Old manuscripts and notes

For the people that have been writing for a few years, is there anything like going back and re-reading something you haven’t looked at since you were say, 15 years old? I did that recently. Ouch it hurt – did I really think that was any good? Needless to say it’s still on the shelf, as a reminder to what I used to be like. The work in question was first stated when I was 12 or 13 – at secondary school. I was visiting my grandmother in London. And well – I was bored and decided to write something. I had Enwag the evil man. A sword, a girl in distress, and some magic stuff. Over the next 5 years this grew and expanded into a half sci-fi half fantasy novel. Don’t really remember how that happened.

I have a few bits like that kicking about, and there is no way anyone other than me is going to read them – I would not even subject my loving wife to them. I’m sure than everyone who’s been writing for twenty odd years has some corkers stuck away in an old writing book, on a floppy disk that nothing will read anymore (seriously – I have some 5 1/4 inch ones somewhere with a load of Word Perfect 5.1 files on them, while I’m sure that modern versions of MS Word will read the files, trying to find a 5 1/4 inch drive is the more challenging bit!)

And then there are the pages, and pages that I wrote in pencil, these are so faded now that I really can’t read some of them, but they will not be burnt/shredded/recycled. They will sit on my shelf for at least another 20 years. Then I’ll have a whole stack of paper I can use!

And this brings me to my biggest issue with my old manuscripts and notebooks – the readability of them. The same goes for notes I take at conventions. I’m currently at the 2015 Nineworlds Geekfest in London. I have with me my trusty “Idea log” that has lasted me the previous two of these. In this are copious notes on sessions, ideas, little snippets of characters and very early plot ideas. I the problem is my handwriting makes a doctors look like perfect penmanship.

As I sit there making notes I have every intention of typing them up, but I never do. Maybe this year?

Writing software

One of the discussions that I’ve had with a few people is what software do people use for typing up their writing, either if they do it with pen and paper first or do it directly to a computer. Personally I use MS OneNote, it’s been part of MS Office since Office 2003 and has vastly improved over the years, it’s now free on Windows, Mac OSX, Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Windows Phone. And if you keep the notes on OneDrive I can be putting thoughts into my phone while out, fire up the laptop when I get home and expand on them all through the power of the internet, or if you are away from your own machine you can log in via the web and use the web version. This makes it a great tool for keeping bits together, character notes, story notes etc. I know some people will use specialist software like Scrivener. I’ve taken a look at this, but the ability to seamlessly use multiple devices across platforms has a greater appeal. This may change – and I am sure it will – over the course of time, as my needs change.

Something that I am interested in trying out is running my own MediaWiki (https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki) to try and see if it will help in documenting worlds and universe.

I will do another post on that once I have tried it!

The Challenge

So, I’ve seen these A to Z challenges that seem to kick about the interwebs. I have asked three friends (well two friends and my wife) for 26 words, A to Z. I will use each of the word lists in a 5k story. So, the end result will be three 5k pieces. These will be written in the hectic months that are July and August. I will be aiming to do an eBook with these. That’s assuming I get all three lists, I’ve only had one so far and it’s been almost a week. And the one I have isn’t from my wife…

A Holiday

So, with a few things happening in life over the last couple of months, myself, along with my wife and our pet dog went and took a week holiday, we sat in a little cottage with a wood burner on the side of Loch Sunart in Scotland. The weather was mixed, that is mixed sleet, hale and rain, with a good bit of wind thrown in. Guess that’s what you get for going in March!

We had both planned on taking some down time and perhaps doing some writing, reading and the odd walk with the hound. We achieved all of these, I have been suffering a little bit of writers block the last few months with my mind stuck on other things, but being able to sit at a table and look out of the window at the view below and start to type, scrawl and formulate plots was a really refreshing thing to do.

Loch Sunart

We plotted the plan we have to take over the world… well our plan for getting the house sorted over the next five years, get my wife’s business up and running full tilt and get me writing again. Seemed like a reasonable result.

What looking at that view doesn’t help so much with is space ships and battles in space; it does help with swords and magic and all things fantasy. The random sheep just strolling down the road right outside the window while munching some grass just adds comic effect. We both managed to get some creative juices flowing over the course of the week, the rare glimpse of sun through the clouds, the walks through the forest and the drive out to Polloch with its jaw dropping views as we came over the top of the single track mountain pass all added to my future arsenal for scenes and settings.
The other thing with a view like that is the temptation to just sit and look at it, and not actually get any writing done – I managed to kill a few hours like that!

