Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fun

Another week gone by, another Friday closer to retirement.

Let's start with some news and photo stories of things that never actually happened.  Chinese state news carried the Onion's story of how Kim Jong-Un is a heart throb in North Korea. Bet there were a few red faces after that.  A more interesting one is the false photo story created about a failed African space program in the 60s, which is well worth a look.

The Large Hadron Collider has its critics, but now you can walk along a replica of it that's been built in Wales. Still on the subject of science, scientists are observing what people do in their text.  Finally, did you know that watching someone scratch makes you itch? It also works when someone talks about it too. (Are you scratching yet?)

Onto trees now and some stunning photos from National Tree Week, and tale of a man who cut down a tree so he could have a better view of the ocean and ended up with a record fine. Well, he did nearly destroy a neighbour's house in the process. Lord Biro is a serial bi-election candidate who regularly loses his deposit and stands under variations of The Elvis Presley Party.

In the world of travel nothing ever stands still...and one French town has been identified as the place to go if you want to survive the end of the world. Meanwhile, a Briton has started the attempt to sail a model boat across the Atlantic. If you want to go to Abbey Road, home of the famous recording studio, make sure you go the right one.  Several tourists are going to Abbey Road in London's East End instead.

CHRISTMAS ALERT! If you want to see some Christmas lights, don't go to Herne Bay which the locals have dubbed the worst in Britain.

Ninja's are dying out in Japan as few people want to carry on the art...that and the fact that most espionage is done online these days...or so they say.  Talking of old things - neat switch eh - divers in Donegal, Ireland are searching a river for some old golf balls that may have historic value.

Finally, two good news stories.  First how people in Tunisia are using microfinance to start up businesses in the wake of last year's revolution, while in the Middle East, scientists from across the Arab world and Israel are making plans to build a Large Hadron Collider across several currently warring nations.

And now for the pictures......

And on that note, I bid you adieu and wish you a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Creating The Opening

As promised here is the first draft opening of my next, as yet untitled, novel:

It wasn't the smell that caused people to wonder what had happened in flat 416, nor the thousands of flies that seemed to live in and around the doors and windows, it was the sudden appearance of two hundred members of the God Squad.
The inhabitants of Caesar Towers were used to smells that would kill the olfactory sense in the rest of humanity, at least those that mattered, and flies were a source of extra protein as far as they were concerned. But the sudden appearance of two hundred fully armed and armoured clergy of the Vatican Police Force Flying Squad was the most interesting thing to happen in the block for some years.
In the almost narrow street of Via Tiber, the main street running through the Gutter District and built over the river Tiber one hundred years ago, four armoured cars braked suddenly, knocking over bins, tearing down washing lines and running over cats. It was the kind of driving they practised every week after watching the police driving instruction videos handed down from the files of Police Squad. The main tutor of these videos, Lieutenant Frank Drebin, had a statue in his honour in St Peter's (?) Square.
After they'd trod on and shot the remaining cats that were too crippled or stupid to move out of their way, they broke down the main doors to Caesar Towers. As the doors weren't locked this wasn't hard, but they made sure the doors would give no further resistance by smashing them into pieces so small they could be put through a letter box: which they proceeded to do. The inhabitants of flats 103, 105 and 114 were thereby in receipt of some free firewood which they would later sell to the God Squad for their eco-friendly wood burning stoves.
The police crashed and marched their way to the fourth floor, breaking down the morale of the remaining plaster on the stairwells by hitting it with their rifle butts. Squads were assigned to watch the vehicles, in case of theft, the stair well, in case of a riot, and the mobile doughnut van to keep their strength up.
The five men of the lead squad ran down the corridor and came to a halt outside 416 then collapsed, clutching their throats due to the bad air.
There were cries from the top stairwell squad calling for a med-team to evacuate their fallen comrades, who arrived in double quick time from their ambulance, parked next to the doughnut van.
Equipped with gas masks, they dragged the semi-conscious officers away and took them downstairs for some emergency coffee and pastries to revive them, while the B squad put on their gas masks and raced down the hallway to take positions outside 416, while a similar situation was occurring through out the rest of the block and more officers were taken out for resuscitation.
By this point in the operation all the doors of the flats were open and people were staring out to see what was going on. Those on the bottom three floors soon realised that the entertainment was on the fourth floor and drifted back inside. The people on the fourth floor thought all their Easter's had come at once and set up chairs in the hallway to enjoy the afternoon's entertainment.
Before the police could enter the room, a fumigation team arrived to disinfect the area. The resulting insect deaths brought forth a black carpet in all the hallways which fed the locals for several days. Those on the fourth floor took advantage of the fumigation to get their laundry done and have a wash to boot.

