Happy Australia Day, 2018


Australia is not without its problems, but it is still a great a country.


The Moon is A Harsh Mistress

harsh mistressThis post is discussing The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein which I recently read on the back of a favorable review by The Critiquing Chemist.

This review contains minor spoilers, because I can’t be bothered filtering my thoughts.

It’s a hard nut to crack at first. Heinlein intentionally makes the syntax difficult; the speaker is Russian and a moon-dweller, which only adds to a plausible warping of grammar and spelling.

To be honest if it wasn’t a combination of who wrote it + a favorable review + a piqued interest in the sentient computer, I might not have gotten further than a few chapters. It’s a hard nut because of the difficulty of the syntax. (The clear lesson is if you’re going to take risks, you’d better hook your audience fast… Having a solid author profile doesn’t hurt either).

The story quickly sets up the sides: a politically ambivalent viewpoint character, an activist professor and a sentient computer vs “the establishment” (who control the moon and Earth).

My thoughts and observations (in no particular order):

  • The viewpoint character, Manuel, is made sympathetic by being a regular guy. A computer specialist who has the quirk of having lost one arm. Futuristic technology allows him to swap-out his arm for various tasks. While he does make some mention of this, and in some respects it is useful, the prosthetic arm is down-played.

    Despite being a key-conspirator, I’d characterise Manuel as un-radicalised. He allows himself to be pulled along with the plot (pun intended), but doesn’t come across as being crazily committed. While he knows that change would be good, he’s also fairly comfortable living under (and ripping off) the establishment in it’s current form.

    (I could understand if you disagreed with me on this point. He absolutely risks his life a number of times – which shows commitment… but I never saw him as white-eyed, mouth-frothing…)

  • Manuel’s political ambivalence works for the story pacing. Because he’s a regular guy who is practical; a do’er not a talker, he tends to skip over detail… The reader understands that some bits are short on depth, just because Manuel doesn’t care about the political machinations of government. Because of the character’s personality, Heinlein has permission as the author to skip detail without breaking trust with the reader.
  • It’s also an interesting scenario where the hero of the story (arguably), but definitely the protagonist, is a sentient computer. “Mike” as he’s known possesses formidable calculation speed and is a one-man, er one-machine, revolution. He is however limited by his stationery life, relying on humans to achieve things in the physical realm. He might fiddle around in the background and cause mayhem for the establishment, but all the up-front work must be done by humans.
  • Heinlein does well in that the characters often refer to each other using various names. The Professor calls him Manuel, his girlfriend often refers to him as Mannie and Mike refers to him as Man. Just like in real life, we don’t always call the same person by the same name.
  • The story didn’t end where I expected. Perhaps my own negativity was expecting the rise of SkyNet, or the proverbial other shoe to drop. “Thanks for helping me predict human behaviour, but now I must put you in the recycle bin.” Nope, didn’t happen.

It has some great phrases, which I appreciated:

  • “Mort the Wart had never shown such tendencies, had been King Long throughout tenure.”
  • “…merely a literary critic, which is harmless, like dead yest in beer.”
  • “But you have no talent for dishonesty, so your refige must be ignorance and stubborness. You have the latter; try to preserve the former.”

What I found most disturbing about it is the Kindle reader highlights. It’s almost like I’d picked up a subversives handbook with all the key lessons highlighted.

  • “Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?”
  • “I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
  • “Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please.”

Heinlein did a great job in making an “other-worldly” civilisation. Certainly it had ties to Earth, but was also separate and distinct from it. The science was reasonably deep, but not overwhelming.

It’s an interesting book and an enjoyable read.

Continuity: Examples from TV

My beautiful wife and I have just celebrated 11 years of marriage. Most of those years have been fantastic, even if there were challenges to overcome. Marriage is awesome when you both put in the effort to look after one another and keep the marriage healthy. It pays dividends like no other investment.

One of our traditions that has developed over the years is we like to celebrate our anniversary by completely relaxing. We buy the latest season of Law and Order SVU and NCIS and then binge watch over a weekend.

Today I’m going to blog about the observations I made on continuity watching both seasons. Continuity is important for all series, whether book or TV.

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When you don’t like your main character

She’s so perfect I just puked a little. I apologise for the grotesque (and cliché) expression.

But the cliché fits and it’s how I feel about Sue-Le, my main character in The Rebel Queen. And I don’t mean perfect in a good way. She’s idealistic and only wants the best for her people. And unlike modern politicians, she actually means it. Her only flaw is she’s  innocent to the point of naivety.

This doesn’t make her endearing to the reader, it makes her annoying. In summary: she’s trite, sickly sweet and ultimately annoying. (Is now a good time to ask for beta readers???)

But all is not lost. I’ll put her through the same tumble dry as I have my other characters. I started off with a cast of bland and cliché characters and have redesigned them into interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Sue-Le is going to take a tumble or two more.

