Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Science Fiction

Welcome back!

In honor of Star Wars Day (May the 4th), I thought it would be a good idea to have the theme for this month’s article be about writing Science Fiction. Some people may disagree about this popular franchise being Sci-Fi and think it is more of a fantasy or drama. To be honest, after doing the research I am inclined to agree. Let us explore the details of what makes a story Science Fiction further.

Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction
Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction

The basics of a story is a plotline which follows the exploits of the main characters as they attempt to resolve a conflict while making their way to their intended goal. So how exactly does Sci-Fi differ from other genres? Science Fiction (also referred to as ‘’speculative fiction’’) is just that, fiction about science. At its core, science fiction is about people dealing with situations that are out of the ordinary for the audience. The protagonist will experience encounters or events that focus on scientific discovery and human innovations. Its stories contains elements which are based on modern scientific facts or ideals, but that are expanded to unforeseen or even improbable levels.

While writing science fiction, the goal is to create the worlds and societies of tomorrow by exaggerating the facts of the present day. To explore possibilities and human nature through exposure to subjects, situations or scenarios that are otherwise impossible or unlikely to happen. This can be incredibly tricky, but luckily, there are some simple guidelines to help authors along.

There are as many different types of Sci-Fi as there are scientific fields; political, psychological, social, technological, etc. Details are what sell science fiction, so the more research you do into a selected field, the more confident you will feel and the more ideas will come to you.

It is not necessary to study to a point where you earn a Phd, but it would be helpful to acquire an understanding of scientific elements, a grasp of scientifically established facts and knowledge of how to feed this information to the audience (for more details on how to control the flow of information, see my post showing and telling).

The basics of creating science fiction stories revolve around addressing a modern day scientific aspect, then asking the ever popular ‘what if..?’. There are two different approaches to this query: prediction or speculation.

Prediction is when fiction is created by extrapolation. By taking what is currently known to science, the author then guesses as to how it will change over time. This can focus on anything from various technologies, to social trends or even climate changes. When trying to predict the evolution of a science, event or practice, look for documentation on a similar situation from the past, as it could help extrapolate results. For example, for writing a story about aliens colonising on earth, maybe read books on how the Europeans colonized America.

Speculation is when an author adds elements based on theories or concepts that have no firm evidence of their probability or their existence. Intelligent alien life, faster than light travel or teleportation are classic examples of speculation in science fiction. Researching for this approach can be tricky, as it requires some level of ingenuity. For example, no clear documentation exists on intelligent alien lifeforms, so for creating an imaginary race from scratch, research other lifeforms that are documented and have uncommon attributes; natural camouflage, regenerative abilities, extra limbs, etc.

Here are a few popular examples for ideas using these approaches:
  • What if artificial intelligence became sentient?
  • What if intelligent alien life landed on earth?
  • What if social media eliminated all need for physical interaction?
  • What if pollution caused an unforeseen global natural disaster?
  • What if dinosaurs still existed?

Once you have your central idea, it’s time to ignore the limitations of modern day science and push said idea past any known boundaries, achieving the characteristic feel of Sci-Fi. Imagine how your concept would impact your society and setting, and what changes occur because of them say five, ten, even a hundred years down the road.

The challenge with science fiction, however, is to keep the science plausible, and not push it so far as it becomes unrealistic (even by fiction standards). It is best to keep your ideas clear and straightforward. Of course stories often contain several plots and themes unfolding simultaneously, so try to link most details from the setting or characters back to your central idea, this will help minimize inconsistencies and long winded explanations (also known as the dreaded ‘’infodumps’’).

In closing, the most important thing I learned today, is that science fiction requires the writer to look at things differently, to think outside the box and not to be afraid to push the limits. Research is also very important, as it will make your stories more compelling.

Until next time!


Patrick Osborne

Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction**All images in this post are considered public domain under the Creative Commons law (CC0)**

Monday, May 15, 2017

Interview - Mark Woods

Welcome back,

           Today we have an interview with published writer Mark Woods. He has been busy recently with book releases and working on several projects. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to talk to him during this busy period in his career.

I met Mr. Woods via a Facebook writers group while I was asking if any authors would be interested in an interview. He gladly volunteered to answer some of my questions. Mark came across as very positive and enthusiastic, and I am honored to have him on my blog.

Mark woods

Mark Woods donating his book to the local Norfolk library.

