Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Doctor Fails

Back on Christmas Night, I watched the annual Doctor Who special.  It was entitled Twice Upon a Time, because it paired the outgoing Twelfth Doctor with the First Doctor, with the excellent David Bradley filling in for the long-deceased William Hartnell.

This was Peter Capaldi’s last episode.  He has been a wonderful doctor, with the one caveat that I have always had trouble understanding his brogue, but he has not been very well served by the scripts during his tenure.  The script for this episode did not serve the First Doctor at all well, making him appear dim and sexist, nor did it do a good job of wrapping up the Capaldi era.

With spoilers ahead, the basics of the story are that the Doctor, holding back his regeneration triggered by previous injuries, finds himself at Earth’s Antarctica, where he meets the First Doctor, on the eve of his own regeneration and also holding it back.  The two are quickly met by a WWI British Army captain who is being pursued by an advanced race of time travelers with purposes unknown.  The three are captured, discover that the travelers make recordings of dying people’s memories, before returning those people to their place of death.  The party manages to escape to the First Doctor’s Tardis and get away.

The second act has the Doctor making his way across an ancient battlefield at the center of the universe where lives a Dalek who kills other Daleks – and he gets to kill or maim many of them, because they show up in large numbers trying to kill him.  The Doctor’s purpose is to identify a face he recorded on board the Travelers’ ship and he figures the Daleks have the best historical database available.  This plan works, the enemy is identified, and the Doctor comes to find out that their purposes are not evil, but perhaps even good.  The last act has the Doctor saving the captain with a bit of trickery, followed by goodbyes and both Doctors proceeding with their regenerations.

It is the second act that truly fails to serve.  It is mostly filler, with a callback to an earlier story, but having no purpose in this story except to take up time and provide a couple of obstacles.  It doesn’t fill the needs of the story.

What needs?  Well, the need to close out Capaldi’s tenure and resolve the cliffhanger of the previous story, as well as the need to connect it to the First Doctor in some way, to make it logical for the two Doctors to meet.

Here’s what I mean:  The last story of the First Doctor was called The Tenth Planet and it was the introductory story of the traditional Doctor Who menace, The Cybermen, humanoids from the planet Mondas who have augmented their bodies with technological improvements to the point that they have wiped out their own humanity – Borg, before there were Borg.  They have come to Earth to destroy and assimilate (sorry), though naturally the Doctor defeats them.  They have came back many times over the decades, always showing technological improvements (resulting in better costumes).  But the previous episode of the current series, The Doctor Falls, brought back the original Mondasian Cybermen from when they were just starting out, before the events of The Tenth Planet.  The Doctor partially defeats their attempt to Cyber-ize a tremendous colony ship, but he ends up leaving his assistant, Nardole, behind, to help the remaining survivors to defend themselves, almost certainly to fail and die in the attempt.

So, we have the current Doctor, who has just failed to defeat the Modasian Cybermen and about to regenerate, meet the First Doctor, who has just defeated the Mondasian Cybermen and is about to regenerate, coupled with an outstanding issue of Nardole and hordes of Mondasian humanoids left to die.  Was not the implied promise that the two Doctors were going to go back to the colony ship and save Nardole and his friends?  Why else bring back Mondasian Cybermen, in their mummy-chic costumes, if the purpose was not to link the two episodes to an ultimate solution?  Would that not have made for a better second act, if not an entire episode?  Surely that is where they wanted to go with it in the first place.

Instead, we got a mostly disjointed episode, where the stakes were pretty low.  I mean, The Captain was already fairly philosophical about his impending death and the survival of his family name already ensured, so saving him was nice, but hardly at the planet-saving levels of previous regeneration stories.  The writers seemed to show that they do not understand the 1960s doctor or the early 1960s in general, being much a continuation of the conformist, but secure, 1950s, where authority figures were mostly respected, not ridiculed.  The Doctor’s final speech was quite good, nearly worth waiting through the episode for.  Meanwhile, the regenerated Doctor will have a lot to make up for, as she managed to mostly destroy the Tardis with a single touch, before getting tossed out the doors, presumably by the Tardis herself – guess the old saw about “Two women under one roof” applies here.

