Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 3-ish

OK, so the worst part about finishing a draft, but not having a complete draft (because, say, you've discovered you need to add scenes to make things flow better) is that you start getting hit really hard with Gamer ADD.

Getting back into the groove of regular writing when you are no longer telling the story but doing the work of writing to make it good can be difficult and distractions abound.  I'm having ideas about what campaign I want to run next year after I'm done writing this novel - except if I think on THAT, I'll never get the novel done.  NaNoWriMo is almost here and I'm thinking about writing the next novel as part of that.  I have an OK outline for the next book and most of the characters are ready to port over (those that live, that is).  How hard could it be?  (A death knell if there ever was one.)

So, I'm working on getting back in the groove.  The thing that's working for me is tackling one storyline at a time and follow them through to conclusion.  It also helps me remember where I was in the story and keep things consistent along each storyline.  It also helps me spot timeline discrepancies and fix them so each story works with the backdrop of everything else going on.  (Did I mention it's a complex story, made of multiple threads interwoven into one whole?  No?  I should have.)

So, writing achieved for this week.  Due to the switch in programs (from Word to Scrivener) the word count has gotten wonky, but I worked out a way to stay consistent going forward, so I'm good there.  Speaking of which:

Word Count: 64,357 words

So that's it for this week.  Thank you for keeping up so far.  Once I have a complete draft I'll be willing to let folks in general start reading the story.  I may even post it serially here, but I haven't decided yet.  I'm still working on getting a copy of the draft to my Mom - she read a version that was two-thirds done and told me to hurry up and finish so she could read the rest of the story.  Can't argue with that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quickie Novel Update

Short version: my writing time has needed to go elsewhere for the last week and a half.  This week I'll be able to get some good time in on Thursday, but I didn't want to leave you hanging, something I'm getting bad about doing.

So, Thursday writing and Friday an update.  My goal is to have a complete draft by the end of the year, so I can send it to reviewers for feedback.

That's it for now.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Case of the Syphilitic Sister by James Hutchings

This is one of my infrequent book reviews.  In fact, the other one I did was for The New Death and other stories, also by James Hutchings.  James ask me to take a look at his newest project, a piece of serial fiction he is releasing through Jukepop Serials, a literary website providing serialized fiction in a variety of genres.  James described it as 1930's era pulp superhero action and then some other words, but, really, he had me at "1930's pulp superhero action".  Plus, I REALLY liked The New Death and other stories, so I wanted to read more of his work.  (I'd link to New Death, but I'm not certain which link he'd prefer.  I'll add it later when I get confirmation.) (See Update at the bottom of this post.)

The Case of the Syphilitic Sister
First, let me fess up: I want you to go read this and up-vote it so James will publish the next chapter sooner.  I WANT to know what happens next and I'm terribly impatient.

Chapter 1 starts with a trope and subverts it immediately.  The classy dame meets the detective in his office.  Except the office is neat and orderly and has clean and polite man at the desk fronting for the actual "detectives".  I put detectives in quotes as they are actually the superheros.  It being the 1930's, these are the people in costumes using their brains, brawn, and gadgets kind of heros.  To make their organization seem larger and more powerful, they take turns acting as each others followers, which is a pretty neat trick.

I won't get too deep into the plot as A) I want you to go and read it, and B) it's only one chapter long so far and just gets the ball rolling, not deep into plot.  Suffice to say, there is a mystery and the heros are on the case.

Heros shown so far are Green Dragon, who is the client contact, wearing a dark green suit with pistols that can act as flamethrowers.  He is also good with people, which is why he talks with the clients.  Next introduced is Princess Iron Fan.  I'm guessing she's a martial artist, but that's a guess as she her abilities are not discussed.  Once on the job, The Kabbalist is at work, with the other heros dressed as his sidekicks, The Golems.  I'd like to say I really like this method of force multiplication.

While on the job, the heros run across thugs after the same thing they are.  This interaction is very entertaining in how the thugs react.  One pees himself when the Kabalist and the Golems "appear", one throws a punch into some body armor (hurting his hand), and one decides to go for a switch-blade.  The one with the wounded hand quietly tells the third thug to put away the knife and then has a whispered negotiation with the Kabalist to avoid the fight.  Both agree and the Kabalist loudly orders the thugs to begone and, on cue, the thugs run away screaming and everyone saves face.

I really like this part.  Being a 1930's superhero is dangerous to both sides and the fact that both sides are willing to publicly play their parts while quietly negotiating what those parts are going to be is believable.  Neither side wants to push things too far, but neither side can afford to lose face and the cops give both a sideways look when they get involved.

The only downside I'm seeing is one of some anachronistic language.  The most noticeable (for me) is a reference to "suicide by cop", a term that was not coined until the 1990's.  I am a stickler for things like this, so it was jarring.

As I said at the top, I really want to see where this story goes and I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter, which I hear will be released on the 22nd of this month.  He has material for several chapters, so perhaps you could go, give it a read, and up-vote to get him to publish a little more often that monthly.  It's worth the time to read and I think you too will want to find out what happens next.

UPDATE:The New Death and other stories can be found here: 
Barnes and Noble

UPDATE 2: Chapter 2 is now published.  Go read it! (You'll need to log in to read it.  It's worth it.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 2

The things you have to do as a writer.

I've moved the entirety of Draft 1.1 from Word into Scrivener, which is sort of backwards from the way the Scrivener folk expect the product to be used, but it's what I need at the moment. It let me easily identify the scenes needing work by tagging all of the sections and then sorting by the tag I wanted. I created a tag "Incomplete" to tag scenes where there is a gap to be filled, from a missing name to a missing scene to plague fatality numbers.

It is that last item I spent recently working out. With the World Wide Web, you'd think it would be easy to find a simple formula to estimate the infection rate of a disease. No such luck. All the sites list formulas in the form of differential equations and it has been way too long since Calc I in college for those to be useful to me.

After getting a feel for the process and possibilities, I started knocking around numbers and simple equations in Excel. My initial attempts looked OK, but there was no connection between fatalities and infected numbers and there clearly should have been, especially with the high mortality rate I was supposing.

After plugging away for a while, I realized the issue was that I was going about it backwards. I needed to start with exposure numbers, go to infected, and then mirror with fatalities after the appropriate time. This worked much better and started generating some realistic looking numbers. Or at least logical numbers. Now I have to decide if they are the numbers I want, or do I steepen the curve some more. I want this to be scary, not just a minor blip. I think I may need to up the infection rate more, but I'm not certain yet.

The one thing I did learn was that my initial scene with the Office of Infectious Diseases - Mars happens way too late in the timeline. 800+ dead in two weeks time is criminally past the time for CDC-Mars to get involved. That scene now clearly needs to be moved forward in time a week. In fact, several of the scenes involving the Martian Flu will need to be moved forward.

Luckily, the entire novel is in Scrivener now, broken down by scenes, and doing so is as simple as clicking and dragging the scene to where I want it. Then some cosmetic clean-up to get the time cues corrected and it is all good. This is exactly the kind of stuff I saw Scrivener being good at and Word failing at.

Once I have the plague numbers worked out and the scenes moved in time, I'll start filling in the "missing" scenes. Once those are done, I'll get with my focus group to see what needs work. Then I need to start working out how I want to get this published. I'd rather not self-publish, as I want to write more than publish, but we'll see what I find when I get there.

In the meantime, if you have any literary agent recommendations (good or bad), I'd love to hear from you.