Dark Places

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It’s dangerous outside the League. The path to a sensitive data leak leads Micah Stone and his team from glamorous parties with movie stars to the sleaziest town in the sleaziest part of space: the Kensie Free Systems. Micah and his team are abducted and must face assassins, gangsters and solicitors to rescue them. The assassins are not human and they fight as part of a sport known as BloodRing.

Book eight in the Stone Blade series. Micah and his team go from glitz and glamour to one of the scuzziest places they’ve ever been. Their mission starts out tracking leaked League military intelligence and ends up with them facing an army of assassins… and worse.

This is by far the darkest book in the series so far. When a petty group of lightweight solicitors and their slimy minions take Micah to a dark place, he shows just how nasty he can be. Then they up the ante. They mess with his friends. All the demons Micah has fought up until now surface and he vents them through his anger as he does what needs to be done.

In other news, I’m stuck on the next two Stone Blade stories so I’ve decided to take a hiatus. I’m currently working on a (planned) four-book fantasy series. Don’t worry, though. There’s still a lot of action in the League and outside it. Dr. Kincaid never runs out of things to say and I’m also still active on the open-source Java front. This is just a little vacation for me.

-matt

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Against the Stasis Quo

Whew! My hyperlink comm is finally back online and Dr. Kincaid has quite a few things to say. As always (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, Dr. K.) He had this to say about stasis and why it is not a good idea.

“I’ve received a few questions about stasis pods and why travelers in the League don’t use them more often. Most of them read something like ‘If stasis is such an easy option, why not just freeze yourself and travel that way.’

“My first response to this is ‘Phase down! Stasis is NOT an easy option.’ Despite what you may have seen in the movies – do you even have League movies there? – Stasis is never as simple as ‘climb into the pod, push a button and done.’ Stasis, or physio-neural stasis induction, is a very complicated and dangerous procedure. It is also fraught with misconception thanks to Arn Ironhand and his ‘Lethal Max’ character.

“The basic process, commonly called ‘freezing,’ is cellular entropic damping. Most people lose awareness early in the induction process but the few who didn’t describe the feeling differently. They all say they felt no temperature. They were not hot, warm, cool, cold or even comfortable. It was, they say, the total absence of temperature. Healer’s Guild researchers theorize that, for these people, consciousness lasted a few seconds past the damping of their cerebral impulses.

“That’s what stasis is. It literally shuts down 99.999% of all electrical activity in your body. Yes, that is 0.001% away from death and that’s what makes it so dangerous. The human body is designed to be active, even when you’re asleep, and non-activity is an unnatural state. It is also not possible without proper preparation. The biggest part of this is the pre-stasis drug. By now those of you who have seen any of the Kace Karson, Patrol Ranger episodes are seeing him shouting ‘Green jolt. Now!’ That’s one of them, it’s the best-known and it is the most dangerous of them all.

“Administering a prestasis drug is tricky and it has to be exactly right. It slows neural activity and prompts the internal organs to shut down. In order to have a good freeze, the organs and every cell within them must achieve a certain level of saturation. The spiky part is ensuring that the first cells affected don’t over-saturate before the last cells reach minimum. If that happens you probably won’t survive the freeze. If you activate the field early, the cells that don’t saturate properly die.

“The best way to enter freeze is to spend at least twelve hours building up cellular saturation levels. That’s best done under sedation and with nothing in your stomach. Once saturation is optimal, the field is activated and cellular activity in your body gradually stops.

“If you have a good freeze, the battle is halfway won. The only obstacle left is proper revival. This is called decanting and it’s a lot more accurate than ‘freezing.’ The first order of business is flushing the prestasis drug. They are designed for that and massive doses of the flushing agents don’t have any harmful effects but there is one minor problem. In stasis, your cardiovascular system is shut down. That means you don’t have a working heart to circulate the medicine. That means it has to be done externally and that’s never a sure thing.

