Monthly Reads – July 2017

So, I kept up my 1+ chapter a day reading (usually just before going to bed) and I’ve finished reading Snow Crash. In addition, I’ve played catch up with my X-Men reading, and have finished off the third volume of Death Note (a series that’s still keeping me gripped).

I need to get into better practice at writing book reviews so, with that in mind, I shall review Snow Crash….

July reads

Hiro Protagonist; hacker, pizza delivery driver for the Mafia, and soon to be the saviour of the US … or what’s left of it. Brace yourself for Sumerian and Samari swords!

I won’t go too much into the story. If you want a summary, you can read the book blurb, or check it out Wikipedia. Basically, there’s a virus that can affect hackers by rewriting their brains, it’s about to be let loose on the US’ general populous, and only our ‘Protagonist’ can stop it.

I suppose you could say that Snow Crash occurs in an alternative reality. The America of the 21st century in Snow Crash is a hell of a lot different than what we actually see, with much of America having been taken over by sovereign territories and franchises. Yet some of the ‘futuristic’ tech seen in the narrative can be seen around us today (or is in development). Take the Metaverse. It speaks of a mashup between Second Life and virtual reality; an immersive virtual world entered via customisable avatars. The wheels on Y.T.’s skateboard? They sound very similar to the idea shown in this video.

So, despite the landscape being very different, the tech aspects of the story are actually quite believable.

Snow Crash was, as I’ve mentioned previously, my first foray into cyberpunk, and overall, I found it to be quite an enjoyable read, however, I do have a couple of gripes.

Firstly, the story rests on the idea of an ancient virus being transmitted either visually (in the case of hackers), physically (via drugs), or verbally. Ignoring whether this would actually be possible (it is fiction after all), the hows and why of the ‘virus’ lead to some rather intensive, theology-driven chapters, incorporating Sumerian history, myths and legends, and at times, I felt I was reading a religious education textbook, as opposed to cyberpunk. I’m guessing Hiro had a background in R.E., because I was completely lost at times.

My other grumble is with the developing backstory of Hiro and Y.T., or rather, the lack of it. The two characters become a team, hunting for information to sell to the CIC, yet this part of their narrative wasn’t covered very much. I guess quite a bit of time passed with them working together, yet what they did seemed, for the most part, not worth covering, so this meant their closeness as friends came across as quite forced.

It also took me a while to get to grips with the tech-derived lingo, and settle into the narrative, but once things got going I enjoyed the story. Would I recommend it to other readers? Hacker-infused theology reading aside, as a first delve into cyberpunk, it was entertaining, so I’d say, “give it a go!”

Next up … Social Engineer (Brody Taylor Thrillers, #1)

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Monthly Reads – June 2017

I’ve decided to put my re-read of Harry Potter on hiatus (I’m half way through the Goblet of Fire) and try something. What with seeing Ghost in the Shell a while back, and studying Information Computer Technology with the Open University, I had a hankering to try a Cyberpunk novel.

I’ve never read Cyberpunk before, so didn’t know where to start. Cue a lot of Googling of recommendations and reviews, after which, I decided that Post-Cyberpunk sounded like my kind of trope.

“Whereas cyberpunk is/was a Darker and Edgier riposte to older Science Fiction, intended to portray what might happen if we don’t all destroy ourselves, Post-Cyberpunk is intended to present a less pessimistic and more realistic vision.” tvtropes.org

Actually, Ghost in the Shell is considered Post-Cyberpunk(ish), so that helped affirm my choice. The TVTropes page also had a helpful list of media in this genre, and amongst the books was a title I’d seen elsewhere: Snow Crash.

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“The only relief from the sea of logos is within the well-guarded borders of the Burbclaves. Is it any wonder that most sane folks have forsaken the real world and chosen to live in the computer-generated universe of virtual reality? In a major city, the size of a dozen Manhattans, is a domain of pleasures limited only by the imagination. But now a strange new computer virus called Snow Crash is striking down hackers everywhere, leaving an unlikely young man as humankind’s last best hope.” Amazon

So this is what I’m reading this month. The main character’s name is Hiro Protagonist, which is as daft as you can get, but I’m trying to look past that. I’ve only managed to get a few chapters in so far, but I’m holding myself to reading a chapter a night before bed. It’s been quite entertaining in places so far, so I’m hoping for a good read. I’ll keep you posted as to what I thought of it.

Anyone out there read Snow Crash? If so, what did you think?

Novel Update

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Well, I have finally managed my first readthrough of my 3rd novel’s typescript, so now comes more typing. I’ve done a few edits here and there when time allowed, but with the reading part out the way, the process kicks up a notch as I focus all my attention on adding, subtracting, moving, and fretting over passages. It will be the first of around six re-writes, possibly more, but with each one becoming less a ‘slash and burn’ job, and more a ‘tweak here and there’ job.

