and wall oven. A pot steamed on a burner. "It's a great kitchen."
"Yes." The other woman continued stirring, lifting and moving the contents of the bowl. "I had a lot of say in the design."
"You're making bread?"
She chuckled. "It's not made with grain. We use ground tubers and some seeds. It has a heavy consistency, but it's lovely with spread."
Toreni leaned over to watch. The mass was coming together. Isshak paused to add a little more warm water from a jug.
"You have to be careful not to let it get too wet, but it shouldn't be too dry, either."
Something whistled from the stove. Isshak tutted. "I need to season that."
"I'll stir for you," Toreni said.
The other woman smiled her gratitude. "Thanks. Keep it moving." Isshak bustled over to the pot on the stove. "It's been a while since I had so many guests at once."
"What happens with this dough? Rolls? Loaves?"
"Loaves." She looked at Toreni over her shoulder. "Could you do that for me?"
"Sure. Trays?"
Isshak pointed. "That cupboard."
Toreni took out a tray and shaped small loaves from the dense ingredients, setting them out in rows on the baking tray, then showed them to the other woman.
"Great. In the oven for most of an hour. Um… I didn't catch your name?"
Ah. They were getting somewhere. "Toreni. And yours?"
"Silva."
In the space of an hour Toreni had heard all about Silva's husband, who was out catching fish. Their son was killed in the war against the Yogina. Silva hadn't wanted him to go, but he insisted, serving with a marine unit. She would never recover from his loss, but Sunil had stayed here for over a year, now, becoming almost an adopted son. She'd started the guest house to alleviate boredom, and enjoyed the guests coming in and out.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm still undecided about a title. Operation Shar Burk was wrong on a lot of counts, but at least the action starts at Shar Burk space station. Mystery of the Ice Warriors will do for now - although it dos sound a bit Enid Blyton.

And I haven't seen The Last Jedi yet, either.

And to finish, here's a lorikeet. Okay, two lorikeets. Best caption I got for this one was "What do you mean the dog ate your homework?"





Friday, February 16, 2018

NETFLIX'S SENSE8 A DIVERSE SF WONDER


For someone whose business is the future, I can be a bit of a Luddite, slow to adopt new technologies until they’ve proven their usefulness. I resisted Facebook and Twitter until dragged kicking and screaming onboard. I still carry a flip phone. And I had tried and given up Netflix a few years back, before binge watching was a thing.

But just recently I had a chance to rethink Netflix,and I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing the streaming service came without the fits and starts I expected here in my rural area. Anything I watch from my satellite on-demand service must always be downloaded, recorded and watched later because of buffering problems, but not so Netflix. All was smooth sailing, so I immediately became a binging fiend for the show I selected as my first Netflix affliction: Sense8

This SF series, created by Babylon 5 producer J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis (THE MATRIX), and starring Naveen Andrews (Lost) and Daryl Hannah (yes, that Daryl Hannah), follows eight characters in different parts of the world who are psychically linked. Before they can figure out why they are suddenly in each other’s heads, they find themselves pursued by an evil scientist and his corporate sponsors, who want only to exploit or destroy them.


In addition to the overall arc, each of the characters has his or her own fully-developed story—the gay actor in Robert Rodriguez-style action films in Mexico City; the German gangster in Berlin; the Indian biochemist in an arranged marriage to her boss in Mumbai; the Icelandic rock DJ grieving the loss of her husband and stillborn child in London; the Chicago cop who sees “ghosts;” the Nairobi bus driver who loves Jean-Claude Van Damme; the transgender computer whiz in San Francisco; the martial artist going to prison for her brother’s crimes in Seoul. Story segments are filmed separately in each of the key cities, giving the show a color and diversity not seen in many series. And an openness, too. This is not a series for viewers who may be shy about sex.

In one episode, a character is listening to an author speak at a book signing. He argues that today’s generation has access to information about the lives of hundreds of people around the world, whereas our parents knew about only a fraction of that number. Sense8 is a perfect example of the author’s point. Here are eight characters, living in eight completely different parts of the world, and I am able to follow their fictional lives in dramatic detail in my living room every night. What a wonder! Yes, the show itself is science fiction—these eight people can “head-hop” to visit each other wherever they live—but so can I! That’s what I love about it.

