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!
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…
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.
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.
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.