Harry Seven Paperback

For those who prefer a physical book, the paperback version of Harry Seven is now available on Amazon.

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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.

What I’ve been working on

I just realized that next month it will be two years since I released my most recent (and prize winning) novel, Cerelia’s Choice.

My diabolical plan for overnight success is to write ten novels in ten years (one a year for those bad a maths!), so where has the time gone?

For those who’ve read the first two parts of The Emulation Trilogy (Newton’s Ark and Fuller’s Mine) the good news is that some of the time has gone into making a start on Book 3 (untitled as yet). I’m about 20% done, and determined to get it finished this year.

Another big chunk of time went into helping my mother-in-law produce her memoirs / family history, No Stone Unturned. That’s the price you pay once you become a self-publishing guru. It’s definitely worth a read.

The really good news is that the other thing I’ve been doing is completing another novel, a time travel adventure romance called Harry Seven. It’s in the proof reading phase, so I hope to have it out within the next couple of months, although I’m considering some alternative paths for publishing that may delay it a little. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s the cover and prologue to whet your appetite:

harry-seven-cover

2015
Thursday, August 27
Princeton, New Jersey

My oversized blue door hangs open. Outside, the now familiar sight of wartime London calls. July 1945. The past, but my inescapable future.

I must go. Despite the best of intentions, all I’ve done is change the course of history for the worse. The Russian got the better of me. I’ll warn Harrison about him, and the other lessons I’ve learned. Prepare him better than my Grandpa Harry prepared me. I can’t let him fail again. I can’t fail again.

How many times have I had this same thought before?

I take one last look at my house. My grandfather’s house. It’s strange knowing I’ll see this place again, even though I won’t be coming back. I’ve done what I can to wrap up my affairs. The strangers who consider themselves my parents can take care of the rest, the things that can only be done once I’m officially declared missing.

I tense my muscles then spring into action, running as fast as I can, committed now to this course of action. Seventh time lucky I tell myself as I charge through the open door…

 

Google Ngram Viewer and Word Usage

I’m currently writing a time travel adventure story that has an American character from 2015 visiting England in 1943.

To make the voice of the characters distinctive and authentic, I not only have to capture the differences between American and English usage, but between modern American usage and 1940’s British usage.

I have found Google NGram viewer an invaluable tool in tackling this challenge. Take this graph for example, which shows that my 2015 American character will probably say “pants”, but my 1940s British character will more likely say “trousers” (but a 1940s American might use either).

Ngram

Predicting the future in sci-fi

I recently re-watched Blade Runner, one of my all time favourite films (The much-maligned Theatrical Release for those who care about such things. I don’t mind The Final Cut, but I’m not a big fan of the Director’s Cut.)

The story is set in 2019, just three years from now, and important events in the backstory are occurring right now, like Roy Batty’s “birthday.”

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The movie was released in 1982, just over thirty years ago (though the Philip K. Dick story on which it was based – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (best title ever) – was published in 1968). The conception of the future portrayed in the film was interesting, not only in terms of technology but also social developments.

There’s the proverbial flying cars, and Replicants who are almost indistinguishable from humans, but no cell phones or flat screens. People are moving to “off world colonies” but most of them still smoke!

As a science fiction writer I’ve been trying to decide what the lesson in this is. I think it’s that you should lay off predicting future technology and society unless it directly affects the story, i.e. don’t use tech as the literary equivalent of eye candy.

Even then, you’ll probably get it wrong. But you’ll at least have a shot at drawing out some plausible implications, and perhaps to make the reader question some assumptions about their present. What more could an author ask for than that?

Scif Fi World Building

I promised in my previous post to elaborate on the futuristic world building in Cerelia’s Choice. Checking on the date of that post, I notice five months have passed. Sometimes life gets in the way, big time. Sorry about that.

I love classic space opera as much as the next geeky guy, but it often assumes too much, so that the setting becomes almost irrelevant to the story. I’ve read far too many stories that are in effect nothing more than traditional naval battles set in space.

The reality is that any sort of human settlement beyond Earth will necessarily have to deal with some damn big challenges and constraints.

The least avoidable leap usually made in space opera is assuming some mechanism for faster than light travel. It is hard to have a story extending beyond our solar system without that.

The next biggie is gravity. In your standard space opera every ship has an artificial gravity field, and every inhabited planet seems to miraculously have Earth standard gravity.

The one that really irks me is spaceships designed for faster than light travel in the near vacuum of interstellar space somehow having the ability to land on the surface of a planet, dealing with the drag and friction of an atmosphere when landing, not to mention overcoming the enormous energy demands of escaping the planet’s gravity well when leaving. The design constraints of interstellar travel are so fundamentally different to the design challenges of atmospheric travel that it makes no sense to try building a single ship capable of doing both.

Imagine now the world of Cerelia’s Choice. Yes there’s faster than light travel. But there’s been a recent technological development that has increased maximum speeds by ten times, upsetting the existing economic and political balance, something that is important to the story.

There’s also artificial gravity, but I decided to put some constraints around that to make it interesting. The artificial gravity field is fundamentally inconsistent with FTL travel, so you either have to deal with weightlessness, or have a rotating habitat.

And you can land a spaceship on the surface of a planet, but only one designed exactly for that purpose, and it’s a one way trip. The only way off is by space elevator. They’re expensive to build and easy to control, which underpins the feudal political system of the Empire.

If you have doubts about the romance element of Cerelia’s Choice (what do you mean you don’t like romance?), then just remind yourself that it also contains a lot of well-considered science fiction world building to keep the reader interested.