The 777 Meme – Hero’s End

Heidi Ruby Miller tagged me in the 777 Meme. Thank you Heidi!

THE RULES:
1. Go to page 77 of your current ms.
2. Go to sentence 7.
3. Copy and post the next 7 sentences as they’re written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 other writers.

Hmm… being me, nothing can ever go easy, right or follow the rules to the letter. Page 77 in my manuscript was blank. Don’t ask why. So, after some repairs to my file and formatting, are my seven sentences from page 77 of HERO’S ENDBWC HERO'S END option A (1)

***

“Who’s Ian?” Bo’s voice came from behind him.

He glanced up at her reflection in the mirror. She stood in the doorway to the lavatory, wrapped in a towel.

“How long have you been there?” he asked.

“Don’t avoid the question. Who is Ian?”

***

Now I’m not sure who to tag on this. Tagging always smacks of who’s the cool kid and who isn’t. Being very egalitarian, I’m open to letting anyone participate who wants to. If anyone wants in on it, comment and leave a link to your blog below.

Is Ignorance Truly Bliss?

I miss the good old days before I supposedly knew what I was doing.

Back in the last Century, at the end of the 80’s, I was a happy wannabe writer. A new invention had sprung up and I was having oodles of fun using my secretarial skills that I’d made a point to learn in the 9th grade to help me in my future career as a writer. My skills as a touch typist landed me clerical jobs and my boundless curiosity drove me to learn various computer programs. My dad enlisted my help keeping the books for his company on his brand-new TRS-80 computers. One of the perks was that I could have one of those 8” floppies to store my writing on, and print it up on his dot matrix printer for editing and archival! Those computers spoke TRS-DOS and I became proficient with the language. (If you’ve read SOVRAN’S PAWN you’ll understand the significance of that.)

In those days, I just told stories. I didn’t worry overly much with “hopping heads” or “pacing” or “plot reversals.” I just threw things at my characters and let them deal with them, developing along the way. It was raw and it was fun. It was also very, very bad writing but I didn’t care. Ignorance was bliss.

The 90’s rolled around and computer disks shrunk. WYSIWYG replaced dot matrix, and a magical little thing called Windows appeared on the horizon. That was when I lost my innocence. I went to my first writer’s meeting and I had my very first critique – not only by published authors, mind you, but authors whose books I had read and enjoyed. I was intimidated and terrified. By the time they finished their very gentle, but honest critique, I felt stripped bare, humiliated, dejected and a complete failure. I wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds in private.

I will be forever thankful that my then-husband had the foresight to accompany me to that meeting and sit through the critique at my side, listening to every word. When it was over, he could see how shattered I was. Putting his hand over mine, he leaned forward and said, “May I ask you a question?”

I cringed. He wasn’t exactly the most diplomatic sort. At their nods, he picked up my submission and set it on the table in front of him.

“Please be honest. Do you think she has talent to pursue writing, or do you think she’s wasting her time?”

The question took them by surprise, I think. They looked from me to my husband and then to one another, shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Slowly the nodding began.

“She has talent…”

“This is an excellent beginning. She only needs to learn a little more about storycraft.”

Then they explained to my husband and to me, because I hung on every word, that the things they had pointed out in the critique were common among newbie writers. I was guilty of passive voice, shifting from one POV character to another within a scene, letting the reader stay just outside the action as an observer and not a participant, telling and not showing.

That was the beginning of my professional writing career. Starting that day, I threw myself headlong into learning everything I could about story craft. From that day, the sheer joy of writing and spinning stories diminished a little more every time I sat down to work. Now I spend more time thinking of my writing as rising and falling action, goal-conflict-disaster-repeat, scene and sequel, plot points, inciting incident, dark moment, resolution, reward, than I spend just telling a story.

I do hate the middle part of the story. That’s where you torture your characters to prepare them for the grand finale. You have to move them ever onward towards that grand decision that makes the climax worthwhile.

Fast forward to 2012. SOVRAN’S PAWN is the first book in a series. It’s Act I and as such, was fun to write. BARRON’S LAST STAND is the Final Act. The big finish and also a lot of fun. Book Two (let’s try out the title THE BROKEN WING) is Act 2 in the overall series arc. I hate the second act. This is where story craft is vital and plot and pacing are of primary importance. The action MUST rise and fall. The plot MUST reverse at the right time or the reader will lose interest.

