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  • Unforgettable

    I haven’t finished this book yet, so be warned that it may go completely to hell before I get there. I don’t think it’s likely but I’ll let you know either way. So far though, (I’m up to Chapter 8.) it’s a rocking good time with hard SF sensibilities striking sparks off of a whimsical  and amusing central premise.

    Also, in the interests of full disclosure, Eric James Stone, the author, is my friend. I like his stuff in spite of that though, and I don’t think I’m in the minority.

    Unforgettable


  • John Steakley, RIP

    John Steakley, author of Armor and Vampire$, as well as quite a few short stories, has passed away after a five year bout with cancer.

    I first encountered John Steakley when I read his novel Armor. It’s a brilliant science fiction piece about a troubled and driven man fighting as a soldier in power armor against an inhuman and terrifying enemy. It’s also about Jack Crow, a con man, and his marks. The two worlds intersect in fascinating and compelling ways. Brilliant.

    I’ve been through more than a dozen copies of Armor, re-reading them until they fall apart or loaning them to friends who never return them.

    I never met John Steakley, which I regret, and I wish mightily that he had written a few more books.

    Godspeed, sir.


  • Blindly Writing the Elephant

    So, I’m almost completely done with my second novel. This is the one I’m collaborating with Brandon Sanderson on. Working title: The Lurker.

    I think I’ve smashed my face against, then managed to wrap my arms around, a writing principle worth sharing.

    I started with a 10,000 word outline that Brandon wrote. We discussed the world and basic plot we would be working with for about four hours over two meetings before he wrote the outline.

    I wrote my first novel with an outline too, a numbered list.  I can’t speak for Brandon on The Lurker but for me, coming up with an outline was a very mechanical process.

    Arbitrarily I aimed for 120,000 words which translated neatly into 30 4,000 word chapters. My outline had 30 chapters in it. Three viewpoint characters translated to 10 chapters each. Three try/fail cycles worked out to three chapters per cycle per character, which I dutifully labeled as such on my outline.

    Then I filled in the basic events for each cycle. What, exactly, were my characters failing and then succeeding at? What did their mini-arcs consist of and how did they fit into the big book-arc?  I already had a basic idea of what I wanted the book to be about and lots of cool scenes that had written themselves in my head and so forth. That made this process a mix of putting the pieces in their proper places and filling in the blanks.

    The elephant tromped into the room when it came time to actually write the chapters so summarized on my outline. I stepped forward, hands outstretched, and started feeling that guy.

    It was my book. I knew the basic shape.  So there was no, ‘Oh, this is a snake…’ garbage. But it was definitely a process of discovery as I wrote each chapter. Some details (a lot of them really) made themselves known, either springing from my subconscious or becoming obvious due to context. Others, also a lot, I had to forge and hammer out in the creative fires. And it was all fun to do.

    Later I realized that things were much easier for me if I also outlined each chapter before I actually started in on the actual prose. In most cases, what I ended up with was less an outline for each chapter than notes on my brainstorming session for the chapter, roughly chrono-organized. Once I knew where I was going to that level of detail, getting there was almost all fun. The niftiest things pop up out of nowhere.

    The principle?  Same as always. Just climb on and write.

    Tiger-Eye
    My process is definitely more mechanical than a pure discovery writer, but less mechanical than some outliners. It’s mine, it works for me. It will probably change. And someday I fully expect to discover that it’s not an elephant at all but a bloody Tiger, and have to change everything.

     

    Thus ends my very first POST ON WRITING.


  • Russian spies not actually that smart!

    The Justice Department said the suspects were supposed to have recruited intelligence agents but were not directly involved in obtaining U.S. secrets themselves. They were charged with acting as agents of a foreign government,…

    Well, duh. I am astonished. In a country that lived through so many years of a cold war you’d think journalists would know that ‘deep cover’ spies act as handlers rather than Tom Cruise-esque villains. ‘ Not directly involved with obtaining

    US secrets themselves’ means they didn’t put on nightvision goggles and a catsuit in order to penetrate secure facilities with a thumb drive.  Nobody actually does that. Spies look for

    disaffected/disgruntled/moneystrapped citizens of the target nation who already have placement and access to sensitive information. Then they pay those people to put papers from their desk into a briefcase and drop it at a pre-arranged location. The ‘drop’ is just about the most glamorous bit of espionage activity that actually happens in the real world.

