Monday, December 27, 2010

History vs. SyFy Channel Round 2

It's 10 am on the East Coast and I have one more week off before having to go back to my regular work routine next week.  So, I started doing some channel cruising.  Naturally, I checked the SyFy channel and what did I see?  They're running a marathon of Friday the 13th - the series.  Now, I'll give them a point or two here.  That is at least fantasy and my original posting on History vs SyFy, part of the basic argument was that SyFy had less sci-fi/fantasy and more of whatever garbage they could sell.  Unfortunately, that series was absolutely horrible.  At least in my opinion, and I don't think I was alone. After all, I don't think the series went past one season.

Now.  The History Channel is showing some good stuff, especially for those who like to question the tech of science fiction and fantasy stories.  Or, more importantly, those writing or trying to write fantasy and science fiction.  Yes, I'm back on my credible writing kick.  Well, History Channel is showing "Spider-Man Tech," then "Star Wars Tech," and then "Batman Tech."  I wonder if Jack Nicholson will be watching the last one so he really can find out more about Batman's marvelous toys.  Later today is scheduled a two-hour special on the Last Stand of the 300.  It chronicles the third day of the incredible stand of 300 Spartans vs the Persian army.  If you miss the three "tech" shows, fear not.  They're being re-broadcast after the special on the 300.

So, in round 2 SyFy is coming back with some type of sci-fi/fantasy broadcast, but I think that History Channel wins again with quality shows that are more likely to keep interest.  Now, I'm hoping to watch some of these History Channel specials, but I'm home with a 6-year old and I have to keep him entertained too.  Fortunately, he got some cool Spider-Man and Iron Man toys for Christmas, along with some good games.  I'm sure we'll have some fun with this.  Yes, I'm a big kid and think the Spidey/Iron Man vehicles are cool.  All guys do.  Ladies, here's a secret.  One reason men want to have sons is that it allows us to play with the toys too!

Anyway, these History Channel specials are pretty interesting and good for writers in progress to get some ideas to help with the credibility of their writing.  If I get to take advantage of some, I'll be happy.  Otherwise, I think I really need to look into a DVR.  So, tune in, set your DVR, and

Write On.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tracking Santa Has Begun

NORAD's annual Santa tracking system is up and running.  For those with kids, check out NORAD Santa to see where the big guy is.  Make sure everybody is snug in their beds and no creatures are stirring.

Seriously, I hope everybody has a Merry Christmas.  Enjoy yourselves, give thanks for what you have, pray for those who don't have enough, and when all the presents are unwrapped and the cookies are eaten, sit back and

Write On.

PS, for those who want a reminder of what Christmas is all about, nobody has ever said it better than Linus IMHO

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Escalation or Twists. What Carries A Story Better?

Most people reading my blog know that I'm involved in a blog chain through the Absolute Write Watercooler.

FWIW, this was my submission.  Note, that my story has a slight twist and so do some of the other blog chain submissions.  It reminded me of a discussion I'd had with friends about story format/styles.  When it comes to action-oriented stories, particularly science fiction and fantasy, I've noticed most of the stories fall into two major categories.  Escalation and twist.

Escalation based stories seem to start action fast and early.  As the story progresses, the action drives it.  While this is interesting to me early, I tend to get a little bored with them about half-way through. I've read a number of sci-fi/fantasy books that seem to fall into a generic mold.  Have you read stories that do this?

Open with an unusual finding - Mysterious temple, space ship, planet, portal, hidden lab, secret government facility...  Main characters enter/investigate (even though they shouldn't - like going upstairs to hide in a horror flick rather than running out the door or calling 911 on a cell phone) and are attacked by small creatures, or lightly armed guards.  Small arms takes care of the immediate threat, but then the threat gets bigger - new traps requiring something different:  new technology or bigger guns.  Some stories give multiple concurrent scenes from different POVs - ground troops, aerial attacks, orbital combat.  All going on at once and while they're tied in together, it's still a variation on the same theme.  The nice thing about those is that they do give different angles on the storyline, but still follow the same formula - action intensity.

Unfortunately for me, it's like watching a comedy.  I actually don't find most comedies funny.  Why?  Because I spend all my time looking for the joke.  What makes a joke funny? Timing/execution, and surprise.  There's usually no surprise in comedies.  Some are amusing, but in general, I get bigger laughs from dramas where the joke comes out of left field.  If I want to watch a "comedy" on TV, I'll watch pro wrestling.  That's basically an action sitcom to me.

Action stories are much the same.  I like anticipation.  When I've read books using escalation, I've been tempted to skip whole chapters if they seem to just continue the action or increase it (more soldiers, bigger weapons, or other "bigger action").  At the very least, I sometimes read topic sentences and skip the rest of the paragraph. In the worst case scenarios, I just put the book aside.

Why don't I give specific examples of these story?  Simply put, they're published and I'm not, so who am I to judge?  I'm willing to bet those who read this post will have one or two of their own examples.

As for the twists, those are my favorites.  These stories may not always keep up the pace of action, but tend to keep my interest better even in the slower partsYou don't know what's going to happen and can't skip whole chapters.  I want to look for the surprise, the plot twist and complexity.  That's what carries a story for me.

I know that I'm oversimplifying, but it seems to be the trend that I've seen.

