Friday, December 23, 2011

DownTime

Just taking a week or so off.  Don't worry.

I've been rambling here since - what? the middle of October? - on a regular basis recently. If you're a regular reader, you know this. If I don't know you personally and you came along because I've been posting more often, thanks. I'm glad you're here. If you're here because you know me somehow, thank you, too. I'm glad we're friends and I hope you all get some insights into me and how I work from all this stuff.

Once NaNoWriMo was over, I felt like I had to keep on about my writing. I'd like to be able to explore other things here on the blog besides my own feeble attempts at penning a novel or various short stories so I'm going to take a week away, spend some time with family and friends and generally recharge. Downtime is good in this regard. I feel like this might be okay since the title of the blog is my name and not some other vanity thing. Of course, blogging is vanity anyway since it automatically assumes someone's interested in my spewing endless thoughts on this and that.

Besides, everyone knows not much happens on the Internet between Christmas and New Year's, right?

So, downtime. When I come back in the New Year, I'll talk a little about my writer's group and the launch of its blog, the Confabulator Cafe. It's way more than just me and way more interesting. I'll also have some thoughts on social SF, some movies, science, music and some of the things I've been reading lately.

Sounds like I've already got a plan, doesn't it? I don't. I'm rambling again.

Anyway, go on: spend time with your loved ones. I'll see you after the holidays.

Thank you again for hanging out with me here. You're all one of a kind and I'm glad you came by.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes,

Jason

The Significance of Being Determined

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere creations are the stuff of
nightmares,  personifications of fox and wolf.
I've mentioned fear here recently and editing. They make strange bedfellows and can paralyze one when combined. They are the Croup and Vandemaar in a writer's head. The worst kind of nightmare because they're in the room with you when you wake.


Look, everyone is insecure. We all have things we're scared others will find out about us. And once those things are revealed, we fear being ridiculed or disrespected or disregarded. No one wants to be the victim of any of those things.


The thing is, all we have to do to avoid these conditions to work.


As I'm getting notes back on my NaNoWriMo novel from this year, I'm also thinking about the things I already knew I would need to do to make the book better, maybe even saleable. I want to do some simple things, create some new ideas that can capture a reader's imagination, tell a human story in a setting that illuminates a common condition pervasive throughout the world today and that's harder than it sounds. A lot harder.


I can hear Mr. Croup saying, "What a brain, Mr Vandemaar! Quick and incisive! Some of us are so sharp we could cut ourselves!"


What am I afraid of? All I have to do is research, that's not so bad. It's just work. Where the fear really comes in is when I wonder if it will be worth it? What will I learn from the experience? Will other people dig it or am I just doing this to satisfy myself? What do I have to say to the world that someone else hasn't said better or far more eloquently than I have? Why is this important to me?


And there you have it. I know that it will be worth it to go in and make this book as good as I possibly can. I'll learn how to write THIS novel in the way that the story demands. I already know that other people will like what I'm doing on some level so while I'm working to satisfy myself first I know there's an audience out there for it. Can't think about what other writers do. I know they're out there, some of my favorites have tackled the same themes and topics I have but maybe not quite in this way. 


So why is it important that I do this, see it all the way to a logical end? 


Mr. Vandemaar: "I'm not squeamish, Mr. Croup. I like it when the eyeballs fall out."



I have to see it through. I've started something that's captured my imagination and the fact that there's Fear over there in the corner means that it has to be done. Croup and Vandemaar don't do meaningless work for no pay.  

Of course all this is invention. A kind of lie. A fiction. Fearing the finish is normal, I suppose, and the appearance of the Old Firm in my head really only spurs me to keep pushing on. My book won't find a larger audience if I don't do this. 

I owe it to the work to get it done. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who Did What When?

Inception was Storytelling 101 for me.
As a reader, what matters most to me in a story, any given story, are the characters. Without interesting characters, a plot is merely entertaining. An interesting plot with interesting characters is revealing of a truth and that's what I look for. (Don't get me wrong - I love tentpolepopcornsplode as much as anyone, but interesting characters make them soooo much better.)

As a storyteller, I tend to focus more on the Who doing What and When. At least in my Zero to First Drafts. I want characters to fill the plot and help drive it to the end (though it's just as often the case that the What and When (essentially the plot) are in control). I don't worry so much about How things get done or Why and Where is even less of a concern. It's only in the last six months I've been beginning to figure out how I structure my stories and it's confusing the hell out of me. I suppose that's the bane of being a largely self-taught writer and why I think of myself more as a storyteller than an author.

So taking each of the essential questions of Story one by one and putting them in order, this is what interests me most in any story, even one of my own:

  1. WHO are these people and will I be able to identify on some level with them? Without that, my interest will fade pretty quickly.
  2. WHAT, exactly, are these potentially interesting characters doing that makes me want to know more?
  3. WHEN are they doing it? Yesterday? Tomorrow? I'm not especially picky, but the time period the characters are functioning in has to make some kind of sense to the story. Anachronism is jarring sometimes. Other times, though...
  4. WHERE are they? My backyard? Metropolis? New York? Paris? Some place off-planet or out of this dimension?
  5. WHY concerns me more as When and Where are more established in the story. Sometimes it'll leapfrog ahead of them depending on what genre I'm reading. For instance crime stories will cause me to wonder Why sooner after Who.
  6. HOW almost always interests me the least. I'm not a big procedural person and that's where my own writing bogs down the most. I need to work on this a little more as I flesh out ideas.

Accepting a story, any story, requires suspension of disbelief in some form or fashion. I want to ensure that I'm putting down only what's essential to telling the story, and for me it's less than what others might need. As I explore How I build my stories, I will eventually find the balance of What to leave in What to leave out. Details are the bits that hang me up the most. For instance, I don't think it's important to most of my stories that I identify what race my characters are. I like to leave that to the reader's imagination.

Unless, of course, it's important to the story.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Real Work of Writing

I will be living with this
book for the next
few months
I've already started getting invaluable feedback on the novel I wrote over the previous six weeks. The things that I usually get pointed towards are the things that are coming up first and that makes me feel good. I'm aware of what my inherent problems are and that makes the initial pass through a little easier.

But I'm not ready to actually get into editing the thing. I've got a copy printed, I've got my red pen, I've also got ideas for re-titling the book. There's a master list of things I need to work on (supported by the feedback coming in) and I've got my resources near to hand.