    Now, at this point I must say I am not impressed with the tradecraft of anyone who puts ’99 Fake street’ when buying a drop phone. Sure, when it’s your hundredth drop phone, I imagine one’s creativity could become strained. But ‘Fake street?’

    It will be very interesting to see if any treason or espionage arrests come out of this busted spy ring. I hope none do. If you can level such charges and make them stick it’s likely already cost some American asset his/her life. Hopefully we caught these folks before they could do

    any real damage. And, on the other side of the coin, I hope they were actually spies and that the charges are not trumped up bits of fluff designed to spur political change of some sort.


  • Russel Crowe as Robin Hood.

    Wow, such a wasted opportunity.

    I went into this movie with high hopes that had been slightly dashed by Eric D. Snider’s review. I actually find slightly worse for wear high hopes to be a good recipe for movie watching. It makes the slide into a comfortable watch, instead of a great one, easy and painless. Unfortunately, Robin Hood just kept on sliding.

    *Major spoilers ahoy*

    Once I reconciled myself to a slightly unglamorous telling of the tale I was wowed by the production values, and unlike Snider I found the twists and turns to be logical and the machinations believable, barely.  And then they got all feminist on us. Not sure who thought it would be a good idea for Maid Marian to show up for the final battle in full armor leading a band of naked orphans from the woods. (barely mentioned so far) It wasn’t. Neither was it a good idea to have her lift her helm and declare across the battlefield “This is for Walter.” (her murdered father-in-law) before heading off to engage the bad guy in swordplay. Cheese stacked on ridiculous does not make a good sandwich.

    And for those naked orphans who turned into knife fighting ninjas taking out armored infantry? I do not thank you.

    It got a little sillier when we cut to several different takes in a row of Robin carrying the armored Maid Marian in his arms, deeper into the ocean. What’s out there besides retreating French? And any hope of a satisfying ending? Sigh.


  • Ok, getting fired was good.

    Go me.I have to say, the timing was actually perfect. Thank you, Sonic Innovations.  I’ve got the time to finish my book, and get a huge start if not a completion on the collaboration that’s in the works. I’ve got the time to get ready for Ranger School. This is the bomb.

    It’s still scary because I’m leaping headlong after the dream of being a writer, but hey, I’d be an idiot not to with all these opportunities staring me in the face.


  • Bullies are filth.

    Thanks to stacylwhitman for linking to this: http://nyti.ms/aMbPXC

    Interesting and tragic article reporting on the suicide of a bullied girl. Best line in the article:

    “These indictments tell us that middle school and high school kids are not immune from criminal laws,” he said. “If they violate them in the course of bullying someone, they’ll be held accountable. We don’t need to create a new crime.”

    Smart and tough.

    Had my share of problems with bullies growing up. I have very little patience with those who practice that vile art. May they practice it in front of me often in the future.


  • The long road to Ranger School…

    …has begun.

    I’ve been sporadically working out for the past several months, going two or three weeks at a stretch usually, toying with things like P90X and long grueling ruck marches in the middle of the night, for lack of time elsewhen.

    All that has changed now. My ATL is a fitness and nutrition guru with a vested interest in getting me into good shape. I might have to drag him out of the line of fire after all.  He’s also a genuinely nice guy willing to put some effort into helping me out. You rock dude.

    Today was the first day of the program he’s designed/designing for me. Nothing too complicated but I definitely did some work today.

    Oh, and I got fired today too. My company could no longer afford to employ me. They are outsourcing whatever the hell it was I did for them. I suspect it also has something to do with the fact that they know I’m due to deploy pretty soon. They’ve bent over so far backward to accomodate my military requirements to date that I can hardly blame them, though their timing stinks. For me. For them, it’s pretty good.

    Nice severance package at least. Gives me 2.5 months to grind out the end of my novel and get a massive start on the collaboration I’m doing with Brandon.Terrified

    Bloody terrifying, choosing to finish writing projects instead of searching frantically for another 9-5er. I have faith that it will all work out in the end though. I’ve been handed some pretty incredible opportunities on the fiction front, I’d be a fool not to take them.