Anyway, let me just end saying Merry Christmas and

Write On.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Weapon Tech and Teleportation Theories

Despite my recent rant on Transformers 2, one cool scene was the use of the rail gun on Devastator.  Well, it appears that it's not just sci-fi or a rumor.  On December 10, a Navy test produced a 33 megajoule finding.  To quote the article, "A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph."  Remember, the rail gun does not use an explosive projectile.  The destruction uses nothing but kinetic energy.  The weapon is expected to be able to hit a target 100 miles away (compared to the current range of about 13 miles by current Navy guns.

So, if you're writing an urban science fiction story with a rail gun.  I'm sorry, but it's no longer science fiction.

Next.  For all the Star Trek, fans here's an article that has found new plausibility in teleportation/transporter theories.  But rather than breaking down a subject's molecular structure, transforming it to energy and transmitting/beaming it to a location where it's reassembled, the theory follows new quantum physics theories on parallel universes.  Not only do these theories bring new light on teleportation, but time travel.  To be honest, it's all a bit too complex for me to really translate but I plan on keeping my eyes open for more articles like this.

Now think of the application in science fiction technology.  Not only do you have a credible basis for teleportation technology, but you could bring parallel universes into it. 

So, do your research and

Write On

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Transformers 3 Trailer Released

That's right.  The third Transformers movie is comoing out July 1, 2011 and the trailer is out.  This time we learn that the Apollo 11 mission found a Transformers space ship that crashed on the moon.  At one point they stop transmitting to Earth and are told my mission control that their mission is a go and they have 21 minutes.  As the astronauts explore the wreckage, you see dead or de-activated Transformers in the ship, but you don't know if they're Autobots or Decepticons. 

The best hint is at the end when the camera zooms in on an old Transformer who looks like he has a mustache (why a robot would have a mustache is beyond me).  Zoom in on his eye and it starts to glow blue.  That makes me think it's an Autobot, since that was how their eyes looked (Decepticons had red eyes - maybe they need Clear Eyes).

I looked at the trailer a second time, pausing on the old Transformer.  Then it hit me.  I think this is Alpha Trion.  Those who remember the 80s cartoon might remember Alpha Trion as Optimus Prime's mentor.  But, that doesn't mean the ship is Autobot.  Perhaps the ship crashed when Decepticons tried to take it over?  Maybe the Autobots raided it.  Anyway, we'll have to wait until July 1, 2011 until the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

I just hope it isn't the disaster that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was.  I mean if you just wanted an action-packed blast-fest, it was adequately entertaining, but for story?  Well...let's see.

  1. What was the deal with the Fallen?  Megatron was the leader of the Decepticons.  End of story!
  2. This weapon in the pyramid built by the Primes and the Fallen to destroy a sun.  If they weren't supposed to use it on a star supporting life, why did they even build it here?  There are so many stars with no life, that the premise was just ridiculous.
  3. Only a Prime could kill the Fallen, but all the other Primes combined couldn't do it.
  4. In the first Transformers movie, Optimus Prime and Megatron fight it out and Megatron actually beats Optimus.  But in the second, Optimus not only slaps Megatron around, but he's beating two other big Decepticons also!  The only reason Megatron stabbed Optimus is because Optimus stopped to look for Sam.
I could go on, but you get the idea.  Now if you want another take on how the second Transformers movie should have gone, here's a link to a friend's fanfic Transformers Reboot

Anyway, let's hope for the best and

Write On.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PIrates 4 Coming

Here's a trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 4.  The movie is scheduled for release on May 20.  This time Captain Jack is looking for the fountain of youth and runs into Blackbeard. 

Downside:  No Keira Knightly or Orlando Bloom. 

Upside:  Penelope Cruz, , and zombies.   That reminds me of an article somebody sent me months ago.  It was a list of movies that would have been better with zombies.  We'll see if improve this movie!  I think it's more likely that the producers are trying to go to the well (or fountain in this case) one too many times.

Deleted Battle Chapter

Thought I'd post this deleted chapter.  I really enjoyed writing this chapter as it was going to be the first "real" battle in the book.  One hope I had was that by adding an action chapter like this early, it would help excite readers.  One thing that made me realize that isn't always the best approach was reading the first book in Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series.  The first book, Dauntless opens with a fleet basically retreating from a battle and most of the book has them on the run.  The actual battle doesn't take place until the very end, but it was still one of the best books I've read.  Now, I did leave some action scenes/chapters, but removed this one for word count and the simple fact that it includes no main characters to the story.  It was more of a gratuitous battle scene.

However, the battle did set the stage for the main plot to begin unfolding.  My main character was working on a research project when word arrives that a "friendly" ship was destroyed stopping an enemy ship en route to Earth.  This information reached the research station with orders to mobilize personnel (including the main character) to another ship and prepare for the enemy. 

Again, I really enjoyed this chapter, but in order to reduce word count, I deleted it and just included a reference to it in the message sent by the

Remember, this was a first draft of the chapter, so it is probably a bit rough.  Hope you like it though.  It might give an idea for how I tried to set up battle scenes (wanted them to read with some credibility).

Enjoy and Write On.

