A continuum of ideas

One of my earliest memories of writing was wondering how to spell the name of a planet I’d just made up. So, as any child would do, I asked my dad.

“You can spell it how you want.”

And there, at that moment, was a sense of unbounded creative license, let loose. I realised that the normal rules applicable to factual writing really didn’t apply. Or at least some of them didn’t.

About three years ago, after a near twenty year hiatus, I took up pen and paper once more and began plotting Ascending Angels, remembering that formative moment from my childhood and what it meant.

As an adult, I’d found that my ideas could finally stand on their own, with their feet planted firmly on the foundations only an adult could build; hard earned experience, observational knowledge, the lessons of failure, and those fleeting moments of success, pleasure, and joy that punctuate our lives.

Shortly after writing Earth Day, I found myself feeling like that child once more, wondering if more rules could be bent, broken, or discarded entirely.

A series of serials. Seriously?

It became apparent to me that Earth Day had potential beyond itself and its own novella confines. A kind of potential I’d stumbled upon not quite by chance but by “idle” imagining, though few thoughts that appear in the mind of the creative are truly idle.

I’d written Earth Day while awaiting feedback from friends for an advanced draft of Ascending Angels. And it’s more than likely that the context of that novel was the seed for the idea I had.

Much of what takes place in Earth Day has a correlation with Ascending Angels, and by extension the events of two other novels I had planned as part of a series; Perdition’s End, and Gods of War. However, the idea of extending this series in such a way made little sense to me; Earth Day, which is a novella, would need to surrounded by those other novels. Bookended, no less. I found the idea weird.

But then I began thinking about those other novels and novellas I had in the works, and it became apparent that they too, in their own way, fit within this “universe” I was building.

“What, like the Marvel Universe?”

Soon, the idea of a series of novels was less appealing to me than the prospect of creating a constellation of novels and novellas, each connected to another in some way — be it a technology, a character, a company, an event, place, or alien race. I had found something that truly appealed to my sense of grand design.

Imagine, every single story connected to another in some way, weaving a thread through space and time, with each story revealing something else, something perhaps trivial, or maybe deep and provocative, but each incrementally building upon the one before.

“What, like the Marvel Universe?” Christy said, without a hint of sarcasm.

Yes, I suppose so! But if I were to abandon an idea just because someone else had gotten there first — having created their own universe, of all things — then there’s not much hope for anyone else.

2 for the price of 1

But why stop with one universe when I could have two? Again, not entirely by design, but I have ended up with two universes (sadly, no spoilers), which forces upon me at least one restriction, in that rather than fumble over the plural form of universes, which just sounds clumsy, I have elected for continuum, which — while perhaps a little pretentious — it makes infinitely more sense, both literally and figuratively.

Post a book announcement to Goodreads Groups

I know most other authors won’t know the first thing about this HTML web programming nonsense. I wouldn’t expect you to, either. Sadly, Goodreads do, which is a crying shame, because by not offering their members a better editor, people are missing a huge opportunity.

As a web designer and developer, it’s my job to understand things like HTML, and that knowledge elevates me to a privileged by sparsely populated plateau.

So, I’m hoping I can alleviate this problem by sharing with you some advise and a template of sorts.

Editing the Goodreads Group post template

  1. Firstly, go to the post by myself for A Darkening of Fortune on the Kindle Readers and Authors Group on Goodreads to see how I’ve laid things out. Like it?
  2. Secondly, if you’re on a Windows PC, you’ll need to use NotePad, which you can use to open HTML files. If you’re on a Mac, I’d recommend using TextWrangler.
  3. Next, download this Goodreads Group post template by right-clicking on the link and choosing the option to save or download the file, which you can then open with your chosen text editor.

Editing the body copy

Scared? Don’t worry! For the most part, HTML is self explanatory, at least for the simpler things. So long as you don’t disturb the code “tags”, you’ll be fine.

  1. In the first line, you’ll see a sentence inside two “strong” tags, which instruct the web browser to display the text within them as bold. You can replace the text within the tags with your own blurb.
  2. Inside the “blockquote” tags is where you place your synopsis, which should also appear within the opening (“) and the closing (”) curly double quotes. If you don’t want the double quotes, you can delete them, but be sure to delete both.
  3. Okay, see the two Amazon links? Don’t worry about the code they’re inside, just replace those links with your own, making sure you don’t remove any of the code, or the two containing double quotes.

Editing the book, cover illustration and author references

Now, go to the Goodreads page for your book.

  1. First, copy the link for the page in the URL bar at the top of the web browser page, and then paste and replace the similar text that’s for A Darkening of Fortune.
  2. Secondly, return to your book page and right-click on the cover illustration (assuming you have one, which I strongly recommend you do). You’ll see an option to copy the image URL or link. Do that and then paste and replace the similar text that’s inside the double quotes with the “img” tag, for the “src” attribute.
  3. Finally, you need to include references to your book and yourself on Goodreads. So replace the references to my book and my name (by deleting them), and use the “add book/author” button just above the big text box for the post itself.

Once you’re done, select everything and paste your code inside the big text box and press the hardly visible “preview” link next to the “post” button, to make sure everything works. Doing this should help you avoid making a mess.

If you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll have a book announcement post that looks more presentable and professional.

If you’re stuck, don’t panic! reply in the comments and explain where you think you’ve gone wrong. I’m sure we can fix it.

Google make a spectacle of augmenting reality

Google have released a preview of Project Glass and a glimpse into a world where they see people wearing spectacles designed to specifically make use of augmented reality.

Sound familiar? Maybe not to you, but to me, it’s nothing new or particularly ground breaking, as it’s something I wrote about many years ago, which I dubbed “pre-vision” because no one had yet coined the aforementioned phrase:

“Truly useful technology is often passive, working away tirelessly, doing whatever is required to be done, to be invoked at a time of our choosing.

An example of persistently good passive technology — both from a solutions and an ergonomic point of view — would be a pair of spectacles. These things have been around for centuries and their design has varied little, the same being true of our facial physiology, to which spectacles are specifically designed for.

Our view of the world is always a sensorial affair, but our world is predominantly defined by our view of things, in a very literal sense, which makes these remarkable gadget glasses so appropriate.”

More recently, I included my take on the technology in A Darkening of Fortune, my next science fiction crime thriller:

“Those from the affluent parts of Asia are often the most distinctive, as many would be seen wearing spectacles, though not for opthalmic relief, but as an aide to their viewing pleasure, supplanting hand-held devices and supplementing their vision. They instead see the always-on digitally augmented brave new world, an enriched sprawl of virtual overlaying the real, as street performers walk through imaginary rooms made visible, which slide about their bodies as if they were the centre of motion, and interactive banner adverts, hanging the length of buildings, billowing in the wind, with children jumping up to touch them, just to see the cartoon characters chase each other up the immaterial fabric, laughing as they go, advertising the culinary delights found within one of the many Asian restaurants.

A young girl ushers her friends into a giggling huddle as she stands before them, and with the thumb of one hand to the forefinger of the other, she makes a landscape frame in front of her, and with a blink, she takes a photograph. A human gesture, when observed by the ever vigilant gaze of technology, is empowered in a myriad ways these days.”

Welcome to an alternate, virtually real world…

Project Status — The Fly

I’m working on a kind of superhero story, provisionally called The Fly. The story is kind of a cross between Iron Man and Batman, but the principle character isn’t a multibillionaire; he’s just a guy caught up in the middle of a huge social upheaval that he’s trying to help fix, but isn’t as proficient as the aforementioned superheroes. Anyway, I’ve got what I call the “chronology” built to the half-way stage, and most of the villain’s criminal intentions built up.