Book Review: Transcendental (The Transcendental Machine)

Hello,

Transcendental-James-Gunn-small

Most of my mornings for the past two months or so have been fairly average on the surface but good underneath. On the surface, I get the bus into Manchester and walk ten minutes to work. Underneath, I get the bus and read the latest story on my Kindle reading list. This book was until recently a sci-fi story entitled…what this post is entitled (but without the ‘Book Review’ bit)

The chapters were around 20-25 minutes long and with my journey being about 20 minutes, I was able to comfortably read four chapters a week on my way to work. Give or take. This morning, however, I finished the book. It is one of three stories and I think I will be purchasing the next two. When payday comes around.

So, the description of this story is as follows taken from the following link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transcendental-Machine-James-Gunn-ebook/dp/B00CVMIWFU:

Riley, a veteran of interstellar war, is one of many beings from many different worlds aboard a ship on pilgrimage that spans the galaxy. However, he is not journeying to achieve transcendence, a vague mystical concept that has drawn everyone else on the ship to this journey into the unknown at the far edge of the galaxy. His mission is to find and kill the prophet who is reputed to help others transcend. While their ship speeds through space, the voyage is marred by violence and betrayal, making it clear that some of the ship’s passengers are not the spiritual seekers they claim to be. Like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a number of those on the star ship share their unique stories. But as tensions rise, Riley realises that the ship is less like the Canterbury Tales and more like a harrowing, deadly ship of fools. When he becomes friendly with a mysterious passenger named Asha, he thinks she’s someone he can trust. However, like so many others on the ship, Asha is more than she appears. Uncovering her secrets could be the key to Riley’s personal quest, or to make him question everything he thought he knew about Transcendentalism and his mission to stop it.

 

I was looking for a more recently published book (this was published 27/08/2013 according to Kindle) as I have read older books and want to get into the habit of reading newer books. I also want to get into the habit of reviewing said books as I’m looking to be more active on Goodreads in the future. With that in mind, here is my review:

4 out of 5.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I have always enjoyed books, films and TV sci-fi that blends the fantastical elements of sci-fi with real life and tries to make it all seem as normal as possible. This story does just that.

There are a number of main and secondary characters who are all well drawn and are used very well. Each character does not outstay there welcome. None feel like they are just hanging around. Whenever their part is played in the story, they leave it. I liked the main character Riley, who seems very down to earth and grizzled war veteran by the sounds of things, who is also quietly smart. Asha is very mysterious from the start, which drew me into her character. And the vast array of aliens, all quickly and concisely described, provide a wonderful variety to the story. Some of the chapters are from some of the aliens themselves. Telling their own story of why they are on the ship and journeying to find the Transcendental Machine and reach the next step of their particular races evolution. All this coupled with solid descriptions of the surroundings means the story builds well and ends leaving me wanting more and thinking a lot about the whole thing. Which is how I like it.

Can’t wait to read the next two.

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Timelines: An Apology.

Hello,

So, I’ve been really enjoying writing my latest story. It’s set in Stockport, Manchester, England, my hometown, and it is allowing me to use locations I have either been to, lived near or can easily get to. I’ve written stories based in Manchester City Centre before that I have enjoyed writing for the same reason but in my hometown is slightly better. Eventually, I’m going to write one a lot closer to home in the small village I grew up in but that’s for the future.

I have been doing some character profiles and story outlines but do not have an ending written out just yet. As I have been doing this I wondered how I could track my story. Usually, I would just read back over my notes or the story itself to make sure everything is as poly hole-free as possible. This has always been a bit messy really so I thought, how can I do this easily and efficiently? A long time passed thinking about this question until…

…a timeline punched me in the brain.

I’m not sure why I haven’t used one before with ANY of my previous stories over the years. It is working so well so far. I’ve laid out my timeline per character and date. Side by side, each column with actions to move the story along. This has allowed me to sync each character up and it seems like a breath of fresh air compared to my usual method. And long may it continue. But I feel I must say…

The Kid

I’m sorry, Timelines. I’m sorry for not utilising you sooner. You are now, barring any goliath of a story planning idea to come my way, my future. I cannot see why I would not use a Timeline. It seems like it should have hit me sooner. I am sorry. Also, I hope the use of ‘The Kid’, my Lego monkey writing sidekick, will help my cause.

