Camp NaNoWriMo July Update

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In actual fact, I’ve written quite a lot of words this month. Unfortunately, very few of them are even remotely related to Camp NaNo; although I suppose given the somewhat nebulous goal I set myself to do something writing-related every day, I could count them. But of course, I couldn’t possibly cheat at the noble institution of NaNoing.

What I do have, however, is a bit more of Countless as the Stars ebook-ready (it could even happen before NaNo proper!) and a bunch of scribbled ideas for short stories – including, intriguingly, several variations one vague but fun idea that I’ve had for a while. So part of Camp NaNo has become a series of short stories, all with the same idea at their core, but in a range of sub-genres on the spec-fic scale. Part of me wants to give them all the same title too, but of course that would be lunacy.

Oh, and there’s a daikaiju story in the offing too; I literally just gave myself the idea of launching that for Godzilla’s 60th birthday (which also coincides with NaNoWriMo, fact fans). Actually, I should probably have Hex Drive (or as it may now be called, Tyrannosaurus Hex) ready for then too, as it has a, well, Tyrannosaurus in it.

So, it seems most of my Camp NaNo word count has actually gone on a massive to-do list of writing projects… which I suppose means that I should be writing.

Tuesday Tunes: Daikaiju

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I have no idea why I didn’t do this sooner.

Daikaiju – the monster surf rock band who turn out to be from somewhere in the vicinity of Huntsville, Alabama, and not from Japan after all – have been serenading me on an almost weekly basis for about seven years, thanks to the podcasty awesomeness of Escape Pod (which, as an aside, if you are not currently familiar with, you should visit now. Well, finish reading this, then go visit), but I have only just made the inexplicably surprising discovery that they can also be spotified.

And so, without even knowing how monster surf rock can be an actual thing, I have let it join the increasingly eclectic ‘writing music’ area of my spotify manor.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that daikaiju is Japanese for ‘giant monster’ which is why the songs on the band’s self-titled debut album have names such as The Trouble With Those Mothra Girls, Attack of the Crab Women and Farewell to Monster Island. Also Sharkakahn, which is an 80s pop pun par excellence. None of which has anything to do with the music, which is basically just a modern take on the kind of surf music that belongs in the 60s or Pulp Fiction.

The aforementioned debut album starts with Daikaiju Die!, which they evidently don’t, because they rattle through eight more 3-ish minute instrumental tracks and then suddenly change gear, closing with Farewell To Monster Island, 8 minutes and 26 seconds of chilled out, reggae-tinged surf guitar which, frankly, should be part of the soundtrack to any summer (and from now on, will be).

The band’s second album, Phase 2, is… well let’s face it, it’s more of the same: short, sharp bursts with mad drums, epic guitars, no words and titles that sound like a SyFy B-movie – opening with Escape From Nebula M Spacehunter, taking us through Laser Runner and Forcefield Lifts Over Neon City before closing with Zombie Harem. how can you not love Daikaiju on the basis of that alone?

Za Feijingu Supaidaa Kyoui, which I realise is probably something incredibly rude in Japanese, and Choujikuu Mitsukai will be familiar to Escapodians; while the brilliantly named Jellyfish Sunrise reprises the mellow dub sound (and epic length) of Farewell…, and Forcefield Lifts Over Neon City opens a bit like The Jam’s Start!, but then wanders off into surf rock territory, then builds up to some epic prog-rock guitar moments before calming back down again and fading into the background.

This is all just fun music that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but which is, to my admittedly untrained, pretty darned good. And, because it’s instrumental, makes great writing music – at last while writing fun scenes about giant monsters and zombie harems.

Stand-out tracks: Farewell to Monster Island is like nothing else on Daikaiju; while Forcefield Lifts Over Neon City is probably the peak of Phase 2.

Listen along

Get a copy




Linky goodness

daikaiju.org
escapepod.org

It begins…. (again)

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As I write this, we are just two (count ’em) hours shy of Camp NaNoWriMo’s July session. And, yes, despite (or perhaps because of) not having the time to keep this blog afloat for the last two months, I’m going to jump right in and give it another shot.