Quite frankly, the whole editing business of writing sucks. You get to a point where you start hating the very thing you gave birth to, and begin second-guessing everything you’ve written. But for me, it sucks in a different way.

I like to read. I like adding to my reading goal list in Goodreads (didn’t do one this year, unsurprisingly). I like being able to show the world that yes, unlike President Trumpf, I read….and enjoy reading. I am a bookworm, loud and proud! Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to put that I’ve read my typescript for the umpteenth time. No, I may not be reading someone else’s novel, but I sure as hell #amreading.

Panic Stations!

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Well these past couple of weeks have been a bit of a freak out. After a stream of application rejections, one suddenly came up golden, leaving me to plan a trip up to Edinburgh, and create an award-winning presentation all in one week. Why is it the jobs I REALLY want, a) accept my application so I have to make a fool of myself at an interview, and b) require me to do a presentation. As if interviews aren’t bad enough for the socially anxious/awkward. It was like the St. Andrews University job all over again, and ho boy, did I die a death there!

Still, for a week I juggled a university TMA assignment with creating a presentation on critiquing the company’s social media account, and what I would do to enhance it. That was all fun and games!

Then this socially anxious bundle of nerves headed north for a stress-filled visit to my favourite city in the UK.

First came train problems. A signal failure down the line meant my connection in Llandudno was delayed by 10 minutes. I had a second connection at Warrington Bank Quay, with, you guessed it, a 10 minute gap between arrival and departure. I don’t know how the driver and conductor managed it, but he made up six minutes, giving me enough time to arrive and pee before my next train. Phew!

The weather was dry, but clearly cold, as the snow-capped mountains en route attested to.

It's a wee bit cold in Scotland 🏔⛄🌨 #scenery #scotland #snow #mountains #snowymountains #snowy #cold

A post shared by Kate Llewellin (@kllewellin_cetologist) on

The evening saw me at the Holiday Inn, eating hummus sandwiches using a chocolate wrapper as a plate, while I caught up with my social media stuff, and occasionally reviewing my presentation. That was until the power suddenly went out at 8:45. What was even more fun that the hotel’s water supply seems to be reliant on electric, so I had no drinkable water either. Defeated, I went to bed early. Was woken at 5am by the one light I’d accidentally left on suddenly springing to life. 8 hours it had taken them! The water took a little longer to recover. Brown’s okay only if it’s hot chocolate or coffee. Still, at least the radiator wasn’t reliant on electric, and I stayed toasty, while outside it hit zero. And as I lay in bed, the gibbons in the zoo next door began their eerie dawn chorus. Kinda like this….

The interview happened. I’ve had worse (*cough* *St Andrews* *cough*). Could’ve done a whole load better. Did learn one thing, and that was the zoo had a power cut too, so I doubt I’ll be able to get a refund for my shitty night.

So now it’s a waiting game for the next week until I hear back that I haven’t got it.

Novel update:

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That’s a whole load of paper!

After giving my manuscript the once over with the spellchecker and grammar checker, I’ve finally printed it out for its first read through. Ah, the first read through…when you’ve realised everything you’ve written sounds like crap! The joys and self-doubts of being a writer!

 

Hashtag Change – Subtitle: #AmEditing

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So this week has been a week of starting new things.

First up, my Open University course, and I spent Sunday making my way through the introductory guide book to my first module. Credit where credit’s due, the OU sets their course out in such a way you’re eased into things. It may seem a bit ‘baby being spoon fed’ at times, but I think it’s an important method for those who’ve been away from studying for a while (2003 MSc graduate y’all!). The first block of the module is annotated with pointers in the margin, reminding you to make notes in your Learning Journal, or highlighting where a good place to take a break in the text is, and the first two Tutorial Assessments have an entire week devoted to them so you’re not rushed. There are also moments set out to re-evaluate your learning, through their Module Review Form, which makes you think about why you’re learning, and what parts are important to you. In a way, helping to keep you motivated. Later on in your studies you’re left to your own devices, but the idea is that the first few weeks you use the pointers to help get back into the swing of things, and studying eventually becomes easier. To be honest, having read through the guide, I’m quite excited now. I went to Tesco’s over the weekend and bought some cheapo highlighters, folders, and dividers, and I’m all ready to go. With my dummy assignment already in the bag I kinda got the urge to start early, that way I have a few days leeway should anything go tits-up or, who knows, a miracle happens and I get a job interview.

Second up, my novel writing, alluded to by this blog’s title. Yep, I’ve gone from #AmWriting to #AmEditing. It’s been what? About a year? I averaged about 3,000 words a week, and my manuscript stands at 140,279 words. Actually, there’s still some more writing to come. A few of the chapters need a proper ending, and descriptions will need to be buffed up (you writers out there will know the kind of things I mean), however, the bulk is D.O.N.E! The last few days have been a general editing of the format, as well as a quick spelling and grammar check, but now I get to put the damn thing a way and not touch it for a few weeks. That way, when I come to the first read through, I’m going at it fresh.