“Once the prestasis agent is gone, or at least below 5% saturation, the physical body can be revived. That process has to be competed within about a hundred and thirty seconds or you may suffer irreparable brain damage. The good news there is that our medics are all ruddy good at decanting and revival. Survey and Guild medics are certified in it.

“So. The next time someone says ‘Just pop them in stasis,’ look them in the eye and say ‘You first. I think I’ll wait.’ You’ll be a lot safer that way.”

F. R. Kincaid, PhD, ArG

If you’re interested in the universe about which Dr. Kincaid speaks, you can read all about it in A Pattern of Details and the Stone Blade series:
http://moldyripegrape.wix.com/newstarstradeleague
http://amazon.com/author/jamescoxjr
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JamesMattCox

I also have a few things to say on my own so I’ll try to be more blog-faithful than I have these past few months. Book sales are still down, I haven’t yet sold my screenplay and I also have Java projects and an RPG system to maintain but I’ll do my best.

Ciao;

-matt

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Screenplayed: The First Submission

First step into a bigger world. I just submitted my screenplay for A Pattern of Details to Amazon Studios. Not sure where it will lead but I’ve got my fingers crossed. Once again APoD is my exploratory instrument into a new world. Perhaps I should rename it Matt’s Mysterious Probe Into the Unknown. Nah, maybe not.

Next question. Will Stone Blade et. al. ever be turned into screenplays? At this point I don’t know. Paring down APoD was ROUGH. Once again, I’ve gained appreciation and sympathy for “The book was SO much better than the movie.” Next time that happens to you, be gentle. It ain’t easy.

In other news, I’m continuing new writing on the next Stone Blade series book. In this one we gain insight into Vera Kidwell and why she is who she is. Including her real first name. Hint: it’s not ‘Vera.’ Yeah. Surprised me too.

One thing about getting back into new writing. I thought it would be harder to switch from ‘screenplay mode’ back into ‘author mode’ but it wasn’t. That means I’m more talented than I knew or I’m just not meant to write screenplays. Whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to this story. For anyone following the series, it has (will have) a somewhat sad ending tempered with a MAJOR change in one of the characters’ lives.

Of course I still have at least one book to rewrite and publish before this one comes out. Maybe more. Cruel? Perhaps. Apologetic about it? HA!

-matt

 

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Screenplayed. Whew!

Whew! And again I say whew! It is DONE. I’ve completed my screenplay based on A Pattern of Details and (I think) it’s ready to go. Maybe. I haven’t submitted it to Amazon yet, I have some questions that need answering, but that is my plan. I’m happy with the book-publishing services they provide so that’s what I’ll probably do.

I put my new writing on hold for this so I’ll probably see what I can do in that arena whilst I’m waiting. Dr. Kincaid has been bugging me about it so I need to pay some attention, I suppose.

I’m also considering a new supplement for my RPG system. It will be a full treatment of the game world along with new maps and plenty of adventures.

Well, that’s it for now. Merry post-Christmas and Happy New Year!

-matt

 

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Screenplaying

Okay. First report on my screenplay. I found a wonderful piece of software to help me along my path:

Trelby: http://www.trelby.org/

I was concerned about the format but now I’m not. This is an open-source (of course, of course) package specifically designed to write screenplays and such things. According to some professionals I’ve read it’s lightweight but, of course, I’m not (yet) a professional.

Trelby’s learning curve so far is approximately zero. I’ve used the TAB key. It switches between ‘action’ elements and ‘dialog’ elements. Starting an action element with ext. or int. automatically creates a scene element. Cool. The ONLY change I had to make was switching the paper from ‘A5’ to ‘Letter.’ The ultimate result may suck but at least it will be formatted properly.

Speaking of content, now I understand “… great movie but it wasn’t anything like the book.”

