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!

Trees and forests

Yesterday was a lovely time to set up on my back deck to try to complete part one of “Goddess’ Crusade.” However, about 1000 words in, I was starting to lose track of where Faustina’s legions were. Not good. I printed a map of the area and fetched some highlighters and markers. Much better!

Below the fold, does anyone recognize the template I used for this battle? Hint: 48 BC.

Looking forward to completion today. Already seeing a little of part two. It’s… weird.

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Battle of Winona, second end

It’s been a big day for Faustina but there are thousands of details to resolve after a battle, as she is discovering.  One thing she has learned from history is that speed is an army’s great strength:  if you can appear where you opponents never expected you to be, you are inside their OODA and halfway home to winning.

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Recalling the Breakup

Faustina gets fed up with all of her paperwork and tunes out to tune in to her godmother’s sparring ground in the home of tribe Tohsaka.  After beating each other with sticks, the demi-human has questions.  Pictures being worth what they are, Fausta answers by pushing one of her memories from before Faustina was born into the girl’s mind.

I think more and more that the Faustina we see emerge from this coming 20-month campaign will be a much harder person than the young woman we know now.

PS  Mild spoiler warning.

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Tack

As in sailing.  This was leading me away from the plot.  So I saw Nichole show off and swing things about.  This part two is supposed to be centered around Mackenzie d’Arcy, just as part one was about Nancy Brunelli.  That means I need my main character back home.

Where she just might walk into her friend’s flat, with Mac’s hair in twin-tails and Gil with his shirt off… I like to think of it as a love-hexagon.

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A Nasty Outbreak… of Plot!

I’ve left plenty of lampshades hanging, time to turn on the lights.  Should be no surprises for anyone following along; I don’t like surprising readers… I’d much rather have them get to the end of chapter (or entire book), put it down, and mutter, “never thought of it that way!”

Also:  when Teresa stood and said, “mess me up!” I broke out laughing.  I’ve no idea where that came from!  Hilarious!

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Questioning Civic Orthodoxy

Taking to Americans, especially White Americans, about any form of government different than what we have now is a huge exercise in futility.  Europeans at least have a couple of thousand years playing about with nations and states.  Northeast Asia has had some clever mixes of despotism.  But here, it’s always “1776!” and “muh Constitution!”

It’s not just because I know history so well.  There are plenty of folks who know history better than I do but flinch as if shot when I suggest that our federal republic has outlived its usefulness.  I really think it has to do with family:  that fact that mine is so old and predates the Republic helps, but is not the only factor.  Still, having ancestors is a tremendous psychological cushion, as it were, when looking at our day to day crises.

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Prednisone & Gabapentin

For the dog, not me.  I’m for the cheap wine, with some occasional gin in the warmer months.  See, for example, my recent post on Instagram (@machciv).  The story below follows immediately on that from my last blog post; I’d seen all of it, but was just too tired.  Bad news at work, bad news at home… it piles up.  Instead, let’s have three friends drink tea and nibble cookies on a rainy, Portland, Sunday afternoon!

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Pirate Twins 14, The Bridge at Andau, Reprised

Left DayJob an hour early.  When my boss asked why, I told her:  I’m ending the Cold War.  She really should know better than to speak to me.

There’s still a short coda I want to write, as this has been the oddest writing exercise in my life.  It began as just another escapade into Machine Civilization.  That mold broke very quickly, becoming an allegory of the Cold War, something only oldsters like me recall.

Old?  Very:  Tuesday was the 25th Anniversary of my better half and I.  Either her standards are very low, or I’m much better in bed than I realize.  Likely the former.

Once I write the coda – tomorrow – this will end up being about 18-19k words.  Who publishes ‘historical allegories’, these days?

Thanks, everyone, for reading!

Continue reading “Pirate Twins 14, The Bridge at Andau, Reprised”