Next Big Thing Tag

 

NaNo Prep: The Next Big Thing.  Janice Hardy tagged Jami Gold, who tagged me.   I’m honored that she picked me and I’m going to do my best to answer:

 
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
 
Quoting Jami:
As NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—write a 50K word novel during November) is all about writing “the next big thing,” I decided this would be a fun tagging game to play.
So have I.
 
What is your working title of your book?  
Clear Ether.  This is the2nd title I’ve used for it, but I think it works.
 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is my first novel length work, and I had a couple of idea kernels that I ended up mashing together, (those make the best stories don’t they?) one being about a vampire and the other circling loosely around my experiences sitting alert as a military pilot.  It made at least half a dozen major morphs before it emerged into what it is now.
 
What genre does your book fall under?
It is Science Fiction Adventure with romantic elements.
 
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Okay, believe it or not I already had this figured out, LOL.
 
 
 
 
(Protag)Remie La Jeunesse – Matt Bomer
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anneliese Trahan – Emily Van Camp
 
 
 
 
Chloe Naquin – Alexandra Daddario
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Conall La Jeunesse –  Logan Lerman
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sage La Jeunesse – Chloe Moretz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sebastian Meijer – Cary Elwes
 
 
 
 
 
I am actually considering doing a screenplay version, but have to cut about 300 pages.  Heh.
 
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Remie thinks that being a vampire is not all it’s cracked up to be, once he outlived his wife and watched all his offspring die one after the other, and is ready to call it quits, until a chance meeting with a hot tempered young female pilot reignites a spark of life in his long dead heart.
 
Okay that’s kinda long, but I cover a lot of ground and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.  It takes place 700 years in the future and we have inhabited 58 star systems outside of our own.
 
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am going to shop it with a few agents and if that doesn’t work I may try the slush pile at a few book sellers.  If all else fails I may self-pub …  or, I may trunk it.
 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Another tricky question that on the surface seems simple enough.  I’ve been working on this book for more than three years, but the actual draft that I am currently using took a little more than a year to write. 
 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I know there are a few cheesy movies that have vampires in space, but this book is nothing like that.  It’s a character driven story.  I know that Jane Fancher has a story, called Blood Red Moon, with vampires, mixed with science fiction but I haven’t read it.
 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have wanted to write a novel for about 25 years, and finally put aside video games and made a serious effort to do just that.  It has been a steep learning curve, but I’ve met so many great people on the journey it has made it all worthwhile.  I’ve learned a great deal about writing and publishing in the process.  I think I am closing in on the magic one million word mark and it is all starting to make more sense.
 
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My vampires are not quite the traditional sort.  They are spawned from an alien phage that came to Earth via meteor strike in ancient time and nearly wiped out an entire region in Europe before the survivors figured out what they were.  It has star travel and space battles and poker and romance.  Chloe Naquin is Remie’s actual granddaughter, from the daughter he had before he was turned.  She is the only person he has ever turned into a Nemisi, and she was a quadriplegic until the day he turned her.  She runs a syndicate made up of Remie’s thousands of descendants from his two children.  Of course he couldn’t have any more children after his turning, but he reunited with his wife for the rest of her life. There is lots more.
 
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
 
Jami Gold tagged me.  She is a writer and blogger extraordinaire and I expect she will be famous before too much longer.  She is one of my oldest twitter friends and I’m excited to cheer her on for NaNoWriMo this year.
 
Stacy McKitrick is my writing partner. She just finished the draft on her 5th book and is shopping her stories right now.  We have been working together for a little more than a year and I really appreciate everything she does.  It’s also a joy to share in someone else’s journey.  NaNo Stacy?
 
Jane Fancher is a writer and artist and is back at the writing thing after a hiatus.  She writes Sci Fi and just released Netwalkers: Partners, a prequel to her acclaimed Netwalkers trilogy.  I’ve read it and it rocks. 
 
Karen Woodward is a long time twitter friend and a prolific blogger.  She collects lots of great information on writing on her blog.  I’m not sure if Karen is doing Nano either.
 
Gerry Wilson is a writer and I only recently met her doing a blog challenge (that I am failing) but she has a wonderful way with words.  Gerry, are you doing NaNoWriMo?
 
I am doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I am Kardaen on their website, and my story this year is tentatively called Requiem for Memory.
 
Clear Ether!

