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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Do You Mind If I Smoke
Fenella Fielding
Zero Point
Neal Asher

Review - "Hey Abbott....."

The Second Myth-ing Omnibus - Robert Asprin

The Second Mything Omnibus comprises of the fourth, fifth and sixth books in the Myth Adventure series. About 520-ish pages in total, roughly 170 per book, thereabouts.


It was more of the same as the first omnibus. The situations and gags kept coming in a constant stream. I think I guffawed loudly once in the book, the rest of the humour was a stream that kept coming, but rarely took a breather. Again, like watching a long Abbott and Costello routine.


Asprin is a skilled writer, as I think I might have said in the previous review, but some of the situations just didn't ring with me at all, just like in the first omnibus. Things were left unexplained and it wasn't really a roller coaster. It didn't really trigger any powerful emotions. I just felt like I was an outsider, observing the chaos as it unfolded. I did twig the identity of the Ax in, "Little Myth Marker," but I didn't find it disappointing, because I didn't, "feel," for the characters, if you know what I mean. At one point, there were also a lot of characters coming at me too quickly, and I had to put the book down a few times to process what I'd just read, before continuing.


An entertaining, well written romp if this is the kind of thing you like.

Early Draft - The Wrap - Chapter 1

Whadda you think? Worth progressing with?




Seth Anvar. That was his name, according to the screen. Below it was his age. Twenty four. Occupation, chief technology licensing officer for the Planetary Government. He’d come a long way for such a young age. Must have been one of the gifted. His address was in the Gethra district. Nice place. High class. Next of kin, none. Parents dead, no siblings and no life partner. Beneath that, a diagrammatic outline of his body with different coloured splodges showing the various degrees of damage that he had suffered.


Terri let her eyes drop from the screen and she examined Anvar’s naked body on the slab. This was the weirdest case she’d ever seen. Large bruises on his waist, cuts on his forehead and his hands were a real mess. Nails ripped and blood all over his fingers. The really confusing part was that the blood was all his. They’d had to break into the apartment to get to him and there was no sign of anyone else having been there. All the doors and windows had been locked from the inside, but the place looked like a riot had taken place. Trashed! It was as if he had been fighting with himself and still managed to be the looser.


“Heart failure,” said a tall, slim man in a white coat as he entered the room. “No doubt about it.” he continued while picking up a pair of medical gloves from a nearby table and began wriggling his fingers into them. “I even checked with the central computer. He had a massive heart attack.”


“None of this makes sense.” Terri stated the obvious.


“I know,” said the medic, “and to see this kind of violence in an area as peaceful as this, is a shock even to me.” He moved Anvar’s head and arm while he examined him, as if in disbelief of what his own eyes were seeing.


“I’m going to need his wrap.”


The medic looked at her with a blend of horror and uncertainty on his face, “Are you certain? That kind of thing isn’t normally done, you know. It usually goes with the body, in death as it does through life.”


“We’ve been over the apartment and found nothing. We’ve been over him and found nothing. I’m clutching at straws here and the wrap is the only thing I’ve got left.”


“Well,” the medic paused, “if you’re absolutely sure...” he tailed off.


“Unfortunately, I am.” Terri insisted.


The medic drew a deep breath. “OK.” He reached over for another pair of gloves and presented them to her. “I’m going to need your help, Detective.” Terri took the gloves and the medic waited patiently while she struggled with the unfamiliar rubber. Eventually, she nodded at him and they positioned themselves around Anvar’s body. “I’ll lift this side, and you push yours towards me.” With a heave and a grunt, they turned Anvar onto his front.


The medic lifted a laser knife from the table, and started cutting a large square into the back of the neck. The light hissing of the energy blade meeting flesh, resulted in a burning stench that made Terri wince. It was a smell that hadn’t been in her nostrils since her early days in the Earth Force, when the food riots of 3047 had claimed many lives.