Chapter X

Captain Terrance Curtis stepped onto the bridge for his watch shift on the Reliance.  The destroyer-class cruiser was said to be the fastest ever constructed by Ganeshans.  Despite the honor of being the commanding officer, Captain Curtis sighed at his orders.
Investigate star system for signs of enemy presence,” summarized the orders.  The details that followed did not provide any useful information.
The most advance ship in the fleet chasing sensor ghosts from other systems along possible paths, he thought.  Unfortunately, he also saw the logic in the orders.  Reliance possessed the speed and maneuvering agility of smaller cruisers and more firepower than any ship in its class.  It was also the closest ship to the designated coordinates.
He walked to the main science station.  First Officer, report.
The officer on duty nodded to him responding telepathically, Not much to report, sir.  All scans of the sectors give no indication of a recent FTL conduit.
Captain Curtis’ eyes opened slightly wider.  Clarify what you mean by ‘recent.’
Of course, Captain.  We have picked up possible signs of FTL activity.  Analysis of the system scans show minor deviations in the orbital patterns of system debris consistent with a small FTL corridor.  Most likely a probe.  We estimate it occurred no more than sixty days ago.
Captain Curtis pulled the scan details on his PDU.  It had taken nearly two days to scan and analyze the details.  He had hoped to find nothing to justify leaving, but that would not happen now.
Comm officer, prepare an FTL compod.  Include the scan data, analysis, and the most likely courses based on known Ozaran territories, probable incoming and outgoing FTL conduit coordinates, and recent intelligence reports.
A young woman with short black hair turned and to the captain, Sir, the FTL conduits were in the same area.  Whatever came here didn’t continue.
Captain Curtis pulled up the data on the system where the sensor ghost leading to his orders was identified.  The improbable had happened.  Along the projected course, there was only one logical target for the Ozarans.  And they’re practically defenseless, he thought.  Whatever they would send, sooner or later it would come through this system.  The last system they would have to leave FTL for a final course adjustment.
He sat in the command chair and activated the ship wide comm.
“Attention all hands, this is the captain,” he began.  “We have confirmed a recent enemy presence and are in the process of informing Tactical Command.  We will continue to patrol this system at general alert status until reinforcements relieve us or we receive orders to leave.”
Captain, the compod is ready, Captain Curtis heard from the communication officer.
Captain Curtis knew it would take nearly thirty days for the compod to reach its destination and another thirty days to hear a reply.  If reinforcements would come, it could take days longer for them to arrive, assuming there were any ships close by.  Even when the first ship, or ships, arrive that would not mean Reliance would be relieved.  But for at least the next sixty days, they were the only line of defense.

For twenty days, Captain Curtis kept his crew occupied, running combat readiness and emergency drills.  For the last five days, the captain instituted a competition recommended by the first officer for each of the four watches.  Each watch crew was given the same exercises, and the crew that displayed the best readiness won.  The first officer’s watch crew won three times straight and Captain Curtis was determined to break that streak.
“This is the captain,” he boomed over the comm. “Prepare for drill zero two six.  We’ll start with precision firing tests and follow with simulated targets.  Remember, you’re the captain’s watch and as captain, I should not have to settle for second in anything on my ship.”  He eyed the bridge crew, not needing telepathy to feel their tensions.  When we have won the next five competitions, I will personally buy each member of this watch a flask of Ozarian ale.”
Cheers erupted from the bridge.  Ozarian ale was a favorite of military personnel for years even though aside from having the look of Ozaran blood, there was no other connection to alien enemy.  Captain Curtis remembered the story that when the first barmaster introduced the non-alcoholic beverage, he marketed it under the idea of drinking the blood of an enemy after a victory.
Bribing the crew, Captain? The first officer mused.
A good captain knows how to motivate the crew,  Captain Curtis replied.  Besides, I heard you promised three days of R&R for each competition your watch wins a majority of the competitions.  You know, it’s my duty to approve, or deny such requests. 
The first officer smiled and walked off the bridge leaving Captain Curtis to his war game.
“Contact, port-side, twenty five degrees positive on the dorsal side,” called the tactical officer.
Captain Curtis head snapped in the direction of the tactical station.  The simulation he selected started with contacts to stern.  Tactical officer, confirm simulated or real contact.
“It’s real, sir.  The simulation hasn’t begun yet,” the tactical officer replied.  “FTL conduit forming twenty five light minutes from it.”
So whatever it is, it came through almost twenty five minutes ago, Captain Kerr thought.  “Battle stations!  Tactical, I want to know what we’re dealing with - size and number of vessels approaching.”
Intercept course Captain? the helmsman asked.
Captain Curtis shook his head. Hold position, helm.  I want to see if they turn to us or run.
I don’t understand.
If they run before we confirm their identity, it could mean they are a smaller vessel that could identify us first.  That could indicate they’ve made advancements in scanning technology.  We’ll send that information on.  Captain Curtis stared at the main viewer and the indicator highlighting the location of the FTL event horizon.  “Comm officer, prepare an FTL compod.  I want a live feed of all our transmissions, scans, and log entries sent to Tactical Command when we are within five light minutes of the incoming vessel.”
The next ten minutes passed in silence.  Then the tactical officer spoke up, “I have confirmation on the enemy ship’s course.  Ozaran medium cruiser is on course to through the system, zero point one five light and accelerating.  Based on current course, they’ll be able to go back to FTL in ten hours.  I’m projecting probable targets along their most likely FTL flight path.”
“I think we know the probable target,” Captain Curtis interrupted.  He knew the Reliance could easily overtake the enemy vessel, but did not want the Ozarans to know how easily.  “Set intercept course and accelerate to zero point two five light.”
We could intercept almost an hour sooner at zero point three light.  The helmsman sent his question telepathically because verbally questioning a superior’s orders was considered a violation of protocol. 
Captain Curtis knew everyone on the bridge had the same question, but only the helmsman deliberately shared it.  He’s opportunistic, but not pushy.  My kind of officer.  Captain Curtis tried to keep the thought sheltered from the helmsman’s telepathic mind.
“We’ll show the Ozarans what we can do soon enough.” This was the only response Captain Curtis shared.