Phew. That feels better. Though, I feel I may have more grovelling to do. I’ve read many articles regarding timelines and obviously just let them rest in my subconscious. More fool me. Hold on. I’ll have to go back over all my previous stories and create one for each. But that will take some time. Maybe I should just use Timelines for any stories in future? But don’t all my stories deserve the same treatment?

Do you use or have you used Timelines when planning your stories? Do they help to ensure that each character is kept in line (story)? Or did you find them a hindrance and move onto something else?

Okay. I’m going back to the Timeline. And the apologies. Have a good week. Bye!

 

 

One quick one and one…not so quick one.

Hello,

It has been a while. Again. Always seems to be the way recently. I think to myself ‘I’ll post more often’ and then stuff happens. This time it was moving house. I thought I’d have time but it has been all consuming, until recently, with setting accounts up for bills, unpacking boxes, building things, buying things to build, buying things to dig up other things, the list goes on. I’m almost completely settled now so I can get back to posting on my blog. This wonderful thing. My little soupcon of the internet.

So, since last time I have written another 1,000-word story. This one is opposed to the last one (see https://johnrsermon.com/2017/07/19/the-editing-beast-has-been-defeatedfor-now/) the last was a story based in a very dark place and this one is based in a very light place. The lightest place as it happens if it exists. I would say where it is but it would ruin the twist to the very dark story, which I will post on this blog in future.

I wanted to write an opposite story and one that occurs at the same time as the other. I have always enjoyed watching and writing chapters that have events happening at the same time but shown from different viewpoints. Anyway, I decided to write it quickly while the idea was fresh in my head.

Then I finished. Then I was living elsewhere. Then I moved out.

As I was setting everything up around the house move (bills, more bills, finding the local supermarket, and local pub etc.) And during this, a story woke up and began to run around my head. It’s been months since it had been for a run but I’m glad it managed it. And it is based in the town I’ve just moved too helped as well. The story is my take on the one man vigilante tale. I’ve watched and enjoyed plenty of them (John Wick, I’m looking and smiling at you) so I decided to write one myself. I wondered what one would be like with a person who isn’t an ex-Army, Special Forces, Gangster, Assassin, or any of them. A story about someone who just took up a number of different, readily available self-defence classes because he wanted too and then, suddenly, had to use them.

I got to work and I’ve written two chapters so far. Hopefully, I can keep it up and finish the story soon. It’s slowly building in my mind but I don’t have an ending yet.

Have you ever written anything without an ending?

It’s been a while since I have. Feels…schwifty.

So, I’ll get back to it. Hope you all have a good week.

The Editing Beast has been defeated…for now.

Hello,

Finally, after weeks of editing, I read over my 1,000-word story competition entry and did not make any adjustments. I found myself happy and proud of the story I had created and did not make any one-word changes which over the last few weeks, though needed, were annoying me. Really annoying me. I even added in two lines of dialogue as the deadline date got closer. It was all worth it. The story is complete and I have entered the competition.

**My first competition entry of the year!**

Very slow going for me as I was hoping to have entered at least a few others by now. With other life things getting in the way this has not been the case. I am aiming to use this as a starting point to entering a few more at least before the end of the year. Fingers crossed and all that.

Unless that nasty editing beast decides to come calling again. Then I may never enter a few more competitions again, let alone this year.

The beast is cunning you see. It lies in wait. When I finished my latest story, my next step is to write another 1,000-word story but from the opposite side, of the one I’ve just finished. I want to get the first draft done within the next few days. But then, once finished I will have a nasty (yet very satisfying) urge to correct and amend parts of it. I would have to start my editing process soon as it would be on my mind. And there you have it. The editing beast is back.

