Tag Archives: Novel

Read ‘Em And Weep

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, follows me on Twitter or, unlikely as it seems, occasionally looks at my Google+ account, will know that for the past two years or so I have been undertaking a reading marathon of Pratchett proportions.

I started with The Colour of Magic and continued with all 41 Discworld novels, as well as the maps, cookbooks, tourist guides, kids books and short story collections. After this I started on the non-Discworld books – Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Bromeliad trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books, etc.

The reason for this single-minded readathon are numerous, I tend to reread my Pratchett collection every few years anyway, but after his untimely death in 2015 I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book by any other author.

I assumed this feeling would pass but several months later I was still in the same mood, a year later I felt the same, two years later and I was still in my reading rut.

Seemingly unrelated, about two months ago we got notice that our landlord wanted their house back, which was a bit inconvenient because we were just in the middle of trying to find somewhere of our own to buy. Scroll on to about a week ago and the house is full of boxes as we get ready to move to a new rental. I was packing up my Pratchett collection (shudder) and amongst them I found my Kindle, untouched since I picked up The Colour of Magic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I left it on top of my drawers in our bedroom. Then, last Sunday night I was getting my stuff ready for work the next day and thought “why the hell not” and slipped the e-reader into my bag.

When I arrived at the train station on Monday morning I got it out and started reading (American Gods by Neil Gaiman, if you must know!), and have been doing so on every journey to work and back since. It seems my reading mojo has returned and, with it, my brain has also fallen off a deep precepice into the icy waters of “I Have To Write” again.

Ideas are sloshing around inside my head like a particularly spectacular Formula One pile up and my fingers are itching to type. But what to do first?

I’ve been working on a few things, slowly, for the past few months, a Discworld fan-fiction piece about Rincewind; a comedy fantasy novel about a vampire; a biography about my life as a type one diabetic; a kids book I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.

All these conflicting stories are arguing for precedence, so what I’m going to do is…go to sleep! Life is complicated enough at the moment without worrying about what and when to write, so I just need to put digits to keyboard whenever I get the chance.

Wish me luck!

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Hard Copy

This morning I dropped my young ‘un off at school then headed to a small warehouse near my house, to collect a parcel which no one was in to receive yesterday morning.

I had a vague suspicion I knew what it was, but wanted to wait until I had it in my hands before getting too excited. After a bit of faffing about the company found the box and I signed for it, chucked it in the car then came home and ripped it open.

This is what I found inside…

Jump by Dan Ladle

Jump by Dan Ladle

Yep, that’s a paperback copy of the book that I wrote! Sadly it’s not a “published by a publisher” copy, I found a special offer to upload for free on a site called Feed-A-Read some time back and this is the result.

It’s actually not that expensive to get a couple of copies printed out, although the postage to anywhere in Australia is a bit steep. However, having a hard copy of all the words I wrote is, as the advert goes, priceless.


Jack Of All Trades…

Following on from my rather depressing post the other night I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done and what I can do. Partly to make myself feel better about the fact no one will employ me, partly to see if I can see any ways to leverage my skills to make a living of some sort.

Work wise I have done all kinds of things, from working in a Freshwater Ecology Laboratory as a general dogsbody, where I learnt how to wield a mouse in Photoshop amongst other things, to being a phone monkey in a call centre, where I learned to talk to people. I tested, then engineered and designed circuit boards using CAD software for about three years, swiftly getting moved up the ranks because, frankly, I was a damned quick learner and good at whatever I was asked to do.

I worked in a telephone company for a couple of years, again doing all sorts of rubbish jobs like cleaning phone handset pieces, although formally my role was as a storeman, stocktaking, replenishing and keeping tabs on a bunch of unusual telecoms equipment. This was also where I had my break into computing, installing servers for clients and setting up and fixing desktop machines.

I worked in a couple of different capacities for the NHS , on a service desk, again talking to people, and learning how to calm them down when their computing world had just fallen to pieces, then as an IT technician fixing up and configuring computers in doctors’ surgery’s. This was interesting because the government decided it would be a great idea to give doctors a budget without overseeing what technologies they should be using in their practices. So one would be Windows, one MAC, one Linux, one DOS (yes, DOS!), one would have servers and networking kit, another ould have a dial up modem. It was an education!