Seven hours passed.  Ordinarily, the next watch crew would be ready to take over, but with only minutes until Reliance engaged the Ozaran vessel, the captain had ordered them to man the auxiliary stations.  Reliance was the faster, but the medium cruiser possessed greater firepower.
“Tactical, I want every scan detail you’ve done on that ship linked to my PDU immediately.”  The tactical officer complied without any reply.  Captain Curtis went through various details.  He confirmed the obvious weapon placements, seeing no blind spots to exploit.
“I want a readout of their power distribution.  Setup an overlay on the main viewer with real-time scans,”  Captain Curtis knew real-time was relative.  The scans would have the same light-speed based time delay, but by the time they reached engagement range, the delay would be negligible.
“Two minutes until we’re in weapons range, Captain,” the tactical officer announced.
“Helm, adjust course, ten degrees positive z-axis.  We’re close enough that if they drop mines I don’t want to run into them.”
“One minute until firing range.”
Color fluctuations through the Ozaran ship figure on the viewer caught the captain’s attention.  He knew what it meant even before the tactical officer spoke again.
“Enemy vessel is raising shields and powering weapons,” the tactical officer said. 
Captain Curtis could see from the power readings, not only did the Ozaran ship outgun Reliance, it had more powerful shields.  We have to hit them first and it has to count.
“Helm, take us to zero point three light, maximum acceleration.  Tactical, raise shields and ready weapons.”
“Yes sir,” both officers replied.
Seconds later the tactical officer called out, “Enemy ship is firing.”
Captain Curtis watched the tactical readout as the energy weapons and missiles passed behind Reliance, where the ship would have been had they not accelerated.  He programmed coordinates into his PDU and transferred them to the tactical station.  “Aft ventral thrusters, bring us perpendicular to the enemy vessel.  Target all forward weapons on these coordinates and set to fire.  Set helm to automatically reverse engines as soon as the first salvo of missiles launches.”
Thirty seconds later, the exchange of fire between warships began.  For a long five seconds the shields on both ships flared colorfully as they disbursed energy absorbed from incoming fire.  The power surges briefly distorted the display on Reliance’s main viewer.
“Damage report,” the Captain Curtis called.
“Forward shields down forty percent, FTL system damaged,” replied the crewman at the engineering station.
“Status of enemy vessel.”  He could see most of the information on the main viewer, but wanted confirmation of details.
“They’re shields are weakened and a minor hull breach near a dorsal weapons emplacement.  I’m also reading fluctuations in their power output,” replied the tactical officer.
Captain Curtis nodded.  The power fluctuations were significant.  He knew the Ozarans were trying to re-route power to firm up shields in the damaged section, but to do so would require drawing power away from other areas, leaving them more vulnerable.
“Helm, get us back into firing position for the same target.  Keep us on a parallel course.  Tactical, as soon as we’re in firing range, target their engines.”
“Yes sir,” replied both officers.
“Thirty seconds until weapon’s range,” the tactical officer announced.
Captain Curtis watched the enemy vessel larger on the main viewer.  He gripped the armrests on his command chair as Reliance began firing.  The Ozaran ship’s shields flared, disbursing the energy of the attack throughout.  The view looked like a series of rainbow waves rippling through the shields.  To the captain’s surprise, the light show stopped quickly.  It could only mean one thing.
“Helm, evasive full starboard!  Tactical drop mines!” he shouted.  Sudden explosions rocked Reliance hard enough to throw Captain Curtis from his chair and to the deck.  He heard commotion throughout the bridge as the crew scrambled to get back to their stations.
“Report!” he ordered.
The crewman at the engineering station was the first to reply.  “Bridge computer is inoperative, Captain.  We’re blind here.”
That was not a report Captain Curtis could accept.  He retrieved his PDU.  “Auxiliary control, this is the captain.  Bridge systems are down.  Report status.”
Moments later the familiar voice of the first officer replied.  “Main engines down to seventy percent capacity, ventral shields down, and we have multiple hull breeches.”
“What happened?”
“The Ozaran reversed engines as we fired on them and they hit us hard as they passed below.  Our automatic targeting system compensated enough to maintain eighty percent targeting efficiency.”
“What’s the status of the Ozaran vessel?”
“I’d have to say we gave as good as we got.  Their dorsal shields are down and their bow shields took severe damage when they collided with a couple of mines.”
“I’ll be down there in a minute.  Bring us around and protect our ventral side.  Have a medical crew report to the bridge to tend to wounded.”
“Yes sir.”
Captain Curtis ran from the bridge and into an elevator, keying the command to take him to the auxiliary control deck.  Two decks before reaching the destination he felt himself thrown into one of the elevator walls.  We’re hit again, he thought.  He quickly realized the elevator had stopped.  He tried the override, but it did not respond, so he opened the control panel and pulled the emergency release lever forcing the hatch to move slightly.  He continued pumping the lever until the hatch slid open enough for him to squeeze through.  Lights flickered in the corridor as he went to the emergency access conduit barely ten running paces away.  He slid the manually operated hatch aside and climbed into the conduit, using its ladder to climb down the last two decks.  Moments later, he arrived in the auxiliary control room.
“Report,” he called as the crew turned to face him.
“We’ve both made another pass on each other,” the first officer began.  “We were able to hit their unprotected dorsal section with particle cannons while keeping our ventral side protected.  We’re reading more power fluctuation in the Ozaran ship.  I think we’ve damaged their main power systems and they’re trying to re-route backup power.”
“They’re almost in weapon’s range, coming directly towards us,” another crewman announced.
Captain Curtis turned his attention to the viewer as the Ozaran ship closed.  “Helm, full reverse for fifteen seconds, then I want full forward acceleration and starboard thrusters.  Tactical, program firing solution with forward and starboard weapons.”
