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.

Continue reading “Trees and forests”

“That’s how deals are made”

Again, I’m no longer posting everything, but I do want to show that I am returning to the human-Machine interchange. Their interests and goals are very, very different and – I think – it will all segue into part two of “Goddess’ Crusade” with what might be happening to Faustina. Don’t know; not even after three Manhattans.

There was military planning before this excerpt and after it. I think chapter 8 will be the big battle. I’ve been known to suddenly be distracted by something before and I refuse to rule it out this time. All in all, I’d like to see it over and what comes next.

Continue reading ““That’s how deals are made””

Learning much; knowing nothing

For medical reasons, I’m going to be hopped on prednisone for two weeks. If I’m going to gain 200#, God please let me write 50k words! The leading edge of this is below.

Under the new way I’m posting, and I realize now it will not be until January until I get around to completely revamping this webpage (a sales/marketing splash will be the front; this blog will be moved under “Categories”) but this excerpt is something I’ve pointed out to online and RealLife readers: I can only write what they show me. Five days ago I jotted down Fussy and the last three cohorts of Legio V making their way south. Then nothing. Everything here for you I did this afternoon. And now I’m blank again.

What a lovely hobby I have! And next post is a contest to win free hardcopies of my books! Follow and see!

Continue reading “Learning much; knowing nothing”

Crystalline

Something I am choosing to do in “Goddess Crusade” is play up the soft-SF tech associated with the Machines. There was very little of that in the second of the trilogy and, given where this might be headed, I need to get readers reacquainted with those ideas. The ‘final boss,’ as it were, of this trilogy is Alexandra Hood, some years Faustina’s senior and also demi-human… but in a manner I do not yet grasp.

Below the fold is their first face-to-face meeting. Sorta. Faustina is disappointed.

Continue reading “Crystalline”

Fighting it out

Work on “Goddess Crusade” is coming along very well. Over the three-day holiday in the US I was able to average 2500 per day. One issue was the little engagement below the fold. I still don’t do combat scenes very well and wanted to try something small before getting into a huge battle in another hundred pages.

I’m actually about 40 pages past where this happens but realized I had not tossed anything out in a while. Bad me. As I’ve hit another temporary stopping point, I thought taking a break on WordPress was in order. I’ll drink a little more and see what trouble I can get Faustina in later this afternoon. Cheers!

PS WP is using a new editor and I have not taken the time to fully understand it. Apologies if this post is chewed.

Continue reading “Fighting it out”

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.

“Empress’ Crusade” MS Complete

Sorry for the silence; been busy.  After my Hey, hey! incident, I tried to work within the new confines of that to find a way to wrap up EC.  I found a way out via Faustina’s fast ride from Vicksburg to Birmingham and onto Huntsville.  We’ve seen from way back that she is attracted to the 32-year-old mayor of that town, so I decided to have her push her feelings to see what happens.  While not completely happy with the end, it is at least an end.  I’ll  be able to think about it better as a make my editing pass before farming it out to a copyeditor.  I’m leaning toward re-using Stephen Zimmer, as he copyedited “Princess’ Crusade” and has knowledge of the characters and plot.

With that being checked, I have spent some money, read, and watched many videos on how to narrate audiobooks.  Once my wife gets the basement un-wrecked from her current project, I’ll carve out a space, hang some blankets, and see what I can do.  However, if that gets delayed, I will have to at least start notes and plans for the final book of this trilogy, “Goddess’ Crusade.”

Below the fold, rather than the entirety of Part IV of EC, is just a snippet from toward the end, showcasing Faustina and Mayor Robert Wade.

Continue reading ““Empress’ Crusade” MS Complete”

“Hey, hey!”

In manga and anime high school rom-coms, there is a trope where the female childhood friend of the male protagonist, after years of keeping her love of him a secret, finally screws up her courage to confess.  It is at that moment when the hot-looking, overbearing transfer student bursts into the classroom shouting, “hey, hey!” and all of the quiet friend’s plans are shattered.

On Friday, my family departed for a 10-day vacation at my sister-in-law’s place on a lake in N. Louisiana.  Perfect, I thought, I can finally wrap up the MS for “Empress’ Crusade,” pass it onto a copyeditor, then relocate myself into the basement to begin practicing audio recording to make audiobooks!  Heck, EC is already 72k words, making it one of my longest, so it is time to stick a fork in it and say it’s done…

“Hey, hey!”

Doing some calculations about moving Faustina’s legions about the Deep South and the goings on around Fort Benning, I saw someone.  Another female (of course) but older; hard to tell her exact age as the room was very dark.  She had no need for light:  her eyes had been torn out some years before.  I beheld Alexandra;  part Muscogee Indian and also another demi-human (though she’s yet to tell me who modified her) who is halfway between what Faustina is and what Tracy came to be at her ascension.  A new character and a huge wild-card at that, in the setting sun of the second book of my Crusade Trilogy… exactly what I need (if I used emojis there would be an eyeroll here).

I’ve spent most of today, Sunday, getting Faustina from Birmingham up to Huntsville.  I stopped there for two reasons:  she really likes the 32-year-old Mayor of that town and it is her 19th birthday.  I don’t think she sleeps with him – she is in the middle of campaign, after all – but I did not want to rush things.  Once I have that written down, I’ll have to turn to understand just who and what Alexandra is; there is a definite religious aspect to her, which would turn any assault of Faustina’s army against Fort Benning into a religious war… never a good idea.

The one and only time that Faustina looked into the Void and at what few electronic systems and records there were at Benning, she did not encounter any conscious mind, human or machine.  Perhaps Alexandra was asleep then?  I’ve no idea.  I just hope to resolve this time a timely –

“Hey, hey!”