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!

“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.

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A Look Back

For the first time in just over two years, I’m on vacation.  Even that’s qualified, as we’re in Houston/Galveston, but the reason we’re here is my wife’s 6 month post cancer-treatment checkup.  Still, better than central Ohio.

Had I been home, I’d be working on “Henge’s Big Day;” I’m not, so I’m not.  I did, however, see a vignette that I alluded to while writing “Defiant.”  Some skinny-dipping at the PSU pool with my main characters.  Was finally able to type it out, today.

This takes place halfway between Act II and Act III.

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‘Defiant’ – End; One.

An experiment, just to keep me writing.  People I’ve never met, places I’ve not seen – and that I don’t recall – for over thirty years.  And here I am, about 60k words later.

Creativity is occasionally creepy:  where does all this come from?

Anyhoo.  There are still flaws in what’s below.  Someday, after I’ve written Part 2, I’ll get this all cleaned up and ‘novel-ized.’

Played with different ‘voices’ in this one; too much gin to get it all right.  Actually excised a couple of paragraphs:  I was lecturing again.  Thanks, Will!

Let’s do this again.  Soon!

Continue reading “‘Defiant’ – End; One.”

“When will you make an end?!”

“When it is finished!”

My right brain is no Michelangelo, and my left brain is no Pope Julius II, but that’s how I feel about Act III of ‘Defiant.’  At the expense of my blood pressure, I loaded up on caffiene at the end of my Day Job to hit the ground running once I got home.  A quick, small dinner, then more coffee, with bourbon.  Wrote what’s below.  Next time; next time:  the party at Multnomah Falls.

God help me if it’s in more than one part.  I just type what I see, tanjit!

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Bridge

I mention this in my first novel, “The Fourth Law,” in which the AI’s there, Ai and Henge, specifically, are able to make an unanticipated link from their world, to ours.  All via Dorina, of course.  She deserves her own book, but how do I write a book about someone an order of magnitude smarter than I am?  I’d just make her seem dumb.  I’d rather die than fail her that way.

“Kissing?  This book has kissing?”  From the ‘Princess Bride’.  A wonderful movie; my eldest daughter tells me the book is even better.  Perhaps someday.  Maybe in fifty years someone will say, “‘Defiant’?  The book was soooo much better!”  Whatever.  Kissing below the fold.  Almost have Part 3 wrapped up!

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A Short; but no Top

I think I mentioned the family’s on vacation this week, so it’s just me and the story when I’m home.  And the effing honey-do list.  Got the front yard mowed this AM, a decorative garden bridge assembled and stained, and cleaned a dust bunny rhino that’d been building up in our pellet stove for the last ten years.  I may want to up my maintenance program on that….

Below, saw this all at once around noon.  Laughed out loud.  Hope everyone likes it, too.

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Brothers in Arms

Seven days.  What an awful host I am.

This one was a little odd:  I wrote the first few paragraphs about five days ago, then stopped.  RealLife(TM) got a bit busy with the wife and kids getting ready for yet another vacation (without me), but even so, I saw nothing of the story.  So, I waited.

Yesterday, I gave up waiting and went full-on coffee and bourbon.  Wrote all but the meal scene, below.  Just did that now.

This almost seems like a tangent to the plot (I’ve a plot?) but knowing now how “Defiant” ultimately ends – I think – what’s here is germane.  I’ll do better tomorrow.  Promise.

Continue reading “Brothers in Arms”