The crew complied with practiced efficiency.  Shields lashed again and the power surges again created distortions in the viewer.  Then a crewman turned to the captain and first officer.  Horror covering her face as she reported, “Sir, enemy vessel has fired their port maneuvering thrusters.  We’re on a collision course now!”
“Emergency evasive!  Sound collision alert!” the captain shouted.  He quickly realized his ship’s inertial dampeners had also sustained damage as Reliance’s helmsman complied with his orders.  The captain nearly lost his footing, stumbling forward a step before regaining his balance.  The emergency klaxon sounded throughout the ship as the two vessels closed. 
“Put the enemy vessel on the main viewer,” the first officer ordered.  Almost as soon as he finished speaking, the Ozaran vessel appeared. 
It was so close that the ship filled the viewer.  Seconds later, both ships began firing.  Captain Curtis imagined that, from the outside, the weapons fire between ships so close would look like a solid sheet of multicolored energy between them.
Again, Reliance lurched under the impact of the enemy weapons.  Captain Curtis realized that, at such close range, targeting efficiency was irrelevant.  There was almost no chance of missing. 
Power surges overloaded most of the displays and systems in the auxiliary control room.  He looked at the functioning displays at the tactical and engineering stations to see the impact points on his ship.  He realized that the only reason they could survive was that as the helmsman implemented the evasive maneuver, he has also fired maneuvering thrusters to keep the most heavily shielded section of Reliance facing the Ozarans.
The firing finally stopped and Captain Curtis made his way closer to the engineering station.  “Report.”
“It’s coming in slowly, sir” the engineer said.  “Main computer has taken damage, all shields are down, hull fractures across…”
Another series of explosions interrupted the engineer’s report.  His console exploded in front of him, leaving deep gashes and burns on the man’s face.  Captain Curtis, also cut and bleeding from flying debris, checked his crewman’s pulse.  He lowered his head and turned to survey the damage in the room.  A support beam had broken through the ceiling and killed the first officer.
“We’re hit again, Captain,” the tactical officer yelled.  “I don’t understand.  We were out of range and they couldn’t have maneuvered that fast…”
“They deployed more mines and we ran directly into them,” Captain Curtis replied looking at the wreckage.  If we sustained structural damage this deep in the ship, the damage must be vast.
He moved from one station to another trying to query the ship’s status and that of the Ozaran ship.  When none responded, he pulled his PDU and tried to link into the ship’s main computer.  It was slow, as the engineer said, but he began to retrieve some data.  Reliance had suffered catastrophic failure in its defense and drive systems.  The main power core was unstable.  All that was still functional was minimal sensors, emergency life support, and a couple of maneuvering thrusters.  Then he tried to access the sensors to determine the status of the Ozaran ship.  All he could retrieve was its general location, course, and speed.
“Helmsman, I need maneuvering thrusters.  Turn us seventy degrees to port.”
“Just follow my orders,”  Captain Curtis said.  Then he went to the communication station, unsure if it worked, he tried a ship wide call.  “Damage control teams, focus on engines and weapons.  Emergency medical team to auxiliary control.”
Captain Curtis then turned and walked silently from the auxiliary control room.  He followed the corridor to a hatch with a sign that said “OBSERVATION LOUNGE.”  As he entered one of the few leisure rooms on Reliance, he sighed at the devastation.  The entire outer wall was made up of three clear plexi-panels allowing crew members to relax and watch the outside.  Metallic emergency panels now covered two of the panels.  Furniture and other items in the room were piled up against the emergency panel and the remaining plexi-panel as a result of the explosive decompression obviously suffered in the room.
A tear came to his eyes as he moved the debris from the storage compartments built into the far wall.  He finally retrieved a digital enhancing scope, typically used by crew members for stargazing.  But Captain Curtis had a much closer target to view through the scope.  He quickly found the Ozaran vessel and set the scope for maximum magnification.  The ship had split and the two major sections were adrift and tumbling.  He felt some satisfaction in the moments when the dorsal section faced Reliance showing hull breeches throughout.
“We gave better than we got,” he whispered.  He stared again and then frowned as he saw a projectile launch from the aft section of the Ozaran ship just before a series of explosions, beginning with the engines engulfed the severed section.  He knew immediately from the trajectory the projectile wasn’t a weapon. 
He set down the scope and pulled his PDU querying the computer for the status of their FTL compod.  He sighed in relief to see that it had entered FTL two minutes before the battle had begun.
Now we just have to hope that our compod reaches our reinforcements before theirs does.  He knew that was not the only concern.  The Ozarans, knowing their ship was destroyed would certainly send a larger force.  He hoped that, even though the compod launched from Reliance did not have data on the battle that his superiors would realize Reliance was lost and send a stronger force also.
An alert klaxon sounded again, followed by a garbled automated message.  “Alert, main power core overloading.  Failsafe is not responding.  All hands abandon ship.”
Captain Curtis did not leave the room.  He knew the escape pods could only store provisions and atmosphere for a few weeks and it would be at least two months before any allied ships arrived.  Any crewmembers who survived the explosion were almost certain to face slow death from starvation or oxygen deprivation.
He turned over a chair and pulled out his PDU.  He queried his personal files and looked though a family album.  Images of his wife and two adult daughters appeared.  He had hoped to make it home in time to see his youngest daughter graduate from her medical training.
 “I love you all,” he whispered continuing to change from image to image for the next seventy-two seconds.  Then Reliance exploded.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best Sky Show Tonight and How It Could Be Used In A Story

