Sci Fi Military: Something new, or a retread of modern military?

This seems to be a controversy, which is this:

Sci fi military, is it going to be evolved and different or a retread of what we have now?

Certain things will always make sense, like that you must have hierarchy in military commands, and only one person ultimately in charge. I don’t think that can change, at least for humans. When people buck this particular nugget of wisdom, you end up with military disasters. Command by committee = Vietnam.

As for the actual composition, you would be hard pressed to find something alternate to an officer/nco/enlisted ranking structure. That’s been around for 1000s of years.

Romans | Modern
miles        private
optio         sergeant
centurio    lieutenant
legate       colonel

Without organization, you have a cluster of people who fight as individuals, and that’s not a military. Or, not an organized one.

The proposed changes stem from an idea that mankind will evolve. [Haven’t any evidence of this, so it’s unlikely.]

Absent some sort of coercive behavior, most people aren’t strongly motivated to fight. Thus, hierarchy.


Hierarchy and scene

Here’s one for you all.  One thing they (whoever they are) teach in improv is the idea that a scene becomes interesting whenever there’s a change in status.

Status is simply how each person sees themselves in the grand scheme. You might think you’re better than your neighbor. But that guy down the street with the better car and job, maybe you’re not as good as that person. Status can be anything where you compare yourself to others and make a decision about where you are in the hierarchy.

Thus, you might see status demonstrated thus:

JOHN: I’ve been having a rough past couple of weeks. They had me down at the dialysis center every other day.

LUCINDA: Dialysis? At least you have a functioning kidney. They took mine out years ago and if I don’t hit the center every day, I’ll die.

FLORA: That’s nothing. I have to take heart medicine all the time, or I’ll die.

MIKE: You people don’t know anything about troubles. I died last week and they had to revive me with the paddles.

So that’s the idea. In this case, the status is in having worse health than everyone else.  Mike wins by mentioning that he died and they brought him back.

Some people are more status-oriented than others. You know the guy who has to top every story? There’s a bit on SNL where they have a woman who goes to parties and she does this with every story, no matter how far-fetched.

Okay, when you set up a scene, you have two people of different statuses. In their own heads they either see themselves as lower or higher than the other person.  It’s possible both people in a scene could think themselves higher than the other, or both could think themselves lower.  Your job as a writer is to establish the pecking order and where they think they are, and then during the scene, you flip status. The boss and the mail room guy, the mail room guy finds out the boss is doing something illegal, and reveals that. Conflict in the scene, and they flip status– the mailroom guy now owns the boss through blackmail.  There’s other ways to do this, but essentially when the low status person flips places with the high status person, the scene becomes a lot more interesting.

A chain-smoking stripper loses a magic love potion.

A criminal mastermind and a criminal girl form an alliance to repatriate a mummy.


A truck driver and a stuffy general get together to sell a mummy. The plot is brought to a conclusion by an attack.

An attractive nun has 24 hours to organise a musical. The plot is commenced by an attack.

Okay, sorry, I was looking at the writer’s Plot Idea Generator again after all the reading about loglines. It does tend to blurt out correct loglines, just not very good ones.

A disorganised junkie unravels a chain of unforseeable events.

A magical school teacher has a day to find an antidote to a deadly virus.

Ooooh, Miss Frizzle, is this another field trip? No, children, it’s time to get an antidote!

I wonder if the same thing could be constructed for sci fi… using lists rather like the random trait generator? I think it could be done. There’s only, what, 8 different sci fi stories?

Oh, and this one:

When a young girl gets pregnant, a ship full of pirates capture a chocolate factory.

Angst, Handwringing, and Screenwriting

I live in Los Angeles. I live approximately 15 miles from major studios that  you all know and love, such as Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and countless other small independents. There are thousands of other businesses dependent on the movie industry, including catering, trucks, lights, sound, costumes, props, post production, special effects, and so on.

And, it seems if you’re a writer in Los Angeles, you really MUST have a screenplay.

