Writing. It’s a mental illness.

The group blog of Liberty’s Torch is well worth your time and well worth your follow. I think I may have wandered in there via Gab but I drink much and recall little. Anyway. The lead blogger there, Francis W. Porretto, had a post today about writing. Many of my heart-cockles were warmed by it. Rather than hijack his comment section, I hope to take excerpts of his essay, Post Partum, and add my observations.

“It’s a difficult period in any novelist’s life: he can’t go forward while his thoughts are wrapped around the book he just finished, and he can’t go backward with the revisions he’s already thought of until the others involved have registered their various contributions.”

That only briefly happened to me once, at the conclusion of “Echoes of Family Lost.” It was a follow-on to “The Fourth Law” and once complete I had no idea what to do next. Was I a writer? Did I have more stories to tell? Five years ago, I carved out a space here on WordPress and started throwing 800-1500 word-salad at the screen. Some stuck. I kept going. By the time I got a cover design for EoFL, I had met Chris and Kat, from “Cursed Hearts.” A romance/horror? WTF? I hate both of those! I shut up and wrote what they told me to.

“The first requirement of any storyteller is a mating between characters and crises: people upon whom to impose problems they must solve, or at least cope with. I developed a bunch of attractive character sketches almost by accident – I still wonder from time to time where those fictional figures really came from – and immediately found ways to cast them into conflict with one another.”

I take exception to almost every word in this. The first requirement of a storyteller is to tell stories. It is the height of arrogance to think you really know what the characters’ problems really are. As to where these people come from? Well, if you’ve read along these few years, you know how I have addressed that. Further, I’ve never made a single ‘character sketch;’ they walk onto the stage/screen and act. I just write what they show me.

“But characters don’t struggle with their problems and one another in some sort of white space separate from all else; at least, mine don’t. They need a place to be. I had to pick a place, or conceive of one, that would provide a suitable stage on which to act out their destinies.”

My parents married unemployed with no money. I didn’t grow up poor, but summer vacations were KOA’s and the grandparent’s place in Los Alamos, NM. I saw a lot of the US Mountain West. Later, I learned some of the Kentucky/Tennessee regions. All of that curled up in the back of my mind… and waited. When I needed to put ‘boots on the ground,’ I had scores of places to choose, right behind my eyes.

“Of the sixteen full-length novels I’ve written to date, only four have stayed completely outside Onteora County: three far-future science fiction novels and one magic-based high fantasy. The others have wound up there regardless of where they started or where I wanted to put them. Worse, the characters from my other Onteora Canon novels keep insinuating themselves into my new fictions.”

Knoxville, Tennessee is my game park as Onteora County is for him. I’m thinking about moving there in 5-10 years; Knoxville, that is. It will be easier for me than, say, St. Petersburg, Russia… Osaka, Japan… or Mars.

“And by jingo, it happened again! Characters from just about every other Onteora Canon novel started insisting that they belonged in this new one. I managed to fit a few new faces into the tale, but the “old Onteora crew” is there in force.”

This is where I decided to write this huge response. One character leading to another… As I mentioned, “Echoes…” was a natural continuation of “The Fourth Law.” “Cursed Hearts” lead to an unpublishable novella (I set it in someone else’s sandbox). But the two books of The Saga of Nichole 5? That main character shows up in many more books. Three year old Gary, holding little Henge’s hand at the end of “Echoes…” announces they want to be married. Ten years later, they have their own novel, “Worlds Without End.” Writing that, I met Gary’s kid sister, Faustina. Nine years later she puts together a private army and decided to attack the Chicom PLA garrison in Savannah, former Georgia. To-date, I’m finishing a damn trilogy about her, starting to come out in November. The father of the young women from “The Fourth Law” and “Echoes…”? He’s got a book. I’ve dozens of people like this, scattered all over my stories. Just because they do not have their own book today means nothing for next week.

“I don’t feel an urge to go back and “straighten it out.” I plan to publish it essentially as it is. There are a few elements I’ve decided need buttressing, but not to the extent of “de-hybridizing” the book as it stands. I look forward to hearing what its readers will think of it.”

While I cut my SF reading teeth as a kid on the hard science fiction of Niven and Pournelle, and my future history of Machine Civilization is bedrocked on sentient, sapient machines, I admit I take fantastical, Clarke’s-Third-Law leaps with the tech in my stories, so long as it tells the story. I read much, do research, make sure I’m talking about qubits in the right way… but if I need to use handwavium, that is what the story gets. I’m talking about people; some of whom are bags of bolts; some of whom are bags of blood. They are people.

“I can’t help but wonder how many more books I have in me. I’m old, and not in the best of health. But storytelling is an addiction, a tough one to shake. And I imagine that those damned Onteora characters, settings, and institutions will continue to have their way with me. At least, they have so far.”

I am a semi-professional alcoholic with chronic hypertension just turned fifty-four. Once the trilogy of Faustina’s “American Imperium” is released to the wild, I’m spending Winter 2021 recording audiobooks. I’ve no idea how long I have, either, but we have been given a priceless gift: to touch other’s minds with our ideas. I will keep at it until I die, later or sooner.

Having said all that to say this: thank you for your inspiration and your hard work, Mr. Porretto. As Empress Faustina cries to her legions, Deus vult!

C&DC on Kindle

The Kindle ebook version is now available.  I hope to flog things together and get “Crosses and Doublecrosses” up on smashwords.com this weekend.

In the meantime, with about twenty minutes of downtime between making chemos, I saw why Thaad chose to interfere in human affairs, specifically when it came to the Chinese military dropping more rods onto Savannah.  Made about a page of  notes… perhaps I’ll try to write some tonight?

