Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Oom on Kindle

January 18, 2011

I uploaded my original Oom pdfs to the kindle store, so it is now available there!

I wanted to price it at £0.00 but the cheapest they let you make it is 75p

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Small Success For Oom

February 26, 2010

Oom made it to the second round of ABNA – the “Amazon Breakthorugh Novel Awards”. What does that mean? Well, from 5000 entries to the YA section, Oom has made it into the top 1000 (not exactly a shortlist). However, the first round was only judged on the “pitch”, which went something like this:

Set in the dry Australian grasslands, “Oom” uses an original take on the boy-meets-alien storyline to provide an intriguing look at humanity from the outside.

When Oom, an alien exiled from his home planet, appears to Joe, the ten year old son of an Australian farmer, everything changes. Joe’s family face the prospect of having to sell their drought crippled farm to their arrogant and self-righteous neighbours. Oom knows the farmland intimately by another name, “Ascension”, and tells Joe of a secret that could save the farm.

But Oom is not visiting Earth to make contact with humans. His higher purpose is to seek the wisdom of, and be judged by, another species entirely. These telepathic creatures have been intricately connected with Oom’s people for millennia, remotely acting as their supreme leaders.

Through their philosophical discussions, Joe and Oom become close friends. Later, Joe accompanies Oom for two important meetings. Firstly, Oom indulges humanity’s curiosity and agrees to meet with the US president. The second meeting is infinitely more profound and changes Oom’s life forever.

Unfortunately, the next round of judging will be based on the strength of the opening three chapters, and I know from the feedback I’ve had that these are the worst in the book. But at least this is validation that Oom is a good book concept.

Authonomy

January 27, 2010

Oom is now on authonomy.

Reviews Slowly Dropping In

January 25, 2010

I’ve started getting some interesting feedback about my book from the giveaways on goodreads and librarything.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7236060-oom

http://www.librarything.com/work/book/53937542

I got one quite bitchy 2 * review on goodreads. I won’t post it here, since I am trying to promote my book (I’m not a complete idiot), but the link is above.

Someone else only gave Oom 3 stars, but the review really cheered me up:

Oom, a smart, kind creature from the planet of Llevro has been sent to Earth for a reason unknown to him. As he waits to find out the reason for his adventure, he befriends Joe. Together, they exchange stories of their home planets while awaiting the meeting that will change Oom forever.

When I started reading OOM, it was a little slow, but it quickly picked up and made me want to read all the time. The story was very original and the unforeseeable twists and turns were enjoyable. For me, all of Joe’s questions and Oom’s answers were the best part.

It is a strange feeling to read the reviews. I guess I didn’t realise how naked one can feel by going through the self-publishing game. All in all I am glad I self-published the book, but with hindsight I would not have put in the time to promote it. I think there is more dignity in going through the usual approach of sending manuscripts off to publishers one at a time, privately!

But I can’t go back now so I’ll just have to take the rough with the smooth.

Nephew’s Verdict

January 18, 2010

I was really pleased with my 10 year-old nephew’s response to Oom, especially since I have had a little criticism that the book is too advanced for a ten year old. Could my 10 year old nephew be telling white fibs to make me feel better? It’s definitely possible. Here is his email, which I hope he won’t mind me publishing in full, so you can judge:

Giveaways Complete

January 3, 2010

My giveaways are complete now. I gave 5 to librarything members and 10 to goodread members.

Hopefully they’ll all read and review it.

Thoughts about the Universe

January 1, 2010

This is a bit indulgent but I am supposed to be a sci-fi writer so here’s some scientific thinking:

There is a problem in modern physics that doesn’t seem to want to be solved. That is, the incompatibility between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. String Theory and M-Theory are our best attempts to unify quantum mechanics and gravity (don’t ask me how), but there are a couple of things I don’t like about String Theory.