The food riots were ended with the discovery of algae growing on the moons that flowed around Saturn. It was possible to process it into something edible, and the Galius corporation converted it to form red, “Moon Bars,” to feed the population. The bars could still be bought, even though the majority of the population had long since left to find their fortune on other planets.


Terri fought against her stomachs desire to heave, which grew in intensity as the medic slipped his gloved hand into the back of Anvar’s neck and brought out a heavy chunk of flesh, bone and blood. Putting his free hand underneath to catch the worst of the red liquid before it hit the floor, he went over to a corner of the room and put it inside a box. He pushed a button with one of his stained fingers and the lid of the box gently slid closed. A bright, clinical light illuminated the contents as a gentle hum floated on the air. “It will only take a few moments to dissolve the organics.” said the medic, reaching for a plastic bag which he opened in readiness for what would come out. He peered inside the machine. “Hmm… I think it’s working. Haven’t used this in a while.”


The glowing and the noise stopped and, once the medic was satisfied with what he could see, he pressed the button that opened the lid. Reaching inside, he brought out an intricate mesh of metalwork and electronics, which he transferred to the bag and sealed. Presenting it to Terri, he admitted his puzzlement. “I haven’t got a clue what you’re going to do with this, but… here you are.” He finished this with a sigh and continued to hold it while Terri fought to remove her gloves.


After wrestling herself free from the grip of the rubber, she took the bag from him. “Thank you. I’ve got the data from the body scan, so he can go to recyc, or whatever you’re going to do with him.” She gestured at the floor. “Sorry about the mess.”


“All in a days work Detective.” the medic sighed, clearly not happy that what should have been a simple push of an on-screen button, had now become a tiresome, smelly mop up job.


Terri made her excuses and left.

Review - Raising Steam

Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett

“Raising Steam,” was the penultimate novel in the Discworld series, before, “The Shepherd’s Crown,” which dealt with the passing of Nanny Ogg, possibly deliberately to parallel Terry’s own passing.
To my eyes, this book investigates the futility of the far right in trying to turn back the progressive multiculturalism in the world. A group of renegade Dwarves who think that progress has led them to abandon what it means to be a true dwarf, are running a guerilla war trying to disrupt progress. The renegades will play while the King is away, and the race is on to get the King back to the Scone of Stone before too much damage is done.
In aid of this, the new fangled steam engine is employed, along with decoys and a fair chunk of fighting. In with this are echoes of humanity and moral introspection typical of later Pratchett works. Personally, I found the Discworld series starting with hilariously twisted observations on everyday society and as it progressed the sharp wit was replaced with a deeper look at humanity and the morals which drive us. Had Pratchett lived, I believe he might have taken a look at the other side of the coin, the far left and political correctness; which I believe he did occasionally swipe at, but that’s just a guess.
The end of this book was a bit of a disappointment for me, personally; not unlike the protagonist waking up to find the whole thing had been a dream. It was a logical conclusion... that being insofar as logic could ever be applied to the Discworld, but I can't help feeling a bit empty inside at the end.

Review - Observational humour that touched a chord

Going Postal (Discworld, #33) - Terry Pratchett

Thinking of a title for this review is difficult, because I could easily have mistaken Pratchett for having been a civil servant in British government early on in his career. For an explanation of the kind of thing I mean, watch the first 3 minutes and a few seconds of "Whoops Apocalypse" - that will explain the kind of humour in this book.


Here, the book is four stars. Number 33 in the Discworld series, I found Pratchett's later books to not be as rip roaringly funny as previous titles. His earlier novels embarassed me considerably, as I couldn't stifle a guffaw while on public transport.


In this book, he comments on the real life situation of corporate greed screwing over the general public and society at large, including not caring about the people it kills. But then, that is one of the endeering things about a Discworld novel. Pratchett not only entertains but brings observations about our present society, into the book to be held up for examination, discussion and sometimes just plain old flagrant abuse.