There is a scientific explanation for what is going on that allows these characters to be connected. I’m not sure yet whether I think it’s a good one or not. But I won’t spoil things for you if you plan to watch the series. I would only recommend that you do watch. It’s well worth giving up your Luddite ways to get this kind of return.

Cheers, Donna


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting your mojo back



While I was in the writing doldrums recently I came across a little piece from Holly Lisle, well known writing coach. I've got one of her books on how to plot, and I usually wheel it out when I start a new project, because it's chock full of great, practical suggestions to get the juices flowing. But at the time I was at the "why bother" stage.

It's a little course called "How to Find Your Fiction Writing Mojo"

It's aimed at newbies, really; people who think they want to write, but aren't sure what. Over 5 days, with an email each day, Holly encourages you (with a series of questions) to find out a bit more about yourself and what sort of stories you could write. It was a bit of fun – and I can tell you it turned out to be extremely accurate.

  •  What do I read – science fiction (Star Wars but also hard SF like Jack McDevitt), murder mysteries (Agatha Christie, Peter Robinson), a smattering of fantasy, and a few historicals.
  •  What don't I read – horror, dystopian, vampires, erotica
  • What settings do I like – space, space ships, Star Wars type planet-hopping

What do I actually write? Stories with happy endings, filled with space, spaceships, strong men and strong women to match them. There's usually a historical connection (theirs, not ours) and an element of mystery/crime/politics.

Holly asks a few other questions about you, the author, asking you to delve a little deeper into fears, failures, successes – the emotions that make your writing blaze with authenticity, regardless of setting.

I suppose this little 'course' gave me validation that I'm doing it right.

And now, back to the WIP.

In this book Toreni is one of the main POV characters. She's one of the big, powerful Shuba class who make up the elite marine corps in Fleet and take jobs as security guards and bodyguards outside Fleet. In her Fleet persona I imagine her like the picture at left. But I must add, in the book Toreni isn't African-American, and everyone in that part of the galaxy has dark skin, so she's not meant to be "token diverse". Toreni has met Alric, a man she worked with in the Crossmar Police service, and they're sharing a meal and a chat.

Alric leaned back. "I'll have a beer, thanks. What are you doing now? For a job?"

Toreni hid her hesitation by ordering two beers, the dark, bitter brew that squaddies from Fleet tended to enjoy. "I'm working on a small courier ship. Just two other crew. I do the usual security work. But I'm also ship's cook. I've just been over to Shripati's to stock up for a trip."

"You're the cook? I remember you saying you wanted to be a chef?"

"That's… kind of on hold for the moment. But I practice on my friends. I'm getting pretty good. I'd say my noodles dish is just about as good as Pinnacles."

The beer arrived, well poured, with a small head oozing down the side of the glass. Alric raised his in salute. "To old friends."

She sipped.

He put his elbows on the table and leaned toward her. "Look, I'd love to have you back in the squad. You're experienced, you're honest. And you're a nice lady. I need a group leader."

Group leader. Time was she would have jumped at it. But that was before the universe wriggled and Jirra and Siena had come into her life. Along with Morgan Selwood and Vulsaur. She sipped some more beer, ran her fingers through her hair.

"I like your hair long," Alric said, his voice soft. The way he was looking at her didn't quite fit with an employment interview.

She shifted in her seat. It had been a long time since she and Tark… you couldn't call it making love. She didn't love him, he didn't love her. It was a matter of convenience, a roll in the sheets to work off some tension. Although that was hindsight talking. Back then, she'd been fairly besotted with Tark. He was a big, powerful man with a great body and an air of confidence about him, but looking back she saw his confidence was arrogance, and the glint in his eye, greed. Alric was confident, too, but without the swagger. He'd make a great senior sergeant.

"Thanks for the offer, but I don't think so. I'm happy where I am."

He frowned. Disappointed.

"But, hey, I'm flattered that you'd want me back. Thanks. It's made my day."

Back to the grindstone 😊

But maybe a lorikeet portrait. Just because it was Valentine's Day the other day.

 



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

On Hiatus: The Great Chicken Run Build plus Valentine's Day #snippet #scifirom

It's half term here in the UK, so I'm taking some time out with the monsters (me and the boys are currently watching number five of the Harry Potter films as part of a week long HP marathon) while eldest is on a music workshop. Today is also Pancake Day - traditionally served with just lemon juice and sugar, but I daresay the monsters will be opting for the chocolate and icecream version. And later we have Black Panther!
In the meantime, the chicken run build is progressing. The run itself is built, though the proper roof isn't up yet, and we're still putting the new coop together.
Kala checking the foundation beam is properly aligned.