Best of luck to the new cast and staff at Doctor Who.  Hopefully, they can write better stories – and find an excuse to go back and save Nardole and company.

Categories: Pet Peeves, Writing

To Speak Freely

This is a test. It seems to me that many bloggers are using voice to text.  I just want to see how that works on Windows system and I want to see how easy it is to edit afterwards.

When I speak to my computer, I see a small text box in the top left corner, and all the text appears there. I then have to click on a box that says insert and it is added to the browser editing screen.  Or I can just say “insert.”  This seems to work OK, but I have noticed some small errors. Part of this is my fault -I tend to stammer a little bit while thinking of something to say. Sometimes it just gets a word flat wrong.

But it seems like a real time-saver, and it will only take me a couple of moments to go back and correct the small errors. So I may well do this, both while blogging and while writing. I just need a room to myself.


Categories: Oddities, Technology, Writing

A Simple Lesson

In writing.  Great antidote to the public school’s unspoken lesson in writing, which is to write longer.  “Give me a two-page essay!”

Yeah, its the guy from Inception.


Categories: Education, Writing

Pompano or Bust

Leaving for Florida early in the morning.  Will be hanging with my father-in-law.  My stepson is on his way back as I write and I am pretty sure I will be on the same plane tomorrow.

Brenda will watch the home fires.  I will attempt to write some while away.  Would be nice to get another book done.  Already on Chapter Four.

This book I would not publish right away.  It would be either the second or third in a series (Life on the School Bus).  Would like to write three, then publish together.

I remember back when Peter Davison took on Doctor Who, they started filming with a simple action-adventure story, then did another story, before they went and filmed his first episode to be aired.  This gave him the advantage of working out exactly how his version of the character was going to be before he had to work out the mechanics of getting there.  That is why I am starting with the third book in the series, so that when I get around to writing the first (at current velocity, sometime in 2027), I will have a very good idea what the characters are like and they will write much more smoothly.  If the third book in the series is a little weaker, readers will be far more likely to forgive me than if it had been the first.

Or so it seems to me.


Categories: Travel, Writing

The Vanguard

So, at long last, I published “The Vanguard” this morning, on both Amazon and Smashwords.  It may take some hours or days for it to show up on various sites.






The only technical problem I had was trying to make an interactive table of contents.  It was easy enough to create one in Word, but Smashwords balked at it and said that I should do something else with bookmarks and hyperlinks, which I tried, but could not make work.  In the end, I just used a simple text TOC that simply lists the chapters and does not link anywhere.  Honestly, I never use this feature while reading fiction anyhow – I simply read the story in a linear fashion.  Very handy in digital magazines, however.

Oh, and once again, I have selected a beginning of chapter symbol that does not translate properly on older Kindles, even though I specifically selected it from a simplified character set.  It is a sort of “V” symbol, forget what it was called.  Greek, maybe.  Anyhow, I left it as is – not going to change it on 27 chapters, only to find that the replacement does not work either.  The old Kindle readers (of which I am one) can just assume that the question mark symbol denotes the mystery aspect of the book.

Yes, I am lazy.  Why do you ask?

Already has about forty page views on Smashwords, because some people cruise the Newly Published screen – in fact, the default Smashwords homepage.  One sample download.  I do expect a little more action on this title, as it is more mainstream than my past efforts.  Time will tell.

Was waiting for help on my cover, which never appeared, so I finally slapped something together that seems to work and which I hope does not look too cheap.

Decided to publish this under my own name.  My original plan was to use a pseudonym for my youth adventure stories – as a sort of branding – but as it happens, it is not really necessary.  Kristine Rusch, whose blog I read religiously and who happens to have over a half-dozen pen names of her own, wrote last week that it was not really necessary for an “indie” writer.