There was no phone signal, no Wi-Fi and no contact with most of the outside world. We could visit the local village shop (a ten minute drive), and if we were lucky had enough signal to pick up voicemail. I call this bliss – my wife does not cope will without some sort of internet connection. It was nice to have the only time I picked up my phone to use the dictionary/thesaurus app on it – and yes I had been sensible and had made sure I had the offline version.

So my mind cleared? Maybe. Some more ideas for stuff to write – absolutely. I’ve not been able to write fantasy for a while, and to have some ideas crop up is good. I’ll have to see how they progress over the next weeks and months. What I had wanted to do was actually finish something so I could get it submitted somewhere, but noooooo, I had to go and have a load more ideas for me to work on! This hasn’t gone down so well with my wife who is already at me to finish one of the seven shorts and eight or so novels I have planned and in various stages.

Now – about that Diablo II game I’m in the middle off…..

On names and places

Many things – names, place names and activities are being taken from older languages like Old English. I do this myself, using the language that Beowulf was written in. I have a file on my computer that is an Old English to Modern English dictionary.

This provides me with a good solid basis for names and the like – but I do feel that something is missing.

I was reading an interview with David Eddings the other night, and was intrigued by some of his comments on mythology, the romantics and the Indo-European seem to be his source of name and the like.

This is obviously going back even further than I am, but it did for some strange reason get me thinking and from somewhere Gaelic popped into my mind.

This is certainly something than I can look into. Maybe even obtain some sort of dictionary in the same fashion of my old English one. I will defiantly look into that in the future.

One of the things that I find difficult is naming things, be it things, places or people. Many authors use an atlas, baby name books, phone books and the like. That is fine for contemporary fiction, but not much use for fantasy and sci-fi can have different naming conventions and Smith and Jones don’t always cut it. If setting in Earth future – then yes it can work, and place names will get used for new stations and planets. Exactly like when the British, French, Spanish and the Dutch first settled on the North American continent. The place names were taken with them from their homelands.

Making a single place name work is easy, but when you start putting groups of them together things can become a lot harder – making sure they all work together, but not making them all the same. It’s an easy thing to do, you name the people and the planet the same thing, the country and the capital city the same and so on, but I find that lacks imagination, I’ll use us – the human race – as an example. We live on Earth, yet our species is Human, I live in the UK, where the capital is London. I do tire a little when I read a book and the capital city is the same name as the country its in – how do you know if the author means the city or the country when they say the protagonist is heading there?

I will take this one step further – and this is more of an observation of Sci-Fi more than fantasy – Why do alien races all seem to be at piece as a species, not warring amongst themselves, their plant one big happy place with a single ruling political leader. Give me multiple factions of an alien race meeting multiple factions of another and watch the fireworks. I’ll be right back – had an idea!

So – if anyone has a suggestion for a Gaelic/Celtic – English dictionary – please let me know 🙂

And any suggestions of new books to read are always welcome.

Also name books for Russia, China, Japan, Norway, well you get the idea – anywhere that’s not using the same set of names as the UK!

Incoming – pt. 2

This is part 2 of an ongoing series, please read part 1 here first.

Captain Ruiz sat for the next briefing, not that there was any new information. There had been no new ships arrive in the system and no new information from the station, so Earth may well have blown itself out of existence.

He sat back in his chair looking at his XO, Lieutenant Commander Ruggier, who sat opposite. They were in his state room, away from the bridge crew. They would find out what they faced when they made contact and not before, the same as ever. Ruggier grunted and put down the manual he had open. The one that stated for “First Contact Only” in big red letters on the cover.

‘Anything useful in there?’ asked Ruiz.

‘No Sir,’ answered Ruggier. ‘About the only thing it says is try and not get annihilated by any new intelligence we meet. Almost all the other pages say at the commanding officer’s discretion. I’m sure they’ll change it after our first contact. If we survive.’ He had a small smile cross his lips as he said the last.

Ruiz nodded; it sounded like he’d read it correctly then. It was up to him how to handle this, and it would be him that would take the fall if all went wrong.

***

They were less than an hour from the expected scan pickup point when the computer screens lit up, detecting something moving towards them at high speed.

Ruggier was only seconds behind the scan techs in working out that whatever was incoming was not going to be a first contact. It was a fleet from Earth. A big fleet from Earth. They weren’t sending any ident signals but the computer system confirmed that the scan profiles matched ISA data.

Ruggier was on the comms with them as he was signalling hurriedly for someone to find Captain Ruiz and get him on the bridge.

As Ruiz rushed to take his place, all of the screens locked and switched to the ISA logo – a simple planet with an old style sailing ship next to it.