I stared at my storyboard until my eyes crossed. I filled index cards with scenes and notes until I ran out of them. I had a beginning and an ending, but a convoluted path between the two, with holes large enough to fly a Tau-class cruiser through. I was beginning to despair ever making sense of this story when the advice came in from another writer to stop planning and just let the story unfold.

So simple, yet sitting on this side of the last twenty-two years, it’s much more difficult than it used to be. I sat down, put my notes aside, and just started writing, letting my characters tell their story without worrying about how many words I was racking up or how passive the voice. Since I started doing that, I’ve added more than ten thousand words to the manuscript and I’m falling in love with the characters again. I know much of it will be cut and revised in the editing process, but for now, the story is unfolding and it’s poignant and funny and lovely and sad. I hope I can stay out of my own way long enough to tell it all the way through.

***

How has learning the “proper” way to do things changed your outlook on your work or hobbies?

Insert Clever Title Here

I have a confession…

Despite years of writing, including more than a decade’s worth of  published magazine and newspaper credits numbering in the hundreds, I am title challenged. Don’t believe me? Look at my blog. Seriously, now — who names their blog “Gotta Name My Blog”?

Me! That’s who.  I am guilty of sticking in a working title as a place holder, promising myself to come up with something better in the near future, only to… well… fail miserably.

I was blessed with an amazing editor when I first started writing, Sherri Nestico. Sherri was a genius with alliteration. That’s when I fell into the habit of not bothering to title my articles. No matter what I came up with, she did one better. That’s why she was the editor and I the lowly writer.

I once wrote an article on how to control fleas. I titled it “Please, Fleas, Flee Me” because my then-hubby was a musician and I like the Beatles. I thought that was my best title EV-AR, but Sherri changed the article to “Keep Fleas Fleeing This Summer With These Tips” which, admittedly, was a better title for a newspaper article. That was my last serious attempt to title my work.

So here I am, with a smart aleck name for my blog, no decent title for this post, and a working title for Book Two of The Black Wing Chronicles that makes people think I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.

Nope. Sorry. For what it’s worth, I’m Southern Baptist and I still can’t come up with catchy titles or headlines. I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I was surfing the web looking for working titles of famous books when I came across this post on Mental Floss listing 10 Classic Books and their working titles.

According to the post, F. Scott Fitzgerald went through several titles before finally settling on THE GREAT GATSBY, one of my favorite books, and a major influence on my early writing. I can’t imagine feeling quite the same about TRIMALCHIO IN WEST EGG or THE HIGH-BOUNCING LOVER. And Fitzgerald wasn’t alone! Jane Austen’s FIRST IMPRESSIONS wouldn’t leave quite the same… well… first impression as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Although I have to be honest and admit that FIRST IMPRESSIONS is better than Bram Stoker’s THE DEAD UN-DEAD. So glad it ended up simply called DRACULA.

Really would anyone have been so enthralled over PANSY, TOTE THE WEARY LOAD, THE BUGLES SANG TRUE, or BA! BA! BLACK SHEEP? How about TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY? No? I guess they hit it out of the park with GONE WITH THE WIND, huh?

Yep. All of the above were working titles for the one, true, Great American Novel. Legend has it that the book was ready to go to print and Margaret Mitchell still hadn’t settled on a title for it.

So, I guess I’m not alone in my shortcomings when it comes to naming my work. On one hand, it makes me feel a little less inadequate. On the other, I still haven’t come up with a decent title for the second book in The Black Wing Chronicles.

***

What are some of your favorite titles? If you’d like to share, or if you have any suggestions for my blog… a good title for the sequel to SOVRAN’S PAWN… anything really, I’d love to hear about it!

How Old Is Too Old For An Idea?

If you follow me, you know I’m devoted to participating in Science Fiction/Fantasy Saturday. This past weekend, I included a snippet from a book I started writing twenty-five years ago. One of the authors who commented on the snippet pointed out that he wouldn’t develop an idea that was twenty-five years-old. I have to say the comment got in my head and won’t leave me alone.

How old is too old for an idea?