I worked for a company fitting wireless broadband systems for remote villages. The job was awful but again I did all kinds of stuff I hadn’t done before, like configuring Cisco routers, driving movable platforms and drilling aerials onto people’s chimneys. The best thing about it was getting to sit on top of a roof at a lunchtime, eating my sandwiches while looking out across the East Midlands scenery. I worked on my own in this role so had to be completely self-reliant.

Then I got a job for NTU, a team leader role where I looked after a good percentage of the departments around the University. I looked after five techies, giving them work to do and ironing out any issues. This is also where I learnt to write procedures and started to figure out that I like writing. Next up was being a Change Manager, this job was all about process, process, process and I not only set up Change management from scratch, I also wrote the rulebook and threw it at people who weren’t following it. I really enjoyed that role and it’s probably the sort of thing I am really looking for in Perth, sadly there don’t appear to be any such jobs going!

Finally I worked in Information Security. Policies, processes, procedures, user disciplinary investigation, data recovery, encryption, auditing, card access You name it, I did it in this role.

Outside work I kept up my skills in photoshop, program websites, have written a 99,999 word novel, refurbished a house, played volleyball to national league division three levels, I can cook, I’m good with kids, I’ve done presentations and talked to big groups of people, I can play guitar, sing and write music. I know a lot about dinosaurs, physics, evolution, computing, chemistry, environment, ecology and biology.

Truly I am a jack of all trades, and a master of whichever I happen to be interested in at the time!

So why can’t I get a job???

Any hints or tips gratefully accepted!


Oh, stop thinking about sex. – Jump

Ten points if you can recognise the quote in the title.

If you write a book it may be the case that you have to face the prospect of writing a scene which is set in someone’s bedroom and may have allusions to matters of a sexual nature.

I thought a fair bit about how I was going to approach this scene and decided that discretion was the better part of valour, so I wrote the scene around a conversation about how the time machine works, which was handy because one of the characters is the physicist who invented it, the other is not a scientist in any way and so it has to be delivered in laymans terms, which is a useful way of writing it so the reader can get  a handle on it. Also so I could figure out, while I was writing, if it all seemed to make sense or not.

I did vaguely mention the fact that the two people may be partaking of exciting, personally gratifying activities, but being a bit of a prude myself I couldn’t bring myself to consider writing about the deed itself!

If you find it in any way titillating I do apologise!


 

The small lamp on the bedside table didn’t really cast enough light to read by, it was just bright enough to make everything look like it was in soft focus, which Emily considered was just as well. She was lying next to Michael, who had his hand across her stomach. The light covering of hair on his arm was tickling her, but she was quite enjoying the sensation so hadn’t attempted to move. She was absently surveying the room, while they were talking about whether it was a good idea to reveal what they had just done, obviously not in detail, to the other members of the team. They decided against it, on the grounds that it was probably best to be discreet until they actually knew what was going on with the team and the project.

They lapsed into a contented silence which Michael broke, asking if she would like anything else to eat, ‘No thanks, although I’m quite thirsty, I might get myself a drink of water.’ Michael was off the bed, into, then out of the kitchen before Emily had a chance to tell him not to worry and that she would get it herself. He apologised once again for the lack of appropriate crockery, handing her a pint glass three quarters full and placing another down on his own bedside table. After drinking enough to slake her thirst and watching him do likewise she asked, ‘What’s the tattoo?’

Michael craned his neck in a failed attempt to look at his shoulder blade, where there were numbers, mathematical characters and symbols which obviously denoted something. Although some of the characters were from languages she understood she had no idea what to make of the overall design. ‘Oh yes, I’d kind of forgotten about that. I got it when I was certain that my calculations were right. It’s the mathematics that run the Jump Box. Do you like it?’

Emily stared at the intricacies of the physical equation and was lost in thought for a while, ‘It’s amazing. Is that really what makes it work?’

‘Well, you obviously need the relevant hardware but without these numbers it couldn’t function. When I finished working on the equation I was impressed by how it looked. I’d always wanted a tattoo so I figured, why not? The other nice thing is that I have a dated photograph and a receipt from the place that did it. Which means that I can, at least, prove it was my discovery.’

‘I never knew physics was such a cutthroat world?’

‘It’s not really, I was just trying to give myself another excuse.’

‘Well I like it, you’re right it does have a certain symmetry, or maybe that’s not the right word, perhaps I mean elegance. You could put it on t-shirts and people would pay good money for it.’

