The Doomsday Book Has Arrived

A couple days ago, my current selection from the reading list of things that have won both the Nebula and the Hugo arrived. It’s a mass market paperback, and it’s been a while since I read something that way instead of on an e-reader.  Oh, wow, it’s been a while.

The e-reader files show up pre-adjusted to my preferred font, and my preferred size, and they’re always purse-ready on my Kindle or my Nexus. I have gotten used to this. Ordering a paperback is…. at least in part… a political statement. A social statement, maybe. I ordered a book, because I want a book sitting on my bookshelf. I don’t always. My more recreational reading doesn’t have to sit anywhere in particular, but this… well, I want children to live in a world where they walk into peoples’ houses, and see good books. Where they’re allowed to pick up and read books, and not just realize in some hazy way that there are books on that device their family friend keeps in her purse.

Call me idealistic.

So, here I am, looking at a book in book form. It’s nearly six hundred pages of book, and it looks like nearly six hundred pages of book. The paper isn’t the greatest quality, sorta news print gray… and the print is small. Not insanely small, but if I were on my e-reader, I’d be bumping it up.

I might be having e-reader withdrawal.

So, anyway… I’m about to delve into Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It smells like paper and ink, and I’m probably going to wind up breaking the spine at some point, but I’m getting started on that list.

If anyone wants to join me on the great quest to read all of the books that have won both the Hugo and the Nebula, the list is here.

People Leave So Many Ideas Lying Around!

I was at the movie theater this week, taking in the bargain-basement special. If you get up early enough, tickets cost less, and I’m always up pretty early, anyway. The movie wasn’t bad, or maybe even good.

Somewhere toward the beginning of the movie, my mind latched onto some little detail of the thing that appealed to my Muse. I’m not talking about something like “It should be about a girl who gets caught up in a tornado, and whisked away to a strange land, but instead of OZ, in my book, it’ll be Macy’s.” More like watching Gone With The Wind, and focusing in on “This is set in the south. What a cool idea. My next book’s gonna be set in the south.”

Except, you know… the south on a space-ship, ’cause that’s more my thing.

So, at that point, half my brain goes scooting out along a “Well, what if I did this?” track, while the other half is still sitting in the theater, keeping an eye on the movie and its plot.

It wasn’t a bad movie. It held enough of my attention, even though I’d found a bunny to chase, and maybe that actually makes it a good movie.

But it wasn’t my movie. It wasn’t my story. This other thing–the other train of thought–it was mine.

So, there I am… fiddling with one set of ideas while I’m watching a different set on the screen in front of me. No, I really don’t know how that’s possible.

I’ll tell you about the idea sometime. I’m still building it, right now. I’m about a million miles away from having a plot. Or, you know, characters, conflict, structure, or a name for my spaceship.

 

Military Culture, Universals, and Sentient Cephalopods

I was perusing the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference’s website the other day. (Can’t decide whether I’m daydreaming or actually shopping) and I ran onto a seminar about writing military characters. (past conferences brochures, if you’re looking.)

Now, let’s be honest. Most days, that’s the kind of seminar I’d probably forego in favor of something else. Actually, basically anything else, because I’m not writing a war book, or even a book based on the Planet Earth. (I think we can all agree there are very few United States Marines in space.)

But I do have military characters.

More than one of them.

And they’re pretty major characters.

They’re not human. They’re not from my time period, or my planet, and you can’t look them up on Wikipedia and figure out what they did in the last twenty-seven battles.

I know who won, and who lost, and I know that the guy who lost hasn’t completely given up his cause. I know what the guy who won did in order to win.

But the specific details listed in the seminar aren’t things that would apply. The language is different. The uniforms are different. The weaponry is… well, definitely not current technology.

So, now I’m thinking about universals. The things that arise from function, rather than culture. The things that would be the same in 8th century Greece as in 20th century America. The things that stay the same, whether you’re two-legged foot soldiers or a fleet of talking space squids.

Are there universals? What commonalities do you see? What differences?

The Poisoner of Time

Story Time Blog Hop Logo

It was nearly midnight before the first fatal drops splattered from the rattling still.