I decided to use “A Pattern of Details” for my first foray into screenwriting. My raw version is about 250 single-spaced letter-size pages. The basic rule for screenplays is 100 to 120 pages and they require a LOT more whitespace: both between elements and for margins.That means I have to cut out approximately two-thirds of my story (or more!) to make it fit into a good screenplay.

So the next time you’re comparing a book to a movie, keep this in mind. Sheesh!

I’m trying my best to capture the “feel” of the book, and I’m doing that, but I’m also still wrestling with what makes a good screenplay vs. what makes a good book. I’m slowly learning to write in present tense but I have a sinking feeling my action elements may need drastic trimming and revision.

Ah well. Such is life. Screenwriting isn’t as hard as I thought it would be but it may turn out to be more difficult than I ever imagined. More coming.

FADE OUT.

ROLL CREDITS

Written by: Matt

 

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Wanted: Beret and Cheap Sunglasses

“It’s Hollywood, dah-leenk.”

I am turning to the dark side. Maybe. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a masochist. I’ve decided to convert one of my books into a screenplay. As of now I know nothing about them but I’ve downloaded formatting guides and, more importantly, examples. If anyone out there in blogland has some extra luck please send it my way. Advice and encouragement also appreciated.

I’ll post updates here as my project progresses. Or doesn’t. May the force be with me.

-matt

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Writing About Writing: Knock Knock

Who’s there? That’s up to you. This post concerns aliens in your science-fiction universe. Do they exist? If so, what are they like?

Many people don’t consider a story true science fiction unless it has aliens. My universe does not, as yet, have any non-human inhabitants. Nor do I plan to. Why, you ask? Because they’re not needed.

Before you include aliens, ask yourself what purpose they fill in your universe. Not from their point of view but from yours. In his classic Foundation Trilogy, Asimov had no aliens. They were not needed. Arguably, the Mule and the members of the Second Foundation might be considered alien but were not. Asimov did not need aliens to convey anything. Humans were alien enough for him.

In a similar vein, Herbert’s Guild Navigators, Bene Tleilax and even Bene Gesserit (Dune) might be considered alien but again, they were essentially human. In both of these cases the authors found sufficient alien-ness within humanity and didn’t need green-eyed monsters.

Now let’s shift gears. Star Trek would not have been Star Trek without its plethora of alien races. In this case, though, each alien race was carefully realized to emphasize both its uniqueness and its similarity to humanity. These beings both emphasized the fact that they were alien and they focused sharply some aspect in the mirror humanity holds up to itself.

Star Wars. Ahhh, Star Wars. More aliens than would fit into a Mos Eisley cantina. Most of them had very human aspects. The story, however, emphasized some of the most basic human conflicts and desires. The plethora of aliens served to demonstrate that some things – the struggle for freedom from tyranny – transcend such trivial things as the body’s exterior configuration.

Finally, consider Brin’s Uplift books. In these stories the aliens are ubiquitous throughout the universe and humanity is an endangered species. Some of the aliens are friends, some are enemies and others just don’t care. In this case the aliens define the struggle while humanity, with only unconventional unpredictability as its weapon, manages to succeed by the thinnest of margins.

Aliens can be fun, messengers, mirrors, obstacles or simply there. As with all things, the role they fill in your universe is up to you.

-matt

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Trouble In Paradise-Not

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Illegal drugs are bad and worse when they lead to death. More so when it happens to a young couple in the Lost Angels sector on their graduation night. That tragedy embroils Micah and his team in an under-the-garble mission where they find corruption at the highest levels not of one government but two. Failure threatens the existence of Intelligence itself and success may land Micah in prison.

WHEW! And again I say Whew! I don’t know why (actually I do) but this book has been a monster to get ready. But it is finally DONE. Now maybe I’ll be able to get back to blogging more than once in a blue moon. Ah well, enough blathering.