All you night owls should prepare.  The Geminid meteor shower will reach its peak tonight (December 13) into early tomorrow morning (December 14).  One interesting thing about this annual phenomenon is that scientists really don't fully understand the source of the Geminids.  The source was traces to of the a strange rocky object named 3200 Phaethon that sheds very little dusty debris — not nearly enough to explain the Geminids.

One thing that could be a cool writing tie-in (and it's probably been done before in something I haven't read) is to have alien visitors land on Earth during this shower, using the shower itself to conceall their entry into our atmosphere.  Such a reference could give credibility to that part of the story. 

Keep watching the stars.  Dream and

Write On

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Didn't Somebody Tell Me This About E-books

I've been talking here and on multiple forums about comparisons with E-books and paper books.  One thing that many have commented on is that there really isn't much money saved on e-books from best selling authors.  Well last week I broke down and bought an iPad.  First thing I did was download some free educational apps for my kindergarten son.  Mostly math.  But when he was willing to put it down, I downloaded a couple of e-reader programs (Kindle and the iPad reader).

I found something that I haven't heard anybody discussing about e-readers.  To me, this is where you can save money on the best sellers.  Nobody told me that you can download free parts of books.  From the books I've read, it's usually the first 30+ pages.  Just enough to let you know if you'll really be interested in the book.  If you like it, you buy the full book obviously. 

Naturally the cost saving is obvious.  If you don't like the book after the first 30 pages, you've lost nothing.  This also highlights the importance of hooking your reader early.  A general guideline I've heard and recommend when I critique is that the first chapter of any book has two functions.  Introduce the main character (or at least one) and set the direction for the plot. 

Another consideration is that, from what I've heard, if you go to Barnes and Noble with a Nook, you can read any e-book there for an hour.  If you go back frequently enough, you could probably read an entire book free.  Stop by, get a coffee (if they have a coffee store) and read your Nook.

Keep that in mind and

Write On.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Now What?

Now that I've begun submitting my query letter and story to literary agents, the question is what to do now?  Writer creativity cannot live on editing alone, so I need to decide on my next project.

The first, obvious, project to consider would be a sequel to Legacy Soldier:  Hybrids Deployed.  While this does follow my personal favorite genre - military science fiction, it also has some disadvantages.  First, military science fiction is not exactly a fast-growing area.  In fact, as many experts have pointed out in articles and blogs, it's on the decline.  A second issue is that if the goal is to get published, should I devote my time to continuing a series when the first hasn't been published?

Fortunately, I have many voices in my head.  But the problem is figuring out which has the most marketable idea.  I've had online discussions about this on a few forums, and typically get the same response - just write something.  To me, it's not that simple.  Most of the advice I've gotten has been purely from a writer's perspective and it seemed to be about continuing the art.  It doesn't matter what I write as long as I write.  But the ultimate goal is to publish, right?  While writing is an art form, publishing is a business. 

So what are the top choices?  I have an epic fantasy that I shelved for working on Legacy Soldier.  The fantasy is started, but being epic fantasy, it's very complicated - world building and plot details.  I might have more luck with something a bit less complicated.  That and, like military sci-fi, epic fantasy doesn't seem to be a growth market for rookies.

I have two voices in my head that are probably twins.  Seriously.  They're "pitching" an urban fantasy and urban science fiction murder/mystery story.  The fantasy protagonist is a college student who's mother is a criminal investigator/profiler.  The science fiction protagonist is the profiler.  Naturally the other detail is that the student has an ability that she must learn to use (been using it for years, but never understood it) helping her mother with an investigation.  The profiler in the science fiction version is introduced to a new technology that she must learn to fully utilize.  I don't have a name for the fantasy story, but the sci-fi version would be called TIA (an acronym, not a name).  One thing to consider here is that I could open this with the hint fiction I posted from the December blog chain.  It seemed well received.

The last one is, and I don't believe I came up with this one, an urban fantasy/alternate reality story that has the US in a civil war - humans vs. werewolves.  The wolves have basically taken over the east coast, so I call this one Beast Coast.

That's just a few ideas.  I wish I could work on them all concurrently, but my son would graduate from college by the time I finish anything!  Like most people, I have a regular job to pay the bills, a family, I take and teach Tae Kwon Do, and when time allows, I write.  Right now, there's so little free time with the holidays and work that I'm not likely to make much progress until February.  On the bright side, Feb 18 - 20 is the TrekTrax convention here in Atlanta and I'm already signed up for the writer's workshop.  Maybe I'll have a chance to field some of my concepts by the pros and get an idea of how to prioritize.

So, I'll dabble where I can and...