Going through Browne and King's excellent book, I've started building a list of questions I have to ask myself as I read:


  • Am I using narrative summary instead of building those stories/descriptions into scenes?
  • How much time do I spend on introducing characters? How much detail do I give the reader? Where I am spending time on a character, is that character essential to the end? Can the reader tell  from what I say about someone if they're going to be involved in the ending?
  • Am I jumping from one character's head to another to achieve different points of view? Is it necessary? Is it obvious when it is necessary?
  • How am I showing the feelings of my characters? Is it all in dialogue or am I describing it for the reader alone? 
  • Finally, in the descriptions of the scenes, am I mentioning details the characters themselves would notice? Are my subplots necessary/advancing the main plot?

The POV issues were something I've been working on this year and I was acutely aware of them as I was writing. I'm curious to see how well I did. I know that I'm weak on descriptions of both character and scene setting when I'm blasting through a Zero Draft. I think I've been pretty good this time around, but there'll always be room to improve. 

I'm not limiting myself to the list above; this is just the first draft list. My experience with editing and revising so far has been mostly over the last year and a half with work I've been doing for others. (Here's a shameless plug for the one book that's out if you're looking for a quick and easy gift for the holiday. There, that's done!)  It can be a frustrating process but the end result is always better, even if it doesn't always resemble the author's original vision. So this is where the real work begins. 

I spent forty-five days telling the story in the format of a novel. Now I have to actually write the thing so that it's readable and recognizable as such. My ego is in the hands of several trusted friends who will be brutal in their assessment of the work so far. I'm anticipating it, ready for it, waiting. I'm anxious to get to work and start the real work of writing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Draft It Is Compleat



I finished on Wednesday evening. It's an initial draft. A Zero Draft. More like a treatment than a novel.

That is, it's complete in that I'm done telling it. I'm not done WRITING it. That's what revisions and edits are for. So I'm taking a couple weeks away from it to enjoy the holidays and rest. This has been an intense time and I need to be focused on some other things so I can come back to it with fresh eyes, critical thoughts and a red pen.

In the meantime, enjoy this little blast from the past:


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Building of Worlds and Realities

I'm nearly finished with my first complete SF novel and I've learned a thing or three about what makes good SF.

Believable Characters. Convincing World. Good Science.

My work in progress (henceforth wip for those of you who aren't writers) has believable characters (I hope) in this Zero Draft. The world is less convincing and the science in several cases is bad because it's made up. As I go back to begin revising said wip (we're talking about Juggy & the Duchess, mind you; henceforth abbreviated JtD) I'm going to have to think about what will make the world of my story convincing. I've got a kind of police force, a nominally mentioned intergalactic government and the story itself sprawls across half a dozen new worlds that are only vaguely defined but essential to the settings in which the action occurs.

This means that I will have to go back and research the environments of each world so that they are convincingly different and comfortingly real enough to not shake the reader out of the story. Same for the people of each world. That doesn't sound too hard and that certainly takes the book into the realm of Real First Draft. The hardest research will be making the science good.

There are all sorts of fringey scientific notions out there and some of them even have some traction. Remember how Quantum Mechanics blew everyone's minds, even Einstein's? (He famously said, "God does not play with dice.") Then in the 80s when they started calling it String Theory and some very knowledgeable folk started calling for the notion that there were more than the universally acknowledged four dimensions? (I'm including Time as a dimension for those keeping score at home.) And maybe there were MANY more dimensions with some models positing as many as eleven or fifteen or more and we couldn't see them but they HAD to be there?

You don't?

Well, you must not be reading the same books I am. Or watching the same shows on PBS. No one's saying there aren't fifteen dimensions, but they are saying that there are more than the conventional four. Everyone used to think that faster than light travel was impossible. It may not be. Neither might teleportation. It's Way Beyond what we can conceive at this point, maybe, but it may not be impossible.

So whatever science I've made up for this story might turn out to be true some day. Am I comparing myself to Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke or William Gibson? Good lord, no. I'm hoping that the science I've chosen through my admittedly lackadaisical reading habits can be justified with only a little research and some heavy duty re-writing. It's all in service to the story, after all, and the story is what matters most. A good tale well told is more believable than a story super-accurate and told badly.

Am I right?

Now there are brilliant theoretical physicists saying that there may actually be Parallel Universes and that String Theory supports this idea. Of course I knew all about this because I grew up reading about such things in comic books, the ultimate simple science fiction for boys variety. But now it's on the verge of being something that might be accepted by the masses of people who believe in Science. Some folks will never believe and I'm fine with that. I hope they're entertained by my stories as much as the folks who are deep into the science parts of fiction.

The really hard part of writing good SF (and this is the point of this post) and even Fantasy, is that one has to create mostly from the ground up whereas someone who writes in any sort of urban setting can set things in very familiar places very easily. There's no Chicago in my story, there's not even Earth. It's only mentioned as Old Earth because my story takes place ten thousand years into the future. Talk about having to jump some hurdles, right?

But I wouldn't have it any other way. This story is near and dear to me now and I'm looking forward to fleshing out the skeleton that I've built.

I guess that puts me in the same league as Victor Frankenstein. Sooner or later, you'll hear me shouting "It's ALIVE!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Use of Fear

Frank Miller's That Yellow Bastard from Sin City. 
I mentioned on Twitter the other night that I was 'feeling small' about my writing. I know why.

I'm nearing the end of writing the Zero Draft of a complete novel. By complete I mean 'worthwhile'. This is my fourth NaNoWriMo win and the most significant. (I almost wrote 'perhaps' there after 'and'.) I slept on what I was feeling and realized when I got up on Sunday that it was Fear of Finishing, Sadness at Ending. I've lived with these characters for nearly two months, watching their progress and hoping that I wasn't being too big a bastard for all the obstacles I kept putting in their way.

But that was my job for this project: to be the Big Bastard who makes life difficult for them. I'm comfortable now in that role here at the end. More comfortable than I was at the beginning when I wasn't sure the story was going to work out. I can't say that I'm reveling in destroying their lives, but I'm having some amount of fun. The latest ten thousand words (70,000 to 80,000) have been really difficult. I had to go back and remind myself of what R.L. Naquin said about Fear:

I think everybody’s got a vicious, negative voice whispering in their ears, whether they’re a writer, an accountant, or a mountain climber.
Slam the door in its face. Don’t let the voice win. YOU are the boss.
Yeah, that's it. That's what I needed to remember. I don't often have conversations with myself like that, I tend to be very introspective about things that don't really matter. If I've learned anything writing Juggy & the Duchess, it's that it's not enough to just be tenacious. I have to be vicious with myself to keep pushing forward. With the end of NaNo, I don't have that twice-weekly write in that I became addicted to. I've had to go the last eleven days essentially alone and that's why the Fear crept in. Not that my support team isn't there, they are and they've been great.