The old woman checked the door, but she was alone. Her husband was long since in bed, the cat was locked safely in the cellar, and the most lethal poison in the world was gathering in the bottom of one of her grandmother’s rose tea cups. And her other self? The harried young woman she’d been all those years ago? She wouldn’t be there. That was certain. The old woman no longer remembered exactly where she had been that week, but somewhere else. A business trip, probably. There had been so many of those, and always, the promise was later… always, later…

The old woman scoffed, and adjusted the fire under the still.

Later. When? After she got pregnant, she’d worked even harder. A baby to support. A new house. A newer, safer car. They’d both worked harder, and they told each other they’d relax later. In time, when things would be better, and they’d all be secure. The baby was born, they hired a sitter, and kept working.

The baby grew, and changed, and said his first words. The sitter took video.

By then, she’d regretted all those days and nights she spent working.

The sitter went home. The baby got sick. The husband packed him into a warm car on a cold, winter night, and disappeared too fast down a too icy road.

And then, Time. Tick by tick, second by second, she moved further and further away from them. The love of her life—she’d always taken him for granted—and their child—more and more Time between them.

She learned to fight her way backward through time, like running the wrong way up an escalator. She could get close – now and then, she could see them on the other side of the years and decades.

And then, she slipped back. The currents carried her away again and again.

She was still young, when the first strange optimism entered her mind: Time separated them. Time, and only Time. And if Time could be destroyed… if she could end Time… or even just wound Him, there would be nothing left to keep them apart. She could be with her family again.

She plotted—how to reach Time, how to brew poison strong enough to kill Time, itself, how to sneak into the palaces of eternity unnoticed.

And after she made her plans, she’d waited longer. No one would suspect a gray old woman of carrying poison in her tea. No one would suspect a single thing.

She walked deliberately, so slowly, that at times, she believed she would die before she ever reached Time. Step by step, carefully… if she splashed—if she spilled a single drop–the poison that was brewed to kill an immortal could overcome a thousand, a million aging mortals like her.

She teetered down to the end of the corridor, pushed open the last door, and stepped inside the dimly lit room.

And then, there was Time.

He lay, half-exhausted on a feather bed. Slender, almost delicate, though the lithe muscles in his legs and back suggested a runner’s strength.

He looked—she thought, just for a moment—like her own baby might have looked at twenty or twenty-five, if he had lived long enough to grow so tall and strong.

She pushed the thought out of her mind. The poison trembled in her cup: another second longer, and her own strength might vanish; she could collapse and spill the poison on herself. She inhaled, lifted the cup, as if she were about to drink, and then flung the liquid, cup and all, across the empty space between them.

The poison splashed across Time’s back, and seared the flesh it touched; the cup bounced on the mattress, and then rolled over the edge. It fell fast, but, just before it should have hit the marble floor, it stopped falling. It stopped falling. Everything stopped.

In the motionless silence that followed, the old woman laughed; her enemy was dead. There wasn’t a second of Time between herself and… Her family, her husband, her baby… They were all in that one, single Now. Now was all… the teacup was floating in air. Not falling. There was no Time for anything to fall. Not anymore. Time was dead.

She laughed again.

Running footsteps on the floor behind her. A man or a god swept her out of the way. Before she could say anything, he rolled the corpse onto its back, and pounded on Time’s chest with his fists. He pressed his mouth to Time’s lips. A kiss, perhaps, or maybe resuscitation. She knew the effort wouldn’t work; the new god was already kneeling in her poison.

“Mortal, you fool!” He compressed Time’s chest again, and again, nothing. Nothing, and the teacup didn’t fall an inch. “You fool. Don’t you know what you’re made of? What they’re all made of?”

“Flimsy things, I know.” She took a step backward. “And yet, here you are. Take him, Death.”

“Death?” The god’s voice was thinner than before, and a cold sparkle In his eyes was already fading. He sank onto the pillows, and let his eyelids close. “No, woman. I wasn’t Death. I was Memory.”


The elegant room faded into white tile and florescent lights, and then, it slipped away all together.

She’d been somewhere else.

She knew she—

Somewhere… hadn’t she just been somewhere else?

She tried to get up. Tried to find someone she didn’t see. She couldn’t remember who.

And then, a bland young woman in a too-cheerful set of hospital scrubs was there beside her, coaxing her back into the chair she’d just left.