Wired for Story

 

Chuck Wendig interviewed Lisa Cron this week for his blog Terribleminds and she gave us her take on developing story.  Another great find for interviews by Mr. Wendig, he rarely disappoints.  Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain.  She has a new book out called Wired for Story, and I can’t wait to read it.  She is a big time producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer and also teaches a writing course at UCLA.  She has spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories.  It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make your story click with the reader.  They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.
            On Lisa’s blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates.  It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books.  I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down.  Stephanie Myers Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.
            The concept has already had an impact on my writing.  I think it helped me frame the true story for my WIP.  CJ Cherryh had a recent rant on her facebook page (5 July) about the difference between plot and story and now that I have this new frame of reference I can see that she was saying basically the same thing.  The plot is not what drives the story.  The plot is just a tool to get the characters to create the story you are trying to tell.  The plot elements are moveable and malleable. 
When I deal with libraries and such, people who appreciate books, I often get asked questions about the creation of ‘plot’ — in the sense of the sort of book reports we used to have to give in school. These usually amounted to a recitation of what happened in the book. And these always confused heck out of me—I started writing at 10. I had been wrestling with ‘plot’ and ‘theme’ and this sort of thing on an intimate level for (at my young age) years, and the definitions of those terms that I had to memorize for tests just didn’t ring true with the way I did things. There was a wrongness in the basic assumptions that was bugging the life out of me.// Took me twenty years to figure what WAS bothering me—and to this day I really can’t define those terms, because they may shift with every type of book—but I came to a very basic conclusion: there IS no such thing as ‘plot’ in the sense most of these analyses deal with it. Plot is NOT the sequence of things that happen in the book. Those are the ‘things that happen in the book,’ and they actually are the most replaceable, ephemeral, rearrangeable things about the book. If you could lean over my shoulder while I work, you’d see me move things about, put events in different order, yank something I don’t want, put in something similar but ‘else’, and in sort, work with the causality and the chain of events, but these are not the plot. They are gears that need to mesh correctly, these are pieces that need to operate smoothly together—to PLAY OFF the ‘real Plot’ of the book, which is much more of a three-dimensional diagram of the lines of tension between the characters. You arrange events to tweak these lines of tension and cause a chain reaction, and figuring out how to do that may require you to change the events, change the people involved, change how the news travels, change the order of things—you see what I mean? The Real Plot is that 3-d constellation of characters and alliances and relationships, and these Actions are nothing but a set of triggers that could be ANY trigger. Finding the most logical order of triggers is head-work. Theme? I’m not sure what the hell that is. I think it’s the answer to that basic question a writer may want to write down on paper and pin to the wall above his desk: What’s this book about, anyway? And very often there’s no one word answer, or there is—say—like Loyalty; but that doesn’t say much. It takes the whole book to say what there is to say about that item, the way you see it, the way it affects the Real Plot, the feeling it generates. That’s why my teachers sometimes ticked me ‘wrong’ about certain answers, when I’d really thought long and hard about the answer and didn’t agree with the expected answer. That’s because when you start pushing those buttons on my personal console, you just may come up with a different book. Different answers. You may now realize that I’ve just answered that persistent groaner of a question “Where do you get your ideas?” —with the observation that ideas are no problem, so long as a writer has a pulse rate—but that Execution, ie, getting those ideas to assume a good constellation of tensions and then tweaking those lines of force to create a natural cascade of reactions leading to a satisfactory ending—that, THAT is the hard part.
                                                                                     –CJ Cherryh
 
Keeping STORY in the forefront of my mind as I revise the WIP is really helping me focus on the things that can stay and the things that need to go.   It also helped me refocus my Query letter.  I know what the essence of the book is about and was able to better articulate it. Here is the core of my new Query Letter:
 
What does an immortal bajillionaire have to complain about?  That’s what Remie La Jeunesse keeps reminding himself.  It’s how he’s managed to get by the least few decades, but he’s reached the end of the line.  He’s young by Nemesi standards, at 786, but he can’t find happiness anymore.  Weary of the death and despair he’s suffered for the last several centuries, Remie is ready to end his life, but he has one last obligation to fulfill.  He’s just received the call that the plan he’s spent 240 years meticulously planning is finally ready to trigger.  Will carrying out the plan be his demise or will it reignite his passions?
 
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle Corporation.  Her career path seemed to be on the fast track after leaving the comfort and security of her family trade ship, but the intervention of a past lover derails her plans and puts her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and any chance at a captaincy.  Will she be the one to end his life or save his soul?
At any rate, I ordered Wired for Story and should have it by the end of the week.  I’m maybe a 5th of the way through my 3rd rewrite and hopefully it will be ready for submission soon.
Clear Ether!