It's that I'm back to writing alone again. It's just me and my thoughts, me pushing myself to get this finished. Not just to complete the work as I have in past years but to actually finish. Have a complete novel that might be good (I think it is, we'll see what my trusted readers will come back with) and get it into shape to shop around. Being alone like that is okay, it really is. I'll see my group later this week when we have a get-together and I'll come back with the energy I need to be brave enough to get the work done.

What am I afraid of? Finishing? No, I've done that though this is the longest I've spent writing a single work. It's also the largest single work I've attempted. I'm afraid that my friends who I love dearly and trust implicitly will figure out that I'm a fraud and that my writing is no good. Or as Phil Hester tweeted not so long ago:


The forecast calls for uncertainty in the morning with a 70% chance of frustration in the afternoon.


I'm going to find out here soon whether or not I'm a good writer. My peers will be brutal if need be and complimentary if the work deserves it. I trust them and I fear them at the same time. I want my writing to be liked. That's normal isn't it?

Regardless, I've got a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to finish this draft and I'm going to make it. Somehow, some way, it's going to happen. The Fear will just have to sit in the corner and sulk. I'll worry about how good my book is after I'm done banging out these last 10,000 words or so.

Friday, December 09, 2011

It's Not the Whiskey Talking, I Promise

It's almost the end of the year when folks start looking back at the previous twelve months and collecting items to put into 'best of' lists. I don't do that.

Instead, I'm going to tell you why I'm so happy.

Yep, this is exactly how I feel.
I'M WRITING FAST AND REASONABLY WELL. This isn't necessarily a first for me, but I'm feeling like I actually know what a novel is now. For the last four years, I've been writing short stories and getting better at being a storyteller. This year's novel, I think I've mentioned I'm working on something I began on November 1 for NaNoWriMo, is affirming that I might really know what I'm doing now. I'm beginning to feel like a writer. Not an author, not an honest-to-god storyteller yet, but at least a writer. I'm comfortable calling myself that now.

I'VE MADE SEVERAL VERY GOOD NEW FRIENDS AND HAVE CEMENTED OLDER FRIENDSHIPS, TOO. I feel wealthy in the friend department. At work I'm the top dog of my unit, responsible for making the decisions that can affect sixty or seventy people and outside of work I'm a writer. Both of those positions can allow one to feel lonely and isolated, but I don't in either post. I have excellent support groups on both sides and they might even cross over a little as some of my writer friends are in the same community that I work in and we all have different takes on the same issues. I feel like I belong to something bigger than just me but my opinions in both cases matter as much as they can, at work and with my writer's group. I have more friends now than I ever have. That's a nice feeling.

MUSIC IS INTERESTING AGAIN. When I was growing up, music was 90% of my life. I played in band at school, had a rock band just out of high school and for most of my 20s and I worked in a record store in my early 30s. When my son was born I kind of let music go, rediscovered some stuff about five years ago and then only in the last year have I taken the time to listen to things both familiar and new. I'd forgotten how much music meant to me and to have it back is really, really important. Music is life. Music makes the merry go round.

(Yes, I've been drinking. So what? This isn't a drunk dial of a blog post. Noooooo, that would have been much more entertaining. )

FINALLY, BOOKS MATTER MORE THAN EVER, TOO.  I have rekindled my love of reading again and I'm extraordinarily wealthy when it comes to books. I'm so wealthy that I've given away some of my books and I don't miss them. I've got a considerable list to read through that I suspect will never really dwindle, and I love to spend time researching things that I may never need except maybe in a conversational situation. I'm immersed in reading several NaNo manuscripts (plus one that was written this summer by a good friend that I cannot wait to get in front of me) as well as stuff by Jonathan Lethem, China Mieville, Lester Dent and even Stephen King. I'll never have enough time to read, but that means I'll never lack for a good book to pick up, either.

ALSO, THIS MAKES ME EXTRAORDINARILY HAPPY:



In the comments, share the reasons why you're happy. We can all benefit from knowing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Mysteries of Living

Every day I have to make a left turn at a light to get on to the main road to get to work. I have been amazed at people who don't like to share the road on the other side of the intersection by making their right turn into the left lane right in front of me. I don't curse them as selfish, egotistical, clueless bastards any more. I've been broken of that habit. But yesterday I saw someone who was even more selfish than the ones who just take the lane they're not entitled to.

I was third in line and to make my left turn as I always do. Across from the intersection was a person driving a black SUV who wanted to turn right. There were probably a half dozen cars behind him. This happens around 7:30 in the morning, mind you, so we're all on our way somewhere and likely in a rush to get there. The two cars ahead of me went on and made the turn when the light went green and I entered the intersection anticipating him turning into the lane next to me. He didn't move.

He was waiting to make his right turn until the left lane was clear, holding up everyone behind him.

I tried to imagine what it was that kept him from making that turn, accelerating and then putting on his signal to get into the left lane. Was he just selfish? Lazy? Careless? Was he not paying attention to the fact that the light had changed?

This put me in mind of my characters in Juggy and the Duchess (you can read excerpts here and here). Everyone in the book is selfish at some point, thinking only of their own benefit in a given situation. Each of them is unlikable at different stages of the story and that's a lot like life. No one is the same through an entire week, or even an entire day. We are different with different people.

One of the things that's got me excited about this book is that I'm finally nailing down how people interact and behave with their close friends and the people they've only just met. Not perfectly, mind you, but much better than I have previously. This book is about loyalty and relationships among intergalactic thieves stealing things that will be assembled into a super weapon that will end the universe as we know it. It's a human story set in a fantastic situation. I hope.

All my writing is about searching for the inherent meaning of one's existence. Whether it's seeking truth in religion or the thrill of adventure or  making art that affects people my stories are about living a life true to oneself. There are things we do to feel alive and there are things we set aside to accommodate others because those people are important to us. Ego dictates what we do and how we act. Ego is something that gets in the way of having relationships that last. It's also what makes for interesting stories when one Ego goes against another. These experiences inform the writing and it's up to the writer to make it relatable to readers. That's the theory, anyway.

(Disclaimer: I'm not saying I've been a professional thief nor am I encouraging you to be one. I'm also not encouraging anyone to end the universe. I'm quite fond of it the way it is, thank you.)

I'm sure the guy in the SUV is a nice person to those he cares about. Well, maybe mostly anyway. I don't know. I do know the Ego in the SUV didn't care he was holding up others. He only cared about making his right turn his way. There's gotta be a story in that.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Welcome to the NaNoWriMo Post Game Report

Last Wednesday was the end of National Novel Writing Month. I 'won' before Thanksgiving and I mentioned that here. I'm continuing to win because this is the first year in the four years I've participated in NaNoWriMo that I understand more of the craft of writing. My craft.