The UK's postal service, the Royal Mail, had been threatened with privitisation for some time, as various public services and properties had gone this way over preceeding years. Going Postal was published in 2004, perhaps forseeing the eventual beginning of the privitisation process in 2011. As such, this book holds an extra resonance with some readers.


In this book, the public postal service has been tehnologically overtaken by the Clacks, putting the post out of business. A group of financiers took over the Clacks service by dubious financial means, and proceeded to run it at bare minimum investment, causing failures which the public have no option but to stomach. Then, by dint of fate and perhaps more than a little planning by the extremely cunning Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, a new postmaster is found.


The task is frought with dangers, including a sorting machine which sorts mail that hasn't been written yet, letters that talk to you and, of course, the owners of the Clacks don't take too kindly to having competition, even if it does cost a dollar to send a letter to Genua. You can imagine the mayhem that ensues.


I'll hire vampires if they're a member of the League of Temperance, trolls if they wipe their feet, and if there're any werewolves out there I'd love to hire postmen who can bite back.

Review - Skilled writing, but no rise and fall

The Myth-ing Omnibus - Robert Lynn Asprin

Asprin is a clever writer. He can turn a phrase and has a knack of comedy. This is three books in one. Total of 600-ish pages, at roughly 200 pages per book.


Asprin builds his characters well and reasonably believably. That alone is what kept me glued to the book, wanting to read more. There were a few places where I was jarred, but it wasn't enough to make me put the book down. A number of situations left me completely puzzled, like why a smaller dragon should talk with a larger draggon which is under control of someone else, in a battlefield situation... and the larger dragon just give up and fly off. That one left me thinking, "Eh?" and as it was a fairly strong turning point in the battle that was being waged at the time, I have to admit that it left me scratching my head. I just didn't get it.


The other thing is that the level of the book continues at more or less the same pace. It didn't leave me hanging on the edge of my seat. I didn't feel like I was riding a rollercoaster of emotion... it was more like a bungling of one situation to the next, with a constant stream of Abbot and Costello.


My conclusion is that it was witty and well written, but it left some trails of breadcrumbs where I got lost in the woods through losing the trails, and it didn't really make me want to belly laugh, if you know what I mean. Worth reading, but don't expect to be blown away.


Review - As an IT person, I enjoyed it

The Blue Nowhere - Jeffery Deaver

This heavily involves IT and hacking and as you can probably guess, as IT is my career, I am sensitive to certain things. (I'm writing this on a Macbook Air which has been altered to run my preferred Linux distribution, and my mobile is neither Apple, Android, Blackberry or Microsoft. Not telling you what it is!) nevertheless this achieved 4 stars.


Even though various segments within the book were technically out of whack (I had to look at the publishing date when I read some company names, as they aren't around any more) it didn't phase me. I could see a few things coming before they hit, but there were many twists and turns that I didn't catch. I ploughed through it quite quickly, and enjoyed the ride.


It moved quickly and mostly believably, only jarring me in a few places. Well written and certainly more believable than many thrillers that pull greatly on IT. An enjoyable short read.

"The Wrap"

I've been on hiatus for a while. I had planned "Green lightning," which had a theme of fighting the organised gangs in Mexico. However, it looks like things have got too serious there, for me to write a fiction book around it. So that idea is parked.


Issues elsewhere in the world are also quite serious, so I've decided to go into the future again. Science Fiction... again. Begins with a murder investigation. The core plot is already down. I know the who, what, when, where and why. As usual, greed is the primary motivator. Also, a commentary on corporate greed and the weakness and gullibility of politicians.


But then... it is a well worn path. The key is the journey... the twists, the tales, the intrigue... that's what it's all about. Right?


The next step is the primary characters. Names, descriptions, motivations and where they sit in the great scheme of things. Also, how they change. Would they have the guts to  pull the trigger in the critical moment?


Once I've got the primary characters down, then I can use their personalities, drives and agendas to weave the sub plots that will surround the skeleton of the main plot itself.


