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!

Life imitates my works… I’ve lost count…

On the first hand:  “China and Russia ditch dollar in move toward financial alliance”

On the second hand:  “Step 4: Impeach or otherwise remove Trump by non-Constitutional means.”

On the gripping hand (from the prologue of Friend & Ally):

Hakane took another drag off his cigarette in Somi Corporation’s breakroom, laughing at his colleague’s comment.  It wasn’t so much their company discouraged smoking as that they wished to make sure their products were not contaminated.  Given the delicacy of some of the prototypes, all respected this rule.

“Can you believe it, Atazaki?” he asked, flourishing his newspaper.  “The US economy imploding like this?  I’m an engineer, not at economist, but how in the world…”

“Call it belief; call it faith.  Lose it, and your world ends,” his friend replied, looking at a domestic part of his own newspaper.

“What’s that?”  What Hakane knew of politics could fit into a sake cup.

“Since the war,” for a Japanese, that meant only one thing, “the world economy had the US dollar as its reserve currency, backed, not by gold or silver, but by the faith – mind you – that the US will always be there!”

Atazaki glanced at the clock over the inner door and decided one more cigarette was in order.

“So now we find,” he said, pointing at Hakane’s paper with his lighter, “that as the American President is being removed via extra-Constitutional means, the Russians, Chinese, and Indians are rolling out a new currency… what’s it called?”

“The ria,” Hakane managed.

“Whatever.  Backed by the gold they’ve been buying up for a generation, and indexed to oil.  At that point, US dollars became valueless.”

Hakane was still confused.  But why…

“Why is there rioting in the US?  And getting worse so fast?”

Atazaki blew a blue-grey cloud toward the ceiling’s scrubbers.

“It’s a replay of what almost happened back in 2008:  credit dries up, the velocity of money drops to zero.”

Atazaki realized his friend didn’t get a single word.  He tried again.

“Credit cards stop working; all the zeros and ones in banks are gone, and, for the Americans,” he took another drag, “their food-welfare cards, whatever they’re called, stopped working.”

He exhaled again and sat back.

“All cities in the US are starving right now.  And there is nothing… nothing at all, to stop it.”

I’m not kidding:  I was writing science fiction, not current events…

F&A Cover

Formerly an exclusive on Gab.ai, where you can speak freely, below the fold is the cover of the my next novel.  Monica is wrapping up her copyediting, so I hope to have a proof copy in my hands in no more than a week.  A week beyond that should see it released to the wild.  So honestly, call it two to three.

I really need to get back to writing Part Two!

Continue reading “F&A Cover”

Athens or Abattoir?

I’ve three pages of  notes; no, that’s not correct.  I’ve three pages of handwritten questions about where my next novel is to go.  I’ve named Nichole’s story “Part One,” so there’d better be a Part Two and it had best be along presently!  My aggressive date is Labor Day; my passive-aggressive date is Halloween.

After writing my first novel, T4L, I’ve always tried to do something different.  ‘Echoes’ was a ‘road story’ and Cursed Hearts a horror-romance.  The never-completed Crosses & Doublecrosses was a political-espionage thriller.  “The Saga of Nichole5: Part One, Friend & Ally” is… well… I don’t really know what to call it… it’s her voyage of self-discovery, but the three Acts of the book each revolve around a different battle, so it’s also a war story.

Anyway.  At one point Nichole is speaking to the Mayor – read: dictator – of what’s left of Portland, Oregon, offering her and the help of the resurgent Empire of Japan to make his remnant city-state into something like the Athenian Hegemony, but on the West Coast of the former US.  That’s in one hemisphere of my mind.

In the other… when I first saw the café/pub that is Zom’s, just at the northern fringe of Portland State U, I’d the Tubeway Army lyric in mind:

Down to Zom Zom’s a place like it was built in one day:

You can watch the humans try to run

Oh, look, there’s a Rape Machine I’d go outside if it’d look the other way;

You wouldn’t believe the things they do.