Joseph Campbell
This year's novel has structure (even though my first effort and last year's did, too) and a solid theme (which none of the other three really did)  that's reenforced throughout the manuscript to this point. (That's a new bit, the reenforcement of theme.) My main character has depth and a past that keeps echoing what's going on in her present. The danger still needs some work, but she has a strong supporting cast that is carrying her through. (Don't get me wrong: there's danger there, I just have to amp up the volume a lot.)

What made the difference this year is the increase in the amount of research I did in October and my attending the local write ins. I can't say enough about how my NaNo group helped me to push myself harder to write more. I stayed up later, wrote more often and just generally really poured myself into the work this year. Even though I thought I'd done that last year and the year before (first year was really a lark) this time was different. I was involved in my writing and the writing of others in the group. We helped each other with a word, a phrase, an idea or just by laughing together. I realized (finally) that all the psychological stuff that goes along with being a writer is something everyone experiences and having friends like these who understand is crucial.

Carl Jung
And of course, it's tiring. It's work writing that many words on a tight deadline. The work requires things of you that those who don't do it don't understand. If you're an accountant trying to understand what it takes to physically build a house and you don't know how to swing a hammer, you'll never understand that there's a reason why the plumbing has to go there. I'm tired because I've had my brain in overdrive for about six weeks and I've been immersed in the writing culture of my group of friends. We've been reenforcing positive writing energy with each other for a month. We're all exhausted.

So this is where we all take a little time off and kick back. Except I don't want to. I have another 25,000 words to write to get the zero draft of my novel done. I want to get this novel done and then go back and edit it and see if I can do anything with it. Right now, deep in the throes of it, I think it's really good. (I thought that with my first novel, too, but that wasn't the case. That one was only kinda-sorta okay.) I'm pushing to have this draft done before Christmas and I mean to do it.

I've done an enormous amount of work so far and it's only a little farther to the end now. NaNoWriMo is done, though I am not. And once the draft is finished, the real work of polishing and making it good begins.

Don't let anyone think that writing is easy. The ACT of writing is easy. Writing something good is hard. It's supposed to be. If it was easy, anyone could do it. Just like quantum physics. Or baseball.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Excerpt from Juggy & the Duchess II


Here's another excerpt from the NaNoWriMo novel. This is one of my favorite passages so far and what you need to know is that Jimmy is a character I've had in my repertoire for ten or twelve years and he's helping Juggy and Dee to steal a very heavy box that's guarded by an AI named Eldkin. There's been no editing and it's as raw as can be. I share it freely and retain all rights. I hope you enjoy it.

-Jason

Jimmy yelped and fell backwards out of the cabinet. The shelf gave way with a booming crack and what remained of it dropped half an inch onto the forks of the lifter. The lifter itself bounced down another two feet or so before resuming its programmed height. Jimmy whistled.“How heavy do you think this thing is?”
“Rated to move half a planet is what Eon said.” Dee was turning the forklift toward the stairs. “How much time’ve we got, Juggy?”
“Maybe four and a half minutes,” he said. “Maybe less. Don’t dawdle.”
“You gonna pull it or push it up?” Jimmy was on his feet again and next to Dee as she slowly moved the lift into position to go up.
“Push,” she said, “I think.”
Jimmy didn’t say anything. 
“Maybe pulling is better? I mean if the thing slides off it won’t crush me if I’m pulling.”
“You pull,” Jimmy said. “I’ll push and we’ll go a little faster.”
The lift compensated its magnetic field as it approached the staircase so that it remained parallel to the angle of the risers. Dee felt its mechanisms straining to keep up with the shifting angles and the weight of the box. It didn’t matter to the lift what was inside but the weight was tremendous.
“I’m getting a reading from the lifter,” Juggy said. “I’m having a hard time believing the number it’s sending me.”
Jimmy got behind the lifter and put his shoulder into pushing the front parts of the forks. “What? How much?”
“You won’t believe me, either,” Juggy said. “You’ll think I’m making it up. I promise you I’m not.”
Dee was halfway up the staircase and Jimmy was two steps up when they both demanded, “How heavy is it?”
“Three hundred seventy thousand tons,” Juggy said.
Dee kept pulling and Jimmy kept pushing but both of them laughed. “You’re joking,” Dee said once she’d caught her breath. She was almost to the top.
“I’m not. And the Sovereignty Board craft is about two minutes away. I’ve got the pod outside the front door so once you get to the top you need to push as fast as you can.”
They focused on moving the lifter and as Dee gained the top of the stairwell the lifter shifted again and the shelf under the box slid a little to her left. “Shit,” she said and did her best to steady the lifter. “How can it slide like that if it really does weigh that much?”
“It can’t weigh that much,” Jimmy said. “It’s physically impossible to have four hundred thousand tons in a two foot cube. Physically IMpossible.”
“The Board is still coming,” Juggy said. “That doesn’t change the weight of the box. Be careful and don’t drop it.”
“Thanks for the advice, Dad,” Jimmy said. He kept pushing and they go the forklift stabilized and parallel to the horizontal floor. “Let’s boogie.”
“Boogie?”
“Mosey. Percolate. Stroll. Ramble. Hoof it,” Jimmy said with a sly smile. “Let’s go.”
They pushed the forklift across the altar floor and into the nave. The lift slammed into one of the benches and slid it aside with a horrible wrenching slide across the marble floor. “You could have asked,” Eldkin’s voice said. “You could have asked and I would have helped you.”
“Juggy!” Dee was agitated. “What the hell?”
“He’s fighting me,” Juggy said. “I can’t keep him down and fight off the Board while they’re trying to take over the Pixie Rover and the piece of crap we found Jimmy in. They’re really pushing me, Duchess. And they’re almost here.”
The forklift dipped a little and Dee let out a yell. “Don’t dawdle, he said.” 
Jimmy and Dee redoubled their efforts and shoved as hard as they could until the forklift crossed the floor of the nave into the atrium (the entryway earlier but we’re using atrium now) and right out the front door of the temple. “I would have helped you,” Eldkin said. “Give me a chance to help now.”
“Why?” Dee called over her shoulder as her eyes adjusted to the sunlight and she saw the piece of crap transport waiting for them at the edge of the plateau. 
“Because I’m tired,” Eldkin said. “I’ve been here for a thousand years and you’re the first people who actually came to visit the temple in nearly five hundred years. And you performed the rituals correctly.”
“How long has this box been down there?” Dee stopped and looked over her shoulder at the temple. “What was it here for?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jimmy said. “This thing’s fucking heavy if you’re not helping!”
“Time, Duchess,” Juggy said in her ear. “The Board, remember?”
“Quiet, you two. Eldkin, what was your purpose here?”
The wind stopped and Dee felt as though she was being pulled out of her body as she waited for the answer from the temple’s AI. Finally, she felt like she’d asked the right question and everything was falling into place. There was a kind of clarity to everything: the door frame, the roof, the columns. Everything was sharp, in high-definition and crisp as a fall morning on Ffeine.
“I was to guard this box,” Eldkin said at last. “It is important to a group of people who want things to change but were waiting for a series of eventsssskkkkrllllkkzzzz.”
“Eldkin? Eldkin!”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Busy Writing

By the time this gets drawn, the coffee is COLD.
I'm aiming at having 65,000 words written before the end of my day. Since I'm a shade over 62,000 at the moment I'll have to defer writing an actual blog post today.