“That cup never broke,” the old woman said, and smiled. She knew that much, at least. That was the important part of the thing. “You know that old rose tea cup? The antique one? It–

“Your cup is perfectly safe,” the bland woman said, and patted her hand.

 

 

Be sure you visit the other writers in the StoryTime Blog Hop for more stories!

New Stork Inc. by Katharina Gerlach
The Thief & The Pocket Heart by Juneta Key
Hello Again! by J. Q. Rose
Reflected by Elizabeth McCleary
Veronica by Jessica Kruppa
Last Stop by Erica Damon
Jesse and Tyler by Bill Bush

Stepping Back to See the BIG Picture

After a month of NaNoWriMo, I’m finally getting back to my pre-existing revision. I don’t want to say I was getting bogged down, or anything, but the novel in question is one of the longest things (word-wise) I’ve ever written. Going from thriller-length thrillers to sci-fi length sci-fis is a culture shock. And I’ve been staring at the leaning tower of manuscript for much too long.

I’ve been working my way through an outline. Something like an outline, anyway. Whatever you call an outline that’s written to organize after you’ve already written.

And I’ve been working on a scene-to-scene level.

Not too bad, and I’ve been making progress, but I’ve been overwhelmed. The sheer number of scenes was dragging on me.

I have this thing–you know–and I’m not sure how many books it actually is. I was posting some of it here, for a while. I can tell you it’s a big thing, and that there’s at least one semi-well-thought-out companion thing.

So, today, instead of looking at scenes, I decided to sit down and look at parts. You know. Part One, Part Two, Part Three… Part 126.   I wasn’t really sure if I was looking for Part One or Book One, but I was taking a step back to think about what I actually have, and what I want it to be.

So, the part I’ve already pounded into shape is in the neighborhood of 37k. I’ll probably trim that down, some, but that’s the number I have, so we’ll work with that.

That leaves me 80–yes, I’m going to cut down–thousand words to play with. And due to some chunky outlining, I’m aware that my novel has three parts total. (No, I have no idea why I thought there would be more.) That would mean roughly thirty to forty thousand words per section. (I’ll be aiming in the neighborhood of 110k, but I did math with 120k.)

So, with some revision and a little bit of word-parsimony… drumroll… I have ONE book, and a companion-thing.

**faints from pure relief and exhaustion**

 

Links and Last Minute NaNo Prep

I have some links to share, because new stuff seems to be popping up every time I turn around, right now.

This year, Holly Lisle is sponsoring a team for NaNoWriMo. You can find the introductions thread on the Nano Forums here. If you’re already a Holly student, there are also threads on the Holly’s Writing Classes.com Website, https://hollyswritingclasses.com/forum/index.php?threads/nanowrimo-is-live.5856/. And if you aren’t one of her students, she does offer a free flash-fiction course. Sign up here, and you’re into all of the NaNo related forums.  Heck, you might like it and turn into a permanent resident.

PLUS… This year, Holly is also hosting an online writing room. If you want to be notified of where the room will be, and when sign up for the links at Holly’s blog.

It’s still a little early to be thinking of the Holidays, but subscriptions for the annual Advent Calendar start now! That’s a free short story from a different author and a special bonus every day leading up to Christmas. Or, you know… Sunday, if you don’t happen to be Christian. (These are short, secular Sci Fi and Fantasy stories.)

For those of you who missed it, the StoryTime Blog Hop was on the 27th, and my story (And links to everyone else’s) are here. Halloween theme, so a lot of scary stories this time.

Other than that, I’m all ready for Nano. I won’t be staying up til midnight to start, but I’ll hit the day early tomorrow.

See you there.

And Approaching That Last Minute

Today, I finally got a serious start on the short story I’m working on for the blog hop. I hate to say I’m pushing the last minute here, but it’s been one of those weeks/months/years. I’ll probably finish the story during my early-morning writing session tomorrow, and throw a little spit-polish on before I post it.

Actually, this is the second story I’ve gotten out of the current blog hop, so I’m not doing too badly. If you want to read a different Halloween story, Mrs. Willoughby’s Heart is up, right now.