Actually the timings have worked out quiet nicely, what with finishing my manuscript just before I start trying to learn how to study again. This way, I can give my studies a bit more attention. Me in January 2017 is certainly seeing some changes.

But as good things start, so good things end, and after just three episodes, we say a (possibly) final goodbye to Sherlock. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the season. I did feel the final part was not its strongest. It seemed to be along the lines of the Crystal Maze meets Saw. Not really ‘Sherlocky’ in my opinion. The ending was rushed and a bit muddled. John (should have if they’d paid attention to the script) got his feet ripped off, and the pyrotechnic special effects were laughable (I guess they blew the budget on aerial shots of The Island). Still, it was nice to see more of Mycroft. He can certainly strap on a pair when he sees fit. Hopefully we’ll see more of Sherlock in the future. Maybe not as a series, if rumours are to be believed, but the occasional Xmas special wouldn’t go amiss. Fingers crossed hey!?

Imaging the Races – a new Approach

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about how I brought my alien races visually to life through the use of a site called TekTek. Doing so let me get a better feel for the different races, and allowed me to quickly write descriptions of their looks without having to trail through paragraphs of previously created descriptive metaphors. Several of these images can be found on my Meet the Races page, where I’ve gone into more detail about some of the more common alien species in my novels.

Since then, TekTek has become defunct. Because politics. Which had left me in a bit of a pickle when it came to creating more characters, as I had no good way of drawing them. Throwing together a few exoplanets in GIMP is surprisingly a hell of a lot easier than drawing hands, faces, feet and everything in between. I am not a good artist.

Help came with a bittersweet aftertaste. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother died not too long ago, and it was my responsibility as her only child to go through all her stuff, chucking out the unusable, sending good stuff to charity, and rescuing some of my old childhood tat. Amongst my teddies and ornaments were, miraculously, two folders full of old science fiction sketches I’d done when younger. I vaguely remembered them, and had hoped they were still around, though honestly, I’d forgotten how full they were. There were spaceships, aliens, Human characters, animals, and planetary backdrops. I’d been quite prolific!

Many of the animals, ships and landscapes had been drawn free hand. A lot were still unfinished, and were only outlines, but many were coloured and complete. The humanoid aliens had been created by tracing over a couple of fashion model templates I’d nicked from school (FYI, they were only a couple of photocopied pieces of paper. It was hardly an arrestable offence), and this had allowed me to create better sketches.

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An example of one of the model templates

I spent a good couple of months scanning each sketch into my computer, and now I have more aliens, people, and creatures than I know what to do with. However, as my novels progress, I can look to these sketches, and finally weave these characters into the narrative that has been in my mind since creating them. Thank you younger self!

Still Grinding

My first (official) WordPress post was going to be a summary of what’s been going on with me, but then America happened. *Sigh*.  Anyhow, here I am, back blogging, for who knows how long.

It’s been a rough couple of years, and it’s still going on. My only parent, my mum, died in 2015, as did my 5 year relationship. I ended up stuck in Holland, still living with my ex, because poverty. Finally managed to move back to the UK in the spring of this year, and have spent my time looking for work, while crashing in the spare room of another ex. Oh yes, and all my stuff is still in Holland. So yay! Basically it’s been a couple of years of fluctuating stress and depression, further added to recently by the stupidity of the masses.

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Yeah, this is like totally my workspace (*eye roll*)

Still, during the times of uncertainty, I’ve managed to drag myself in front of my computer screen to write. Plugging on, 500 words a day, has brought me to 111,997 words in my third novel, with more to go. At this rate, I’ll probably publish my novel late next year, early the year after. Hardly a fast turn around, but then I’m not the type of writer who quickly churns half-arse books out for a quick buck.

As for why I’m on WordPress now, well I’ve finally stopped holding out. A lot of organisations use this blogging platform, so it’s really something I should get practice in, especially as I want to move into communications as a career choice. I have less control over the HTML, which is a bummer (no scripts in my posts), and it’s control panel is not the easiest to navigate and figure out, but it does provide a nice clean layout. To be honest, I probably got carried away with HTML and CSS on my other pages, which made things too busy. Minimalism looks more professional. So I’ve pulled everything over from Blogger and Tumblr, which I might add was actually easy once I found the option, and WordPress even brought my separate Tumblr pages over, which was nice.

Now I just need to put into practice what I learnt via Google’s Digital Garage, get a nice following, and try and translate that into more book sales. No pressure!

To end this post off, a bit of fun courtesy of Nukazooka