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Latest News: August 6th 2017

I know, I know, so very quiet as of late.
Well, there’s a reason for that. Not so very long ago my father in law, a thoroughly decent, honest and hard-working man received the kind of news that no man ever wants to hear. “George” his GP told him “your prostate cancer has spread, it’s now present throughout your body. If you’re lucky you have 3 months to live if you’re not lucky it could be as little as a fortnight.”
He wasn’t lucky. He got more than a fortnight, but not much more.
He made it past that fortnight, though not by much and passed away last Monday, at peace his hands held by the two women who loved him most: his daughter and wife. The funeral was on Thursday. There are times in your life when you have to step up and do whatever you can to help those you love. That means that you get less time to do what you want to do, and that’s as it should be.

So, my reading and writing took a big hit over the last few months, my usual two books a week becoming two books in 6 weeks. One of those two books I started yesterday and finished today. That’s right, I read Jeffro’s Appendix N in under 24 hours and a cracking good read it was too. I’m planning a more in depth look at it in the next few days now that life is finally returning to normal.

There are four weeks of the summer holidays left. Four glorious weeks during which we’ll do everything we can to enjoy the wonderful gift of life that we’ve been given. There are places to go to, places to see and a little buddy that is going to have some very special memories at the end of them. When it comes to end school starts and with it the beginning of my career as a professional writer.

I can hardly wait.

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Latest news

Sorry guys I know it’s been a while.
It’s a busy time of the year here in the McSmith Household. Dearly beloved is hard at work, and as that work is in a school and it’s coming up to end-of-year it’s pretty hectic for her, meaning longer days and much longer hours. Anyone who thinks that teachers have an easy life needs to take a serious look at themselves. Lil Buddy has been going to see her new school and fingers crossed it looks like she loves it. Son is back for the summer now that his first year of University is completed, which is a mixed blessing. I love the great big lug but he also annoys the hell out of me too. That’s kids for ya!

I’ve not had a great deal of spare time, it seems some days that 16 of the 24 are taken up by Lil Buddy. The little bit that I do get is usually crashed out in front of my laptop defragging my tired brain. I’m extra tired too because I decided to quit drinking soda a month ago and the loss of caffeine to my system has hit me hard.

That being said I have been enjoying an uptick in my action adventure viewing. I’ve seen both series of Into the Badlands, which were enjoyable, John Wick 2 which was fantastic and both Raid and Raid 2. I liked the first one, not so keen on the second. Book wise it’s been about the craft really.

Which brings me to my last point, a minor irritation. Why do books that are supposed to be about writing focus so heavily on films? The two are very different mediums, that tell stories in vaguely similar ways. They are not and should never be considered interchangeable. What works in one will not necessarily work in the other. Telling me how something works in The Terminator does me no good whatsoever because I’m not making a damned film!

Just a thought.

Anywhoo, y’all take care

See you soon


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SPV, some thoughts.

I’ve been interested in Sad/Rabid puppies since the day I had my epiphany after reading ‘If you were a dinosaur. Obviously, as a non-published writer with no dog in the fight, it’s quite easy to see things as an outsider.
Take the Rabid Puppies. It’s run by Vox Day, it’s his ballgame and he can do whatever he wants with it. His aim, which he states quite plainly, is to burn the Hugos down. It’s his church, and if that’s the hymn he wants to play then so be it. As far as I can see, as it was in the beginning so it is now.
The Sad Puppies have changed over the years. Larry Correia had his own agenda, as did Brad Torgerson, as did Katie Paulk. Each did things as they wanted to with varying degrees of success. The aim though always seemed to be getting SFF that is genuinely diverse (as opposed to one message fiction) recognized by Worldcon. I accept that this is a gross oversimplification, but I can’t be arsed to list all the differences.
Sad Puppies 5 was supposed to be headed by Sara Hoyt according to posts put out on The Mad Genius Blog. I remember reading the initial post and thinking that ‘this could be interesting’ seeing it as a natural evolution from Katie Paulks methodology from 2016. As someone who has no desire to give Worldcon one single penny of my money that was as much thought as I put into it.
Her comment about ‘someone wanting to hijack the campaign’ (I paraphrase because it’s late and I’m tired) did seem a little overboard, especially as she didn’t provide any corroborating screencaps etc. Like I said at the start, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I thought nothing more of it.
Then there came the latest post, which explained why Sad Puppies seemed to miss the entirety of this year’s Hugos. Again, no dog, so I took it all at face value, but one thing struck me. There will be no Sad Puppies 6, or 7 or anything. Now there is just Sad Puppies the brand. One that will run forever with there being no need for any further changes in leadership. If the site goes up as described it will roll over year in year out. Will this detoxify the Puppies? Of course not, that would involve the creators of the Assterixs admitting that they were wrong and they’re not going to do that anytime soon.
Honestly, I think that the Sad Puppy campaigns are now over. The Hugos have changed the rules to ensure their will is and will remain paramount so there will be no change there. The Dragon Awards appear to be totally above board so you can’t campaign against them. Not unless they appear to be the wrong kind of diverse of course. Expect Rainbow Puppies to appear next to bring them in line with Worldcon.
Ye Gods I hope I’m wrong.