So I was well aware of the fact that, having taken up the authorial title with the intent to produce an opus for Amazon that no one will buy but my closest blog friends (yeah, I’m lookin’ at all twenty of you. It’s going to cost you, this relationship!), I do not have the desire to write a screenplay. Despite the easy money falling off trees into the baskets of those hard-working screenwriters, I haven’t curled up with any self-help screenplay how-to books.

Enter the blog of Kristin Lamb. Many of you know her through her  blog devoted to improving fiction writing of anyone who will read. She is inspiring and also a kick in the arse for whomever will listen to her advice.  Yesterday, she posted a piece on Your Novel in One Sentence. It was essentially a breakdown of content found in the book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Save the Cat is a book on how to write a screenplay. It encompasses things like genre, structure, and the one line that describes your movie, the logline. I made fun of a random internet plot generator in this post, but that thing is actually producing loglines correctly. It’s not very good at what it does, in that none of the ideas were viable, but it has the format correct and it’s doing better than most authors, if they ever bothered to summarize their novels at all.

I’ve only read a third of Snyder’s book and it’s eye-opening. I see application from screenplay into the world of novels. One of the drums he bangs most loudly is that there are rules and you can break them, but if you want to be successful you probably should stick to the rules.

Therein lies the source of most of the authorly angst that may be out there. If you’re selling a screenplay or you’re selling a book, you must be able to sum it up in about the size of a twitter post.  Tell me what your book is about in 140 characters or less. Most books don’t know what they’re about, and that gets them lost in the slush. When someone reviews the book, can they state what it’s about in less than a paragraph? I looked at Ionia’s reviews of books, and note that her style is to state the premise of the book in a paragraph (2-3 sentences). I think those are not the book blurb but her own words.

When you write, do you write for the audience, or are you creating lit-ah-rah-ture? Do you want to sell your book, or are you just trying to be an artist? People who write for a living write for the audience. The other one starves or lives off others or has a Real Job.

If you’re an indy author, do you pay attention to any of the things necessary to market your novel to publishers and agents, or do you disregard such focusing devices? Is there value in having concise summations of your novel? Are successful authors on Amazon due to having the conciseness in summation and marketing to an audience the retread story formats we know and love?

Uncomfortable Scenes: White Bones by Graham Masterson

I’ve been reading White Bones by Graham Masterson.

It’s splendidly written, in that there’s conflict going on in each scene, and the stakes keep getting higher.  I’m not finished with it yet, but I had to note that I was uncomfortable with one of the scenes. (Well, more than just that one, but it’s horrifying, nevertheless.)  See, I’m okay with being with the main character (woman police detective trying to solve multiple murders of women) and her problems. She’s sympathetic and there’s some arcing going on, so that part is copacetic. But then Masterson pops us into the world of one of the victims, and I didn’t really like going there.  Not one bit.

I admired the writing that was horrifying me, but then, did I really need to be in the room as the victim was tortured and killed? That’s not for the feint of heart, and I guess I’m feint of heart. I don’t shy away from blood, or even exposed bones. That didn’t bother me when I was doing ski patrol. Deep cuts to the bone, no big deal, let’s get a butterfly on that and ship ’em off to the hospital.  No, I’m not grossed out by blood or guts. I’d be a lousy medic if I were.

I think it was the horror of knowing the victim was going to die and the detachment with which the murderer went about his actions of dismembering her while she was alive and conscious.  It was knowing that there was no hope, that this was going to be a throw-away character and why did you put me in her head, then? Thanks a lot, author.

If you have any doubt as to the existence of evil, scenes like this will change your mind.

Watch a real exoskeleton at work!

Robot suits/exoskeletons! Meeka’s Mind provides a look at a real exoskeleton being used in Japan in hospitals for rehabilitation, with the idea it can also be used to assist users in carrying heavy loads as well. This is neat.

Meeka's Mind

Sci-fi movie buffs will be familiar with this scene from the movie Aliens 2 where the heroine [yes, a woman] uses an exoskeleton to try to save a child from the baddie.