Officially (i.e. what my Camp NaNo profile says) I am writing ‘v=u+at And Other Tall Stories’, a 20,000 word collection of erratic short stories.

Such a collection may indeed come to pass; however my main aim for July is to do something – anything, no matter how small – connected to writing, editing or indeed publishing, every day during the month. Which, given that the month includes a family holiday, may end in divorce. Who knows, such is the nature of erratic fiction.

In all seriousness, however, I have Bit #2 of The Ambivalence Chronicles, which epically failed to get written during April, to carry on writing. I have The Ballad Of Matthew Smith to edit. And I have the forthcoming (or at least, fifth or sixth-coming) Countless as the Stars ebook to finish preparing. Some of the writing will just be blog posts, reviews etc to get some fresh content going out here, but it’s all writing, and that’s the sole aim. And then, at some point, I should probably get a functioning shop on the website again.
 
So, that’s what I’m doing for the next month; who knows, I may even remember to post some of my adventures here as I go…

CSFF Blog Tour: Dream Treaders

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So, with internet issues resolved, and having gotten over last month’s accidental reviewing of the actual book in question, it’s time to take a step back and lurk once more at the back of the tour, heckling those who are taking it all far more seriously.

Like Jeff Chapman, who has an interview with the author, as does Jennette Mbewe.

And of course there are plenty of reviews to help you if you wonder whether the adventures of a dream-hopping teenager would be your thing, for instance this one, that one, and the other one for starters.

As ever, there’s plenty more on the tour, get clicky with the sidebar or stop off at tour guide Becky Miller’s blog for direct links to the post on the tour as well as her always insightful, er, insights.

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes: Dream Treaders

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Really, Wayne Thomas Batson? You really had to make your new YA fantasy series about dreams? I mean, you know how many songs there are about dreams, right? Oh well, may as well skip to the good bit… this week the tour is for Dream Treaders, which presents such a mind-bogglingly vast range of possible tunes I have been forced to go off at a tangent and find a selection of cover versions, tenuous links and obscure tracks by my favourite artists: it’s, well, Ten Songs About Dreams.

10. Oceanic – Insanity
Sorry about this, but the song that jumped straight into my head when I saw the title Dream Treaders was this piece of 90s rave-cheese. About dream tripping, which is presumably a clumsy form of dream treading.

9. T-Rex – Teenage Dream
Marc Bolan covering a Katy Perry song? Sounds like a dream to me.

8. R.E.M. – I Don’t Sleep, I Dream
Obviously there had to be an R.E.M. song on the list. This seemed an appropriate choice.

7. Jon Hassell & Brian Eno – Delta Rain Dream
This possible music is liable to make you fall into REM sleep.

6. Lauren O’Connell – All I Have to Do Is Dream
I don’t know who she is either, but I do like a good cover version, and this is one.

5. Meat Loaf – California Dreamin’
Because all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey. And because cover versions are cool.

4. D:Ream – Things Can Only Get Better
Yeah it’s a cheeseboard, but it’s a feelgood cheeseboard. And hey, things did get better, at least for the keyboard player who went on to become Professor Brian Cox from off of the telly.

3. The Orb – The Dream
I got my degree from the Future Academy of Noise, Rhythm and Gardening. Or, was that just a dream?

2. The Kinks – Only A Dream
It’s only The Kinks. Only still making good tunes in 1993.

1. Emily Browning – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Don’t let the barely audible start fool you, this is a cover version that goes all over the place.

So there you go; enjoy the playlist, and don’t forget to follow the tour for Dream Treaders in the sidebar.

The best laid plans

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I know, right? A blog post turns up out of nowhere promising all manner of exciting content to follow, and then I disappear off the face of the Earth.


To cut a short story long, our broadband router died, and due to the somewhat unhelpful policy of certain broadband providers not to replace faulty equipment (although I was helpfully offered an extended warranty) I was forced, by virtue of not wishing to pay anyone £75 just for the privilege of continuing to pay them money, to switch providers. No names, no pack drill, but if I just updated you to my sky.com email address, prepare to be updated to a virginmedia.com address shortly (unless the landline continues to not work, in which case anything could happen).