If I make it, this November will the single most productive month of writing I've ever had. Even if I don't, it's still the single most productive month of writing I've ever had. I'll let you know how it goes, but if you follow the Twitterfeed, you'll find out sooner.

Thank god for coffee.

UPDATE: I made the 65K word count tonight. Only 25K to go until the story's finished. Stick with me, folks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winner: Pacing II (A NaNoWriMo Update)

Last week I 'won' NaNoWriMo by passing 50,000 words written on my manuscript. This is the fourth year I've done that and I feel great about the accomplishment. I encourage anyone who's thinking about trying NaNo to do so. You'll surprise yourself.

As you can see by the NaNo 'death bar' over there on there on the right, I'm at 57,674 words now. What that means is that I'm not done with my story. I've written the minimum amount of words but the story's not done. So that means that I've had to reset my goals in order to complete the Zero Draft of Juggy & the Duchess.

My self-imposed deadline to finish a complete version of the story is December 15th. That means I have to write about 1800 words a day to get there. That's what I set my original NaNo pace to be so I think this is realistic. Will it stop sooner than 90K or later?

That's the part I don't really know. I'm still discovering some things about my story despite all the notes I've got on it. The characters are dynamic, informing me of things that I didn't know and these things usually come out of a 'word sprint' where I tend to write a lot of dialogue. The settings are still my biggest problems as I get bogged down trying to create vivid enough descriptions so the select group that's going to read this draft of J&tD will definitely have to use their imaginations to see the world I'm trying to create and that's why I'm aiming at only 90,000 words: I'm figuring that I'll have to add a lot of descriptives in there while cutting a lot of dialogue. It should balance out in the end but that will be the completed First Draft.

This month has been the most successful I've had in terms of sheer production. The most I'd written before was somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 and I've got three more days to go. (In case you're wondering, all the blogging I've done this month isn't included in the word count death bars. That's all bonus for you, my loyal readers.)

So I have to keep up the pace I've set for myself for another three weeks or so. I've never had so much fun writing as I've had this month and never have I had such a clear vision of what the story was from beginning to end. I'm winning not just for having written all these words on a deadline, I'm winning for having reached another plateau in my quest to be a storyteller.

Damn, it's good be a writer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Third Option

Novel writing is sometimes like this.
I wanted to write something here about Fridays in general and the shopping mayhem of Black Friday in particular. I really did.

But it's just a diatribe on the commercialization of holidays that should be about family first. I've done that enough and I don't need to do it any more. You've all seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, probably grew up watching it. You know what I'm talking about.

Instead, let's talk about planning. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. If you're a semi-regular here you may have heard about it or even somewhere else. There are two camps of people: planners and pantsers. Friend of the blog R.L. Naquin is a planner with a cool index card system that really works for her. I'm not a planner like that. I'm not quite a pantser, either, which means that one starts writing without any idea of what the story is going to be until you get there. I've done that and it's hard. I mean REALLY difficult. Then again, planning my stories is difficult for me, too.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. This year's novel, Juggy & the Duchess, has quite a bit of planning and quite a bit of room for improvising and going with the flow of writing. I have quite a few notes that I took in October but it's more along the lines of research. Pre-writing things. Things like names of planets or the kinds of jobs that have to happen on those planets. Knowing that super-compressed dark matter is going to be a major item later on and what could happen with it, or how salons worked in 18th century France and some of the people that were famous for their salons. (I'm not talking about hair dressers, by the way.) Little notes that 'there has to be a HUGE row between Juggy & Dee' though I didn't know exactly where that would happen when I jotted it down.

I have more notes this year than I do for any of my three previous NaNovels. I'm having more fun this year than any of the previous years. It may have something to do with being more a part of the local writer community and attending the write-ins and events. It may have something to do with my overall confidence level about my writing.

I read this because of someone
in my writer's group.
One thing that I don't really consider when I'm writing the Zero Draft is the audience. NaNoWriMo is about pleasing me and me alone. That's certainly true of the first three novels I wrote; they're all about me. This year I'm definitely writing to please myself first but I'm considering the potential commercial aspect of the work, too. I've told a couple of people J&tD may be the 'best thing I've written yet'. I don't mean it's Thomas Pynchon-level writing, not by a long stretch. What I mean is that it may be the novel that I finally finish and then think about trying to sell.

No, really. I thought that about last year's novel (and I need to get back to that one because I've finally solved some of the things that bugged me about it) but this is different. This year's novel is convincing me that I might just know what I'm doing when it comes to writing. Does that mean the more planning I do the better I get? I don't know. Will I get to the point of using the index cards the way others do? I don't know.

I do know that doing a bunch of pre-writing makes the job of actual writing a lot more enjoyable and that's what I like. I know that having a group of fantastic and enthusiastic writers who are the best supporters a writer could ask for makes the process a lot more enjoyable, too.

So while millions of people are out there jostling one another for the latest gew-gaw that they could have bought earlier in the week and then had time to spend with something or someone else way more important instead of standing on line to pay for said gew-gaw for thirty minutes or more, I'm home writing. And planning. And writing.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you have a group that you can rely on to push you when you need it? How confident (on a scale of one to ten) are you that you're a decent to good writer? Let me know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

However you celebrate giving thanks for your year of bounty, you should watch this video. (Sorry I can't embed it for some reason.) It's from the ancient sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati which was perhaps one of the funniest, most insightful programs ever to run on TV. What you don't get from the DVDs or watching it online somewhere are the original songs.

Regardless, the humor of the situation is priceless.

Thank you all for coming to my site and reading my ramblings. I'm grateful for each and every one of you.

Back on Friday with an update on Juggy & the Duchess.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Busy

Thursday is the American Thanksgiving so the entire Internet will shut down beginning some time on Wednesday and resume its shenanigans again some time on Saturday but not back into full swing until the following Monday.