And if aliens are not your cup of tea, how about Iron Man from the Avengers movies? That pretty red suit he wears is not just a fashion statement, or yummy body armour, it’s actually an exoskeleton as well.

But now, for the first time, real exoskeletons are making an appearance in the hospitals of Japan. Designed to aid both patients and carers, this amazing, robotic invention is set to become commonplace in the real world.

And that, my friends, means that at least one, small part of my Innerscape story is no longer sci-fi! If you’re curious, my protagonist, Miira, wears an exoskeleton in the very first scene to give her a degree of mobility and independence…

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Seat of Your Pants: Plot of Your Pants; Plodding Along

There’s a dichotomy in the writer’s world, one that divides brother against brother, sister against mother.  This great gulf, this chasm that cannot be bridged, it’s the methodology of how you plan your book.

The Seat of the Pants people (Pantsers, in the vernacular) prefer to eschew a road map. “My destination? I’ll see where that is when I get there,” they say dreamily. It’s a wonder any of them ever finish a book. I mean, who can do that?

Me, I’m a plotter. A hard core plotter. It’s a military operation! Give me graphs, maps, and flow charts.  Let’s see that character arc! Yessir! I want complete load-outs and weapons check by 0530! You characters, line up and fill out your character bios. You there! Don’t you leave your unconscious goal blank! I want some plot twists laid down and they better be ambushes. I don’t want the reader to see that claymore until it goes off! When the reader gets to the end, he’d best be holding in his entrails with a spoon!!!!


Confession time.

I’m not so hot in the planning department. While I don’t have much truck with Hobbes’ view on mankind as some sort of pleasure-seeking paramecium, you’d think I’d still seek the pleasures and delights that having a good plot would give you. I start with good intentions, and somewhere about chapter 6, I say, “Who am I kidding? This is a different story than the one in the plot outline.”

I know, some of you are saying, “that’s okay, Matt! You’re one of us. Pantsers are great! You’ll do fine. You can reach the end.” That’s not the problem, nor the solution. I still need an outline. If, for nothing else, to get a great character arc, and then figure out enough plot twists to do something fun that isn’t always predictable and trite.

Those are some pretty vague goals, aren’t they? If I was a character, I’d accuse my author of being lazy and not raising the stakes enough. “Give him some conflict. This whole `I can’t plot a book’ is pretty boring. Can you put in an explosion?”

Perhaps it’s time to turn to the internet random plot generator:

A disfigured wizard is forced to carry out witchcraft.

I guess that would resonate with the BDSM and handicapped community. “Cast the spell, you worm, or I’ll take your wheelchair away!” Fifty shades of handicapped magic.

An untidy cat burglar accidentally picks up an ancient scroll.

Hmmm. Untidy? That’s it? I see a character arc where he becomes super-neat by the end of the book, and is a successful cat burglar after that. How do you accidentally pick up an ancient scroll? Maybe he could become disfigured and be forced to carry out witchcraft.

A fireman has 24 hours to transport – back through time – orphans.

Now we’re talking! Time travel. Why 24 hours? It’s time travel. Take your time, you can just select when you want to arrive with the handy time-o-matic time machine!

When one is thrown out, a car load of lost hoodlums go on a sea voyage.

Oooh, I see some real potential there. “Hey Bubba.” “Yeah, Moxie?” “Why are we on this sailboat, anyways?” “Because we’re going to get the treasure first!” “Oh. Are we going to hit someone to get it?”

A disorganised train driver has a day to prove their theory.

Maybe the untidy cat burgler can help him. And the fireman with his time machine and orphans. Bah!

Top 8 Reasons I Didn’t Finish My Book: Be successful; be prolific.

1. Kids were crazy last night. I couldn’t get them to write for me. Of course, they’re 3 and 7.

2. I’m waiting for Kristen Lamb’s next blog post to tell me how to do it right.

3. I have conflicting advice from two different blogs, so I’m waiting for them to fight it out and tell me the correct rule.