Michael climbed back under the covers and Emily rested her head on his shoulder. ‘Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, I suspect the equations will never be released though. I’m the only one who knows them in full. Celia has a fair idea but she’s more interested in the application and theory of the measurements. All I want is to make sure it works right.’

Emily moved her arm, took his right hand and suggested something unrelated to physics. They agreed the conversation had reached a suitable place to adjourn.

 


 

 


Story – The Turing Crisis, Chapter 10

Writing about things you don’t have a great deal of experience in is always difficult, in the case of chapter 10 of The Turing Crisis (see my first post for details) it was computer games, specifically a person who was playing computer games.

I am not a gamer myself, the most I can bring myself to try is the throwaway ones you get on phones where you only have to remember one or two controls, up/down, left/right, that sort of thing. So when I approached this chapter I had to put myself in the position of the sort of guy who spends serious amounts of time sat in front of a PC. Thankfully, at the time, I worked in IT and so had a great deal of source material to work with, and although I’m not keen on basing characters in my stories on real people I actually knew one or two people who were actually like this, only not as intelligent, or successful, or attractive!!!

This guy, I don’t actually remember his name because it was a hell of a long time ago that my brother and I discussed and planned all this stuff, but he was also in massive debt and frankly, looking for ways to make himself less of a target for the debt collecters who are after him.

The Artificial Intelligence in the book becomes sentient, then this guy, who is a researcher on the project, possibly one of the more senior people now I come to think about it, steals the AI and runs away with it, obviously having some big plan for a way to use it for his own ends.

Sadly the plan (which I just had another look at only reaches the middle of the third act (my brother wanted to plan it in the classical way with three acts). But it is actually quite a good idea and I think I will revisit it when I get a chance, see if I can finish the plan and actually write it. I didn’t get round to finishing this chapter either, but it should give you a vague idea of the tone of the book.


 

Scene 10

The screen flashed in to high definition life, Hunter blinked, which would only have made the bags under his eyes more obvious if anyone had been there with him to see them. The splash screen for the game didn’t take long to display and pretty swiftly he was on-line and ready for action, he decided that the chain gun would be most appropriate so he hit ‘7’ and headed into the breach.

The room was darkened, he had even gone so far as to paint the walls black to make the gaming more immersive, he lived by himself in a nice semi-detached three bedroom house which he had only been able to afford because his parents had died when he was 17 leaving him money specifically to buy somewhere to live, he had chosen Sherwood at the time not only because of the opportunity to make amusing references to Robin Hood but because it was cheap and was within walking distance of the University that he spent so much time at.

Outside the ‘Game Room’ as he dubbed it there was a short hallway which led to the other bedrooms and the toilet, in contrast to the room he was currently occupying the rest of the upstairs looked a little tired, the originally white paint had a yellow tinge and there was wallpaper peeling away in the third bedroom. The bathroom tended to stay a little damp, even though he had replaced the fan for a more powerful one a couple of years back, this meant there was a slight smell of mould and the tiles had lines of black between them where bacteria had got a foothold.

From the games room occasional angry shouts of “take that motherfucker”, or “die, bastard” emerged every so often, they didn’t reverberate around the house but could be heard from downstairs as dull versions of themselves, the house had solid brick walls so the noises didn’t travel well between rooms. Downstairs a large sitting room was mainly overwhelmed by a huge flat screen TV which filled one corner of the room and had a myriad of electronic devices sat underneath it.

The room was devoid of furniture but a little too closely to the A/V kit was a gaming chair with all the associated controllers and remotes for each of the games systems, recorders and streaming media devices.

The cupboard sized hallway at the bottom of the stairs also led to the dining room, this had various piles of crap piled up at one end which included comics, magazines, bits of second hand computer kit, boxes with things like ‘clothes’ or ‘plates’ scrawled on them, some of them were on their sides and obviously empty but still covered in dust. There was also a seemingly random guitar neck poking out of the middle of the mess.

A small doorway led through to the kitchen which had appliances that had seen better days, the cooker was dark green and probably had a manufacturing date stamped on it with the number 1970 in it somewhere, the microwave on the bench was better but didn’t look like it had been cleaned for a good while, there was a stack of dishes, many of which looked like they had been used a number of times prior to being placed next to the sink for cleaning.

“You utter wanker” could be heard from the room above the dining room, Hunter had done a good job of forgetting about his monetary worries by using credit to buy himself shiny new hardware which he then used to play the latest games on when he wasn’t using high stake gambling websites to try and make his overspent money back from. The speakers were ringing to the sound of machine guns and cries from his opponents when there was a knock at the front door.