Oh, yeah… and in case I haven’t mentioned it, lately. Story Time Blog Hop on the 27th of October with the amazing and ingenious Juneta Key hosting. We have a great lineup of writers, this time around, so be sure you drop by to read the stories for the Halloween edition. They’re free… for now, anyway.

I think you’ll find mine is particularly terrifying. I was working on it at a new coffee house, where the barista scammed me into drinking a cup of something with “Earthy undertones.”

As it turns out, “Earthy Undertones” is posh for “Tastes Like Dirt.”

My characters suffered for that one.

Secrets and Celebrations

I have Science Fiction Double Feature stuck in my head. You know, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show? To be specific, this version.

(That’s Amanda Palmer, and she’s the first person to raise more than a million dollars via crowdfunding, if you’re interested.)

How do these things get stuck in my head? I don’t really know, but since it’s there, and since it’s not coming out any time soon, let’s talk about that.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the song, but I can tell you the context. My cousin (the pan-sexual nymphette) and her longtime partner (a garden-variety Lesbian) used to turn on a VHS of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when they decided it was time for my uncle (a homophobic mechanical engineer) to leave. TV goes on after dinner, the music starts up–and by the time Brad and Janet’s car breaks down–my uncle, his wife, and all but a few hip stragglers have cleared out.

Just like magical clockwork.

I was in college, before I was invited to straggle and finally see the rest of that movie.

And then, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was everywhere. Partially, recognizing references I might have missed, before, partially seeking it out. And partially, the company I keep.

And this song is stuck in my head.

Part of it, I admit, is that not-so-subtle wish that I had the power to make unpleasant, or undesirable people go away as easily as my cousin did. I don’t know if that would work for me.

Part of it is the on-going nostalgia trip I seem to be on right now. Where the hell is the guy who took me to the… late night…. double feature… picture… show? Well, Minnesota, the last I heard from him. South Dakota, by rumor.

I like the movie, and I like the versions with the live cast. The sense of people getting together, and playing together. I like the idea of a piece of art connecting people the way Rocky Horror does. I enjoy the idea of people coming together around a performance. And maybe… the idea that something made up, and fictional, and fantastic can really make a difference.

 

Putting the Pieces Together

It’s been a while, since I worked on my revision. Too long. Oh, I’ve done some rough outlining, some putting pieces into place, but still, too long since I touched the manuscript, itself.

Too much thinking, not enough writing.

And after a while, the two kinda blur in my mind. So, I dredged out the pieces this morning, and looked at them, and… well, some of the things that are so clear in my head just aren’t there on paper. I think–rationally–that I found all the pieces I have. But I’m still looking at the pages, and feeling like… hey, where’s the rest of this?

Well, after a search of my computer, and my email inbox… well, that’s it.

In my mind, there was a lot more written, and–my muse being somewhat egotistical–in my mind, it was absolutely brilliant.

In real life, it’s patchwork, with a little bit of rubber-cement oozing out the seams. There are pieces missing–pieces I can almost recite from memory. And did I write them down?

Well, I’m working on that. And after that, I can start sanding and polishing.

 

Who’s My Main Character?

About a week ago, I started a new project. It’s a cute little thing. About ten pages long, barely talking in complete sentence fragments, yet. I’m also revising my last project, working through what I have, and trying to get it all to sit still in some kind of order.

The two projects are very different. The old one is third person, multiple points of view, and basically becoming a sprawling wasteland of revision. The new one… well, maybe I’m looking for something simpler, right now. It’s first person, one point of view, and–from an ethical standpoint–a lot more right and wrong.

First person really narrows my focus. The main character–the one who’s going to spend the most time on stage–is the I character. (Haven’t named her, yet. Of course.) Yes, you can find exceptions. But in general, that’s it. And that’s it in my new project.

I’m hoping that focusing on ONE character will reduce the revision time. And that first person will force me to do that. Can you tell?

In my last project?

There were five major characters in the last project, and that leaves me with two suspects for THE main character.

And three, if I’m allowed to count the world as a character in its own right.

It’s a big story.

But I’m still not sure whose story it is.

That makes me wonder if some of it’s more repetitive than I’m seeing. The two story lines are pretty closely intertwined. In the end, I’ll pick one, or reasons will appear and make one a clear winner.