But that’s another story, and what I should really be doing is talking about the story Dream Treaders by Wayne Thomas Batson, because it is, in fact, time for another of those Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour Thingies.

It goes without saying, of course, that I haven’t read this book. I have, however, read the blurb on amazon and it sounds like it might not be all that bad. Well, any story which recognises the inherent awesomeness of being English must have something worth saying, right?

It also sounds a little like Inception for a younger audience, and presumably with some sort of Christian message somewhere in the trilogy. I guess we’ll have to follow the tour (links in the sidebar) to find that out though.

This week, I have been mostly…

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Working on the day job, recovering from Camp NaNoWriMo failure and having another of my occasional blog hiatuses. Hiati? Breaks. But now I’m back. So, to recap, I have also been…

Writing.

Just not very much, that’s all. In fact my Camp NaNo project, Bit #2 of The Ambivalence Chronicles, clocked in at around 10,000 out of my 20,000 word target – and about 80% of that was irrelevant or just plain crap. Still, I have used what was worth keeping to try and flesh out the wider series arc a little, and who knows, maybe I’ll take another run at it for the July Camp session.
 

Editing.

The typo edit for Countless as the Stars is, finally, complete! So the aim is to get the thing formatted into a nice e-book, with a nice cover, and prepare to take amazon by storm! Probably.
 

Planning.

Continued planning for The Ambivalence Chronicles – and I suppose I should come up with a plan for November before Halloween too, if I’m to take this writing lark at all seriously.
 

Website building.

Nothing visible at the moment, the main problem at the moment being the absence of a functioning shop page, which is an irritating detail I am busy trying a few alternatives for size, hopefully to be in place again before the alleged ebook launch. In the meantime, anybody wishing to acquire a paperback copy of Countless as the Stars should email sales@stevetrower.com – still at giveaway prices of course.
 

Coming soon…

The Great Red Dwarf Re-Watch will kick off again with Series IV, the Kinks retrospective will resume tomorrow, and I’ve been watching a lot of classic Doctor Who recently, so expect plenty of reviews. And besides that, anything else I decide to vent about…

Book Review: Numb by John W Otte

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Way back in the dark ages – 2006 – when I first started blogging, there was a distinct lack of Christian science fiction available, at least in the way I defined those things at the time. That situation has improved slightly over the years, and the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour has brought a few works to my attention that suit my taste, but even so what I really want to read is a good story with a Christian message and a few awesome spaceships. Is that too much to ask?

Well, not any more, because with Numb, John Otte has delivered just that. And, despite my perhaps unfairly high expectations, done rather a good job of it too.

Numb is the story of Crusader, an otherwise anonymous assassin, whose God-given gift of numbness – an inability to feel either physical pain or emotion – makes him the ideal person to exercise God’s wrath on whatever heretic or unbeliever his superiors decide are most deserving of judgement.


The story is set in an ostensibly black and white universe, in which the religious Ministrix, for whom Crusader does the dirty work, and the more atheistic Praesidium are the two dominant (and obviously feuding) forces. Hidden between and among these two superpowers, however, are shades of grey – heretics, not welcome in either place – and it is one such heretic, Isolda Westin, who turns Crusader’s life upside down when she is made his next target.

For reasons initially unknown to Crusader, Isolda seems to bypass his divine numbness, triggering new feelings, and when she shows him that God is not the self-righteous bully the Ministrix has made Him out to be, he begins to dount his calling…

And, yes, there is a pan-galactic quest, on spaceships with tunnel drives and similar science fictiony goodness.

But it’s Crusader’s personal quest – save the girl, or save his soul? – that drives the story and gives us a means to explore this universe.

The exploration of Crusader’s numbness reflects the complexity of human emotions in a way that will probably strike a different nerve with every reader; an aspect that struck me was when Crusader is told:

Not everyone is warm. Not everyone is emotional. Do you suppose I experience many ‘warm fuzzy’ moments with God? But that doesn’t matter. Our relationship with God isn’t a matter of how we feel toward Him but how He feels toward us.