Let That Thing Fester

The title of this post is so awesome that I feel like the post itself isn’t going to live up to it.  I actually thought of saving it for another post on the subject but I’m going to go with it anyway.  I’m having issues finding time for this currently, and I ‘m not proud of it.  I know I’ve been absent lately but I have been doing the job of three people at my day job (literally) and cramming for my Air War College Exam.  The good news is we have enough people back at work that I can get back to just doing my own job and I got the results back from my exam, which I passed with an excellent!  I’m only one test away from finishing now, so I’m buckling down to get through it and then I can refocus on finishing the edits for Clear Ether and get it out to some beta readers.

I actually had a little down time in there while I was waiting for the exam to be graded.  I was initially expecting four weeks of waiting but it only took four days.  At any rate, I had time to do some revision on the first few chapters after feedback from my alpha readers and I actually feel like I have enough distance now to see it like someone else wrote it.  I was able to make big cuts and move some stuff around and really focus the POV.  Getting that distance is key.  I got some great advice and some great feedback from my alphas, thank you!

When people tell you to put your manuscript in the drawer for a month or two and let it ferment, they aren’t kidding.  I did some preliminary editing after only a few days, but I was really having trouble seeing the errors.  Stacy can tell you I went off the reservation with the word “just”.  It was laughable how many times I used that word in one chapter alone.

As the creator you can often have a hard time detaching yourself from your own POV.  You already know everything that happened and all the background details and motivations, so when you go in to start your revisions you can’t divorce yourself from yourself (Austin Powers anyone?) without giving yourself enough time after the manuscript is finished.  Completing the manuscript is a huge thing.  A lot of writers never get there, so I’ve heard.  And I know I was excited, not because I finished the manuscript, but because I was one step closer to being published, and I wanted to get on with the revisions.  I’m here to tell you that you have to wait a bit before you take that next step.

The manuscript is near and dear to your heart.  You’ve invested a lot of energy and time getting to “The End”.  Carving up your baby is simply not feasible at that point.  Any believe me, it needs to be carved up and have great chunks removed and tossed in the waste bin. (Boneyard)  It’s like a grotesque turkey that has too many legs and wings and parts sticking out and it needs to be prepped and oiled and baked to perfection still.  But before you can do any of that you need to stick it somewhere dark, where you will leave it alone, and let it fester for a few months.  When you put it away it looked like a bright shiny baby, when it comes out it will look like Chucky, and you can stab it and carve it up.  I must be hungry.  Enough of the carving analogies.  You get the idea.

When you get it back out you will be able to see it as a work of literary fiction instead of “your precious”.  You can see the POV errors and the extra background that really isn’t germane to the story.  You can see the bad dialogue tags and the dreaded adverbs and poor word choices.  You can see the poorly written sentences, and maybe there are chapters that really don’t even need to be there.  At the very least they need to be massively trimmed and combined with another part somewhere else.  It is eye opening … really.  Put that sucker away!  Don’t touch it!  Ah..I see you going back to look at it, I said leave it alone.

Anyway, as an aside, I’m also in the process of applying for a Master’s program in writing, so I had to put some finishing touches on some writing and then write a Letter of Intent.  It was kinda fun actually. I’m shooting for the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction degree.  It is a distance learning program that will only require me to spend 5 days each semester on campus.  That works great for my busy lifestyle.   The cool thing is it is designed for you to have a publishable novel length book at the end of the program.  I’m very excited about it and have my fingers crossed to get in.  It’s a small Catholic university near Pittsburg, so it’s also driving distance, at least until I move.

I hope you are all having great fortune in your writing and reading!

Clear Ether!

 

Say hello to the Nemesi!

Today marks my one year anniversary of my blog and it also happens to be Halloween, I thought it would be apropos to introduce my vampires from Clear Ether. I like the caste system and heritage of the vampires developed by White Wolf but I also wanted something with more of a scientific bent to it, so I borrowed elements from all my favorite vampire genre and added a few of my own. My vampires call themselves the Nemesi. Allow me to introduce them…

There are only a few old languages that have words for vampire — Hungarian is one of them, and for good reason. That was where the vampires had first arisen on Earth.

Despite everything, tales of vampires have persisted throughout history, but as is usually the case, there is a kernel of truth behind the legends. However, it was not a curse from Satan or Cain as some of the old tales have guessed at, or in countless books or movies, but a simple meteor carrying an alien phage that was the true culprit.

The records from that time are of course nonexistent as it happened many thousands of years ago, before written records were kept. When the alien bacteriophage affected the first humans it was quickly spread as it was in a virulent form, any open sore was an invitation for the phage to spread and turn the inhabitants into monstrous blood hungry scavengers. The stories held that those first few months were hell on Earth for the villagers near the crash site of the meteor.

