My dream writing studio

For a long time, I’ve wanted my own room dedicated to books and writing.  Call it a writing studio, a library, an office, whatever you like to call it.  Some guys have a man cave.  I want my writing cave.

Well, it’s not a cave, it’s a standard room, has a door and a window, as well as 4 walls, a carpeted floor, and a ceiling.  I’m not much of a decorator, but I have my wishes for how I want it to look.  And maybe my dream writing studio is pretty standard looking.

I’d like two of the walls to be lined by big bookshelves.  They should be nearly to the ceiling, with some space at the top for various things I may collect.  I’d like them to be a rich reddish colour, maybe mahogany, cherry, or walnut.  They will hold my library, all of the books that I own.  I’ll arrange them by genre and author, allowing me to easily locate a book.

The walls will be painted a darker colour.  Bright colours are nice.  I like bright colours, but I want my cave to have a warm feeling, and a rich, dark colour would be ideal.  Like a red wine colour.  That would warm me up.

Furniture would be pretty standard.  A desk for my computer, of course.  I’d likely have a couple of laptops, a bigger desktop replacement, as well as a smaller netbook sized PC for writing away from home.  While the above description sounds traditional, I want a modern desk with a sleek design.  I wouldn’t just be using the computer for writing, but I do like other things, such as games, Youtube, Internet, and I can’t forget blogging.

I have a love for maps, so one of my walls will have several maps.  They’ll include a world map, a map of Canada, and a map of Japan.  Additional maps may include those of the worlds I’m creating in my writing.

I’d also like a nice, comfortable sofa to lounge on while I read.  Not a leather or vinyl sofa, but a simple cloth sofa that I won’t stick to on a hot summer day or leap in the air from shock on a cold winter day.

Some other various items may include astronomy related pictures or globes, plastic models of planes or ships (I’m interested in making these), and family photos.

What’s your idea of your own personal dream room?

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Book Review – Gunship

Gunship is the debut book by John M. Davis, and the first in a series of books.  It’s available in Kindle format, though it appears there was a paperback edition.  It was independently published, so this is the third indie book I’ve reviewed.

I found this to be a very quick read.  It’s not a long book, and is easy to finish quickly.  It involves the crew of a gunship, a crew of outlaws wanted by many people, but they’re well-meaning.  Captain Adam Michaels is the lead character, and he is a brash leader prone to impulsive decisions that aren’t always the best choice.  Then there’s Dalton, his best friend and alcoholic, providing plenty of humour.  Roman is a tough fighter with another side to his personality. Kelly, Kato, and Luck round out the crew, though those three have very little development.  Sarah and Troy come in soon and complete the group.  Of all the characters, I found Michaels and Roman to have the best development, while Dalton remained pretty static.  Sarah seemed soft, but has a tough side to her.  Kelly, Kato, Luck, and Troy don’t get much time to develop.  The dynamic between Michaels and Dalton is humourous.  The romance wasn’t very well done early on, unfortunately.  I found it unnatural and a bit cheesy in the beginning.

The story takes place both in space, as well as a handful of planets.  There wasn’t much in the way of extensive description, it was kept pretty short, but was effective enough to create a solid picture in my mind.  Although it’s in space, I found it interesting that most weapons were rather old-fashioned.  I guess it’s retro sci-fi in a way.  The antagonists were kind of like vampires, making it an odd combination with science fiction.

The story itself is mainly action scene after action scene.  There is a small amount of downtime in between, but not very much.  It’s a very fast paced story, so there’s plenty of excitement.  Davis describes the action reasonably well.  It’s not a complex story, and is very straightforward.  It’s not entirely predictable, but it doesn’t really give much in the way of surprises.   But it is an entertaining story.

I don’t base my reviews on editing issues, but I have to mention that this book really needs an editor to clean up the strange dialogue punctuation, spelling mistakes, and lack of line breaks between characters’ speech.  It’s also difficult to tell when a scene change happens, as they’re not marked.

Aside from the editing problems, I found this book to be fairly entertaining, though not very deep.  It’s a simple story with pretty basic characters.  But I did enjoy the story.

I’d give it 3 stars. It’s an entertaining read, and I’m curious about where the story will go in the next book.

Book Review – Revelation Space

Revelation Space, the first in Alastair Reynolds’ science fiction series Revelation Space held some big surprises for me.  Reynolds was an astrophysicist who worked for the European Space Agency until he became a full time author.  This book is a hard SF novel with plenty of interesting future technology.

I went into this book not knowing what to expect.  Although I read the blurb on the cover, it doesn’t really tell much of the story.  This story takes place mostly on the planet Resurgam, but also in space and another planet, Yellowstone. The settings are quite dark and gritty.  It seems much of the technology is very advanced, but there are problems.  Everything is described quite well, although Reynolds uses a lot of very technical terminology.  He was a scientist, after all.

I found it difficult to get into this book in the beginning.  For the first half, I didn’t really care about any of the characters.  They all seemed so self-centred and not very likeable.  However, many of the main characters began to grow on me, and I liked them by the end.  Dan Sylveste is a very interesting character who is single-minded in his quest.  Ana Khouri is probably my favourite character of the book.  She’s a strong character, but still has many doubts.  Ilia Volyova seems like such an unlikeable person, but I grew to really like her by the end.  Pascale is a decent character, too.  Sajaki is probably one of the more unusual characters, being a chimeric with a desire for power.  Hegazi wasn’t developed very well, and I just couldn’t figure out what to make of him.  But I particularly enjoyed Calvin Sylveste, who was a very colourful character.  However, I could never be sure who was bad.  It kept me guessing.