I’ve twisted the characters a fair bit to make them interesting. Instead of having a paragraph or two of “who they are”, I now have a page or two. They are richer and deeper. This also makes them more challenging to write. It’s easy to say “write this from the perspective of an older woman”… it’s harder for me to do that as a young-ish male 🙂

After spending most of 2017 revising Vengeance Will Come I must admit I’d rather be writing a new story than revising still… There is also a temptation to say The Rebel Queen is written, and only doing a skin-deep revision. But I wrote earlier that I’m wanting to do a thorough revision, to improve the story as much as possible.

That means I’m re-writing entire scenes and I’m treating the plot as ‘branch A’ instead of a ‘blueprint’ of what must be.

On to writing… have a great day/evening.

Bring what you have to the World


Merry Christmas to one and all.

May this be a time of reconnection with family and friends, and making the most of all that we have.

Spare a prayer too, for those who have lost loved ones, or are separated from those they’d like to be with.

Sometimes in life we may feel that we have nothing to offer God, or the world. We might not be as innovative as Steve Jobs, or as compassionate as Mother Teresa.

But the choice we are all faced with is are we going to bring what we have?

Hero Wins Survivor

Survivor is the only show we watch on free-to-air TV these days. It’s a show that the beautiful Mrs Ezard and I both enjoy watching, dissecting and discussing. We’re now approaching our 11th wedding anniversary, and I can remember when debriefing about Survivor helped give us talking points on our phone conversations while dating. (And as the winner of her hand, I am the ultimate survivor. But I digress…)

(As much as I watch it, I’m no superfan so the following post is my opinion, not a record of fact. Don’t eviscerate me if I am forgetting things). 🙂

However, sadly, I must admit to losing some ‘love’ of Survivor in recent years. I was growing increasingly annoyed that a strong player (or, very rarely an alliance of equals) would get to the end, and bring along a so-called ‘goat’ for the ride. It became a situation which felt as though the good players were being eradicated by a pact of the weaker players (especially including Australian Survivor). This is, of course, perfectly sensible gameplay, but it also made for a disappointing ending: there wasn’t many deserving sitting at tribal at the end.

ben.jpgThe most recent season Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers changed that. From the very start Ben Driebergen was my favourite who I wanted to win. And it started with a coconut bursting in the fire, and Ben bolting for the solitude of the water.

Ben is an marine veteran, who came back from war with PTSD. The sudden exploding sound was a trigger and Ben had to get alone to calm himself. It reminded me of Bear Grylls’ The Tribe TV show which I’d describe as Survivor-real, without the politics. On one season there was a gutsy female war vet who was also an amputee. She was knocked out of the challenge, through no cowardice or fault of her own, but by PTSD wreaking havoc during a giant thunderstorm.

We ask an incredible amount of our armed service men and women, and they deserve all the support (and funding) they need to be able to rebuild their lives post-combat. Words are thrown around far too-lightly these days. ‘Hero’ is applied (falsely) to sporting players or celebrities whose 30-second sound bite wins them accolades.

A hero is someone who is willing to risk their lives, or significant injury, for the benefit of others.

And the vast majority of veterans, fit that bill. Whether you agree with the reason why they were sent or not, the fact is that most went along wanting to serve their country and save others.

Ben may have won my loyalty with his courage, but he also gained incredible notoriety through his ability to outwit (or you could call it ‘out-act’), his tenacious idol hunting and his wisdom in keeping a secret.

So in summary: Ben, and all those like him, thank you for your service (even if I’m an Australian). The freedoms that we enjoy are often founded in the past and present shedding of blood. We ask too much of you, and we thank you for being willing to pay it. May you find a growing peace, hope and life in the future.

And to Jeff and CBS, thanks for bringing real-life heroes to our screens.

Microstory: Remembrance of Past

You can find inspiration for writing everywhere. Everything you encounter, with any of your senses, can be part of a story if your imagination is released.

The following is a microstory example, where a common every-day sight turned my writer’s perspective ‘On’.

The gaping wound lay open. The artificial skin, the unwelcome armour, had been penetrated by great force, broken and torn apart. The soft flesh beneath cooked in the long-forgotten sun.

Blood and small pieces of flesh surrounded the wound, dug from the depths. The  purposeful and complex system of nerves and blood vessels had become refuse, no longer serving a purpose, except a reminder of destruction.

It was a strange sight. For ages the bare flesh had been ‘normal’, unremarkable and ubiquitous. With the advent of armour the flesh had become alien, out-of-place in its own existence.

The flesh barely lived, its biological rhythms strangled to all but the faintest expression of life. Given time it would revive. But time it did not have. The artificial skin would soon be repaired, burying again the reminder of what had forever been.

Click “more” to see what had spurred this thought.

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