Unable to come to grips with their condition they savaged each other and it became a matter of survival of the fittest in the most literal sense of the word. When it was all said and done only a few had survived the savagery that destroyed several villages – thousands had perished. The few that managed to survive came to understand what they had become and realized that if they continued they would surely die, as there were no other humans left in that part of the country. They would have to move into other areas and carve out what they needed from the local population and move on.

Over time they figured out how to handle their desperate situation and even to prosper from it. Living forever has distinct advantages when that was coupled with perfect recall. They eventually became very powerful, controlling the black markets and the politicians from almost the beginning. Some managed to dabble in legitimate enterprise, but most found the easy path of crime and corruption to make their fortunes. They kept their numbers low, and had their own reasons for creating new members of their family.

There is no central controlling body, but the powerful leaders of each area do whatever they must to keep the Komedia, their word for keeping the secret of their existence. They don’t want to lose their fortunes or their lives to the raving lunacy of the newborn Nemesi, those that can’t be controlled are destroyed and their creator with them, so it makes creating a new offspring a challenging task, one not to be taken lightly. There is a council that meets regularly to take on the big issues, but the rules that they use are all agreed to and very minimal.

The bite of a Nemesi is fatal if not counteracted, although it is said to be pleasurable to be bitten, due in large part by the fact that the poison also has a powerful narcotic. It’s the blood that heals. The phage transmutes the blood into cruen, a healing elixir. It keeps the vampire young and vigorous and heals even the most grievous wounds. Humans can ingest cruen and it will prolong life and heal ailments, but has resisted the many attempts made by Laurent’s pharmaceutical company to be duplicated in any fashion for public consumption. Many Nemesi have a cortége of humans that they feed from and some are known to be extremely old.

The organs of a Nemesi are still intact, but most are no longer used. The heart still beats and fuels the body with cruen. Garlic does nothing to a Nemesi, but there digestive organs are very sensitive to regular food and it will give one indigestion. Blood is all they need to ingest, human blood the preference. They will not burst into flames in sunlight, but have what is the equivalent to a sun allergy. A cross means different things to different Nemesi. Some are quite pious and others are shockingly evil.

The phage itself has an amazing effect on animals, enhancing all the things that make them attractive to another of their species. It makes them the perfect hunter of their own kind, humans included. It not only gives them remarkable healing powers, but makes them stronger and faster than a normal man. It also imparts strange mental powers, with the ability to manipulate the morphic field created by the brain and allows them to read emotional states and get impressions from others, as well as influence their behavior and memory. The downside to being a Nemesi is the never ending thirst for blood and perfect recall, to remember in perfect detail every kill and scream. Some may relish it, but to others it’s a very heavy burden to bear.

Happy Halloween!

The Evolution of a Story

I talk to people all the time who, when they find out I’m a writer, tell me how they would love to write but can never come up with any ORIGINAL IDEAS tm There are no really original ideas anymore, supposedly, that may also be a lie, but let’s take it on faith that this is true. What there are, are variations on a theme . . . a juxtapositioning of notions with a different perspective or twist. You CAN find these if you try. I know I did, but it was a meandering path. It was like a seed that mutated as it grew, like a mad Dr. Frankenstein kept adding parts to it. I’m going to share how my current work-in-progress came to be the story that it currently is. I say currently because I’m still revising it. It likely won’t have any substantial changes at this point though, as it’s pretty well fully formed.

Let’s go back to 1991, Desert Storm was ending, and I had just completed my first overseas combat support deployment and I wanted to write the story, but I was distracted by a multitude of other things and really didn’t have the first clue how to start, but the seed to write had been planted. I toyed with the idea of writing for almost two decades and over that period I had this recurring desire to write something about being a pilot as that is the one thing I really know well. I also loved science fiction, and still do. The seed had been germinated somehow (perhaps maturity, I’m still not sure why), but was growing very slowly, it started to nag at me, it broke through the soil. I had to do something. But the whole, “I can’t come up with any ORIGINAL IDEAS tm was still plaguing me. I kept coming back to the concept of a crew on a starship, sitting on alert status. I needed a reason for them to be there, what were they sitting alert for? I hit on the idea of a scout service, which also doubled as rescue service and technicians for a Quantum Data Relay Station. I started reading more science articles on the interwebs. I found a few magazines that I really enjoyed like Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and devoured them. I wanted initially to incorporate Faster Than Light Travel, so I was looking desperately trying to find a loophole in General Relativity. I found some guys out there doing the math and trying to punch holes in the theory. One of them led me to the idea of my Quantum Gates, which is a pivotal part of the story. I chucked FTL travel. I knew it was a trope that would likely upset some potential readers as reaching too far. I still love the idea and I’m not giving up hope, but it just wasn’t needed to make the story work anymore. I had the first couple of elements, and then I focused on the characters. I had originally made the Main Character the captain of the ship and male. He had an all-male crew of poker-playing foul-mouthed rocket-jocks. I based them on a bunch of guys I knew from back in the war — I played a lot of poker in my off time. Now I needed something to happen, a major conflict to be resolved. I needed a villain, a big nasty one was what I was shooting for. It was feeling a little cliché at this point though.