Short Bio:  Three years ago Mark Woods was just a chef who wrote book reviews, but when horror author, Catt Dahman, persuaded him to write his own stories, she unwittingly created a monster. Since then his short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies to critical acclaim, his debut novella, Time Of Tides, proved phenomenally popular upon release; he was one of six authors responsible for the ground-breaking Vampire novel, Feral Hearts; and a collection of his stories, all linked together by one central story, Fear of the Dark, was released early last year to rave reviews.
Mark is currently working on numerous projects including his first full length novel, a follow up to Fear of the Dark, and several other short novellas to hopefully all be released sometime in the next year or so.


Social Media:

Other links:

Published works: Fear of the Dark, Feral Hearts, Time of Tides collector's edition, various anthologies including most recently, Sinbad and the Winds of Destiny - the first seven voyages and more.

Current projects: The Go-lem and Archnattack: attack of the False Widows

Now on to the interview!

When did you begin writing?

I began writing in 2013, completely by chance. I was writing reviews for Catt Dahman's Z is for zombie series and she contacted me to tell me I had a strong voice and should consider writing something, not knowing this had always been a dream of mine but that I had never known how to start. From there, I began writing short stories until eventually I released my first novella, Time of Tides - a Lovecraftian inspired horror set on the Norfolk Broads.

Did you receive any special training or attend a school?

I was always good at English at school and in hindsight probably should have tried pursuing a career in journalism perhaps, but at 16, I didn't know what I wanted to do and kind of fell into being a chef. Despite that, I always dreamt of being a writer, I just never knew where or how to start until Catt gave me a kick up the bum and told me to write something already. I guess you could say she was my mentor and my inspiration because without her, I wouldn't be here, where I am today.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
All around me - in the news, from Facebook, from things I see and note everywhere I go. When I visited Disneyland, Paris, I started thinking of Disney characters as Zombies and that got me started writing a series of zombie fairy tales for example, that are still in progress as we speak. Time of Tides stemmed from a love of Lovecraft and a series of ideas produced in a brainstorming session that I brought all together to form one single narrative. Arachnattack was inspired by the False Widow media panic here in the uk a few summers back, and Fear of the Dark was the result of a story I'd had in my head for years and that I then incorporated to combine several of my published and unpublished short fiction into one cohesive story.

Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)

Not really. I never go anywhere without a pen or paper and often write in longhand and then transcribe/ edit later into a word doc whatever it is I've written. In that way, I guess I'm pretty old school.

What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
Make it believable. Many of the things that happen in Fear of the Dark are based on real things that happened to me but that I exaggerated or embellished for the purpose of telling a story. Similarly, I based Time of Tides on the Norfolk Broads because I have lived by them my whole life and grew up near them.
Also, always always always backup your manuscript on Dropbox or Onedrive or something external. I see so many writers lose works-in-progress and that is heartbreaking stuff right there so always back-up, back-up, back-up!!

What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?

Seeing an idea through to completion. Some writers struggle with short stories but those are my bread and butter. I can write them, no problems - longer works though, take me more time. I'm actually determined to try and finish at least some of my many projects in progress this year as I have lots of half-started novels that need completion.
Fear of the Dark has been described both as a novel and a collection because of the way each story flows together, but before that, my longest piece was Time of Tides.

Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
No, because as of now, I don't think I need one and I'm not famous or successful enough. I've reached the point where people are approaching me for stories instead of the other way round, but I'm trying to limit myself this year as the last couple of years I have found myself mostly writing for non-paying anthologies, just exposure, and I need to start earning some money for my work if that doesn't make me sound too ruthless.
As much as I love all the positive feedback I get from my readers (is it too early to call them fans? I don't know...) I also want to make some money at some point as well.

Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?

So far, I have mostly published through JEA, and they have their own editors but I have been told my work often needs few edits so I am going to try and self publish as well this year. As a general rule though, you should always use an editor because writers seldom see their own mistakes.

How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).

Catt was starting JEA just as I started writing, and gave me a job editing and promised if my work was good enough, they'd publish it. It was and they did. But I gave also subbed to other presses and been accepted in their anthologies and I am looking to self-publish this year as well, just to say I've done it and cross it off my writing-bucket list.

Do you handle your own marketing?

I use sites like Photofunia to create clever marketing posters and post them on social media, but JEA often feature new books on their website and help a little in that regard also. At the end of the day though, it is often up to a writer with most presses I see other than the big 6, to handle their own marketing.

What is your best marketing tip?