As I said, I didn’t get into the book in the beginning, though around the halfway point, I was looking forward to opening the book and reading.  It’s quite scientific, and some things were explained somewhat like a textbook.  There was a lot of secrecy between the characters, and it made some of the story unpredictable, as I couldn’t tell what some of them were thinking.  Towards the end, it was fantastic.  I felt like I couldn’t put down the book.  I certainly couldn’t predict the ending.  I’m interested in what will happen next.

I’ll give this 4 1/2 stars.  The ending was amazing, but I found it hard to get into in the beginning.  Some of the terminology may be difficult for some, but with my background in astronomy and physics, it wasn’t a problem for me.  I found it fascinating.  Highly recommended.

Story planning, so much in my head

There’s so much going on in my mind right now, I don’t know where to start.  Over the past 3 or 4 weeks, I’ve been developing my stories quite a bit, mostly in my head.  The first short story is becoming more fleshed out in terms of plot, but that’s not what’s been on my mind recently.

I was debating whether to write a series of three short stories or combine them as a novel.  Well, I will be writing a novel using those three stories.  They all flow from one to the other, so it is a continuous storyline leading to a single conclusion.  It’ll be written in three Acts, one leading into the other.

Another thing occupying my mind right now is the planet’s name, as well as what to call the star and other planets in the system.  The star will use its somewhat obscure Arabic name, while the planets will be related to the constellation’s mythology and history.  Here’s a little teaser:  the star is a G type main sequence star that is about 3 billion years old.  It may seem too young for life, but there’s no reason to believe that life could develop faster on some worlds than on others. There could have been some catalyst that caused rapid evolution at a much earlier time than on Earth.  So, if you can guess the name of the star, you win my admiration.

Darth Mickey, Goofy Skywalker, and Donald Solo

I’m sure by now everyone’s heard about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise.  But what can we expect?  Many fans are undoubtedly panicking, imagining Star Wars movies being filled with songs, being dumbed down and kidified.  Well, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea, would it?

From what I’ve heard, Disney isn’t going to take control of how the movies are written, but they will be based on George Lucas’ original plans for Star Wars.  He did plan for 12 episodes originally, and only the first 6 were made.  Star Wars VII is slated for a 2015 premiere.  It seems that it’ll follow Luke Skywalker after the events of Return of the Jedi.  I guess this means more Luke, Leah, and Han?

When the Star Trek movie series was rebooted, I was very skeptical.  I’m a big Star Trek fan, and I didn’t want the canon to be messed with.  Well, they did mess with it, but at the same time, made it very clear that this is merely an alternate timeline.  The original timeline is still safe!  I do have to admit that it was a pretty good movie.  But what does this have to do with the new Star Wars movies?  Not so much, other than possibly soothing my skepticism.  While J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek vision is a bit different than the original, the new Star Wars movies will be produced by Disney, but Lucas will remain an adviser.  It’s a continuation, not a reboot, as well.

For big Star Wars fans, I’m sure there are many who are very worried about what will become of the franchise.  I’m a fan of Star Wars, but I’m very interested in seeing how the movies turn out.  It’s kind of exciting.  But all is not lost if they’re terrible.  We can still enjoy the original Star Wars movies and ignore the rest!

What do you think?  Are you excited for the new movies, or do you wish Disney wasn’t involved?

A dinosaur museum near my hometown? Great!

Near my hometown of Beaverlodge in Alberta, Canada, there’s going to be a new dinosaur museum opening in July.  Pipestone Creek has been the location of numerous Pachyrhinosaurus discoveries near Grande Prairie, Alberta.  It’s finally getting its own museum!

The museum will be called the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, named after the famous palaeontologist, Philip Currie.  Currie helped found the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, which is one of the hottest dinosaur fossil regions in the world.  The Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of my favourite museums, and it has the best dinosaur fossil collection I’ve ever seen.

Oh yeah, Philip Currie just received a lifetime achievement award from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.  Great honour for a great scientist!

Editing is very important

After reading some eBooks, I have come to a conclusion.  Many independent authors don’t edit very well.  My guess is that they edit their own books, missing the mistakes that they make.

The simplest mistakes are often confusing similar words, such as their, there, and they’re; elude and allude; affect and effect.  I could go on.  Having someone who’s decent with spelling and grammar read it would get many of the mistakes.

But sometimes it’s the actual formatting and style. I have read some books in which the authors seem to have no idea how to format dialogue well.  One book has improper punctuation and has dialogue of several people in the same paragraph.  For example:

“I’m tired of grammar mistakes.” he said.

should be

“I’m tired of grammar mistakes,” he said.

Did you notice the difference?  The period inside the quote should be a comma if the sentence continues outside the quotation marks.  But it continues on after that with another line of dialogue from another character.  This is how it may look:

“I’m not doing dialogue correctly.” said John. “I know.” said Bob. “This is very confusing to read.” he replied. “Sometimes I have no idea if the same person is just continuing to talk or another person is talking.” said Jane.

Please put line breaks at the end of each line of dialogue.  It keeps it neat and tidy.  You can understand who is speaking, when they finish, and when the next person starts.  It’s so much easier to read!

These problems could even be resolved by using a critique group.  There are people in those groups who are quite strict.  I like Critique Circle, which is an online critiquing group, so you can get a variety of opinions on various aspects, such as style, grammar, formatting, and so on.  But it’s really up to you if you want to use a critiquing group.  Some don’t.  I do.  However, they cannot replace a proper editor.  Those cost money, and I understand that indie authors may not have the money for it.  I know how that feels. But just get someone you know that can be strict to read over your book and do some serious editing.  At least until you can afford an actual editor.  It may not be perfect, but it can definitely improve your readers’ experience.

Comments or questions are welcome and encouraged.

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.