I also happen to love vampires. I love what White Wolf did with Vampire: The Masquerade and all the variations in their World of Darkness. I read a trilogy called The Masquerade of the Red Death, which I highly recommend, and it showed me how really cool they could be. I was in a gaming guild that required regular postings in story form to stay in the guild, and we were role playing as part of the Camarilla, a sect in V:TM. It was fun and apparently it stuck with me, it was also the first creative writing I had done for fun on my own. But it was a decade before this project started.

I finally came to the conclusion that I should meld my two favorite genres together. I love science fiction and I love vampires. I knew there are a few stories that featured this combination, but I don’t think it’s something that had been overdone. I decided that my vampires were not going to be from the typical mythos, but needed a quasi-scientific reason to exist, to make it more science fictiony. I created the Nemesi, deriving from a space-born phage that came to Earth via asteroid collision, but gave them a lot of the same physical characteristics of the mythical vampire. (All legends have a kernel of truth in them.)

Here’s where the interesting thing happened. I was toying with how the Nemesi would fit into the story and started developing my villain, who was going to be a Nemesi. A basic idea started to form on plot and I was struggling with how I was going to tell the story. I was using first person perspective and my captain pilot dude was not going to see a lot of the action, I needed a better narrator. A bolt of lightning hit me; I needed to make the MC the vampire! Suddenly it all made sense! My vampire became the good guy and I could tell most of the story through his eyes. A second story arc with the main pilot character became a female, adding a potential romantic flavor, the plot took shape quickly. I knew what was going to happen! That was a magical moment for me. It’s those moments of clarity that keep us slogging through the days when we don’t feel like writing. At least part of why, it has become a full blown compulsion now. I have ideas coming out of my ears … funny how once the dam was broken the ideas just start spewing forth. The main plot has held steady for quite a while now, but I kept tweaking the subplots along the way.

This is the first installment of a regular series about my novel. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Clear Ether!

 

Welcome to the 28th Century

This is the second installment on stuff about my novel, if you want to catch up the first entry is here.  This week I’m going to talk a little bit about the setting.  One of the major story arcs centers on the Quantum Gates.   I had to make some decisions on how long it would take to get to that technology and then disperse it out into the galaxy.   After some mental gymnastics I decided on setting the story in 2749.  I had some discussions with a couple of established SF novelists and they warned me about the problem of setting the book so far into the future.  The easiest way to deal with this is simply to avoid describing life on Earth in that time-frame, because trying to extrapolate living conditions and politics will invariably miss the mark, with me either going far off in the weeds or maybe only a little way off the road.  But the story starts on Earth, so I decided to add a major catastrophe to slow down some aspects of technology and societal evolution.

Leading up to 2749 was a rough road for mankind, but it is only vaguely described in my novel.     Earth has been through major political upheaval and a global depression with warfare on a scale to destroy a lot of infrastructure, cell phone towers, internet nodes, financial institutions plunging much of the world into poverty and violent revolution, including the United States for the first time since the Civil War.  Some of the smarter and tech savvy managed to protect themselves from much of the devastation and manage to hold on to their wealth as well, including my Main Character, Laurent.  Medical and pharmaceutical advancement continues along with certain other technological advances.   Laurent relentlessly pursues his tech advances in India and China, who emerge as the new world powers.  The United States is no longer united but a balkanized group of smaller countries.  The opening of the Quantum Stargates spurred renewed interest in space exploration and a chance to escape the bad conditions on Earth.  Eventually man has colonized a good part of the Milky Way, with 57 widely known stargates.

Opening up space exploration to the commercial sector in the 21st century had unintended consequences.  Megacorporations lead the way into space and the broken politics of Earth do not follow mankind into space.  Escent Corporation invented and propagated the Quantum Gates over several hundred years, leading to the expansion of mankind to the stars.  Military presence in space was expensive and limited but in 2509 Nollevelle Corporation violently took over control of the Quantum Gates — the event that starts the story arc on its path.

In future posts I will go into more details of life in 2749.

 

Clear Ether!