Indeed, Heinlein – who I am not – only used pen names to disguise the fact that he was writing half the stories in a single issue of Astounding or to sell off his few clunkers without harming his reputation.  Everything I read of his I read under his byline, even if it was originally published under a pen name.  There has never been much confusion of readers buying the “wrong kind” of story from him.  That is, nobody who bought his juveniles would buy Stranger in a Strange Land thinking it was appropriate for children.  It is only necessary that the blurb and the cover connote the type of content being sold.

If I was ever able to write full time, I might want to revisit the pen name issue.  As it is, publishing one or two a year, I need all the synergy I can muster.  This way, any young readers I manage to snag with what I hope will be several Vanguard and Life on the School Bus books can “graduate” to my more adult trope as their tastes change.

And don’t worry.  While I am quite capable of using innuendo and being suggestive, I do not believe I could comfortably write anything, even in adult titles, that would mortally offend most parents, unless it was to show a weapon being used for the express purpose of self defense.

Will probably get the links to Amazon and Smashwords loaded on this site once they have solidified, probably in a couple of days.

Then, back to work, I suppose.  This work, not the job I actually get paid for.  I am writing, very slowly, what will one day be the second or third of the Life on the School Bus series, but I won’t publish that until I have the first story ready to go – and would prefer to have at least three in the series.  Yes, The Vanguard is also in a series (I hope), but it is actually meant to be the first and it is far larger and stands up all by itself.

Meanwhile, I can start putting the polish on my mother’s favorite, Sky Yukon, and get that published.  This will be more involved than The Vanguard, which I only needed to reformat.  Sky Yukon is going to need some rewriting.  Not story or structure, just word choice and flow.  It is, I think, just a tiny bit stilted.  Just like Lifeboats, I wrote it in 1995 and I have learned a fair bit since then, though not always noticeably.  Should keep me busy well into the new year.

Categories: Publishing, Writing


March 7, 2013 1 comment

Okay, so it is winter in the oil business.  My busy time.  Thus, I have not written anything here in nearly two months.  Ouch!

What time I have had, when my head hasn’t hurt too much from repetitive stress (“How could my house use so much oil when I’m not even there?”), I was busy making two passes through Lifeboats.  Mostly, I was just trying to make everything consistent.

Now I have asked a couple of friends to take a pass through it, just to see if anything really stupid is in there, then make one quick and final pass on my own, and then download and format.  Guess I could research a little on how one makes a table of contents and chapter markers on the Kindle.

Mostly, I just want to publish the thing.  Doesn’t matter if it is perfect; just matters if there are people out there who might enjoy reading it.

We shall see.

Categories: Writing


Done.  Complete.  Through!

With the latest novella-to-novel expansion.  I am totally done.

Except, of course, not really.  From here, I go through it at least three times, fixing, tweaking, making sure the character’s name doesn’t change halfway through, that sort of thing, and always keeping an eye out that something doesn’t need a major rewrite.  Hopefully, not too many ideas will occur to me while I am doing all this.  This is the point where, were I a money-making professional author, I would hire a copy editor to take a lap through it.

Then, when really done, I download it and play with it in Word, formatting it for publication, going through various alignment issues.  Then upload the whole thing to Amazon, including the cover art I prepared some months ago.  Hopefully, I have the self-control not to push the “publish” button immediately, but instead review the whole thing on Amazon’s previewer.  Then publish.


I don’t really know what to do next.  My major choice, however, is between A) take the time to learn to publish this dingus on Kobo and Smashwords and the iStore or B) work on taking my previously unpublished novel, Vanguard, and publishing that on Amazon.

Vanguard would go very quickly, I think, as I went through it dozens of times when I first wrote it.  I wouldn’t change anything, just format it for publication.  On the other hand, I might want to publish it on CreateSpace instead, allowing for printed versions, and letting them format it for Kindle and other e-publishers.  I would have to review all that again – been a year.

Then again, I don’t want to limit myself to Kindle and the other e-readers are taking off.  Maybe I need to learn more about all that now.

So much to do with my so-far non-lucrative hobby.


Categories: Writing