Hubs injured me with a spade - an almost traditional occurrence when we work together.

Foundations laid.

And the run is up.

But the girls still enjoy coming out into the garden.



Temperature indicator - the ice from two days ago still hasn't melted!


Not so little Firefly.


The coop coming together.

Valentine's Day Excerpt
While hubs and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day (we save it for our anniversary, especially as it's our 25th this year), I thought I'd share an old micro story featuring Keir being interviewed about the meaning of romance...

"Romantic?" Keir shakes his head and hands me a glass of red wine. "No. I would not say that I am romantic."

I take a sip and watch him from over the rim of the glass. The wine's good, but not as much as the company. I wouldn't mind him warming me up instead. I shake myself. "I'm sure Quin would say that you are." In fact she has--to me--in private. But why embarrass him?

He smiles, a little shyly, but the light in his eyes now I've said her name makes me feel seven shades of jealous. About five foot six and athletically built, he moves with an easy kind of grace. A narrow face, finely sculpted with high cheek bones. But those probably wouldn't be the first thing you'd notice. No. His blue skin is the most striking feature. A dark, dusky blue, like the sky just before full darkness falls. And the tatts! Wow. My eyes skim over them, which takes some time. He's covered in them! Tribal style, black runes and twisted symbols all down his arms and showing above the edges of his white vest. Even his face and neck are marked. I've heard he has them everywhere on his body. I'd love to know if that's true...

"What more did you need to know?"

I snap myself back to reality. So far he's told me about how idyllic life is on the string of tropical islands in this planet's temperate zone. I'd rather ask about the tatts, but that's not why I'm there. Humans living on Metraxi are a rare thing. A married couple spending their honeymoon there? Even more so. "What about your wedding vows?"

I've surprised him. Bright blue eyes fix on me. "My wedding vows? Why would you wish to know those?"

"That's normally pretty romanctic to people. I mean, you didn't exactly have a great first date. Meeting Quin in a dungeon."

He scowls fine black brows knitting. "No. But that is a moment I will never forget."

He settles himself in a wooden chair opposite and wraps his hands around the glass. Long, slender fingers. His hair is a mass of loose black curls that make me itch to run my hands through them.
"We used the Metraxian vows. The words in Universal matched what I felt in my heart."

"Would you tell them to me?"

He tugs a hand through his dark curls. I wonder if I've embarrassed him?

"The village chief, L'enko, asked me what I sought. I told him I wished to bind my life to Quin's." His gaze drifts into the distance. "I promised to share my life with her, in love and laughter, through tears and trials. To work by her side and dream in her arms. To love her until the end of our forever."

My throat tightens. "That's beautiful! And you say you aren't a romantic."

"To me, it is not about trying to be romantic," he assures me, very serious. "It is about being honest in your feelings when you love and care for someone. Keeping a promise. Respecting them. If that is being romantic..." He shrugs. "Then perhaps I am."

An alarm beeps on my wrist module--notification that my transport is waiting. I finish the last of my wine. We're on a tight schedule, and much as I'd like to stay for a while, I can't. Being a travel agent isn't all fun. But at least I have an idea to sell Metraxi as a unique romantic getaway to my boss. It worked for Quin and Keir. And I think a wedding planner would kill for the privilege of selling ceremonies like theirs.

"Well, thanks for the info. It's been..." I give him another look over, and he lifts an eyebrow. It's then I remember that he's telepathic. Although I doubt he'd need to read my mind to know what I'm thinking. "...gratifying."

"I hope I have given you what you needed."

A blush burns my face. Information-wise, yes. Otherwise... I sigh. Quin's a lucky woman. I hate her just a little. No, I hate her a lot!

"Thanks. It's been helpful."

He escorts me to the door of the hut. The Metraxian village glows from lanterns filled with bright insects. For all Metraxi's advanced technology, the simple life appeals to them more. It's paradise. I can see why they stay. But now I need to get back to the office and sell the romance of Metraxi to the universe.
Blurb:
A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. Previously released by Lyrical Press Inc. 7th May 2012.
***
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
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