Accelerationism

I have a small, local Author Fair coming up on 9 November.  What if, I wondered, I not only had “Worlds Without End” finished – in less than ten day from now – but what if I also had “Crosses & Doublecrosses,” the third novel I began but set aside over three years ago as 1) I was not old enough to write it, and 2) it is a god-awful story I hated living in, complete?  Is that possible?

I just completed the basic MS.  Grammarly is chewing through it in the the background while I write this.  I have reached out to my current cover designer to sound him on this; that will likely be the determining factor.

Still… I would be something:  a novel and novella, 100k words, all commercially out in less than six weeks.  Irrational deadline drive me; can I make this one?

Below the fold is the last thing I wrote for C&DC:  its Prologue.  There’s closure for you.

Continue reading “Accelerationism”

“We call it DeeKay, for short”

Finally!  After banging my head against the six-month rock that was the discrepancy at the beginning of “Crosses & Doublecrosses” I had an idea as I stumbled, drunk, to bed last night.  Deciphering my scrawl of a note this morning, I got it:  Dunning-Kruger.

Dunning-Kruger is a two-sided coin of fail:  on the obverse is the stupid thinking they are not:  “anybody can do that!” said the idiot about to shoot an apple off of his son’s head.  The converse is just as deadly:  “since I’m a smart [profession], I’m smart at everything!”  You’ve read before about my comments when Doctors of Pharmacy try to hang a picture.  It’s a mess.

So in this case, two things happened:  the DK is that Sylvia, having been the best and brightest in the room her whole life, figured that that what she had heard about the Breakup of the US just couldn’t be that bad for someone like her.  The other, much more subtle thing – right at the end of this rewritten opening – is an allusion to one of the Machines we have never met, Ninon.

With this in mind I can FIX THE NOVELLA!  With the help of a miracle I might have it done by Thanksgiving.  If you like these updates and stories, please keep praying for my liver.

Continue reading ““We call it DeeKay, for short””

Little Details

Submitted WWE for my US Copyright this morning, making it my seventh.  Also did the basics to set things up on KDP.  The outstanding issue remains my copyeditor:  I gave her this project in early June.  She told me it would be in my hands 1 September… then nothing… I write her… snarky note back…

I’ve been very pleased to work with Monica for three years now without a single complaint.  We all have RealLife issues, but after three months I get ghosted?  After three years?  WTF?  In the meantime I re-ran WWE through Grammarly and farmed it out to a couple of proofreaders; that’s what I uploaded to KDP to order a physical proof.  This time it will be a two-step process rather than one to catch most of the mistakes.

Having done all that, I am still faced with the time discrepancy of my novella, “Crosses & Doublecrosses.”  As you can see, I did some basic work to find out where I stand:  an error of what I am calling six months.  Sylvia and Roberta Fernandez land at Dallas/Ft Worth Airport from Manila just as the Breakup is unfolding in the US.  But they can’t; there is  no way.  For the rest of the 32k-word story to work they have to land six months later.  But if they do, the opening, as written, makes no sense.  Okay, I can re-write the opening.  To what?  If they were back in Manila watching the US tear itself to pieces, with easily over a million dead in those first six months, why in the hell would they come back?  Sure, their family lives in Manhattan but just how long do you think that place will last with no food coming in and the lights going out for good after two weeks?

Why did they come back?  I can swing the flight into Texas:  they have two of maybe four functioning airports in the former US.  Sylvia is a brilliant lawyer; does she think she’s going to drive to New York from there?  Is she that stupid?

Questions, questions.  I’m going to ask the wine bottle for answers.

Continue reading “Little Details”

Death Ship

As this is a novella, and the main character is now dead, it is time to wrap this up.  Aside:  my cover designer showed me his idea of Faustina from “Worlds Without End;” while she might be a little rough around the edges and holding two rifles, he did include a “cute” feature I’d not seen.  I ret-conned it into the manuscript.  But this was the important thing:  unlike “CDC,” for just a flash of light, I was back in a happy book with relatively pleasant people; not this miasma of political terror and betrayal.

There is an epilogue to this; Barrett’s resurrection, as it were.  I have seen it and it’s even shorter.  Looks as if the entire novella will be about 35-36k words.  I don’t care.  While there is much editing to do, I am leaving this and not coming back.  I’m also off DayJob tomorrow so should have the last piece complete then.  If my next novel consists of nothing but unicorns shitting Skittles, so be it.

Continue reading “Death Ship”

Bad End, 1/2

The rough of Part Two of “Crosses & Doublecrosses” is complete.  I’ve worked ahead to fix some contextual errors in the relatively small Part Three.  Much like Jackson’s “Return of the King,” part 3 consists of a series of endings:  lives, a person, a life.

Besides that, I’m aware that waaay back in the start of Part One my timing/dating is completely off:  Sylvia and her sister Roberta arrive in Dallas as the Breakup is unfolding in the US just then.  They shortly get summoned to ExComm HQ in Austin.  From what already exists in my novels of Machine Civilization, that doesn’t work:  it was at least three months before Clive Barrett left Japan for the US to find his eldest daughter in Ohio.  That, also, would be at least three more months.  Then his travel to Texas and the formation of ExComm.  Minimum eight months; maximum twelve, total.  Let’s split the difference and call it ten.  So:  why, ten months into the collapse of the US, did Sylvia and Roberta fly from the relative safety of their extended family in upper-class Manila into an effective warzone in Dallas, Texas?

No clue.  Hope they show me.

Continue reading “Bad End, 1/2”