All the while he has been leaning back in the corner of my room, watching me write, and thinking to himself:

‘you can’t beat me, mate. I’m undefeatable. Made of diamond. Can’t shatter me, pal’.

I am foolish to try and fight him off. Maybe, I should embrace the beast. Make him my friend. He makes me write his dialogue in a different font for crying out loud. His powers must be immense. In truth, I like editing. The big edits (characters, story, description etc.) more than the small ones. It’s the small ones I can’t stand. The words here and there. Adding and subtracting. All the smeggin’ time! Until I look in the mirror and see a man with hair all over the place and a greasy shine to his skin who has spent an hour agonising over whether or not he should use ‘and’ within a certain sentence and if he should use a different phrase than ‘punch to the face’.

Anyway, the first competition entry is in which is the main thing and I’m looking forward to much more. Best get back to it.

Well, I hope your writing is going well and have a nice day!

The Editing Beast.

Hello,

I’m currently in the process of editing a 1,000-word story for my first competition entry of the year. The competition is run by Writers Online (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-competitions/open-competitions/writers-competitions-wro-wro-jun17-1000/) and the only requirement is that you do not exceed the word limit. No specific theme. Just a word count.

Now, I have previously tried to enter this competition but came unstuck as writing a story with such a small word count is tricky for me. That is until I read a recent competition winner through Writing Magazine. The story was for a Fantasy competition and was 1,642 words but managed to tell the story very well and kept me hooked till the end. Yes, it is more than 1,000 words, but it is a fine example of using your words well. See for yourself (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-competitions/showcase/winner/writers-competitions-wro-wro-nov16-fantasy/dominic-bell-2).

Anyway, this has given me the confidence to try and enter the 1,000-word competition again. I found my original attempt from way back and read it through. Not bad but with a few problems and I didn’t like the end. However, I could see promise in it. So, I changed the ending and completed a re-write. Then, came the next step.

Oh, the edit. The beast that awaits at the end of most stories. The question I find myself asking is, should I feed it or let it starve? I decided to feed the beast and it just keeps wanting more! Every time I go back to my story thinking I am close to finishing it, something else comes up and I edit even more. How much does it need to be fed before it is satisfied and will let me enter the competition?

The_Beast

In my head, this is how it looks. But, it is the Beast from Disney’s Beauty and the so it’s not that bad of a picture to have in my head at the moment. Moving on…

I am happy to continue with the edit, even if it winds me up no end. I have faith in my story. I like it and want to see it through. That is what drives me forward. Regardless of the outcome of the competition (don’t get me wrong, I would like to win) I want this to be the best it can be.

With this story, it has a twist at the end. I have written twists before and have recently watched a few TV programmes and Films with twists to whet my appetite. I am trying to put some red herrings in and some double meanings. Easy a? In my head maybe but in practice, not so much. Making sure each sentence drives the story is essential but 1,000 words do not allow for a lot of driving. Once the story is written and I know how I got on in the competition, I’ll post it on this blog. Or burn it. I’ll make the decision later.

Since the last time I had to edit for a competition, which was for ages ago, I have learned a lot more and I am thankful that my persistence appears to be paying off. Things I left in the first draft, thinking they were gold, made me shudder and have been discarded. Practice does help a lot with this writing game.

Well, back to the edit. I hope you have a nice day and if you are editing, that it goes as well as possible for you.

Bye!

 

The West has been won! Well, I finished my first western story so close enough.

Hello,

After a long time, I started the story 23rd March 2015 which makes my head spin, and a few distractions (hangovers, restarting this story, writing another story) I’ve finished my first attempt at a western entitled ‘Outlaw Torn’.

My favourite genre of film has always been the Western. The sheer amount of them on TV growing up meant I was never left wanting for something to watch at the weekend. And whenever I found a Western to watch, my Dad had ALWAYS watched all or some of it. I remember liking the dialogue and how effortlessly cool the hero’s, and some cases the villains, appeared to be or were. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is my favourite of all time but I can sit down and watch most. Some of my other favourites include the original and remake of True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Alamo (Both), Open Range, Rio Bravo. Tombstone. I could go on. And I intend to. Seraphim Falls. Unforgiven. The Salvation. Appaloosa. Stagecoach.