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Sharing is caring: Oghmas’ Giveaway!

Well, schedules are like a box of chocolates. I will burn through all my free time on frivolous things and get to stuff later than intended. Without further ado. GIVEAWAYS First Prize: 3 full sized Poster Maps of Aihdre 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 feet Sealed Pack of Castles and Crusades Character Record Sheets 2 […]

via Giveaway! — Temple of Iron

I was originally going to do part two of my take on The Moon Pool but I’m just enjoying it too much to rush! So instead allow me to present to you a giveaway from the awesome Oghma. Come back Monday for the second part of my review, unless I get it done earlier.

Good Luck and take care!

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Gaining a second education, Part three

Fast forward a few years. I’d been reading heavily in the horror and thriller genre and fancied a return to science-fiction. So, I did what any sane person would do and went looking for recommendations. What better place to start than with the Hugo nomination list. I had a quick look and saw that the latest winner was Ancillary Justice and so I ordered it from the library.

And I hated it. I loathed it. The whole gender thing? It felt like a gimmick, put there just to tick a particular box. I had read Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness while at school and found it amazing. I finished it and searched out the Earthsea stories which were even better. Leckies tale was confused and meandered and just seemed pointless. The action sequences were amateurish. And this had won the Hugo? How could this have won, was the rest of the field so poor? It ticked all the boxes I’d been taught to look out for but it was like a cup of frothy coffee, all head, and no real body.

I thought it was me. Back in the pre-internet days, I would have just assumed that it was just me. At this point, I had no idea that there was such furore over the Hugos. Bearing in mind that all I really wanted was something good to read, something to do while my newly arrived Lil Buddy slept. I did what any sane man would do; I investigated. I found If you were a dinosaur my love, a Hugo nominee. I still thought it might be me so I read some of the authors’ other work.

I was revolted.

I discovered the puppies, both sad and rabid and I listened to what they said. I discovered the fans over at 770 and I listened to what they said. And a (year, sorry my timing might be out) later I watched as the Hugo’s handed out wooden asterisks, ignored an amazingly talented editor and a female writer was verbally abused by someone who should have known better.

I was disgusted.

So I started giving my money to puppy writers. I read Sarah Hoyt, Katie Paulk and Larry Correia. Brad Torgerson scratched the itch that Leckie had missed completely. Monster Hunter was a thrill ride from start to finish. I enjoyed John C. Wright. I was entertained by one and all and that’s all I really wanted when I started out with Leckie. I certainly wasn’t looking for a fight.

I feel the need to finish on a more positive note. Three years ago I was hoping to begin writing full-time. Lil Buddy came to live with us and I found myself as a full-time parent again and I put her first, a decision I’ve never regretted. Lil Buddy is the joy in my life and gave me the opportunity to serve a writing apprenticeship, learning the craft of writing. If there’s a book on writing out there I’ve probably read it and that was only made possible thanks to her.

I’ve written over a million words in the last three years, and some of it has been good but most, well not up to the standard. Something was missing and I found out what it was. The writers of the Pulp Era. I need to say a huge thank you to Jeffro Johnson putting the idea in my head to read Appendix N.The same goes out to Jasyn Jones for his indefatigable passion for all things pulp.These stories have meaning, real heart and unadulterated heroism. I have three months before my Lil Buddy begins schools and I can once again resume writing full time. By then I hope to have gotten a good start on my second education, I’m learning more now than I ever did at school.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading guys

Take care


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Gaining a second education, Part Two

I left the army and began a degree. There’s some intervening action in between these two events but I’m happy to leave it at that. I began reading poetry again during this period, purely for pleasure and discovered Seamus Heaney whose words still move my heart today. His interpretation of Beowulf is, in my opinion, the best. Better even than Magnus Magnusson’s.