Be original. Don't just post buy me links. Join writers forums and readers forums and get involved in discussions - then you can slip in casual references to the fact you are a writer and if people see you are someone who likes to openly get involved and not just there to plug your stuff, then nine times out of ten someone will ask 'so, what have you done?'
Writing reviews for other authors often helps and you will sometimes get authors saying 'if I can ever return the favour...' Which is always good.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don't be put off by rejection. One of the biggest highs in the world is seeing your name in print and holding a book by you in your hand. Believe in yourself and keep at it and listen to advice from other writers, but be selective what advice you take.
There is a minefield of writing advice out there and sometimes, you need to listen to your own voice to decide what's best for your story/ novel/ play/ whatever and not be distracted by people telling you you shouldn't have a prologue for example, whilst others say there's nothing wrong with that. A lot of the advice out there can often be conflicting, so be careful which you choose to listen to and don't ever let yourself be dissuaded.
I was very very lucky, and I know that, to start writing and be discovered so quickly but if you believe in yourself, in time you will find someone else who believes in you too.

In closing, I would like to thank Mark for doing this interview, especially while dealing with the chaos of a publishing deadline. As someone who is still in the process of finding himself as a writer, I found his story to be quite motivating. I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Until Next time,


            Patrick Osborne

Thursday, May 11, 2017

By the Book: Aliens versus Predator: Prey

Welcome to my latest book review!

In my latest installment of By the Book, I will be reviewing “Aliens versus Predator: Prey” by father-daughter team Steven and Stephani Daniel Perry. Having found it during my spring cleaning prompted me to give it another read.

Way before any of the movies came out, “Aliens versus Predator” actually had a short series from BANTAM Books publishing. Being a big fan of both the Alien and the Predator franchises when I was a kid, it comes as no surprise I was drawn to this series. This novel came out in the early 90’s, which is when I originally purchased it as part of my “English as a Second Language” class in high school (french being my first). I’m glad I kept it, as I found it better the second time around.

In this novel, the reader follows the story of two protagonists. Primarily, we see main character, Machiko Noguchi, playing the role of corporate executive assigned to a ranching colony on a planet named Ryushi. Part of the story is also shown from the Predators angle, more notably from the eyes of pack leader Dachande. The Predators come to Ryushi in order to train new recruits, but the discovery of human colonists put a damper on their plans. An unforeseen mishap with the containment of Alien drones adds chaos to the mix, forcing human and Predators to unite in order to survive the chaos.

Back of the book:

“Machiko Noguchi accepted the assignment of supervising the ranching colony on Ryushi as a challenge. Little did she know that not only would she have run the colony, she'd have to defend it with her life!

First the carcass of a spider like alien is discovered. Then a rancher's family is massacred. Finally a creature unlike any ever seen before is brought to the colony medical center, near death. It soon becomes clear that not one but two strains of alien life have landed near the settlement of Prosperity Wells. One kind -- beetle black with shells hard as steel -- have been spawned as the prey in a deadly hunt. The other kind -- upright like humans but infinitely stronger and just as smart -- are the Predators. Between them are the human colonists, unarmed and vulnerable. With the entire colony at risk, Machiko Noguchi must choose between death and survival -- and may find her greatest ally in a Predator ready to kill her…”

What I learned from this book:
  • Varying styles to accentuate PoV: Most of the story’s Point of View jumps back and forth between the human colonists and the Predators. In order to help differentiate the two, the authors have used different styles of narration for each species. Where the humans are more technical in their descriptions and dialogue, the Predators are more primal, using sensory details. I found this technique most interesting.
  • Multiple PoV angles: There is a lot going on in this book. In order to keep track of all that is happening, the story often jumps location between multiples characters, even in the middle of chapters. The authors managed to do this in a way that is not confusing to the reader, which I thought was well done. I am curious to know if this is the result of having more than one author work on the same book.
  • Knowing the Source Material: I have seen all the movies, so I went into this book knowing what usually transpires when these alien species are involved. So when certain events happen (not saying which cause I don’t want to ruin it for those of you who want to read it), I was worried that knowing where this was going to go would ruin the story for me. Well, I am please to say that I was still surprised! The authors have managed to take the source material, and still entertain the audience regardless of anyone’s expectations. In fact, the way the authors used the current Alien/Predator lore, it just added to the tension.

For those interested in reading more books from Steven and Stephani Daniel Perry, please check out the following websites:

For those interested in learning more about the Aliens versus Predator franchise, you can check out this extensive user mader wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_vs._Predator. There you will find details about other books, movies, games and so on.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone for the encouragement and for following my blog. And thank you to my wife Linda for the support.

Until next time!


Patrick Osborne

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

By the Book - Star Wars: Red Harvest

Welcome back!

