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!

Secret Agent Man

As most regular readers know, I tend to post content and updates on projects here.  Occasionally if something in the RealWorld mirrors one of my stories that’s worth a laugh, I’ll post that, too.

Today is different.  I had an old friend and long-time business associate say, in effect, “you spend all your time writing and precious little promoting.  You should get an agent!”

I have heard and thought this before, but because I had and have no idea what to do, did nothing and just went back to writing.  For some reason, this particular admonition has tasked me.  So, for once, I’m going to ask of all of you:

How in the world do I find and – is hire even the correct word? – hire, contract, a literary agent.  By the end of this year I’ll have a dozen books and one audiobook, so you’d think that would be worth something to somebody, right?  Where do I even look?  What is even the first step?

Thanks in advance… back to writing, now.

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.

Another Half-halt

Got the copyedit of “Princess’ Crusade” back with the typical thousand corrections.  As always, a humbling experience.  But this time, also a vital one.

After my little so-called vision as to where my current MS, “Empress’ Crusade” might be leading me, I was increasingly aware that I was having trouble keeping my future history dates in my head.  When the PC edit came back and at three times pointed out and asked “is this date correct?  is her age correct?” I realized that, even though I’ve been shown some very interesting things about Faustina and the young man who is the Mayor of Huntsville, I have to sit myself down and draw up a proper timeline of all primary and secondary characters, what has already happened, and what I think will happen.  “EC” is going to unfold over two in-book years and I cannot have my readers jerked out of the story saying, “that makes no sense… the timing is all wrong!”

Below the fold is what I was able to get down following the triumph.  A little politics, a little romance (maybe?), and a swim across the Tennessee River.  Hope everyone who is sheltering in place has ordered copies of my books to keep them entertained!

Continue reading “Another Half-halt”

End. Middle. Begin.

The design contest for the cover of my short story collection, “Empire’s Agent” is complete.  I hope to have a proof copy in my hands in less than a week and a commercial release days after that.

At 57k words I have passed the MS of “American Imperium: Princess’ Crusade” onto one of my new copyeditors.  He’s a little spastic about “?!” punctuation but I like the cut of his jib.  Once “Empire’s Agent” is loose in the wild I shall likely begin another cover design contest.  Tricky:  the main character, 18-year old Faustina, spends half the book in a hospital bed with 2nd degree burns and no hair.  Not the stuff for an eye-catching cover, is it?

And… speaking of Faustina:  if there’s a part one, there better be a part two.  Below the fold is the opening scene of “American Imperium:  Empress’ Crusade.”  Faustina is utterly full of herself and as arrogant “af” – as the kids say.  I wanted to start things slow and humble.  I have tiny, faint glimpses of where she might be going, but I won’t know until she gets there.  Enjoy the ride with me!

Continue reading “End. Middle. Begin.”

Locked out

Finished the segment I began yesterday:  Faustina having a brief chat with the mayor of what’s left of Asheville.  With that in the bag, I went to review some maps about their upcoming troop movements.  Yeah, there are those three dams, but I’m sure the barges and escorts will fit through their locks…  Those dams look a little small… let’s look them up and also check ‘street level view’!

Well, dang.  Having spent a half-dozen of my formative years around the Columbia River, I took it for granted that a great waterway would have locks for barge traffic.  I realized now that the Savannah River is not a “great waterway.”  Important, certainly, but it is a creek compared to something such as the Columbia.

I still think I can get their artillery onto barges in Augusta.  But the legions are going to have to cover the 160 miles from Asheville to there, first.  Then, while the barges – under guard – move down-river, the infantry will march another 125 miles.  I see that a few days of maps, calculations, and re-writes are ahead of me.  Hope to have something by Wednesday.

Continue reading “Locked out”

Family Dinner

If there’s one thing I love to write, it’s people talking.  And there’s no better place to talk than around the dinner table.  This is, obviously, a calm before the storm of war.  Before Faustina leads her legions over the mountains and against a professional military of the world’s last superpower.

Continue reading “Family Dinner”

Declarations

I realized the timing is little off for these.  Instead of “two months prior” and “one month prior” it should be 2-4 weeks later in both cases as these events take place not only after Faustina’s march on Savannah, but also after Gary and Henge come to save her life.  That’s fine:  these very rough manuscript drafts are for that purpose:  for me to see that needs to be changed, revised, expanded, cut for a commercial novel release.

Below the fold Faustina makes her first public speech.  There is A LOT going on in my head about the politics of this that I simply did not want to be bothered with right now.  The important thing was answering the question of “chi l’oro?”  Which I think I did, in a surprising and funny way.

Continue reading “Declarations”

Crusade, Part 1, Sunset

I kinda/sorta knew where and how to wrap up part 1 but the details eluded me for a couple of days.  I was able to make some notes yesterday and had a final image early this morning to bring my “prologue” to an end.  My 13.8k prologue…

From first meeting her in “Worlds Without End” I knew Faustina was going to be a very interesting person and all this has confirmed my suspicions.  Part 2 will be about her Savannah campaign – what prompted it, how she got involved, the way south, and the battle and aftermath.

Little Aurelia in this installment just handed me the arc of part 3:  a campaign to the lower Mississippi:  not bringing nuclear power and civilization like the early Knoxville Society did in “Echoes of Family Lost,” but a straight-up neo-imperial effort to establish colonies and client-kingdoms between former eastern Tennessee and the Republic of Texas.

Depending on the length of all that, part 4 will either be an epilogue pointing to a sequel or it will make this one of my longest works as Faustina leads an army to St. Louis… and the massive political-military ramifications of such an act.  Yeah… that might best be its own book… The Black Muslim Brotherhood that controls that area; the remnants of central Canadians coming south, fleeing the advancing ice…  Complicated.

Continue reading “Crusade, Part 1, Sunset”