4. I’m still collecting rules on writing. I need to read more writing craft books before I can start.

5. You can’t push this sort of genius. It happens when it happens.

6. I have writer’s block today.

7. I could write, or I could play Planetside 2. They need my help in that virtual war.

8. That clickbait about “When you see this picture, your jaw will drop!” or “Mind. Blown,” with a thumbnail intriguing enough that I have to find out what it says? There’s chains of that stuff. It’s like smoking, but much, much worse for your body. Must… click… next… blurb. “Top 5 underdressed red carpet leading ladies.”  “Kanye’s simple trick that will earn you millions.”

Look, you guys, if you write 2000 words a day, you will finish your book in a month and a half. So easy!

Over 20 years, you could have written  14,600,000 words if you did 2000 words a day. That adds up to 146 books of 100,000 words. It’s 243 books of 60,000 words.  It’s hard to ignore an author with a body of work that large.

Perhaps you’re giving me the wall-eyed stare.  I had a professor who taught a very nifty landlord/tenant class at the local community college who was wall-eyed. You could never tell if he was calling on you.  He’d have to point. The class materials were useful, though. I wish I’d had the class back before I’d rented from the one lousy landlord who decided to keep our deposit.

Yeah. Wall-eyed stare. “If that’s true, Pontius, why haven’t you finished <i>your</i> book?”

*Ahem*. Yes. There is that. I’m working on it! I’ve got excuses saved up, and I’m going to sell those on amazon instead. “The Book of Trite Excuses Why I’m Not Finishing My Novel Timely You Guys,” that’s the title.

If you wrote 3000 words a day, you could finish a novel in 20 days. It’s a month and change if you want 100,000 words.

So, what’s your excuse for not finishing a novel? Join me wallowing in guilt! Comment away. And then get back to writing.

You can send your book/manuscript to anyone’s kindle anywhere

One neat thing you can do is send people your book directly to their kindle. How it works: You obtain the email address for their Kindle. Each Kindle device has an unique identified. Mine is You can find your kindle’s name under Settings>Device Options>Personalize your kindle>Send-to-Kindle Email.

In normal operation, that would mean anyone could send some unedited commaless lump of text to your kindle any old time they felt like it.  But did Pete the Cat despair? HEAVENS NO!  Sing it with me, “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes!” Clearly, my childrens’ reading has influenced me heavily. If you watch that video, I challenge you to not be singing the song after hearing it a few times! Can’t be done. Back to what we were saying:

Anyone anywhere could send you a book. Your kindle would quickly fill with spam from Russian Mobsters.

To prevent this, you must add the sender’s email address to your kindle’s list of approved senders. You do this from your amazon account, rather than on your kindle. As Kindle’s site says, “To add an e-mail account, visit the Personal Document Settings page at Manage Your Kindle.”

Yep, there’s the lock and key. The sender of the novel<s>spam</s> enters your kindle’s email in the email to: field, and attaches the document. No subject. Make sure the receiver has cleared your email to receive, and send away.

Okay, who wants to send me free books? ;D

From Amazon’s information on their site:

Send to Kindle by E-mail

Send documents to your Kindle as an email attachment

You and your approved contacts can send documents to your registered Kindle devices, free Kindle reading applications, and your Amazon Cloud Drive by e-mailing them to your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address ([name] Your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address is a unique e-mail address assigned to each of your Kindle devices and free Kindle reading applications upon registration.

How to send a document to your Kindle:

Crumbling Empire Placeholder for Chapter 6

This was where Chapter 6 was, which is the confronting-the-past chapter.  Which it didn’t do. It skirts around that issue and tries to figure out why Yuen looks like someone else. I bet you can guess.  Go ahead. Why does she look like someone else? Why, indeed? Maybe it needs explosions.

If you are new, Chapter 1 is here.

As of 1/18/16, I’ve removed it. I left the comments here because those are useful.