It has taken a while to get to the point where I want to write again. The block of six books that I wrote, took a lot out of me in terms of energy and effort; and nothing sizeable came back to recharge that bank, so I've had to wait for it to fill itself through its own mechanisms. Let's just hope that I take the lessons I've learned so far, and write a better book this time.

Page 4, put down

Zero Point - Neal Asher

I don't know what's wrong. me or the book. Too much detail, too fast, for me to take in, so I've put it down and will return to it another day.

Aww... come on...

— feeling beaten

I know I'm not a successful author, HMRC... but there's no need to rub it in...



Booh yah....

In GENIE I wrote about Spy Fly. In the meantime, in the real world, we now have RoboFly .... https://newatlas.com/robofly-tetherless-flying-insect-robot/54621/

Even the tax office is a critic

I earn so little as an author that the tax office shut down my self assessment portal account. After some conversations, I sent them details of how much I'd earned as an author.... and got a rebate of £34.50 ... I know I don't sell many books, but... man... that hurts!


I thought I could write....

The bathroom needs re-working. The kind of re-working where everything is ripped out and started again. I thought, "OK, I can take a few weeks off work and while they're working on the house, I can make a good start on the next book." ... oh, was I mistaken.


There's dust everywhere, and I have to cross my legs for long periods as our only toilet has to go out of commission during certain work phases. I mean... honestly... if I even attempted to write this into a book, no one would ever believe it.


Post from Facebook

I'm slowly deleting all my posts on Facebook, and one of them I thought I'd post here, to keep it safe :-)...


Dedicating a book to someone you care about is so very, very difficult. How do you wrap up years of friendship, companionship, laughs, tears, hugs, walks, warm evenings together over glasses of wine, cold evenings together over a hot cup of tea ... in just a few words on a page?

Companion and Leader won't be re-written

It took a friend, a sit-down and a few beers. The nub of it is that I'm still not a good enough writer to do them justice. I'd just be making different mistakes. I'm among the first people to admit that I've got a way to go, before I become a decent author.


I'm not happy with the decision... but I think it's the right one.

Amazon Is Burying Sexy Books

Here's the article on Motherboard - https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bjpjn4/amazon-erotica-best-seller-rankings-removed


In the last few days, word has spread among independent erotica authors on social media that Amazon was quietly changing its policies for erotic novels. Five authors I spoke to, and several more on social media, have reported that their books were stripped of their best seller rankings—essentially hiding them from casual browsing on the site, and separating them from more mainstream, safe-for-work titles.

There seems to be little rhyme or reason to what gets deranked and what doesn’t. Ann Mayburn, an erotica author, told me in Facebook direct messages that her science fiction romance featuring “vibrating alien penises and ejaculation that's purple and tastes like candied violets” still has its ranking, but another novel, a BDSM romance, has been labeled as erotica and “sent to the no-rank dungeon.”


The question now is what are readers... customers... who enjoy these kinds of novels,  going to do about this?

To change, or not to change... that is the question

I'm facing an epic decision over the next few days. Whether to re-write The Companion and The Reluctant Leader.


Later this week, I'll be with a friend as we go over the car for its pre-MOT check. After the work is done, we traditionally sit back with a bottle or two of beer, and chew the cud. The re-write is front and centre of discussion.


She's read shed loads of books in her many decades of life, and reckons that I should just leave them as is. Personally, I know that I made the mistake of writing my legacy work while I was still in "film script" mode, which is where the written word leaves key things in the hands of the actors and director. Cinematography has different ways of approaching things and has its own way of making an impact. So those first two books are wanting.


But they are my legacy work (as far as I'm concerned) and I want them to be the best they can be. However, I'm also aware that a book can never be perfect; you have to let it go at some point and let people make of it, what they will. I already have enough feedback on Companion to know where its shortcomings are.


Bring on the discussion.... and the beer, of course.