Write On

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December Blog Chain

Last month, the AW blog chain focused on drabbles (stories 100 words or less).  This month the bar has been set higher.  Actually lower - word count that is.  Below is my submission for the December blog chain - hint fiction (25 word stories), followed by a list of all chain participants.  Enjoy and

Write on.

Agent Wilson stared at the Senator’s body and then glanced at the fresh prick on his finger from zipping the hooker’s dress.  Then he collapsed.

December Blog Chain Participants

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Partial Request

Last week, I started sending out e-queries to several agents I found on AgentQuery.  I sent out about 10 queries based on their criteria - some just query letters, others with synopses and/or chapters.

On my way home from a short work-related trip to DC, I stopped for some Chinese takeout.  My fortune cookie told me that today was a lucky day to take a gamble.  By coincidence, in my email was a request from one of the agents for a synopsis and the first 50 pages.  The thrill of a partial is one thing, but after a stressful trip it was unbelievable.

I actually sent 51 pages, explaining that the last page ended Chapter 3.  Maybe tomorrow, I'll order a quart of the house fried rice rather than just a pint. 

Wish me luck and

Write On!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Editing and Deleting 4

It's been a while, so I thought I'd drop in another deleted scene.  This was one of my original opening chapters and takes place even before the deleted prologue I shared in Editing and Deleting and Editing and Deleting 2.  My main character's birth mother has just learned that she's pregnant.  Problem is that she's a prostitute and a baby bulge isn't good for business.  So she looks into an abortion.  However, the main character actually talks her out of it.

The intent here was to show in an early chapter some of the main character's extraterrestrial abilities.  His bio-dad's people are conscious in the womb and quickly develop a telepathic link with the mothers.  Initially it's just instinctual, but it grows.   This part is a very short section of the scene.

Hopefully, once I look through my archived chapters/deletions, I'll find a section where the birth mother (on the run) finally figures out her baby (still in first trimester) is talking to her telepathically.  Needless to say she freaks out a bit.

Legacy Soldier:  Deleted Scene 1

Candice entered the Hilton suite Steve had reserved and threw her bag across the room in frustration.  No results until tomorrow, she thought recalling what the doctor said about her blood test.  She did not blame the doctor.  It was not his fault the health center did not have lab facilities to test her blood. 
She took off her traveling wig, a long-blond wig she used to conceal her identity in hotel lobbies, and sunglasses.  Then, she toured the suite and found a hot tub in the bathroom, just as she had hoped.  Steve would probably not arrive for almost an hour, so she decided to relax in the tub before changing her clothes. 
As the tub filled, Candice lit some scented candles.  As she sat in the warm water, the vanilla sugar scent filled the room.  Relaxing in the caressing water, she closed her eyes and thought about the possible pregnancy.
What’s to think about?  There’s no way I can keep it.  I have to schedule an abortion.  I certainly can’t earn a living with a basketball-sized stomach.  Guys into that are usually into other weird shit.  Looking at her stomach and breasts, she chuckled.  Of course, some would appreciate what it will do for my tits.
She reached for the phone, moved near the tub earlier, but something kept her from dialing.  She knew it was the only practical decision, but she felt reluctant.
Dammit, this is no time to develop a conscious.  She picked up the phone and began to dial.
No, please.
“Who said that?” Candice said, fumbling with the phone, almost dropping it into the water.  She stood and looked around for a moment.
“Is anybody there?”  she asked wrapping herself in a towel.  She received no reply.  “Steve, if this is a joke, it isn’t funny.”  Still no reply.  Candice thought for a moment and realized that she would have heard the door open and close if Steve had arrive.
Keep it together girl, she thought.  She decided scheduling an abortion might just add stress that she did not need just before Steve arrived and that there was time to deal with the pregnancy later.  So she dressed and watched television until Steve arrived. 
At , she heard a knock at the door, just as she finished re-staging the bathroom.  She assumed it was Steve, walked to the door, and looked through the peephole to confirm his identity.  At first, she was not certain it was Steve.  He usually kept his hair colored medium brown, but this person had more gray.  Then she remembered commenting to him that gray hair made men look more distinguished and decided he took that as a recommendation.
“Why didn’t you just let yourself in,” she asked.  “The room’s in your name.”
Steve stepped through the door carrying a paper bag and lightly kissed her on the cheek as he passed her leaving the scent of freshly applied Old Spice behind.  When Candice closed the door, he turned and handed her the contents of the bag.
“LeCral Winery.” she said.  “You’ve been bringing this around a lot lately.”
“It’s a local winery that I invested in a few months ago.  It’s operated by a man named Krandel LeCral,” Steve explained removing his brown sport coat. 
The smile slowly drained from Candice’s face, “His name sounds familiar.”
“It’s not an easy name to forget.  You may recall that I referred you to him for…services about a month ago.”
“That’s right.  I remember him now.”
“Fondly he hopes.  In fact, he was hoping to get in touch with you again.  I know you prefer to communicate through email accounts that you set up, so I brought his business card.  You can contact him at your convenience.”
Candice looked at the card.  Steve was correct about the email, but she had only setup free email accounts to communicate with regular clients.  The first time she accepted a referral from a client, it felt weird, like a guy loaning his car to a friend.  After a while, she found it was the best way to find reputable clients, but discussing one client with another still felt odd. 
She thought for a moment about her meeting with Krandel LeCral.  He was easy on the eyes.  Physically fit with just a touch of gray in his dark brown hair, but his eyes seemed to hide something.  Of course they did, she thought.  How many people are completely open with a prostitute, especially on their first encounter?  As she thought about her sexual experience with him, she had a strange feeling.  For a moment, she wondered if the feeling was nausea, but she was not sure.
“Are you all right?”
Steve’s voice regained her attention, “Yes, I’m fine.  If you see him, tell him I’ll be in touch soon.”  Being caught daydreaming about someone else is a great way to lose a regular client, she mentally scolded herself.
“Good,” he replied opening the wine bottle.  “Your last message mentioned something special.  I can’t wait.”
Candice went to the cabinet above the bar and retrieved two wine glasses.  As Steve poured the wine, she slowly walked towards the bath using her more seductive gait, undressing as she progressed.  As expected, Steve followed the short trail of clothing.  Candice watched as his eyes moved from the dress on the bathroom floor to the tub where she had already lowered herself.  He set the wine glasses down and began to unbutton his shirt when she playfully pointed with her foot, “Why don’t you light those candles first.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