I would have typed a regular blog post, as I've been doing the entire month so far during NaNoWriMo, but I'm actually busy today. Got lots to do.

You can assume that some of it is writing, some reading, some of it is the day job and the rest of it is drinking. Not necessarily in that order.

I will say that I'm going to crack 50,000 words tonight and that's pretty cool because it's the fastest I've done it. I'm going to go through Wednesday on my novel, maybe Thursday morning, and then take three days to finish a project that needs finishing before I come back to it. I'm risking losing momentum by doing this, but I'm confident that Juggy & the Duchess is going to be there and I'll slip right back into it while I await confirmation of the other project finally being complete.

I wish you all a happy holiday and hope that it's filled with family and food and great times. I may blog a bit on Wednesday or Friday but probably not both. I would encourage you, if you're NaNoing to read this post by R.L. Naquin on finishing. Take it from me, the lady gives great advice. I'm hoping to be well over 60,000 words and two-thirds finished on J&tD by the end of November. I'm hoping to have a completed Zero Draft of the book before the 15th of December.

I expect you to hold my feet to the fire. You know who you are.

(Hey, look at that. It's a whole blog post after all!)

UPDATE: Here's the proof: 

I've since changed the target from "50,000" to "90,000" words. I think I can wind the story up at that length. Maybe a little longer if I have to. My goal is still the same: to have a Zero Draft by mid-December so I can take the year-end holidays off or start on something else that won't take as much time.

I've got some close friends (and GREAT writers) willing to help read it and offer feedback. I may hit a few others up when I get it into a 'real' First Draft. Cheers!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Excerpt from Juggy & The Duchess

Here's about 900 words from my NaNoWriMo work in progress. It's not my favorite passage but it's close. There's been no editing on it and it's as raw as anything. I share it freely but retain all rights. Hope you like it.


Jason
This Duchess isn't the Duchess in the story. Sorry.



“It’s only been twenty minutes,” Juggy said from where the Sikorski perched on the mantle. “You’ll have to find something to occupy yourself. Or better yet, take a nap.”
Dee was upset and angry at being made to wait like a child while the two adults sequestered themselves in rooms upstairs. She liked the room, though, and that was a small comfort. There were books lining shelves on the far wall and with a shrug she went to them, looking for a title that would catch her eye and help her pass the time. Madame Skartarine wasn’t a wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am kind of lover. She had no idea what kind of lover Alu was and hoped never to find out any specifics. 
She couldn’t stomach that a Symbi and a human were lovers, either. It made no sense. There was tension between the two races dating back to first contact, thousands of years prior. Every time a human settlement infringed on a Symbi planet that wasn’t properly denoted, there was war that inevitably resulted in enormous loss of life on both sides with one or the other notching a ‘win’. The impartial histories of Leci Szenko and her team had both sides losing as much as the other and really gaining very little. 
There was just something about a Symbi that put Dee on edge. Maybe it was the fact that inside they were so very different than humans. Their genetic makeup wasn’t formed around carbon, like humans, but around something very like arsenic, a poison to humans. Dee had never heard of the two species being able to produce offspring though she had read about a couple of famous cases of illicit love between them. Leci Szenko was an impartial observer and reporter for the most part except when it came to sex. She seemed to revel in the sordid details of liaisons no matter who was involved. 
And then there was the fact that her parents had been killed by a Symbi and no one had ever been able to tell her why it had happened. Why the Symbi had gone after her mother specifically or why it had set the constructor bots to tear the building apart was a mystery. There was nothing in his file or his previous behavior and records to indicate that he was unbalanced. Various factions came to the fore claiming speciesism and prejudice at the genetic level, but there was no science behind it. 
At the orphanage where Madeleine had found Dee, there had been a Symbi girl who kept her distance from Dee. Hady, was her name. Nice enough to the other girls there, the nonhuman ones, but cold and vicious to Dee and the few other humans. (The attack on Dee’s building had created dozens upon dozens of orphans that day.) Smart, too, in the classes they shared. Dee had built a grudging kind of respect for Hady’s mind until the day it all went wrong.
Something was said in a small group that included Hady and three other nonhuman girls. Dee was certain that her name had been in that something said and when they all snickered and glared at her, an avalanche of hate tore its way down the mountain of her psyche and she snapped. Dee flung herself at Hady, intent on breaking the Symbi girl’s neck. Hady, it turned out, was a natural fighter and there was quite a row with lots of punches, kicks and hair-pulling to go around. Thirty or forty students jostled for a position where they could see the action and a couple of industrious types on either side of the hallway were taking bets. Eighty percent of those in attendance picked Hady to win quickly and possibly murderously. 
No one had counted on Dee’s determination and species hatred. Everyone there, and those that would claim to be there later but couldn’t possibly have been, was mortified when Dee got around behind Hady and twisted the Symbi girl’s arm painfully up and backwards. The sick pop of ligaments and muscle as Hady’s shoulder popped out of joint was punctuated by a high-pitched keening that wasn’t recognizable as a scream. It was made worse as Dee jammed her foot into the small of Hady’s back and kept pulling and twisting until there was a tearing sound unlike anything any of the children had ever heard before. 
Symbi flesh is tough, made to withstand incredible air pressure on their home planet, and Dee had pushed Hady’s arm so high and so far backwards that while Hady was face first on the ground she shifted position to put her foot on Hady’s shoulder and continued to pull. The tearing of Hady’s skin was something that no one there would ever forget. When the arm came free, Dee fell backwards and lost her grip. Huffing and puffing from the effort, she rolled over and grabbed the arm, dragging a trail of Symbi blood behind it across the white tiled floor to toss it on Hady’s back. The Symbi girl was unconscious and a teacher finally pushed his way through. 
He vomited at the sight, giving Dee a chance to run through the crowd of kids on her side of the hall. She turned the corner and saw the doors closing at the end. She ran as fast as she could and tried to slip through the closing panels. Dee yelled at the top of her lungs and leapt.
She banged into the closed doors and knocked herself senseless.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pacing (A NaNoWriMo Update)

As of last night, I've written 35,041 words on my novel Juggy & The Duchess. It only takes 50,000 words to 'win' NaNoWriMo but that's about the halfway point of my planned novel. The first year I tried NaNo, I wrote a little over 50K words and was very pleased that I was able to do that much having finished just ahead of the deadline. The next year was a little more and I was happy with that, too. Last year's novel remains unfinished (though there are notes to go back and finish it with some day).

I'm currently on pace to write 70,000 words in 30 days. I think this story will wrap itself up somewhere between 95,000 and 100,000 words. I'll be writing until Christmas.

