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…

Effing RMS

Here’s the last of the prototype chapters.  I am much older about peaks (Nichole’s sharp voice, here and there), valleys (Mackenzie’s, everywhere), and RMS (the relationship between those levels).  In learning such, I’ve also gotten the volume waaay up from where it was before.  Tanjed near burst my eardrums in the headphones…

With this complete, and taking in any constructive criticism y’all might have, I’m going to try making notes and writing some very raw ideas I have about Faustina and her third novel, “Goddess’ Crusade.”  It is setting the bar a little high, but I want all three of her books and the complete audiobook of “Friend & Ally” out no later than Christmas.  We shall see.

War stories

This is the second-to-last post of my prototype audiobook files.  This longer one is chapter two of “Friend & Ally,” wherein Nichole 5 gets her first taste of war.  There isn’t much in the way of new character voices but there is a lot of action going on and I wanted to see if my voice could keep up with it all.

The final installment will be chapter three, sometime Saturday.  It will slow things down again and introduce one more important character.  Following that, I’ll create an ACX account, draw up a recording and editing schedule, and get to submitting chapters for their review; another process I am going to have to learn.

In the meantime, it has been a month since I have written a story, even just playing with ideas.  “Goddess’ Crusade” is nominally due at the end of this year and besides a vague vision of one scene in my head, the other 60k+ words won’t write themselves.

So here’s chapter two; longer, I know.  I’m still playing with Audacity’s settings and getting older about how to use it.  Cheers!

Losing my voice

I went downstairs yesterday to record chapter one and immediately realized that I have to not only get voices assigned to characters but also make notes so that those voices remain consistent.  That meant that I didn’t actually begin to record until today.  On something of a roll, I did the raws for the first three chapters.  To elicit more constructive criticism, I have tried to edit Chapter One into something I don’t mind posting.

The side-effect of all this is that, as I’m not and have never been a talker, I’ve said more in two hours than I would in a week, and my throat feels it; I might be mute tomorrow.

Anyway, here’s chapter one of “Friend and Ally,” recorded by me, with a listening time of just over seventeen minutes.  Cheers!

Making sounds

Took a little longer to get around to this than I’d anticipated, but at long last I built a “quiet corner” in my basement (and it’s only quiet when people upstairs are not flushing the toilet!) and got around to practicing recording and editing.  A pic of my corner – one cannot call it a studio – is below the fold.

Attached (and this might take more than one try; please bear with me) is an 8-minute mp3 of me taking a stab at the prologue of “Friend & Ally.”  I am very young at this and welcome constructive criticism.

Hardware:  a Samson C01UPro mic (USB).  Software:  Audacity (2.3.3)

Continue reading “Making sounds”

“Men from the Sky might fall…”

A riff on Lucretius.  You’ll see why when Nichole 5 shows up.

This again slightly longer installment marks the end of Part 3 of the MS for “Empress’ Crusade.”  I want to wrap the whole thing up in no more than 40-60 more pages.  I’ve reams of notes and images in my head but, honestly, am not sure which way to jump right now.  I know Faustina moves due east but not with how many of her four legions in Vicksburg.  I see the huge old Army base of Fort Benning.  I see what’s left of Atlanta and those in it a generation on.  I also understand her operational desire to secure the rest of the Deep South and a land route to Savannah.

This weekend will be spent in note-taking and, very likely, a series of micro-stories to try to muddle my way through this.  I don’t want to inflict that kind of “blue skying” on anyone, so it is likely that my updates will dwindle to nothing for June.

I am still looking forward to playing about with creating audiobooks over the summer.  Once I have the rest of EC in the can, so to speak, I might just post my prototype voice efforts on you, my poor, unsuspecting readers… and listeners.

Below, Faustina once again reaches out to her extended family to make a point to President Dysart of the Gulf Shore States:  the world is a much, much smaller place than he thought it was.

Continue reading ““Men from the Sky might fall…””

Life Imitating My Art, part… yeah

Let’s start with a graph…

646b25ba0c9e030f

 

And end with a quote from my novel, Friend & Ally (emphasis mine):

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.”

Atazaki took another drag while looking out the window at bustling Osaka.

“They’re done for.” Quieter.  “God help us; we’re all alone.”

“First Among Equals”

I went almost two weeks without writing more than a paragraph.  I needed at least one more short story for my January collection and thought to tell a story about Henge and her and Gary’s daughter, Aurelia.  One paragraph and some notes.

And nothing.

Admittedly things were hectic at DayJob and much time was spent formatting “Worlds Without End” into a format acceptable to Smashwords, but I would sit at my laptop and wait to see what they would show me… which was precisely nothing.

A week ago a fellow I work with asked how the writing was coming.  I replied the technical side was fine but I was currently stuck.  Still stuck a few days later, I recalled his question.  I based the coder Dmitri, Reina’s father, on him, I thought.  There are no such things as coincidences… he was meant to ask that question!  And that means…

I saw Reina standing in the snow.  Twelve hours later I heard her talking to a visitor.  I wrote this in four hours.  What these people do with me sometimes…

Continue reading ““First Among Equals””

Departing Friends

I am, by many measures, a failure as a human.  I have no empathy, no sympathy.  I am not emotionally expressive.  This past weekend we saw Daughter #1 formally off to college.  My wife was a wreck.  I gave my girl a hug and said “call or text if you’ve problems; later.”

It’s not that I don’t have and express emotions, it’s that I choose where to do it and even then can get blind-sided.  I thought the short story of “Old Friends” was going to be a harmless reunion.  Until I was more than halfway into the project did they show me that John Brunelli was unwell.  Nichole’s reaction to that was so severe that I was unable to write.  Yes, you read that correctly:  a character’s reaction to a revelation in my own head was so strong I couldn’t function properly.

I was finally able to sneak up on it in pieces.  I could split it, but why make y’all any more miserable than I was?  Here’s the last part of “Old Friends.”  I so need to write something light and fluffy next…

Continue reading “Departing Friends”