New High Speed Rail Record and Technological Advancements

Today a Chinese train set a new world record for the fastest unmodified passenger train with a speed of 302 miles per hour.  The train ran on a high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai.  Although the train will not begin regular operations until next year, it is already being hailed as revolutionary as it will cut the 10 hour trip between the cities down to 4 hours.

Radical changes like these make science fiction writers practically salivate.  Typically, we see technology change our lives a bit more incrementally.  Of course, in the US we don't seem to see this technology at all, but that's besides the point.

Another point I'd like to make is how fickle techology is in its advancement.  Some scientists and science fans (including science fiction fans) will look at this new record and hypothesize on what it means for the future.  Remember when the iPads came out?  Some quickly compared it with data devices used in shows like Star Trek (Next Generation, DS9 and Voyager to be more specific).  But can these leaps also lead to unrealistic explanations?

If you've watched one of the few entertaining science fiction shows left on SyFy - Eureka, you saw the addition of James Callis to the cast last year.  His character was accidentally brought to 2010 from the late 1940s.  I remember one interesting quote his character had about the 21st century - "I thought there would be more flying cars by now."  Speaking of flying cars, we're only 5 years away from the flying cars shown in Back To The Future II.  Granted, that was a comedy, but a few decades ago, people probably did expect flying cars not only to be a reality, but a regular form of transportation.

Another example of science fiction technological timelines missed can be found right in the title of one example - Space 1999.  11 years after the moon was blown out of orbit, we still are really not significantly closer to Moon Base Alpha.

Will we get there some day?  Perhaps, but keep in mind when reading and writing science fiction that, as I just said, technological advances can be fickle and unpredictable.  But sometimes that's what makes them really cool.  Let's face it, if we had regular and scheduled technological revolutions, I'd probably have nothing to blog about!

Have a good weekend and

Write On.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NASA Conference - Paradigm Shift in Search for Life.

A NASA-funded study has concluded that the definition of what comprises life must be expanded.  Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth.  While carbon is most commonly known - reference to carbon-based life forms, Phosphorus is critical for the energy-carrying molecule in cells and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes.

The research has discovered a microorganism on Earth that substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.  One reason this is so interesting is that arsenic is well know as being poisonous to most  life on Earth.  As such, it forces researchers to re-define what they believe constitutes life forms. 

Since typically researchers searching for evidence of life have focused primarily on life that would need an Earth-type environment must now broaden their horizon.  And, theortically, since these microorganisms substitute arsenic for phosphorus (given similarities between the elements), could life exist substituting one of more of the other five building blocks? 

Imagine the possibilities, science fiction fans and writers.  I like to say readers are becoming more advanced, so credibility in stories and world building are important.  This give credibility for world building in a variety of environments poisonous to humans.

So take a moment tonight and look at the stars again.

Hope you have clear skies.

Write On.

Holiday 1

To all the Jewish sci-fi/fantasy fans and writers, I just wanted to say Happy Hanukkah.

To the rest of us, 22 shopping days left until Christmas!

Hit the sales and

Write On

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NASA Conference Announced

On Thursday, December 2, NASA will hold a news conference to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

News reports are saying that NASA is not giving many details, but that's no surprise.  If they give too many details, who will need to listen to or watch the conference?  The conference/announcement is scheduled for 2 pm Eastern time December 2.

The most popular theories include evidence of some type of life (beyond bacteria) existed on Mars.  The only tie is the rover that's been stuck for the last ten years.  While that gives plenty of time to study the soil for microscopic organisms, was the rover designed to conduct that type of long-term study?  Probably not.

Some believe the announcement is more related to the quest for extraterrestrial life on Saturn's moon, Titan.

It's a pretty safe bet this won't be something that will change the world as we know it, but any evidence of the existence of life, or even the possibility is very exciting to science fiction writers.  It gives us hope for credible theories to support aliens and world-building in our stories.

We'll know tomorrow.

Until then, look to the stars and

Write On.

Starfleet Fanfic Contest 2011

Last year, Starfleet International opened a new website dedicated to Star Trek Fanfic.  Recently the website has opened for submissions to the 2011 STARFLEET Short Story Contest.  Those wishing to submit must be members of Starfleet International.  The top entries (I believe the top 4 or 5) are published in the Starfleet Communique - official publication of SFI read by members around the world.

I believe submissions are accepted until June, but check the web site for details. 

Live Long and Prosper and

Write On