I have many completed novels that for one reason or another never got published. I think cyberpunk was all the rage at the time. One is a romantic thriller, contemporary in the early 90’s, and very reliant on the prevalent technology of the time:  pay phones, floppy disks, slow modems, fax machines, 35mm photography negatives, and that’s just off the top of my head. Drawn from my experiences writing for the Tampa Tribune newspaper at the time, the story itself is pretty good. It’s paced well. The characters are well developed. I could publish today… except for the fact that the dated technology is integral to the plot. Perhaps I’ll publish it at some point as a period piece.

My  point is, that it’s an idea I wouldn’t make a priority out of developing due to its dated content. But the science fiction romance I posted on Saturday is another story entirely. Drawing inspiration from Terminator, Flash Gordon, and Total Recall, it was an idea I’d toyed with, off and on, since 1987 before it got archived with The Black Wing Chronicles in 2002. For that matter, I first conceived of The Black Wing Chronicles in 1980. Sovran’s Pawn only published this year. That’s a thirty-two year-old concept that got developed.

If a story is compelling and interesting to the writer, shouldn’t it see the light of day? A good premise is timeless and resonates. Sure, Star Wars was exactly what sf fans everywhere needed at the time. Most sf of the period had become painfully socially conscious, with accusatory messages of total annihilation and the inherent evil of humankind. Star Wars was a breath of fresh air — a lighthearted adventure. It was the Hero’s Journey. Would it be successful if released for the first time today? If you take into account how very groundbreaking it was in special effects technology, I believe it would be. No one had seen anything quite like it. Star Wars made science fiction fun again, taking it out of the hands of the ivory tower bunch and putting back into the hands of adventurers, pirates, cowboys and damsels in distress. Would it be a blockbuster? I don’t know, but if the cult success of Joss Whedon’s Firefly can be used as a measure, Star Wars would find a devoted audience.

How old is too old for an idea?

I suppose that for every writer, that’s a personal decision. For myself, I believe that good ideas are timeless. As far as The Lost Domina is concerned, I’ll let YOU decide. Here is the blurb. Tell me what you think.

***

Riding high on the sale of her first novel, science fiction author Analise Trujold tries to rescue her failing marriage with a trip to the countryside with her husband to watch a meteor shower. A close encounter with an alien hit squad who murders her husband, and the sudden appearance of Admiral Faran Hagon, the hero in her novel, ensnare Analise in a hotbed of interstellar intrigue. Characters from her book are more real than she ever could have believed and her mundane life on Earth has been nothing more than implanted memories to keep her safe during her exile.

The Universal Congolmeration of Systems is under attack from within.  As the Lost Domina, Ana is the only one who can hold it together. But with her memories suspect, she’s not sure who she can trust. Even though she’s drawn to Faran, she can’t help but wonder if he isn’t somehow angling to rule in her stead. If she hopes to survive, Ana must rely on her wits and creativity to uncover the truth behind the fiction.

The Paperbacks are Coming!!

I am waiting on the proof copy of SOVRAN’S PAWN in paperback to arrive.

The release of the paperback edition of SOVRAN’S PAWN has been delayed due to illness and other unforeseen circumstances. However, the long-awaited email announcing the shipment of the first proof copy of the book has arrived, telling me to expect to receive my copy any time within the next week or two.

If everything passes muster, look for SOVRAN’S PAWN in paperback by August 1, 2012!!

“What’s Next? What’s Next?”

Now that SOVRAN’S PAWN is out in the world for everyone to see, the question I keep getting is “What’s next?” I am delighted to know my meager efforts have been so well-received. I’d like to thank everyone who has already bought an e-copy of my book and assure those waiting for the paperback, that it won’t be long in coming. Look for it sometime in June. Yes, I will have a supply on hand, signed, that I will happily sell direct to you at a discount, plus shipping costs.

As for what’s next, look for ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS sometime this fall. It is the premiere installment of THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON, a companion series of books featuring the man himself in all his swashbuckling glory. (Be still my heart!) You can find an excerpt under the tab at the top or by clicking the link.

The first draft of Book Two of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, tentatively titled THE WATCHTOWER, is two-thirds complete. Plans are for a release in Spring 2013, provided we all survive the Zombie Apocalypse of December 2012.

