Category Archives: 2016

Gallery

Winter 1 December 2nd 2016

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Hello Dear Reader Having decided to post a few pictures from time to time, here is my first true photo blog. I hope to learn and create better pictures. Here are the first few.             … Continue reading

Close-up Challenge 1

Hello Dear Reader

Close-up Challenge 1

I have been playing with a new lens recently. Photography, I think, is like writing, everyone wants to take pictures from  time to time but only a percentage ever shows off. That percentage, is of course, millions of people. Now with the likes of various sites and apps on the interweb, phones, camera etc, photographs appear like writing.

So today I am adding to that mix with this offering and a challenge. How close can you go?

 

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What can you do or find? It’s interesting to see how close you can get with a camera these days and just how detailed everything is.

Enjoy and go shooting.

(All pictures Copywrite of course)

Tagline: ‘I am ready for my close-up now’

Strange Affairs

Hello Dear Reader

Doctor Strange

The Marvel universe is now complete, at least for me. I have read comics since I was 4 or 5, as my granddad owned a newsagent shop and we lived there. I grew up surrounded by them, Dandy, Beano, Hotspur and more. As I understood more about comics I found Marvel and DC, their characters had something different, something more. One character stood out for me, Doctor Strange.

He first appeared back in July 1963, so technically I am almost one year older. I started reading his stories mid 70’s along with others. What drew me to him was magic. Strange controlled powers beyond what others had, like the X-Men and Ironman. He went to places in the comics that were out of this world and out of the earthly plane. His powers were both mystical and physical something that you felt you could almost obtain if you knew where to look.

Doctor Strange did not have the greatest of starts, as far as the comic book world was concerned. Going up against established characters even back then, took time to break into the mainstream. For me, he had something different. I did not quite understand it at that point but he was vulnerable, unlike other Marvel characters. You did not need money, be a brilliant engineer or have different genes in order to save the world and universe. Strange was human.

He grew in popularity within the comic world but never like others. Never reaching that real pinnacle of the top Marvel character. Yet I saw him as the one who could step in at the end and save everyone even if that meant true self-sacrifice. The problem with most of the comic characters is how to kill them off without killing them off. In comics, their lifespan is never-ending since they just don’t need to get old. You age, they don’t or can’t.

Comics faced their own enemy in the form of a rival for attention. That of television. In the past, cinema had tried and to a degree sort of won, but comics could create fantasies that movies found hard to reproduce. Also, they were mainly in black and white, whereas comics had bold colours. Enter the 70’s. Television finally started to get it’s comic heroes and picked on a few it thought it could handle. There was an attempt to produce a number of series, Doctor Strange was picked as a character that could be done. There was a TV film, I know I have a copy of it. Of course here is the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strange_(film). It was ok but sadly or not, picked up. The studio picked the Hulk instead.

Move forward to now and how the cinema can make comics come alive. Marvel, as I have said before, have understood how to use this medium to basically make comics grow again. They have planned, properly. When Doctor Strange was announced as a project I was keen to see how who and what they would do. It was not long before we knew who was playing the main role, that of Steven Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch. Interesting choice? That name immediately drew attention and hope that such an actor would and could pull off this role. Gone were the days that comic book characters did not attract top names. Money helps of course. But there is that global element. You get everywhere.

The movie was something I thought might never be made. It was made and I have seen it.

Strange Affairs

Spoilers, of course, come next.

Doctor Strange is brilliant. The costume, perfect. The look of Cumberbatch as Strange, perfect. The right amount of everything, perfect. At least for me. There has been some talk about a so-called gaff from another movie; Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you really listen to the scene in question the clues are all there for it not to be a gaff. Insight sees past and future problems. Keyword – future.

Enough of that as I really don’t think it’s worth more than that. I am sure others will try and argue but I am happy.

The set design, story, music are as they have been now, just comic book and more. Now the cinema can really make the comic stories come alive. As with all these movies, you can’t spend hours going over the hundreds of comic pages to tell every element nor should they. That is the comics job. It has the time and space to do that. The movie should grab you, pull you in and make you want to read more.

The assembled cast is brilliant. The production brilliant. Even the little hints at where this takes place is cleverly done if you listen. There is a car ride and the clue is there. The story is woven from a number of the comic stories which is fine and moves the action along at the right pace.

You also need to stay until the end. Really the end. Marvel and others have been putting little end clips which are gems. The first ending is just neat. The second ending is the cliffhanger. Stay in your seat, it’s worth it.

Doctor Strange was a hit for me. My favorite Marvel character came to life. It might be my favorite movie. But then again I have to wait to the next one. And the next.

How would I rate this movie? 10 out of 10.

Tagline: ‘The Doctor will see right through you now’

 

DST50

Hello Dear Reader

DST50

What might you ask is DST50? Well, this weekend a 50th birthday (of sorts) was celebrated at the NEC Birmingham. Star Trek, one the top five sci-fi franchises reached 50 years. DST50 was Destination Star Trek 50. I had known about this for some time, both the birthday and event, however, I was unsure about returning to something of my past.

Confession. I used to go to Trek conventions and they were always damm good fun. Held in hotels for the main (apart from one brilliant holiday camp), hundreds of Trek fans would gather to watch episodes new and old, see actors, new and old and meet friends, yes new and old. It was very British in how the conventions were run. Groups of fans bid for the rights and they were voted for by fans.