The idea String Theory hooks you with is elegant and easy to understand: that all sub-atomic particles are in fact all manifestations of the same tiny “strings”, but the strings vibrate at different frequencies giving the different particle properties that we see at the macro level. Then it gets trickier: the strings actually are only one dimensional (what the?) and they vibrate in eleven dimensional space (they’re taking the piss). What’s more, dimensions 5 to 11 are too small to see. They are “curled up” apparently – tinier than atoms (what do they take us for?).

Somehow I don’t think Einstein would have liked the theory because it is impossible to imagine. It is unsatisfactory because it is impossible to conceive of those 11 dimensions (although it is fascinating to try). It is similar to the problem I have with the big bang theory as it stands, which states that everything started from an insanely tiny point in space that was insanely dense that exploded in a Big Bang and has been inflating ever since. I mean you cannot imagine all space and time being compressed to a tiny point because you immediately start thinking about a little dot in, well, an empty space. But the empty space is not supposed to have existed before the Big Bang, because all space and time supposedly came from that little dot. My intuition tells me that if a theory cannot be properly imagined then it must be bollocks.

My dad, John, got me thinking when he described a theory he has about all this. I can’t do it justice here because I don’t understand all he was telling me, but some of his ideas were something like this: The matter in galaxies was not all created in the Big Bang, but is in fact generated continuously by the galaxy. At the centre of most galaxies is a super-massive black-hole, which according to hawkins, are not completely black – they radiate something or other. These black holes, in my dad’s theory, are actually made of antimatter and so repel the ordinary matter that it creates. The black hole will “weigh” roughly the same as the matter it creates, and so if you add all the matter and antimatter from a galaxy together (i.e. the stars and the super-massive black hole in its centre) you get nothing. Well, actually you will have a little more antimatter because the stars will have radiated heat and light and since E=mc squared the energy loss means some mass loss. So the repulsive force slightly outweighs the attractive pull of gravity (from all the stars) and so over millions of years you get the spirally shape of the typical galaxy. Of course, if you believe this theory then the entire big bang model is put into question. Fred Hoyle’s steady-state model becomes more attractive.

Anyway, I think this idea is very elegant, that galaxies are kind of fundamental and self-sufficient. John Webber has an explanation of what is going on at the quantum level too. Again, these words are only an interpretation of what he told me. His idea is a bit similar to string theory in that the most fundamental “thing” is something that has a variable property to evoke the different particles of matter that we observe in experiment, electrons, protons and so on. But he evokes a model reminiscent of the old “ether”, which is interesting. Now, the ether was proven not to exist a long time ago, but this idea is not the ether, only something similar. I would like to call it the “mesh” instead of the ether. The mesh, like the old ether, is something that exists everywhere, and everything that exists exists in the Mesh. The mesh is a three dimensional grid of points, and each point has a value. It could be modelled in a computer as a 3d array of integers, where empty space is a 3d array where all the values are zero. The 3 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time that we experience is not the same as the Mesh but are isomorphic with it, just like a running computer program is not the same as the code, but is isomorphic to it. A running computer program is a manifestation of the code running on the machine. Our reality is to the Mesh as a running computer program is to the code. If you alter a line of code in a program you might change something in the running program, like the colour of some textual label on the gui or even cause a bug. If you alter a value in the mesh you could cause a particle to change into another particle in reality, or perhaps trigger some nuclear reaction.

How does the mesh help to explain anything? Well for one, perhaps it gives some idea as to why the speed of light might be constant, because perhaps the speed of light is isomorphic to the speed with which value changes ripple through the mesh. In Einstein’s theory of general relativity (which of course I am not questioning because it has been proven by experiment) the speed of light is constant but gravity and/or relative velocity alter one’s perception of the passage of time and the perception of space. In other words space and time is “curved” by gravity. I’ve never been happy with this description. It curves with respect to what? If we have the Mesh, we can say that space and time curves with respect to the Mesh.