I hope to be spending a lot of time at the beach between now and then, doing research. Much of THE WATCHTOWER is set on the Outland Fringe planet Kah Lahtrec whose people have adopted Blade as a native son. He has a pretty nifty villa on the beach there that was given to him by the Lahtrecki government in recognition for… well, you’re just going to have to wait and see. Book Two is going to be a lot of fun as it introduces some of my favorite characters in the series:  Ballanshi – Tryrium te Kah Lahtrec, his lovely and formidable wife Madine – Tryrine te Kah Lahtrec, and the wizened old holy man Tahar. Book Two also explains the how and why of Blade’s leaving his career in holofeatures for the life of an itinerate mercenary, complete with the scene in the theater which is part of Blade Devon lore.

Not to worry, the romance with Bo continues, as she carries on her quest to clear her name and find her father. Book Two finds Bo settling into her new role as a facilitator in her brother’s organization, and she has learned to have fun. With a new confidence, her puckish sense of humor emerges, but her resolve is put to the test as she draws closer to finding the answers she so desperately seeks, one of which threatens to destroy her relationship with Blade forever.

Now that I’ve told you entirely TOO much, I’m off to get back to work making all of these claims a reality.

SOVRAN’S PAWN: The First Week

Initial response to SOVRAN’S PAWN has been incredible! I couldn’t be happier with the reception my debut novel has gotten. Thanks to everyone who has shared, tweeted, talked up, and bought a copy! Your comments are pure gold to me. Here are just a few comments people have sent to me:

  • “I am madly in love with Blade. You had better write a sequel!”
  • “Oh, and yes, I did buy it, despite not being a big sci-fi fan. Surprisingly, I’m actually enjoying it. Who knew?”
  • “I downloaded it last night and read the first chapter this morning…love your imagination.”
  • “If you love your heroes in the mold of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds, you’ll be left idolizing Blade Devon.” ~ 4 out of 5 stars
  • “I can’t stop reading!”
  • “A fast, fun read!”

With no pretentions at great literature, SOVRAN’S PAWN is escapist fare; space opera with a bit of romance tossed in. If readers are entertained for a few hours, I consider my mission accomplished.

The BLACK WING CHRONICLES series is about the hero’s journey from callow youth (or ingénue) to Big Damn Hero who puts it all on the line to save the Commonwealth. I’d like to thank everyone who has embarked on the journey with us. I promise, there will be more! Just check out my WORKS IN PROGRESS page or the BLACK WING CHRONICLES page. And yes, Blade has his own series, THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON, with the first installment, ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS, in revisions with an eye on a Fall 2012 release. For those wondering whether Bo will become that Big Damn Hero, I invite you to read the excerpt from the first chapter of BARRON’S LAST STAND, the final installment of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES.

Special Feature – Interview With Blade Devon

Blade Devon AvatarGotta Name My Blog was fortunate enough today to score an interview with holofeature heart throb, Blade Devon, the charming rascal whose imaging pad heroics in Underneath Dead Star catapulted him to cult hero status virtually overnight. The technical challenges in getting this interview from the Commonwealth were legion. We’re still not sure how we made it happen and we’re not sure we could fold space enough to reproduce the results. As it was, the holographic image of Blade that accompanied the transcript of the interview was impossible for our computers to translate, so we had to rely on Yahoo! Avatars to come up with a rough approximation of the man himself. We think we captured his personality quite well, don’t you? The following is pretty much the entire interview, except for the off-topic bits where Blade kept hitting on our GNMB correspondent.

GNMB: Thank you for taking time out of your busy shooting schedule to talk with us today, Blade.

BD: Happy to be here.

GNMB: Now, you haven’t been making holofeatures for very long, have you?

BD: Nearly three years now. Seems much longer than that.

GNMB: Already you’re getting typecast into the action hero role. First playing Rube in Underneath Dead Star

BD: My breakout role.

GNMB:which is fast becoming a cult classic. Then you moved on to Dwarf Star Incident, and then Fire and Ice. In all three holofeatures you played a two-fisted action hero.

BD: The old adage is to play to your strengths and you’ll never go wrong.

GNMB: Your bio says that you’re a former Inner Circle Agent, but I find that hard to believe.

BD: Why is that so hard to believe?

GNMB: Why would the Inner Circle allow a former operative to take on such a high-profile career?

BD: I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the IC for the answer to that. I’m not authorized to speak for the organization.

GNMB: I did ask the IC and they confirmed that you did, in fact, join the Consular Guard at the age of sixteen and were trained in Search and Rescue, beyond that, they had nothing to say.

BD: Then I guess I was never actually an IC operative so they shouldn’t care one way or another how I choose to make a living, should they?