From it’s inception, I’d imagined a Bad End.  For the café?  The City?  All my characters?  Honestly, I didn’t know and I still don’t, but the pull in that direxion is overwhelming.  Playing with ideas, I’ve seen Nichole at the crest of the West Hills, looking down and east into Portland… the city an inferno.  Maybe if the camera pulls back a little…?

Gil rested his hand onto her shoulder.

“You did your best.”

“I still failed,” she replied.

There was a gurgle and cry from Mackenzie: sedated after Gil dragged the barbarian raider off of her in mid-rape.

“What now?” he asked.

“I must report my failure to the Throne,” was her casual reply.  “Perhaps I shall be deactivated for my incompetence?”

Yeah.  Lots to think about.  I’ve never been one to plan a story, but I do like to have a feel of where the path is trending, and the footing on this one is rocky.

Downs & Ups

My free webnovel of “Defiant” is now no longer available.  In a few months it shall return as a proper, edited novel with a proper cover.  On the drive home today – from a long, awful, day at work – I’ve glimpsed a title.  Perhaps I’ll create a poll on Gab.ai to see which way the winds are blowing?

Anyway, the tentative title for the webnovel formerly known as Defiant is now:

“The Chronicles of Nichole5:

Part 1 – Friend and Ally”

If there’s a part one, that forces me to write a part two!  At the bottom of the cover I’ll add “A Novel of Machine Civilization” to let the unsure know it’s a part of my future history.

Didn’t find anything else wrong with the re-edit of The Fourth Law.  I need to add two pages, at my wife’s very good suggestion, and get that off to Createspace.  But… tomorrow.  Too tired now and I don’t want to bugger up my pdf files.

Yes, yes:  Lily and Arpad’s lunch!  I know!

 

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Moar Haiku

As the end of Lent draws near, I’m not planning on abandoning daily writing and posting.  I guess like finally going to a gym and sticking with it for over a month it becomes a habit that feels good.  But I am going to restructure things.  This weekend is an example of that.

I’m still so tired from my day-job that I do need a little time to stare at the walls.  So whether they’re haiku or iambic pentameter, weekends will be fluff.  In the background, I’m still writing:  I put down 498 words just now on what will likely be another 3-4 day micro-story.  It’s an unpleasant character doing unpleasant things but I do believe in pushing myself.

The reedit of T4L & EFL continues.  I’m planning on creating my 99designs.com project for a new T4L cover tomorrow (early-bird warning to any illustrators who follow me!) and I need to format – and RENAME – ‘Defiant’ into 6″ x 9″ w/chapters format.  Boring!  But it must be done.

Here’s a poem.  Below the fold is a tiny personal message.

Spending all my time

In the world inside my mind

You’re older; soon gone!

Continue reading “Moar Haiku”

MachCiv Dreams – “Togame Tower”

I swear, I really do, that I wanted to do a series of pico-stories:  less than 1k words each day for a few days….  And that lasted as long as a politician’s promise.

This takes place just before the curtain rises of my next commercial novel.  It’s still free, there in the sidebar or in the pulldown menu, as “Defiant.”  Should have taken it down months ago.  Old and lazy.  Whatever the Empress has to say, she’d going to say it in the next installment, and then I’m moving onto something else!

I swear!  Hey…. hey!  Why doesn’t anyone believe – !

Continue reading “MachCiv Dreams – “Togame Tower””

MachCiv Dreams 4 (Abandoned Factory 0)

Not knowing much, well, anything, about international copyrights, this could best be called fanfiction.  The main character here, Nike, plays a not-insignificant role in my forthcoming novel, Defiant.

This story takes place in a world created by Yoshitoshi ABe nearly twenty years ago.  It yielded an anime that – while dated – is one of the most powerful and compelling stories I’ve ever experienced.  For a non-Christian, ABe had an amazingly Catholic vision.

And yes:  I do know who’s in the cocoon.

Continue reading “MachCiv Dreams 4 (Abandoned Factory 0)”