Hunter autonomically hit the ‘¬’ key to pause the game. He sat quietly for thirty seconds wondering if he had imagined the knocking through the haze of blood and shouting on screen but then the knocking came again, only louder and somehow more severe. He hit the light button on his watch, it read 21:38 which seemed a bit late for anyone he would usually expect. He rolled his seat away from the desk across the bed-less room and peeked through the blinds to see who was down there, but without making it extremely obvious he was there he could only see the top of two darkly haired heads.

 


 


How To Write A Newspaper Article? – Jump

If you checked out my last post you’ll have seen a few of the scenes from my book. Now the word scenes here is a bit of a misnomer as the word scene suggests that there will be people and action and all those other things that a “scene” would normally entail, but if you look closely you’ll have noticed that scene 2 was actually a newspaper article.
As with the rest of the initial sections of the book this was a scene setter, giving a bit of information about the terrorist group who are the antagonists for the whole thing. However unlike the rest of the writing so far this one had to be written in a particular style, rather than my own style.
Throughout the book there are a few newspaper articles, mainly to give a piece of information which was pertinent to the story but not easy to write into another scene or a conversation.
The first thing I had to do was decide on a newspaper, I was living in the UK at the time and so picked from the publications available there. I used different papers for each one, to give a slightly different tone for different parts of the book, this one was written as if it was taken from the Guardian, mainly because we used to buy that on a Saturday for the TV guide and because it was a little more balanced than a lot of other papers (from my point of view at least).
Because I read the paper quite regularly it means I didn’t have to think about it too hard, but it was still a bit like trying to produce a work document as there was a specific statement which I wanted to put forward with it and a particular way I needed to write the thing.


 

Originally published in the Guardian newspaper.

Eco-terrorists threaten climate change negotiations

…however events have come to light regarding the Environmental Assistance, Rehabilitation, Training and Health (EARTH) Force. This band of previously harmless environmental activists has recently taken to staging more elaborate, and in some cases disruptive, action which has interfered with a number of high profile events, including the EcoBuild2021 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and the more recent World Summit held in Birmingham, resulting in the recall of the 23 representatives from the USA and Ghana.

This may have set back talks on climate change by up to ten years. Stephen Smythe, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management from the University of Western Australia, one of the attendees at the conference, told the Guardian, ‘If these people are trying to improve matters for the planet they are going about it the wrong way…

 


 


Planning – Jump

After writing out my character profiles I started creating the scene by scene plan for what was going to happen. This was an interesting process as it started off seeming fairly simple, but as I got further in I had to keep cross referencing my eleven characters parts in the story and checking that they all took place in the right chronological order and didn’t encroach on anyone else’s happenings.

I was vaguely surprised to find that I had produced about 107 scenes, all of which seemed to make some kind of narrative sense and actually added to the story. However after checking it a few times I managed to get this down to a magic 100. I was quite pleased as this gave me a goal of producing 1,000 words per scene so that the book would end up at about 100,000 when it was done.

Below I’ve included the first two chapters’ worth of rows from the spreadsheet, mostly scene setting and information for the reader to get them up to speed with the background of a few of the characters and the version of the world this is happening in.

Of course to anyone but me most of this stuff probably makes no sense at all, but then I had previously spent quite some time writing a potted history…and future, I guess, of each of the people I’m talking about here, so I knew exactly what I was doing, kind’a!

 


 

 

Chapter Scene Scene Detail Character/Media
PAST
One 1 Teleportation breakthrough Michael Cooke
2 EARTH (Environmental Assistance, Rehabilitation, Training and Health) Force story – who are they? What are they? Newspaper Article
3 In café reading newspaper (above) Oliver Cornell
4 “Alan” is “dropped off” and starts looking for EF Ian Brookfield
5 Discussion of teleportation device and special forces involvement, who to “get” for the team Robert Masterson, Roberts Brigadier, General and Minister of Defence
Two 6 Unidentified individual sits in room Googleing, “EARTH Force”, “EF contacts”, etc. “Non-confrontational” in results, etc.! David Moulder
7 “Alan” meets Jonny at Natural History Museum – Minerals Gallery Ian Brookfield, Jonathan Dent
8 Contact with military – “I need an assistant” Michael Cooke, Robert Masterson
9 Reading CVs to find assistant – ???concentrate on Celia’s??? Michael Cooke