Want to know how to learn to hate reading? Do an English degree. I guarantee that if you have any desire to be a writer a degree in English Lit. will knock it out of you. You will learn to analyze books you love until you come to hate them and all in the name of regurgitating the lecturers’ views back at her. What’s worse is that you then go into the real world and produce more of this regurgitation and present it as ‘in depth reviews’ of books you don’t like. I still can’t read those reviews without shuddering.

So I quit the course and switched to History. One of these days I get around to finishing it.

I didn’t read anything for a couple of years after that one term of English. I couldn’t read for pleasure at all, the rot had set in too deep. Luckily God had invented Vidya and I lost a lot of time playing games in my free time. Then divorce happened and I lost access to the Vidya and I picked up a book again. The Collected Tales of M.R. James and I was once again a reader. James led to Swain and although I could still hear that little voice in the back of my head seeking to analyze every damned word it was bearable.

Aged thirty I made a decision. I’d read again, but I’d stay well clear of anything with ‘depth’. I read widely but stayed in the now. Cussler, King, and early Koontz were devoured because I didn’t have to think while reading them, they weren’t in any way challenging. Challenging to the world view that had set up home within my mind.

I had grown up on the left, politically. What did the right have to offer a young man brought up in poverty in Britain? My wife was for the left and a committed feminist. When we got divorced I lost all contact with the kids, and she even convinced me that to go along with it, ‘for the good of the children’, ‘for their mental health’. I was so indoctrinated that I didn’t even question it.

Not until I met my second wife anyway. She doesn’t do politics and she doesn’t do feminism and she calls bull poop when she sees it. When the opportunity to have my son come and live with me arose she convinced me to jump at the chance. She also insisted that I read books that made me uncomfortable, that challenged that voice. ‘Fight it, or be owned by it’ is her mantra.

So I did and my second education began.

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Gaining a second education, Part one.

oseWell, I listened to Geek Gab last night (thrilled to get the shout out guys) and it got me to thinking about my literary education. Specifically how I missed out on the pulps. I have some thoughts.

As an adult, I’ve always believed that the responsibility for teaching your kids is split between the state and the family. With obvious caveats for those that choose home-schooling obviously. Some families are up for the task, but, based on my own and my wife’s’ experience of working in schools, most are not. 100% of the responsibility is placed on the school, with the parents refusing to do what needs to be done to create decent, well-rounded individuals. Those kids will struggle, state schools simply lack the resources to succeed here.

My parents were split. My mother, who I spent most of my youth with left the school to it. No help whatsoever. My father, stepmother and her parents, for the two years I lived with them, were the complete opposite. My mum taught me to read, that’s it. My father and grandfather taught me to love reading and that’s a much harder thing to do. They got me interested in reading broadly across fiction and non-fiction, classics and the new stuff. I read more in those two years than I would in the next six. This was all the grounding I would get in Appendix N type literature, and even that was limited to Wellman and Howard. (There was also Twain and Heinlein and Herbert to name but a few,)

Education isn’t set up to inspire a love of reading. It has no desire to push you towards books that will expand your mental horizons. Individual teachers might, if they’re dedicated and like you, but the system isn’t designed to. It’s easy for a love of books to be lost, for a single teacher to take that away forever. Again, I’ve seen that happen which is why parents stepping in and accepting some responsibility for their kids’ education is so important. Feed your kids with books, read them together, inspire that love because I’m telling you now schools won’t.

I got a good grounding in literature at school. Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton as well as Dickens, Austen, Steinbeck and the Great War Poets. That’s how they were taught, by the way, all in capitals. We learned to read, dissect for comprehension and then regurgitate for the teachers required meaning. And if you don’t think your grade was based on how closely your essay followed the teachers’ political leanings I’ve got a bridge for sale on the Thames you can buy.

I read Dante and Solzhenitsyn from the school library as well as Poul Anderson, Silverberg and Piers Anthony. I blame Anthony for my love of serial novels, his Xanth series hooked me as a twelve-year-old. That wasn’t school though, I stumbled across him, random fortune put him in my way. That’s the key point here though, without someone guiding you, someone knowledgeable it’s all so damned random.

I left school at 16 and joined the army. I honestly thought my education was over. I’d had dreams of being a writer, what reader doesn’t, but reality intrudes. I carried on reading, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. At some point the army decided to educate me, to fill in the parts that were missing. I got A Levels and somewhere along the way that love of the written word flared up again.

My second education had begun, and this time it was solely down to me.