The wonderful folks at the Office Of Letters & Light (who administrate the NaNo website and other programs) did the math and in order to write 50,000 words (a minimal novel) in 30 days one has to average 1667 words per day. My goal this year was to write 1800 words a day. My average this year is currently 2190 but has been as high as 2350. As you can see in the graph it's a nice, steady pace with no huge spurts of words.

Because I like my story and I did enough pre-writing research and thinking about it, I'm having a lot of fun writing it. I think that's why my average has been so much higher than in the past and even than I hoped for. I've also been participating in the local write-ins more and the energy in those rooms is palpable and helpful. Sara mentioned this in her blog post yesterday and she said it better than I could though my results have been different than hers. R.L. Naquin talked about The Fear last week and that's been something I've been watching for but haven't experienced this year. Yet. I'm sure it'll come.

If you clicked here thinking this was going to be about pacing in the novel, that's not something I'm worrying about yet. That's for the editing stage. (There are four of us who are planning to swap our novels in December to begin that stage.) I will say that when I'm writing and feel like I'm slogging through it at some point, I make something happen. I hope that helps with the pacing later on.

Now, as fast as I'm writing, there are several others who are faster and have already passed the 50,000 word mark. Those guys probably aren't spending time blogging when they should be writing.

Would you like to read an excerpt of what I've written so far? Let me know.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Complimentary

No need to be this elaborate. Just say 'thanks'.
This morning I was at the Post Office mailing some bills before I went off to work. I love the USPS because it's always been there and it does a fantastic job of moving MILLIONS of pieces of mail every single day. Are there mistakes? Yes. Things get lost. I don't have figures and don't know where to look, but I'd bet that the fill rate of items mailed to items delivered is pretty good, all things considered. It's the most economical way to mail a letter or a payment and all it costs is, really, about ten minutes of time and a stamp (which right now is 44c according to the USPS website).


(Yes, you can pay your bills online and you can do that wearing any amount of clothes (or not) you want at any time during the day. Writing a check, putting a stamp on the envelope and going down to the Post Office to mail something gives people work. It makes them valuable to society. That's not what this post is about though. Read on.)

Anyway, this morning I was dropping my bills into the slot and a lady came out from the back room with one of those mail carts with the canvas bag holder in it. I was turned away and walking out the door when I stopped and said, "You know what? Thanks for what you guys do. I appreciate the work the postal service does and I think you're the best in the business."

She lit up like it was Christmas. "Wow! Thank you! That's very nice to hear." I smiled and walked away. I made someone's day without really trying and all it took was me noticing someone else. How hard is this, really? Think you can do it? I bet you can. See how good you feel by saying something nice to someone that they're not expecting to hear. Make it genuine and honest, don't be fake. If you can spot 'em a mile away so can everyone else.

G'head. Try it. Tell me what happens.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tradewaiting

My local comic shop is closing the first week of December.

I first went there back in high school, some 26 or 27 years ago and bought some specialty comics that I couldn't find at the Town Crier or the grocery store. I remember it being Micronauts and I don't know if it was that trip or another, but I also scored a copy of Slow Death Comix #2 with some Richard Corben and Jaxon art in it.

Man, underground comix were cool.

I became a regular at the shop just after high school and established a pull list that at its height included all the Superman titles and all the Spider-Man titles. I got every issue of The Death of Superman and the godawful Clone Saga. I chased events like Legends and X-Tinction Agenda and X-Cutioner's Song. Yeah, I was an X-Men geek, too.

I also discovered some really cool non-mainstream comics and creators over my twenty-year association with the shop: Matt Wagner's Grendel was the biggest. Then I found Wagner's Mage. I fell in love with James Robinson's and Teddy Kristiansen's art on Wagner's ancillary title Grendel Tales (Four Devils, One Hell is still one of my all-time favorite stories) and so when Robinson launched Starman at DC Comics, I was there. Neil Gaiman's epic Sandman series I came to late, but it didn't matter. I loved those books, too. Garth Ennis' and Steve Dillon's Preacher immediately hit my list every month and so did John Byrne's Next Men and Frank Miller's Sin City. The list goes on: The Losers, Fables, 100 Bullets, Freakangels, The Unwritten.

JBNM is recently returned. Freakangels, The Losers and 100 Bullets ended. I dropped Fables 80-some issues in. The Unwritten is still going. Next Men and The Unwritten will be the only books from my current pull list that I'll wait for trades for, along with Locke & Key which I'm only reading in trade form. I have no intention of going digital on comics any time soon, either. So trades are it.

But Town Crier is gone. Borders is gone. And now my comic shop is gone, too. There's another shop in town, a good one, but it's not the same for me. There's also a Hasting's in town that's going to be good for casual browsing but it won't be the same. Twenty years is a long time to be loyal to a place and I've been waffling on tradewaiting for five years at least. Now I can make a clean break and do what makes sense.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Snobbery

Things I'm a snob about:

FOOD - I like food and I like good food. Who doesn't? What you think is good might be slightly different than what I think is good, but that's what makes the world go 'round right? Where I get snobbish is when someone wants to ruin an excellent cut of meat that only needs salt and pepper for it to taste good by adding some godawful sauce concoction. Nothing against the sauce, just the context. Heinz 57, for instance, is just fine on a hamburger, not so much on a perfectly cooked steak.

GRAMMAR AND WORD ABUSE - I was part of a conversation about the word onomatopoeia the other day and how we had to learn how to spell it in grade school. It seems to me that grade school is where I learned what contractions are, too. That apostrophe is the place where two words are combined and if you have any doubt about it, say the two words out loud: "should have" not "should of"; "you are" not "your" (this is a special case because it's the most abused); "it is" and so on and so on. I'm told that in some places children aren't (that is, they "are not") being taught how to write in cursive because of things like the ubiquity of keyboards from laptops to smartphones (those are compound words, mind you). People need to be taught to write and speak properly and they need to do it in certain situations or they look like a rube, right? Do we really want to look stupid by not knowing that "won't" is a contraction of "will not"? And don't get me started on things like texting and this new word "I'mma", which might actually be a new legitimate contraction of "I am going to".

PAY TV AND RADIO - I like stories. I hate stories that are interrupted by more mini stories. I pay for satellite radio because I hate commercials and endlessly jabbering DJs. I pay for HBO and Showtime because I hate six minutes of story interrupted by five pitches for products that should be more rightly prescribed for you by a doctor before it gets back to the story. I like storytellers (writers, actors, directors, photographers, etc...) to have a full range of expression to tell their story. When adult language or situations are called for, when nudity is called for, as long as it's done well, it should be used. Gratuitous use of words that are not generally acceptable in most social situations is just a big a turnoff as anything. Life is different for different people and sometimes we're naked in front of someone we hadn't intended to be, or we did intend to be but just not quite that way. One of the things that I like about American TV in general now is that show runners are thinking more in terms of 'limited series' within a series. A season long story arc for instance, such as has been done on British TV for decades. I'm a huge fan of satellite radio, too, because I can listen to a wider variety of music or other programming. I've gone from 90s music to classical to jazz to old time radio plays on one trip across town.