I should add that the story is far from preachy; Crusader’s discovery of who God is and who he, Crusader, really is unfold as part of the story, and conversations he has with ‘heretics’ – members of the true Church – bring these things out naturally.

I could say more – it’s that sort of book, one that provokes deeper thought and conversations, expresses truths through story and leaves them in the readers mind for later consideration. And that, I think, is what I have always wanted from Christian science fiction.

Well, that and spaceships.

CSFF Blog tour vs Tuesday Tunes: Numb

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You may not believe this, but even on the tour for a book with spaceships in it (that would be Numb, by John W Otte) I am still filling. In which spirit, brought to you at great expense from a secret location deep inside Praesidium space, here are the Top Ten Numb Songs:

10. Tricky – Numb
Tricky is a purveyor of softly spoken trip-hop in the Portishead style, although this track is less bass-heavy than some.

9. Diana Vickers – N.U.M.B.
X-Factor reject in quite good record shock!

8. Portishead – Numb
Portishead are also purveyors of the Portishead sound, and come from um, Portishead, actually.

7. The Cure – Numb
Taken from the 1996 album Wild Mood Swings, probably named after the bands tendency to swing wildly from miserable to utterly wretched.

6. R.E.M. – So Fast, So Numb
In the 90s I saw R.E.M. in concert in Cardiff. Which, by a curious coincidence, is just across the Severn Estuary from Portishead.

5. The Willows – Numb
There should be a law against folk music sounding this good. I’ll be listening to Radio 2 before you know it at this rate. Can we get a decontamination shower for my ears please?

4. Linkin Park – Numb
Californian nu metal band improbably named after Linkin Park, home ground of Portishead FC.

3. U2 – Numb
First single from the Zooropa album, with Eno-esque vocals by The Edge.

2. Rob Zombie – Feel So Numb
Robbing zombies was the number one crime in the Portishead area in 2012.

1. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
Awesome cover of the Scissor Sisters hit, with far better guitar solos. Pink Floyd, of course, are not from Portishead, but rumours persist that Roger Waters once bought a Ginsters Pork Pie at Gordano Services.

So there you go; enjoy the playlist, don’t use this post as research into the English port of Portishead, and follow the tour for Numb in the sidebar.

CSFF Blog Tour: Numb by John W Otte

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What? The blog tour again? I just did the last one! These things come round too quickly. Don’t people know I have a novella to write? Not to mention all this chocolate that isn’t going to eat itself. (Self-eating chocolate? How’s that for a sci-fi dieting aid? Maybe I’ll write it into that novel – can’t see any other use for such a thing.)

Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, Numb. A Christian speculative fiction story which, in a dramatic break with tradition, has spaceships in it. I know, right? Who came up with that crazy idea? Well, John W Otte, Lutheran minister currently residing in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two sons, in this case.

But we’re not here to talk about the author – he’s got a whole website for that – what’s this Numb book all about, besides Christians in space?


Save the girl…or his soul?

Crusader is numb. He feels neither emotion nor pain, a divine gift that allows him to be the Ministrix’s best assassin. Whether it’s heretics from within or heathen from without, Crusader is the sword in the True Church’s hand. And if he remains obedient to his superiors, he will be able to let go of his guilt.

But then he’s ordered to kill Isolda Westin. It shouldn’t be a problem. A target is a target. When Crusader sees Isolda’s image, though, something strange happens. He experiences a moment of panic, a wave of emotions, the first he’s felt in as long as he can remember.

In that moment, he realizes he can’t fulfill his mission. He can’t kill Isolda Westin, even if it means he’ll be condemned as an enemy of the Ministrix.

Soon Crusader and Isolda are on the run. Will they be able to learn why the Ministrix wants Isolda dead? Or will they both face the harsh justice of the “True Church”

Plus it’s got spaceships in it, did I mention that? I know they aren’t mentioned in the blurb, but I promise you they are there. Which of course can only mean one thing: I’m actually going to review the book. be rude not to, really, wouldn’t it?

But that, I’m afraid, will have to wait; for now, I should be writing reading.