‘Comms down, Nav down, Weap down’ yelled Ruggier, ‘System lockout initiated. Awaiting confirmation.’

Ruiz nodded, every recruit was taught what this meant; everyone knew all they could do was sit back and wait. It meant their ship was talking to the incoming ships, and it thought it was outranked. Designed as an anti-mutiny system, it was implemented after the separatist wars over fifty years ago. All personnel knew it existed, yet no one ever expected to see it in action. It could only mean that something had gone wrong on Earth.

The main screen flickered and switched to show a stern face.

‘Captain Ruiz’, she said, ‘I am Admiral Jeana Tryphosa-Heyman. Please have your ship join in formation. We will then proceed and hold 100k from the station. You will be briefed. Out.’

All the screens returned to normal. Ruiz paced impatiently while he waited for the official order come through.

‘Confirmed order sir.’ The com tech flicked the order to Ruiz’ private screen.

‘Helm, join fleet, position rear left flank. Co-ordinate with the other ships to confirm distances. XO. Signal confirmation to the fleet and then meet me in five.’ Ruiz stopped sharply and marched off the bridge.

Ruggier watched the Captain’s back, held straight, head high. But there was something else about the way he moved as he left the bridge, something that Ruggier could not put a name to.

Ice Age – Man. Life

The man returned to the cave with the kill – it had been an easy one. Not that he would let on that it had been easy. The other men, the woman and the young looked to him to be strong. His woman would have a new fur. They had food – what did it matter it was easy for him?

He sat for a moment – listening, he was sure he had heard a noise, a loud noise. He carefully laid down the kill. He would skin and finish tending to it once he had settled. Slowly he crept out, just enough to take a look and make sure that there was noting close by. He swung his head from left to right, and he could see in the distance a glow, like fire.

The Bow and Dragon

Joe sat back in his saddle, he knew the dragon was in the area. Not just because the local town folk had told him so; there had been signs that he was getting closer, as he had travelled over the last three days. The local wildlife had been more skittish, huddling together more than they would elsewhere and there had been bare patches in the clearings where grass and wildflowers were struggling to regrow after some unknown event.

He heard a noise above him; looking up he could see the large shape of the dragon soaring overhead. The large wingspan held steadily as the dragon glided through the air. Its tail stretched out behind, long and straight, ending in a point like a spear. There was a twinkling of deep green black where the sun washed over its enormous scales. Joe could just make out the horse dangling from the large powerful claws.

He turned his horse to trot in the direction the dragon had flown in. They carefully made their way up into the foothills of the large mountain range that shadowed heavily over the countryside.

Joe snacked on a squirrel he had shot down with his crossbow, his aim had been true for once and he had not wasted any of his precious supply of bolts. He did not know where he would be able to get more if he ran out.

The second day of following the trail he saw the dragon overhead again, he guessed it was going out in search of another meal. He spent the day moving slowly though the sparse trees on the foothills, and he could feel the air getting colder as he moved higher.

The night’s prey for the dragon sounded to be someone’s cow, there was a distant moo coming from above.

After three days, moving higher above the tree line, he saw the cave entrance by chance alone; he could have searched the mountains for years and never found it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a slightly different shade of rock. Had he had been walking even half a foot to either side, he might have never seen it.

Overpopulated

They were stood in a line, waiting to be audited to make sure they were suitable to go to the new world. It would be a long trip, frozen while the ship flew through space. For thousands of years they would sleep while the ship travelled though the stars to their new home.

The line was a good mile long, there were a lot of people hoping for the new life, to escape the life in the war-torn and vastly overpopulated solar system. Each family unit had been told they could take one backpack of personal belongings, and Joe was carrying the one for him, his wife Sandra and their fifteen year old daughter Rachael. They were assured that all the clothes and other items they would need would be provided.

They had made the journey to Sol Station 1, and the section they had put the lines in was kept at a warm summer temperature of three hundred Kelvin, they were all stood in their tee-shirts and shorts, there were water stations at regular intervals of the passageway they were stood in. They just hoped today would be the day they made it to the front of the queue, this was their tenth day in trying.

As they slowly progressed up the line they were asked by one of the guards how things were going. Joe nodded and she passed along to the next group – a gaggle of five, the two parents and three children within the strict age limits allowed – over the age of five and under sixteen. The mission had been long in the planning, Joe had first heard about it while Sandra was still pregnant with Rachael. There had been stories that the rich had donated billions to the project in the hope they would not have to go through the selection process, thankfully for the normal person this had not happened, and in the line was the full range, poor homeless beggars and some of the richest people in the solar system, forced to give up their riches to take this voyage.