NPR AND PBS - I shouldn't have to say this, but both of these services are valuable to the general public. They're not any more 'liberal' or 'conservative' than any other news or entertainment outlet. They tend to be more 'arty' than the others, and to some people that implies 'liberal'. If one listens or watches closely, one's mind will be enlightened and expanded. Government needs to remember that these are 'services' and that implies a whole different thing than a for profit network.


So I'm a snob about some things. I admit it. I think real books are better than ebooks. I think vinyl has a charm that will never be replaced by digital downloads. Letters are better than emails and the USPS is better than any other pay delivery service. I may be prejudiced, too, but I think America is the best country in the world not least because the power tends to stay on (unless there's a major storm) and the water tends to be drinkable in most places though as other services are diminished and fewer people know how to express themselves properly that's getting worse.

I'm a snob and I admit it. What are you snobbish about?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Storytelling

My soundtrack for the last three or four weeks has been 85% Pearl Jam. Ever since I saw Cameron Crowe's 20 year retrospective on the band, I'm reliving all the old songs that made my early- to mid-20s somewhat memorable. (I say somewhat because I'm really a pretty boring guy. Haven't done much or seen much except in my head. The internet was a window to worlds I'll probably never experience but that's a subject for a different time.) I'm discovering a lot of music by the guys that I missed in the last ten years or so, too. They've made some really remarkable stuff while I was away listening to other music.

One of the things that's stuck with me from the movie has been Eddie Vedder's answer to the question about why the songs on TEN were all so 'dark'. He responded that if one doesn't explore the dark sides of things how do we know what the light is supposed to look like?

Thanks, Eddie. I needed that going into November and a huge writing month. An absolutely perfect idea.

This year's NaNovel has been a little darker for one of the main characters than any of the others I've written in the past. There's motivation that I never thought about before, or never thought about applying in the ways I'm applying it before. This character is acting in what some might call a selfish, even potentially villainous, way that it's fun to write this person. (Yes, I'm deliberately avoiding the pronoun. Get over it.) I didn't know I was building all this internal conflict between the two main characters and it's enhancing the overall plot of the story, too.

Thing is, I have no idea how it got incorporated into the character or the story. It just HAPPENED.

I suppose that's where good stories come from, isn't it? Somewhere in the aether, dipping down into the writer's brain and mucking around in there until it comes out? Is this a little Jungian synchronicity/collective unconscious or is it just the result of thousands of pages of 'how to write' books and webpages? I don't know. Maybe a little of both. Or, better still, is it reflecting back on twenty years of 'dark' songs with the experience of having lived a little in those years? Being able to better understand the emotions of the songs from a POV down the road has been enlightening. The songs mean something different than they did the first time I heard them.



I hope it's a mix of all these things.I'm 15,000 words into the NaNovel and I'm still excited. There have been a couple of dips in places where I challenged myself to write something I never had before (one scene in particular that had fourteen characters in it was a horrible, mind-shellacking DRAG to write) and even those things will likely be excised like a cancer with a rusty spoon, they've helped me tell a better story.

And right now I wouldn't trade them for anything.

What songs have new meaning for you having heard them again after a long time away from them?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

I'm way ahead of my previous record pace this year. Five days into this and I'm a day and half ahead, averaging 2400 words a day and maintaining a home life.

It's a NaNo miracle. For me at least.

If I can keep up this pace, I'll have written 72,000 words in November alone. That would be a serious record for me if I can do it. I hope I can keep it up because that's almost a real novel-length story there.

So where are my characters at? At 5,000 words, both my main characters had been introduced and had brief origin stories. At 10,000 words they still haven't met and likely won't for another 10,000 or so. Maybe a little more. That's about seventy pages in, if my calculations are right. (Actually I'm using Scrivener so they're probably right. Likely right.) There's been some mayhem, some death-dealing and some interstellar travel. I've also laid the groundwork for the big villain's entrance and the little villain, the MacGuffin bad guy, is there, too.

I'd love to share some of it with you, but I'm not gonna. Not yet. There are bigger scenes coming down that I want you to read.

Oh, hell, hang on, let me go grab a bit for you.

Before you read it, if you don't remember the premise, here it is. Okay, now go ahead and read.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The casino’s AI was indignant. 

“My name is Juggy. I’m an MH1997 McCarthy AI parked in a geostationary orbit with authorization Alpha Lima seven five slash Uniform zero four and my owner is being kidnapped in your lobby,” Juggy said in machinespeak to the other AI. “I need your help and access. Throw up the necessary firewalls to protect your sensitive information so I can help him.”

“I don’t care who you are, where you’re from or who you’re with,” the Jardin said. “You can’t just push your way in here.”

“There’s no time for this,” Juggy said. “Help me or I’ll fry your mainframe enough for a hard reset.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“Two seconds. One.”

“All right,” the Jardin said. “Here. Stay out of the accounts and accounting. What can I do to help you?”

“Right now stay out of my way,” Juggy said. He trained all the cameras in the lobby on Fesson and Alu and the third man, whose name was Prano and had also been one of the losers at the poker table. Obviously they meant to rob Alu. Juggy tuned in the piezos so that he could hear what Fesson and Prano were saying.

“—Our money, asshole.”

“I don’t have it,” Alu said. “Greave sold me something. He’s got all the money.”

Fesson shoved the disruptor hard into Alu’s back. “I don’t believe you.”

See? Not the greatest, but I hope a little bit of fun.

I'll admit I'm having a blast writing this. It's not like anything I've written before and while I'm taking it seriously, it's not all that serious. I'm thinking visually, adding more description than I've used before and the dialogue is coming a lot easier, which is weird because dialogue is what I think is one of my strengths. Matter of fact it's all a lot easier this year.



It may have something to do with the incredible amount of support from my fellow Wrimos. We're following each other on Twitter, our Facebook account is more active than ever before and the NaNo forums are buzzing. We're pushing each other, supporting each other and damn if it doesn't feel like one hell of an extended family. I think I've finally found the group I've been looking for. I love that crew. They're amazing writers and wonderful people.

More on that after NaNo's over though. For now, back to the keyboard. Or my life. Whichever needs the attention right now.