First Draft of Book 3

The first draft of book 3 in the Emulation Trilogy is finally complete. I’ve been trying to finish this one since 2014. Life gets in the way (and I did publish two other novels – Cerelia’s Choice and Harry Seven – in the meantime).

Apologies to those who have read Newton’s Ark and Fuller’s Mine and have been waiting patiently for this. I wanted to make extra sure it provided a satisfying ending to the trilogy and I finally think I’ve done that.

Expect publication in August or September. In the meantime, here’s the cover art to whet your appetite.

Don’t shake hands

From Newton’s Ark (published in 2012):

Cyrus looked at the offered hand. He didn’t have an irrational germ phobia, or dislike human contact. But if you wanted to rapidly spread infection through a population, you couldn’t do better than encouraging people to shake hands. It just seemed unnecessarily risky, and for what—to show your enemy you weren’t concealing a weapon? That seemed a little anachronistic in the twenty-first century when death tended to be delivered remotely and impersonally.

(page 47 in the paperback edition)

Book 3 Update

For those who have read Newton’s Ark and Fuller’s Mine, books 1 and 2 of the Emulation Trilogy, and are anxiously awaiting book 3, some good news. I retired from my day job recently to focus on writing and am making good progress on book 3 – working title “Hopper’s Retreat”. My goal is to finish the first draft by May, and publish in October.

Spoilers ahead

At the end of Fuller’s Mine there are three groups of survivors:

  1. biological humans who survived underground and are based at Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs
  2. uploaded minds hosted inside a computer simulation running on a satellite in orbit (Newton’s Ark)
  3. uploaded minds hosted in human-like bodies composed of nano-bots, based at the University of Colorado in Boulder

The big question to be answered by book 3 is whether humanity survives long-term, and in which of these forms…

Newton’s Ark and Salvation

I’ve just started watching a new CBS TV series called Salvation (well it was new in the US summer, I’m streaming it now on Amazon). My wife is convinced they stole the story from my first novel, Newton’s Ark, but humanity’s salvation ≠ virtual reality, so no.

Nevertheless, I’m struck by the many parallels (MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS for both the book and the TV series):

  • A previously undetected, extinction level asteroid is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth when it’s too late to stop it
  • The US government decides to keep the asteroid secret, with the DoD at the heart of the conspiracy
  • A wealthy industrialist – James Newton in my novel, Darius Tanz, who is basically Elon Musk, in the TV series – realizes the government can’t save humanity and comes up with an escape plan, an “ark” (mine is virtual while in the TV series it’s physical)
  • The industrialist enlists the help of a young, tech savvy guy – Cyrus Jones, a programmer, in my novel, Liam Cole, an astrophysicist, in the TV series
  • A plucky female reporter – Jenny Ryan in my novel, Amanda Neel in the TV series – realizes that the government is hiding something and sets out to expose the secret, and damn the consequences
  • The US president is overthrown and murdered…

What’s the lesson here? Perhaps that my ability to construct a story is good enough to write a major network TV series. Fortunately, with three more novels under my belt since then, my writing has improved!

Churchill (the movie)

On a recent flight from Australia to the US I watched the movie Churchill which the logline describes thus:

96 hours before the World War II invasion of Normandy, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill struggles with his severe reservations with Operation Overlord and his increasingly marginalized role in the war effort.

An excellent performance from Brian Cox as Churchill but definitely not an action-packed blockbuster. Mostly I suspect it will appeal to history buffs like me as a worthwhile examination of a key period in history.

My recent novel Harry Seven deals (in more depth – a key advantage of novels over movies) with many of the same issues around disagreements between the American and British leaders on the best strategy for defeating Germany and British doubts about the prospects for success of an amphibious landing in northern France. On the latter note, because mine is a time travel story, I had the luxury of exploring multiple possible outcomes for D-Day and other elements of the Allied campaign.

But I made a deliberate decision not to have Churchill appear as a character in my story (other than by reference – the protagonist spends a considerable part of the story salivating at the prospect of meeting the British PM, but alas…). Churchill has been covered so extensively in film and print that I felt there was nothing original I could add. Nevertheless, several well-known historical figures are central to the story including  Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Brooke. I did a great deal of research on each of them and tried to always depict their actions, words, and personalities in a way that is consistent with the historical record.

Harry Seven Released

My latest novel, Harry Seven, is now available on Amazon (ebook only – the paperback will follow in a few weeks.) For this week only it is available at the special introductory price of 99 cents ($4.99 or equivalent after that).

As my fourth novel I’m confident it’s my best yet. I really feel like I know what I’m doing now, rather than feeling my way forward through a process of trial and error.

Buy now at:
Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com.ca

Harry Seven Kindle Scout Campaign

My latest novel, Harry Seven, is finally complete.

Rather than going directly to self-publishing this time, I’m trying a program called Kindle Scout which gives Amazon customers the chance to vote on books to be published under Amazon’s own imprints.

Here’s the link. Check it out and vote away. Should it be selected, I’ll get a small advance (and major encouragement to keep writing) and you’ll get a free advance copy once the publication date is set!

Movie Adaptations

I’ve read many wonderful, original stories over the years that I thought would make great movies, while Hollywood continues to churn out remakes and formulaic ‘me-too’ dross. I always wondered why.

Now I understand at least part of the reason – movie adaptations of novels are hard. There are other reasons relating to the economics of the movie industry that are important too, but let me repeat: movie adaptations of novels are hard. Really hard.

While I’m waiting for the editors to be done with their work on Harry Seven, I decided to read up on the fundamentals of writing screenplays for feature films and then apply and test what I’d learned by adapting my own novel.

I’d always thought it would be fun to try writing a screenplay, and it was (though I ought to have known better – listening to the little voice in my head saying “it might be fun to write a novel” has changed my life over the past five years.)

I expected to do some work in translating all the internal monologue into visuals and dialogue, and that didn’t prove too hard. In some ways, the ability to rely on the actors to convey emotion, and visual settings to create atmosphere was quite freeing. There’s only so many ways to describe facial expressions without feeling like you’re repeating yourself.

What I soon discovered though is that an average length novel (Harry Seven is 91,000 words or about 350 pages) will be about two to two and a half times as long as it needs to be when translated directly into a script.

(As an aside, an average screenplay is 100 to 110 pages when formatted correctly giving a rule of thumb of one page = one minute of running time. BTW – violate the screenplay formatting rules and no one in the industry will even pick up your script, let alone read it.)

What I had to do was cut the story down dramatically by eliminating many secondary characters and most of the sub-plots, so that the focus was almost exclusively on the main characters (in this case Harrison and Alicia) and their core desires.

Movies also follow a much more predictable structure (especially if you’re targeting the mass market), so even the main plot had to be simplified and reorganized. For example, some of the twists that take time to build in the novel have to be revealed much earlier in the piece to fit the standard pattern. I found that challenging at first, but I think it’s actually given me a better handle on structuring a story for any format, so much so that I’m actually considering for my next novel writing the screenplay first.