The line shuffled forward. They would see there were only about five families ahead of them. It was only just gone three in the main shift so they would have a very good chance of getting though this time. They shuffled again not long after and by four they were the next to get called.

Joe showed the guards their documents, watched as they were checked and then all three of them held out their hands for the verification. There was a sharp jab as the machine took is genetic sample to test against birth records. They waited for what seemed like an age; the agent dealing with their check seemed uninterested – Joe knew the guy had probably done hundreds of these in the last few weeks.

The agent nodded and took the backpack. He emptied it out into a tray and rifled though the few items they had. There was an old photo of the three of them when Rachael was a baby, a hand written note and a few other personal items. He grunted and tipped the tray back into the bag.

They were waved through and met by another guard.
“Hi, my name is Susie, I will take you through the last part of your appraisal for the new world. As you have got this far you have done better than a lot of people, but we still have to make sure and then have you in the right area, the wake up times will be staggered so that there can be a place for everyone to live. Based on your education and current employment we have you as a priority for wake up, to assist with the construction of housing and air processing and for the incoming colonists. Your daughter will of course wake at the same time, we will not be splitting families.

Susie went through their lives, what they did and assigned them another queue to join. This line was moving faster, they could see the transports ahead ready to take them to the departure area. There was a roar and vibration through the deck as something launched from the station, out of sight.

Joe handed the backpack to a guard who tagged it as they boarded the transport. They managed to find a seat and then watched out of the window as it hurtled round the station, seeing the businesses flying past on their last tour of the Sol Station 1.

The medic at the large colony ship was friendly, she ran a final check on their ID and instructed them to strip to underwear before they could get into the travel chambers. Clothes deposited in a bag and tagged with their ID they clambered in, Joe looked to his left and then right at his family, as the chamber closed and he slowly went to sleep.

Red Wine

Ali had had enough for the day, all of the customers coming through the station didn’t understand why her product was so expensive compared to the stuff they could get from the large store down the precinct. The wine she sold was true, proper wine made from real grapes, grown in real soil, with real sunlight, not the synth rubbish most people thought of as wine.

This upset her in that no one out here really got it. They had the spare money – most of the people living on Altic Station were rich; they were business owners or ship captains, but the majority had never been to earth.

There was a beep on her personal comp, a message from her business partner – who she shared the running of the little empire of 500 transport ships, and numerous outlets across 10 worlds and 50 space stations.
The wine shop on Altic was the current head office for tax reasons.
Being a new station they were offering good incentives to lure people out here, and they had – much to the annoyance of some of the large guilds that ran the other stations.

What Altic hadn’t expected was a large shipping company to uproot and setup it’s hub here. There had been much hand wrangling from station control when the sudden increase in ArjRen Shipping owned ships started docking, and when Ali and John had pretty much bought half the docking ring for their exclusive use there had been much consternation from the then station master. This had further upset the guilds – the move had cost them billions in revenue from docking and maintenance that major shipping supplied.

The message from John would not make the new station master happy. Due to the increase in “piracy” on ArjRen ships, John had gone and hired a merc group to provide security. And by hired he meant – so the message said – purchased – and he was going to move their base of operations to Altic too. His message went on to say that he had intercepted messages that one of the guilds had been hiring mercs.

The guild that was doing this most was the one that ran the station where ArjRen had been based for the last 200 years. Xenum Station was one of the major hubs, but they imposed heavy taxes on all goods transferred through their station – because there had been no alternative. Alric had never meant to be that alternative – it was too out of the way. except an explorer ship had recently found a FTL point in the system that linked it back to Earth, shaving a mere 5 jumps and 3 weeks off the journey. Altic was now better suited to reach the newer systems and stations, the exploration companies were out in droves searching for more points and angles from the system. Looking for other links, and always the potential for intelligent life.

The next call that came to the office was from the station master.
‘Hi Ali – we seem to have 30 of your ships incoming. They are showing as armed – can you confirm the details I’m sending you please?’
She shook her head and opened the attachment that John had sent and compared it to the list the station master sent over. ‘Yes I can confirm they are all our ships. Due to the increase in piracy we have taken the decision to arm some of our ships. The loss of life has become unacceptable.’
The station master agreed to let them dock as long as any weapons were put under seal before the ships came much closer. Ali was not sure she could get them to shut down the weapons but told the station master she would do what she could.

She was cursing John and the little warning she had given – the timing of the warning – if the message had been delayed by an hour what would have happened!

An hour later all of the warning klaxons went off on the station.