These and much more have helped to shape my own story. In my head, a wanderer moves from town to town, searching for work, a bed, and to forget his past. One town comes upon him, over a hill, and his past finally catches up with him.

I have enjoyed writing this story but throughout I had the most difficulty writing the gun fights. I have each fight in my head clear as day but getting the words right to convey this proved a challenge. One that I had fun with but at times it was like trying to swim through cement. How many times can I say Shoot, Bullet, Hammer, Fired, Loaded and Gun before the reader and myself get bored? I did eventually find other words but the process of doing so took AGES. On some occasions, I barely wrote anything due to the frustration it caused me. Typing ‘The End’ on this one was amazing and relief all in one.

I also worried about the characters and ensuring that each was given enough time to show themselves and to evolve or devolve through the story. I do this all the time. But then I remembered…

It is the first draft. You can iron out the creases in the edits.

I told myself this throughout writing the story but ignored my own advice a lot. More so than any other story I’ve written. Maybe it’s because it’s a story in my favourite genre and I want to do it justice the best I can. But, if I did end up publishing it, someone is bound to find fault with it. Even after all the combs in all the world going through it. Maybe I don’t need a haircut. I’ll just pull my hair out rewriting the thing.

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Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

They did warn us after all.

(Extract from a story I recently completed. It is about giant Rock Worms from outer space looking for a new home. And Earth might just be what they are looking for…)

“Maria? Are you okay?” Shouted Joseph, inside the mass of rubble and chaos that a rock worm had caused just minutes before. Their former office was slowly crumbling around them he rose to his feet with a shake and a moan. He stood and checked that he had his wallet, phone, and keys without realising they were not of much use anymore. The internet on his phone did not work and he jabbed and pressed until giving up. He heard something rustle not too far away and remembered Maria could be in danger. His fingers caught in the rip at the side of his green hoodie and he cursed under his breath. Numerous small cuts covered both of hands and only now did he notice the dull pain they produced. He took a step forward and what remained of the building swayed underfoot.

“Joseph…I’m here.” Maria said. He turned quickly and felt the floor buckle again. Her pixie cut brown hair was the only thing above the rubble. She struggled and managed to stand up and dust herself off. They both turned to see a huge gap in the wall nearby. They both moved towards it but again the structure moved. Joseph held out his hand and counted slowly down from five. Maria took quick breaths to ready herself.

Sprinting over the broken wood and pieces of rock, they jumped out and onto the pile of debris outside. They managed to run down the pile before jumping as far away from the building as possible. The small quake ran through the floor as the building died in front of them.

“How are you feeling? You know…considering.” Joseph said. Maria jumped into his arms and kissed his neck. She pulled away as he winced in pain.

“Sorry. Force of habit.” She said.

“Don’t be sorry Maria, I can be the man you want me to be. That girl from the bar, I was just talking to her.”

“How can you be thinking about that? Look around you. The world is coming to an end and you’re still fixed upon something I told you I wasn’t bothered about.”

“I was only talking to her about the football that day…”

“Just….stop. Be quiet. We need to figure out what to next. Are you okay?” She said. Touching a few of many small cuts on his neck and hands.

“If they were all one cut, they would match that beauty on your neck.” He replied. Moving her shirt collar down slightly. “It looks worse than it is. Not too deep at all.”

“It doesn’t feel that bad. It will make a cool scar.” She said.

“I bet. Maria, I am not that selfish. And I have looked around me. Look at all the rock worms have done. Bloody government, why not just give them a home? They may have been helpful to us as well. I hear some of them are fiercely intelligent.” He said as he surveyed the piles of concrete, brick, glass, plastic and whatever else that made a building forming small mountains across the landscape. The mid-morning bright and clear sky showed Manchester for what it has become. Many buildings were still intact but more were reduced to rubble. No traffic or trains could be heard, which allowed them to listen to their own heartbeats with clarity.