It was my fourth attempt at the opening and, though it still needs editing and adapting, it works better than the others.  So what other ideas did I have?

The first idea was to follow a prisoner released from jail on the moon until he met up with a previously released prisoner in Rome.  After that, they would start their terrorist campaign.  The next version had a body found in a brothel, and after that I started with a show trial on Earth being watched by Anne McLintock and God.  None of those ideas really worked as an opening, though there is still time to change my mind.

But I'm happy with this idea as it gives a sense of the world I'm opening up to the reader, and a feel of the people who inhabit that world.  A later part will also introduce one of the main characters...which came as a surprise as I hadn't planned for this person to exist.

I find the process of deciding the opening to be more difficult that the rest of the book.  For 'A Stitch In Time', it took months before I was happy with the opening and it meant discarding about twelve pages of prose that had Alan Radford preparing for his death and then being kidnapped.  He was in a car either in the lake district or in a town far away from home.  Then he was at home spending his last day on Earth, before I had him sitting at his computer typing the last email he'd ever send.

Now I have the opening of the book decided, for now at least, the rest of the book should follow relatively easily.

What's your process for deciding the opening?

In the meantime, here are a few short comic bursts from Babylon 5.

With that, I bid you adieu and I'll see you on Friday.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winners and launch news

Saturday's book launch was a resounding success. Between us we sold 40 books, including a few of the eboxes, a much better result than last year. As so many were sold, the 15% we donated to Oxfam amounted to £35.

I managed to sell seven copies of Apollo and Stitch, including 1 ebox. 

It's been tortuous at times, and we've created some of our own problems, but it's another step on the road to world domination.  What lifted us more than anything was not the number of sales, but a comment from someone who's been involved in publishing: 'I'm amazed at what you've managed to achieve in such a short time and from a standing start.'

We can be proud.I'll give a fuller update on lessons learnt next Monday. 

Which only leaves me to announce the winners of last weeks competition.

Gabriel Taylor
Nearly Martha
Milo Fowler

Email me with your address (martin at starfishpc dot co dot uk) and whatever inscription you'd like me to write inside and I'll post them forthwith.  As a bonus each winner also gets a print copy of A Stitch in Time with the same or different dedication. (If you'd prefer an ebox, let me know)

Until Wednesday, when I'll show you the start of my next novel, explain how I got to that stage and which openings I rejected, adieu.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Fun

It's the book launch tomorrow...can't wait.  And don't forget I'm running a competition to win one of three paperback copies of Apollo the Thirteenth.  Entry details on Monday's blog.

First up today, a cute little story about a paralysed dog that can walk again, followed by a balloon festival in Mexico.

Politics can be funny when it goes wrong, especially when an election throws up a ballot box that's empty.  It was for PCCs in Britain, an election that's had little publicity from the powers that be.  Talking of mistakes, there's an exhibition of Japanese inventions that never quite made it.

A Parisian boutique has created a chocolate tree (stop salivating ladies) complete with animals, while Nigerians are raising money for all the Norwegians suffering because of the cold weather, with a song. In Milan, meanwhile, church spires have been put up for adoption.

Do you exist? An island in the Pacific that's been shown on all maps for the last decade doesn't.The Royal Marines exist and have created a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

Technology news: A BBC technology correspondent went 24 hours without using the web or other devices and told his tale. Talking of technology, here are five reasons to use a typewriter, and news of how Android got rid of December.

Who'd be Santa.  I've played the role a few times, but I've never got stuck in the rafters on my beard.

Finally, some good news from Australia, who've declared part of their coast as the world's largest marine reserve.

Onto lists now with one about disabled people who have made their mark on history, while the news that snakes can have a virgin birth in the wild is one of ten things we didn't know last week.

Before the pictures, here's the week in pictures which includes one Hilary Clinton would LOVE to hide.

 And on that note I wish you a happy weekend.