GNMB: Aren’t you concerned that you’ll be brought up on charges for falsifying your military service?

BD: I’m more concerned with hitting my marks, remembering my lines and not showing up on set blind drunk or hung over.

GNMB: So despite the fact you’re discounted as a glorified stunt man, you take your roles seriously?

BD: I leave the stunt work to my brother, Chase. That’s real work. On the types of holofeatures I’ve made, the stunt performers have the hardest jobs on the set. My brother puts in far longer hours than I do, and he’s the one risking death and injury just to get the most exciting shots. If the critics are going to dismiss me, they should do it for all the right reasons, saying that all I do is look pretty and make sure they get my good side. Calling me a glorified stunt man is actually a compliment.

GNMB: You got your start in holofeatures working for your brother as a stunt performer, didn’t you?

BD: Yes, when I left the IC… I mean, when Chase got tired of letting his freeloading little brother sit around on his sofa all day watching the holovid and drinking his liquor, he told me that either I drove in this one gag, or I looked for a new place to live. So not wanting to live on the street, I agreed. The producer thought I was pretty and next thing I knew, I was making holofeatures.

GNMB: It sounds like you don’t take your holofeature job any more seriously than you take the IC.

BD: Just because I treat everything with contempt doesn’t mean I don’t take anything seriously.

GNMB: Pintubo Racing has just announced that you’re one of their drivers for the upcoming racing circuit. Do you take that seriously?

BD: Of course I do. It’s what they pay me for. The contempt only comes out when there’s a proviso in my holofeature contract that won’t allow me to drive for Pintubo while working on a holofeature. Producers and investors tend to be reluctant to let their lead actors die in a fiery crash before they wrap shooting. They’re unreasonably touchy that way.

GNMB: How dare they?

BD: Well at least they’re honest enough to prefer that I die rather than be maimed or horribly disfigured. Death in that manner would make my last feature epic and legendary. There wouldn’t be any of this guano about being a glorified stunt man. The critics would sit around and point out the promise in my performance and the subtle genius of my portrayal. They’d speculate on how brilliant I would have been in a few more years. Retrospectives don’t have the same emotional impact if you’re merely disfigured.

GNMB: So what’s next for Blade Devon?

BD: I’m taking some time off to recharge before I start work on my next holofeature. Pintubo wants to enter me in next year’s Catarrh Endurance Rally. My brother is retiring from the Catarrh after his win last year and he’s already on board to be my crew chief. Other than that, I’m thinking of taking a cruise.

GNMB: Well, I hope you enjoy your cruise, Blade and best of luck in the Catarrh and on your next holofeature. Any hints on what we can expect from your next role?

BD: I’ve been told to get my singing voice into shape. It’s a musical, and my agent says there are no explosions in the entire script.

GNMB: Do you sing?

BD: No.

GNMB: That could be problematic.

Blade shrugged and flashed me his trademark lopsided grin. Once again, I was left to wonder whether he took anything seriously.

***

If you’d like to learn more about Blade Devon and the cruise he took, look for SOVRAN’S PAWN, Book One of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES coming out April 20. Follow the links for a sneak peek.

Sovran’s Pawn Blog Tour Dates Announced

SOVRAN’S PAWN, Book One of The Black Wing Chronicles…

…is on schedule to be released on April 20 in e-book format. Look for it on Amazon and Smashwords.

JC Cassels – Big Damn Hero Blog Tour Dates

Apr 16 TK Toppin pt 1
http://www.tktoppin.blogspot.com/

Apr 18 Pauline Baird
http://www.paulinebjones.com/

Apr 20 Publication and launch with SFFSat (with a snippet from SOVRAN’S PAWN)
https://jccassels.wordpress.com/
http://misa-buckley.blogspot.co.uk

Apr 23 TK Toppin pt 2
http://www.tktoppin.blogspot.com/

Apr 24 Space Freighters Lounge
http://spacefreighters.blogspot.com/

Apr 25 Pippa Jay
http://www.pippajay.blogspot.com/

May 2 Imogene Nix
http://www.imogenenix.blogspot.com/

Dates TBA:
http://westofmars.com/blog/

HEIDI’S PICK SIX:
http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com/

Participants who comment will be chosen at random for a FREE e-copy of SOVRAN’S PAWN.

Check back here for more information as it develops.