            Keeping in line with this month's science fiction theme, I decided review a book inspired by one of the most popular sci-fi opera’s out there; Star Wars. The novel in question is entitled Red Harvest written by Joe Schreiber. It was meant to be a prequel to his earlier work, Death Troopers, which I will also be reviewing later this year.

            When time came to select a science fiction novel to review, my library found itself lacking. Everything I owned that was sci-fi had either already been reviewed, or given away. So in a hurry I went to Amazon to order some new material for my collection. Of course Star Wars was high on my list of interests, and that's when I came across Death Troopers. I was curious of the idea of crossing zombies with this popular sci-fi franchise. I later selected Red Harvest when I found out it was its prequel.

The story is about leader of a Sith Academy, Darth Scabrous, who is attempting to create a serum that will grant him immortality. He hires a Whiphid bounty hunter named Tulkh to steal a key ingredient he requires; a Murakami orchid. The plant is located in the Jedi Agricultural Corps facility on the planet Marfa. When Tulkh steals the orchid, he finds that he cannot take it without the plant's handler, Padawan Hestizo Trace, or else the plant would die. Tulkh takes them back to the Sith academy, where Scabrous mixes the orchid in a strange device. The machine is hooked up to Sith apprentice who, once injected with the orchid infused serum, dies and comes back as a zombie. This infected student escapes, and quickly spreads ‘’the sickness’’ throughout the academy in a single night. Hestizo and  Tulkh soon finds themselves trapped, trying to escape the planet while fighting off hordes of zombies.

Back of the book:
Unlike those other Jedi sidelined to the Agricultural Corps—young Jedi whose abilities have not proved up to snuff—Hestizo Trace possesses one extraordinary Force talent: a gift with plants. Suddenly her quiet existence among greenhouse and garden specimens is violently destroyed by the arrival of an emissary from Darth Scabrous. For the rare black orchid that she has nurtured and bonded with is the final ingredient in an ancient Sith formula that promises to grant Darth Scabrous his greatest desire.
But at the heart of the formula is a never-before-seen virus that’s worse than fatal—it doesn’t just kill, it transforms. Now the rotting, ravenous dead are rising, driven by a bloodthirsty hunger for all things living—and commanded by a Sith Master with an insatiable lust for power and the ultimate prize: immortality . . . no matter the cost.

The era of the Old Republic is a dark and dangerous time, as Jedi Knights valiantly battle the Sith Lords and their ruthless armies. But the Sith have disturbing plans—and none more so than the fulfillment of Darth Scabrous’s fanatical dream, which is about to become nightmarish reality.

What I Learned From This Book:
  • Crossing genres: The most obvious aspect of this story, is how it crosses two very distinctive genres, Zombies and Star Wars. Each genre are pretty solid on their own, but combining the two is something that has been rarely seen. The author successfully managed to integrate both genres into one epic story. For more information on integration, visit one of my previous writing prompts on the subject.
  • The ‘’I WIN’’ button: While reading this novel, I came across a plot device that kinda irked me; the protagonists power to kill zombies by growing plant spores inside them. The plot device works somewhat like a deus ex machina in the sense that it is similar to an act of God, but is more integral to the story, in the sense that it is an innate power the character has. What bothers me is that the ability is so powerful, that it basically negated the threat of the zombies. It feels as though the author knew this, and had to severely limit access to said ability, which is kinda odd since the ability is innate. This is something to keep in mind for future stories; don’t make your characters overpowered.
  • Survivor rate ratio: This is a term I came up with in an attempt to explain this phenomenon. It is fully expected that in a zombie story, characters will die. However, some will have ‘’screen time’’ before meeting a gruesome fate. The question I faced was; how much time is too little/long given a certain character? I understand that in order to their death meaningful, the audience needs to spend time with the character beforehand. In this story, I felt some were not given enough time to fully reach their storyline potential, while others had too much time. This is something I will need to research more for future stories.

Joe Schreiber is an American novelist best known for his horror and thriller novels. His works include Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark and No Doors, No Windows. In October 2009, Joe created his first contribution to the Star Wars universe; Death Troopers. Schreiber was born in Michigan (1969), but is currently based in central Pennsylvania, where he works as an MRI technician and lives with his wife and two young children.

For those interested in reading more books from Joe Schreiber, please check out these following websites:

In closing, I would like to thank you all for dropping by and following my blog. Your encouragement is always appreciated. Don’t forget to hit the like/follow buttons!

Until next time!


            Patrick Osborne