I do have something of a minor reputation in that at two separate conventions I slightly raised my profile. Although no-one really knew, I believe that due to a very interesting phone call with the BBC, I managed to convince a deputy controller (how I got through one only knows) that the end of season 3 Next Gen was a cliffhanger. How I knew that was through a convention. My other claim to fame was speaking out in a group discussion at a convention. I thought Start Trek Next Gen (not seen in the UK at the time) was basically Roddenberry’s way of exploring future history. My argument was based on naval history. There had been, for example, many ships called Ark Royal, all having different Captains and crew. All Next Gen was doing, was taking that same idea and moving forward from the original series. I was almost given the odd ‘phaser’ stare until a close friend of Roddenberry’s stated that was what he was trying to achieve.

So, many years and many conventions later we reached DST50. Let me say that, somethings move on, it’s right and proper. I made the decision to go very late, in fact with three days to go. On Sunday I did sort of get excited to revisit something of my youth. But, as I walked in I could feel bits missing. This convention was in one of the big NEC halls, not the confined space of a hotel. It was open, way too open for my liking. I needed that hotel feeling I guess. Yet, Star Trek was there. The fans, the costumes, replica sets, back to the old and new. The line-up of actors huge and some I had not seen before. A few friends thought it would be crowded, but no, there was room in fact at times I missed the crush of a small space to watch an episode.

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I did get a buzz, I enjoyed one talk in particular, ‘For the Love of Spock’. That for me was the highlight and I made sure I grabbed my chance to say thank you to the host. Yet, friends were missing. It made me hanker for an old style convention. Staying up til 3am with a bunch of Klingon’s or drinking watching ‘The Doomsday Machine’ for the 10th time that weekend.

Some say (not that show), you can never go back. I disagree but then I would.

DST50 did what it said on the tin. It celebrated Star Trek at 50. Did I really enjoy the time travel? Yes, in a new way. Did it make me think of going back to conventions? Yes. Maybe time to do a little surfing.

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Tagline: ‘To boldly go where many of us went many times before’

My Writing Process

Hello All

My Writing Process

I recently posted a blog about my first e-book, Zen and The Art of Timetabling. Many have asked me about the process involved, in order to publish my book.

At first, I thought that was very easy to write. But then I tried to remember what my process actually was. I realised, to be honest, my process was very haphazard. In fact, I can learn from my chaos.

As I said before, I started the book more as rules and then kept going. I had no real process at the start, just writing. I suspect that is how many of us begin, just writing. The process started after I realised I had more than just a report, but not where I might have ended. After my first rough draft, the process began by mapping out what chapters I might need. This helped me construct the book and allowed me to focus on a variety of topics and subjects. Mind-mapping is key to any book I feel, it allows you to track characters, subject matter, scenes and more. Mine did not have characters as such, yet still needed that part.

Once I had completed the full first draft (I was unsure of how many times I would do this loop), I had on my hands a ‘product’. Again, looking back it is hard to describe anything I did next as a process. But I feel people can use my experience as the foundations of a process.

Here are some of the things I looked into after I finished my first draft;

Looked into editors and proof-readers

Looked into publishers

Looked into self-publishing

Looked at computer publishing software

Looked at sites such as Amazons KDP, Smashwords etc

Listed pros and cons of the above

Made notes on various companies based on information from the Internet, writing magazines and the Writers Artist Yearbook.

Set out my needs based on the above (what did I want?)

Set a budget

Get quotes

Make my decision

That is not what many would recognise as a process, however, it formed I guess the basis of my process when I look back. Being my first book, I did not have any idea about where this would take me. I know now I can do this a lot better given the experience. If I was to map out a process it would look something like this;

  • The Idea
    • Which idea are you going to write about?
  • The Synopsis
    • This gives you the scope, creates the boundaries and can be used later
  • The Map
    • This shows you the paths, the characters, places and let’s you time travel. It can be as simple as the chapter headings as I used. I added a brief note which made it simple to expand or move information as needed.
  • The Draft
    • Sounds obvious and it is. It’s the place at which you decided to go forward, rewrite (you will edit later) or maybe save for another day.
  • The publication route
    • So you now have reached the point where you want to publish. The list I mentioned I would say is a one-time in-depth deal. You can do that before you write. What this point means is are you self-publishing or finding a publisher.
  • The Edit
    • I know I am stating the obvious but you can either do this yourself or spend some money and get a professional independent view. I did the latter and it proved to me I had something worth publishing. You will revisit this a few times.
  • The Publisher
    • If you pick self-publishing there are two routes here; you do all the work or you go to a company that will publish you. This is different from a publisher. You can just create a Word or Scriber document and place it onto the web. You may get something from it or not. You won’t have an ISBN, maybe a cover, maybe some web presence. That’s your choice. If however, you pick a self-publishing company, they can help get you an ISBN, create a cover, place your book in the right spots. With the company I used YPS, I retained all rights both as the author and publisher. My book sits in the British Library (very proud) and I have a presence on the web.
  • The Marketing plan
    • Just getting your book into Amazon or YPS Bookstore is one thing. You need a plan to sell it, push it to people, social media, a web site and whether you want hard copies or e-book.

I guess I could write a book on how I wrote the book. It feels like I have written so much more since I completed this. Yet I still am unsure of a fool-proof process that I used. What I have detailed is my best remembrance of all I did. There were hundreds of hours spent re-editing, checking proofs, approving covers, writing my biography and synopsis. Even writing this and something for two magazines has taken time.

Would I do this again? Yes. Have I learnt what to do better next time? Yes. Would I encourage anyone with a book in mind to try this? Yes.

I hope this helps.