Spectral Futures Pentology: a collection of short, near-future speculative fiction stories

‘Spectral Futures Pentology’ at Amazon.com

The ‘Spectral Futures Pentology’ title was released the other week. It contains five short, near-future speculative fiction stories that are unrelated in terms of their characters and worlds (all based on and around Earth), but they do share certain technology, ideas, and themes that are extended or modified, plus other themes that complement. This ultimately refers to the spectral aspect of the collection.

Also, I started out with the plan to write eight in total: the spectrum plus one containing ‘dark matter,’ so to speak, hence the colours on the covers. However, I’ve stopped writing fiction for the foreseeable future, so they probably won’t get written. At least, they won’t get written any time soon.

I know that readers generally don’t like short fiction, and that some would complain that each of these stories should really be novels, but that’s the style I like and the way I wanted to write them. They won’t ever get to be novels, and there was no chance of it ever happening, period.

I love short fiction (the way I wrote them here, anyway) because of the compact intensity of them and the fact that you can explore more contexts, themes and characters with the same total word count as longer works that are only of one story.

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Quality and quantity: on writing a million words to become an expert author

One million: the quantity benchmark

Why? (by Ksayer1, on Flickr, Creative Commons)

Why would that work? (by Ksayer1, on Flickr, Creative Commons)

Last week, I read a blog post and also a comment thread on a writing forum about honing your craft as a writer (I won’t provide links on this occasion because of the following…). The contention was that you need to write as much as possible and get to a million words. Then, you can continue on from there…

The author who quoted this was quite positive in his reference to the benchmark seemingly because he has just passed it.

Writing a lot of words is impressive. Frankly, I don’t know how people come out of the dark after only a few short years with hundreds of thousands of words drafted, edited and ready for publication.

Me? My first novel took me seven years and it was still only 50K! I thought I was doing much better when my second novel took 4 1/2 years and totaled 66K. I published them to Kindle one month apart in March and April 2012.

I thought that focusing on quality through drafting and editing repeatedly was what was going to get me there.

I was wrong.

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Morally complex characterisation: how to alienate moral conservatives from lead characters

New World Trilogy at Amazon.com

I wrote about the first reviewer of the ‘New World Trilogy’ in the last post because she had problems reading at the level of the text and jumped at the chance to blame the text and the author. Never mind, but it was an interesting representation of intellectual dishonesty.

What she went on to talk about that caught my eye was that she found the main character, Ikaros, to be unpalatable in various ways.

She stated the following:

“The main character Ikaros is an angry, arrogant, disgruntled, disillusioned, journalist who can see what few others can; that society/government/big business is destroying everything. He perceives the bulk of humanity as mindless sheep clinging to their meager lives as they are herded by the social elite. Something has to be done before it is too late and he is going to spearhead whatever it is. The problem is, in his quest to make the world his “better place” he conducts himself in a manner akin to that of those he claims to loathes. It makes it impossible to like him or his cause.” This is the link…

That should all be seen as referring to something negative, right?

Associating adjectives with the main character and reacting against plot structure

I find her comments particularly strange in various ways. Firstly, the character is fairly quiet and reserved; he doesn’t bounce around like he’s superior to others, and he isn’t presented with a quiet, stuck up, pretentious attitude that looks down on others because of any sense of superiority. You generally need this kind of thing to be considered arrogant.

‘Day Zero’ is the first book in the trilogy

What she seems to take offence to is the fact that the book takes the ‘one apart’ plot structure in some ways and the ‘one against’ plot structure in other ways. This means, as she suggests, that he takes on a position that is different to that of many in the world and opposes various things as well.

Where she seems to go wrong is the exaggeration of this. He’s not the only one; he’s the only one in his office, and he’s the main character. There’s a slight difference.

Moreover, he leaves the office early on in the novel and develops a list of allies throughout the remainder of the book.

This is a near-future world system novel; it would be absurd to be the only one in a future with billions more people than we have now.

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Self-centred perspectives and intellectual dishonesty in an Amazon review: the case of the first review for the ‘New World Trilogy’

Writing science fiction with a target reader in mind

When I started writing the near-future SF novel ‘Day Zero,’ it was before Amazon Kindle and I had no idea I would be publishing in that ecosystem over four years later.

‘Day Zero’ at Amazon.com

The book, which I turned into a trilogy with short story sequels, is a realist approach that explores events on and around Earth later this century. Because of my education and background, I thought that I should write it at a ‘sophisticated level’ in order to gain credibility as a ‘serious’ SF author; I even considered it to be my interpretation of modern ‘high’ SF.

This was a mistake. I mean, you can tell right away, can’t you?

What resulted was a book that no one wanted to read, partly because of my poor marketing skills, partly because of the demands of the modern reader, and partly because of the demands of the common reader at the bottom of the store, those who download free books and scrape cheap books, etc.

What’s more, the novel has received more returns from readers that any other book that I’ve published … even though that’s just a few. It’s particularly disheartening when that return is the only one ‘sold’ for that month. Gee…

Intellectual dishonesty: blaming the book for personal reading problems

But what got me intrigued was the first review of the trilogy set, which was needless to say, negative … and two stars, which is kind of common for me. It’s likely to have resulted from one of the free store promotions … overwhelmingly likely.

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Authors beware: vanity publishing is still BIG business (I thought it would be dead by now because of Amazon et al., but it’s not…)

What’s surprising about vanity publishing is that it’s still in business, yet what’s unsurprising about vanity publishing is that it’s still in business and big business.

It’s very disappointing.

Laying traps for hapless victims


Shame on vanity publishers. (PinkMoose, Flickr.com, Creative Commons)

When I started out in publishing with my first novel, I was easily taken in by a big vanity publisher, Trafford, and lost a lot of money for very little, well, next to nothing in return, really.

The experience was bad and it demonstrated to me how much ignorance plays a part in their business model: they basically just lay a trap on the Internet and haul in their victims.

That’s pretty hard to argue with.

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