Explore Space Now!

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Imagine travelling vast distances across space and time to explore alien worlds and distant galaxies. I know I do. Just about my favourite part of writing sci-fi is learning about the mysteries of the universe. I love everything from the serene to the deadly, the ugly to the awesome.

Which is why I find programs like Space Engine — http://en.spaceengine.org/ — so amazing. Check it out, it’s free. (Though when anyone offers a wonderful service for free, I always feel more inclined to donate to support their generous work.)

As it says on the site:

“A free space simulation program that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies. Areas of the known universe are represented using actual astronomical data, while regions uncharted by astronomy are generated procedurally. Millions of galaxies, trillions of stars, countless planets – all available for exploration. You can land any planet, moon or asteroid and watch alien landscapes and celestial phenomena. You can even pilot starships and atmospheric shuttles.”

Of course, reading about space or watching simulations always ends up leaving me wanting more! I want to go there in person. So then I start to write.

Everything I  learn about astrobiology and exo-planets I use to feed my world-building. I usually have to leave a lot out of the narrative, unfortunately. Back-story often clogs the pace and flow of action, however, it does help the writer build characters and shape drama.

Where a character comes from, their biology and their planet’s history will influence their interaction with other characters. Getting it across to the reader without info-dumping is the tricky part. Readers don’t need to know about the specifics of an alien planet’s geology and history, however you can imply a lot of information through characterisation. For example, a tall thin alien might come from a planet with a lower gravity than ours. This would also affect their movement, their sense of balance, their agility etc.

Of course, many would argue against the use of bipedal aliens in sci-fi. Many people complain that films and stories often assume that aliens would look like humans, but with funny noses or pointy ears.

I simply think we make aliens look human because we want to read human stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi that pushes the boundaries and dares to portray a more realistic vision of life in space. However, personally, I’m more interested in writing stories that are at their core, tales of adventure. I’m basically writing adventure-fantasy set in space and why not? I understand that some people want sci-fi to be hard and clean and technically 100% accurate, I love that stuff too. But why should ‘space’ be off limits for fantasy writers? Especially when no human, (as far as we know), has gone to other star-systems and met alien life? Isn’t it the ultimate fantasy?

We’re living in an exciting time for scientific discovery, but also for creative introspection. In a world where much has already been discovered, space truly is the final frontier. So get out there and explore!

 

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Words for Mum

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Today is my mother’s birthday.

Sadly she passed away in 2008, so she’s not here for me to share this day with her. However, she is still giving me love and inspiration daily as her influence lives on in all that I do. She was just about the most generous, loving person I’ve ever met. She always put others before her self. She always took the time to make everyone feel happy and loved. She was an endless joy.

Her passion was reading. While I love reading, I could never come close to the amount of book-time that she managed to clock up. Each day would begin and end with a book, and she rarely left home without one. I must confess that I didn’t read much in my youth. I read a lot of non-fiction while I was studying at university, but there were whole years where I didn’t touch a piece of fiction. She thought that meant that I didn’t like reading much, but that wasn’t the case. I am a creator and sometimes that makes me selfish with my time. Unfortunately, I’m a also a bit of a workaholic. I can only seem to find time to engage in leisure activities when they directly support my work. When I was a musician, I listened to a lot more music. Now that I work on films, guess what? I watch a lot of films! So, it’s only now that I’m pursuing writing as a craft, that I can make more time for reading. I only started writing seriously in 2010, so my mother missed out on seeing me truly enjoy books.

My mother always wanted to write a book. I often suggested that she should try, but I think the mystery of ‘how would I even go about trying to get it published?’ held her back. (That, and she was busy raising four kids and working as a language teacher). If she were alive now, I’d absolutely force her to give it a crack.

I wish she was around to share ideas with. She would have loved to explore the challenge of publishing with me. With the kindle, so much has changed. There is so much more room for people to express themselves these days and with social media, everyone has more chance of finding their audience. I wonder how many people have lived and died, carrying their stories to the grave with them. Too many to count.

I urge everyone to chase your dreams and make your art. Don’t wait. It doesn’t matter if you only manage to reach a handful of people, or fill whole stadiums. What matters is that you put it out there.

When I was a guitar teacher I used to tell my students that it doesn’t matter if you only ever play music for yourself and a few close friends, art is meant to be shared. And make no mistake, anything creative is ART. Art doesn’t need a price-tag and it doesn’t need a tick of approval from some critic. So get to it. Make your art. Hang it up, belt it out, share it and watch it grow. Do it now, and do it with love.

No matter how few eyes will find them, every word I write is in some way thanks to everyone who has touched my life.

So, thank you! And happy birthday to one of the people who has helped me most — my beautiful Mum. xx

 

Alien Worlds

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Hello there!

My manuscript, Wandering Stars, is all neat and tidy and I’m not looking at it anymore, or I’ll discover it’s not neat and tidy. There are always more commas to add and adjectives to delete. However, it’s time for me to move on. I’m plotting the sequel/s at the moment. Though I have a lot of other story ideas that I’d love to dive into, I feel like I have to make headway on my sequels to this book, especially while the world is so fresh in my mind and the characters like buddies who I hang out with every day. Or perhaps enemies who make me think about ways to make them suffer! 🙂

I’ve already made a start on book 2 twice now. Back in 2012, I made a 40K word start, but scratched it and went back to revise book 1. Then last year in November, I made a 20K word start, and again scratched it to re-work book 1.

Am I daunted about starting all over again?

No.

Throwing all those words out is not a bad thing. Creating a book-universe is just like creating the real universe, it takes time. Hopefully, not as long. I don’t have 14 billion years to get my head around story structure and character arcs. The point is, it’s never a waste to just write words. It helps me get a feel for the characters and the world which I keep refining and refining. 

I’ve already got a lot of the basic structure for book 2 in my mind and mapped out in lots of journals. The thing that takes me the most time is  researching  and developing the planets and all the crazy creatures in them. As my concepts evolve, the next trick is to make sure the world-building never gets in the way of the story. I have to take all my wild inventions and weave them into the plot in a way that develops the characters and moves the story forward. If they don’t fit the criteria, I have to remove them from the book. Some times it’s hard to let go of scenes and aliens and pretty ideas, but at the end of the day, they’re never gone, they’re all in my head. And essentially, that is why I write to begin with. Everything I create is for my own selfish joy. I love inventing a universe in which I can play — a space within my mind that will always be real to me.

So, time for some exo-planet research. Scientists are finding planets these days faster than I can create them. According to the NASA site; there are “150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.”  https://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/january/nasa-s-kepler-marks-1000th-exoplanet-discovery-uncovers-more-small-worlds-in

They’ll never find some of my planets though…

Just looking through all the research being done on finding, categorising and conceptualising these worlds provides me with endless inspiration for my own designs. I will have to start talking more about my worlds on this blog and sharing some of the sketches I’ve made too perhaps.

Until next time…

 

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