The Mesh might also begin to explain why we cannot reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity. The two theories accurately predict measurements we make with experiments but they seem to contradict one another. For example relativity allows the singularity (the point of infinite mass from the which our universe has supposedly sprung from) but this is an absurdity in quantum mechanics. I wonder if the two theories cannot be reconciled because in fact they are describing different things. Maybe when we study the very very small – matter at the atomic scale, we are actually “seeing” the Mesh. Intuition tells us that our everyday spacial dimensions, as measured by say, centimetres, can always be made smaller. You can always have 0.1 cm or 0.01 cm or 0.001 cm. When we study very tiny objects we have always assumed that the object can actually be measured using our everyday measurements. But in fact they can’t because when we study the very tiny we’re actually looking at the Mesh.

This begs the question: well which one is reality then?, the Mesh or the everyday world? The answer is that it is the Mesh which is the reality. Quantum mechanics models reality, whereas relativity only models what is projected into our human worlds by the Mesh. Or to put it another way Niels Bohr was looking at the code whilst Einstein was looking at the running program.

Knowledge Jam

December 30, 2009

This next Novello feature will blow your brains out!

First, some background. One of Novello’s main concepts is to steal ideas from the IDEs that computer programmers use. I use IntelliJ, which has got lots of little features to make you more productive. Most IDEs try to make it easy for the user to do everything they need to do with the keyboard alone. The learning curve is steeper than with a mouse, but once you’ve learnt a few keyboard shortcuts you start to feel the power sparking in your fingertips.

When you’re writing code with Intellij, the first magic keyboard spell you learn is control-space. Control space will do different things depending on where you are in your code. So I have made control-space the all powerful command in Novello. When you’re typing away, spewing forth your literary masterpiece, control-space will always be there to help you. It is also there if you are reading through someone else’s work in Novello.

Anyway, control space brings up a (as yet small) menu of commands for you to access. The one I’ve just added is a Wikipedia integration. Here’s how it works:

  1. Either select the phrase you want to look up, or do nothing if you want to look up the word where the cursor is located and do control-space:
  2. Choose “Lookup: (your word)”:
  3. You are then presented with snippets from all Wikipedia articles that are closely related to your word:
    You can then either hit “escape” to return to the editor or select one of the snippets to open it in your web browser.

If you’re interested, I used Wikipedia’s webservice API documented here.

While I was looking for this webservice (which was difficult coz when I googled for “wikipedia webservice api” I just got hits about webservices and apis in wikipedia itself) I also tried to find a Google webservice that I could use. Interestingly, Google has recently removed their webservice claiming that their new AJAX API is much better and easier to use. This is bullshit. The only reason they have removed their webservice is because then it would be possible for computer programs like Novello to do google searches without dishing up the ads to go with it. Google is indeed becoming evil.

More on Collaborative Stories

December 28, 2009

Why collab stories? Well one of the features of Novello is the SVN integration, which effectively means I get a backend for free. Subversion is normally used to allow developers to work on the same code. So I thought maybe writers could use it to work on the same texts. Code and text are pretty similar you know. Actually code is just another kind of text.

Collab novels and stories have been tried (and have failed) before, so I’m not jumping around thinking I’ve invented the next big thing, but it is fun to play around with the idea. Even if collab stories don’t work, there is still a lot of value in having your document stored in a safe location and allowing others to edit it. Google docs offer this but I think I could do better than them, because using SVN means that users don’t have to store their life’s work in Google’s cloud, they can decide where to put it.

Perhaps it’s more realistic to say that I can’t really beat Google, but can offer a niche tool especially geared for writers, whereas Google has to try and please all the people all the time.

Collaborative Stories With Novello

December 28, 2009

This is an attempt at trying a collaborative story with novello.

To try this:

1) Get a username and password at sourceforge. This is where I am hosting the collaborative workspace for now. You can trust them, they host some of the world’s biggest and best open source projects. Their servers are a bit slow though.
2) Launch novello.


3) For SVN Location choose: https://novello.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/novello/books/collab_shorts/collab-shorts.xml

4) For Location choose somewhere where Novello can save its files on your harddisk. I use C:\Documents and Settings\davidw\novello on my windows laptop

5) Enter your username and password that you got in step 1

6) Press ok and wait (for some time) for Novello to download the workspace from sourceforge. Then, have a play around.

Leave comments here or mail me direct to ask for help and give feedback