The League always has trouble with drug smuggling on its border with the Metazan Republic. Now the problem is even worse. The niece of the Lost Angels Sector’s Governance Board Chairperson died from a new ‘import’ the night of her graduation. Lost Angels and its sector senator really don’t like League Intelligence and are quick to capitalize on this chance to shut them down. Totally and permanently. Micah and his team must now delicately trace the connections that will lead them to the cause of the tragedy and, somehow, prevent it from happening again.

Ultimately they find massive, high-level corruption not only in one government but TWO. What’s more, they’re not allowed to touch one of them. As if that’s not enough, their investigation leads them afoul of the Patrol Rangers, the most elite law-enforcement unit within the League. Now Micah must convince the Rangers not to put him in jail, all the while battling his newly-resurrected personal demons come back to haunt him.

One of the main reasons I haven’t been blogging is that I’m still trying to get my RPG printed in paperback. Man. NOT easy. But, at least now I have one less thing to worry about. So, I should be back soon with more cool posts. I hope!

Ciao;

-matt

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Lost and Found. Somewhere…

Dr. Kincaid writes:

“I’ve received several questions on linkspace travel and why ships don’t stop mid-link. I won’t go into the grisly scientific details, mostly because they are very grisly, but the short answer is this:

“Linkspace is different from normal space.

“I know, ‘No blather!’ but that is the reason. Let’s consider normal space and locations within it. Pick a single reference point, no matter where it is. We’ll use the Metropole star. Any other location in normal space can be described using a three-component vector starting at Metropole and ending at the other location. ‘But,’ you say, ‘what about time?’ Slib. Make it a four-component vector with the last coordinate being the time it takes to traverse the distance. Therefore ‘It takes T time to travel from point (0, 0, 0) (Metropole) to point (X, Y, Z).’

“Except that it doesn’t. Even if we assume a constant linear distance from Metropole to our destination the time component is not constant! Simply put, if we travel twice as fast it only takes half as long. Once again, we’re ignoring the fact that the two points are in motion with respect to each other (which contributes to jitter) and the relativistic effect of moving at any speed greater than zero.

“Now we factor in the curvature of space. Even though we perceive it as linear, and on a small enough scale it is indistinguishable from, space is not linear. For truth, linearity as a concept is just that: concept and not reality. The simple fact is normal space is curved. In order to travel from one world to another we must take that curvature into account.

“Linkspace is also curved. Depending on the phase used, the curvature is either very similar to normalspace or very dissimilar. The term scientists use is relatively plesilinear or simply plesilinear. The word itself means, loosely, close to linear. This plesilinearity both allows faster-than-light travel and complicates it.

“Every point in normal space has a corresponding point in linkspace(es) but the path between these points does not necessarily correspond. I can see your thoughts bubbling. Right now you’re thinking ‘But the pathway between two corresponding points is composed of points, each of which has a corresponding point, therefore the paths must be identical!’ And you would be wrong. This is where plesilinearity comes into play. While it is true that the path-points in normalspace do have corresponding points in linkspace, the curvature between them is different!

“What this means is that, while the endpoints of both paths do correspond, the actual points along the path traversed in linkspace do not necessarily correspond to points along that particular path in normal space. Therefore, terminating the link before reaching the destination could put the ship anywhere.

“For those of you now worried about traveling, don’t. Statistically speaking you’re much safer taking a link than you are driving a hover to work. For those who don’t like statistics, League vessels are built with multiply-redundant safety systems in place. They’re not just redundant, they are designed to fail before linking it if something’s wrong. That means if the thalyssium grid or coils have even the slightest irregularity the link will fail, the lights will flash and you’ll spend a little more time where you are instead of where you want to be.

“I hope this allays your concerns. By all means keep your questions coming!”

F. R. Kincaid, PhD, ArG

If you’re interested in the universe about which Dr. Kincaid speaks, you can read all about it in A Pattern of Details and the Stone Blade series:
http://moldyripegrape.wix.com/newstarstradeleague
http://amazon.com/author/jamescoxjr
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JamesMattCox

I’ll also be continuing my posts about writing and about my writing.

Ciao;

-matt

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