Category Archives: Work In Progress

Samples and discussions of my writings, and thoughts about writing.

PREFACE to PRELUDE

Below find my first stab at writing a preface for my novel PRELUDE. Not so amazingly, I hadn’t even thought about writing one until reading Mary Ann de Stefano’s highly informative article on the Florida Writers Association website – http://floridawriters.net/front-matter-matters/

I greatly welcome any comment or critiques anyone has to offer on its content, style, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It will help me to improve it. Thank you!

Magic Hour 0177

Preface

My family has always been drawn to the sea, in one way or another, and though I never had the chance to meet many of my forebears, that draw has always influenced my choices in life. It led me to a life of working with ships, and to owning boats. And while working for ships is akin to a kind of slavery – ship movements will dictate to all your working and sleeping hours – leaving the shore on one’s own boat is utter soul-quenching freedom.

But before having the freedom of owning my very first boat, I enjoyed the delicious freedom of escaping into books…classic sea stories, adventures, and finally the joy of classic science fiction. This last discovery wasn’t bound by the oceans of Earth, or by the humdrum world around me. Now there was the promise ships could sail to the stars, and every day life could begin a new adventure, as scientific advances redefined the world around me. I experienced sheer delight in exploring the joys and dangers these new tales dangled before me. I wanted to see the future. And I wanted (most of) it to be real.

Unfortunately, I also come from a long line of cynics. I’ve been cynical in my professional and personal life, yet when it comes to worldview, I see a different picture. I see the hopefulness of the future I dreamt of when reading all those exciting SciFi tales. I still nurture and preserve my optimism. 

Yet the most common trope in science fiction and fantasy today is dystopia. These apocalyptic futures no doubt reflect a newer generation’s feeling their parents have really screwed things up. In reality, it would take many more years of substantial screwing up to even begin delivering those apocalyptic visions. Importantly – thankfully – there is always a ying to offset the yang of misfortunate tides. Plus, regardless of how dysfunctional modern times may seem, it is easy to document how much very better human society is on the whole, when compared to any times past.  

So when I undertook to write this novel, I unabashedly wanted it to reflect reality in a positive light. I believe the stakes feel more dramatic when the science is real – actually feasible.

People are basically both good and bad, with varying degrees of both within each person. So while we may have entire groups of people who will sign off and accept the worst kind of brutality and destruction, we still have equally measured groups who will fight such brutality and aspire to produce gentility, growth, and fairness in the world. And amazingly, as a society, these people will mix, change sides, learn to be better, and sometimes learn to be worse than their best selves.

Over the long term though, with occasional stumbles, human society slowly learns how to be their better selves. And while I doubt that will ever be universally achieved (I am still a cynic), that clearly must remain everyone’s long term goal.

And that is why demanding reality is so important. Ergo that’s why I love science, which helps bring truth to reality. While I am no mathematician, scientist, or technical expert, I read and drink up the latest in the theories of everything. I respect the process and the incredible people whose minds make these great new discoveries in truth. And while there is so much absolutely fun science fiction out in the world that wink-winks at actual scientific fact in order to move characters most impossibly through time and space, I prefer to keep mine at least grounded in current theories. 

Human society invents. And inventions are still the best catalyst for positive change. However, when people are unable to differentiate between what is real science and what is false, they can be misled by the opportunists (especially those political types)  to adopt a skewed vision of reality that can lead society toward those apocalyptic speed bumps we might otherwise avoid. 

Facing reality, demanding real science instead of a politically induced stupor, is the best weapon humanity has against dystopia.

I began writing PRELUDE to satisfy one ‘what if’ that piqued my curiosity, and which seems rarely (never?) addressed in any invasion tale I’ve read. So I combined my love of ships with my love of science, reality, and science fiction, and I’ve set sail to put my own spin on the classic invasion yarn.

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PRELUDE – A New Cover Story

Prelude laserbeam full cover with spineOne  interesting thing about the original image for the cover is that there were two small disc-shaped elements hovering together near the planet’s surface.  As they were angled and aligned identically, and as each had a notable center, it strongly suggested something had passed through those centers – thus creating the effect.

This odd effect seemed a shame to waste, especially since my story does include the use of several forms of energy beam.  Suzanne Johnson*, who is not only patient (with my questions), but also immensely talented, came to my rescue with this (above) reiteration.

Unless some inspired publisher throws money at me and insists  on using their own cover art, I consider this a keeper.  So how does this grab you? I’d love to hear feedback.

*To see other of Suzanne’s work, her website is: http://dsjohnsonbooks.com/gallery

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Pantsing, Plotting, and Sussing

 

Pantsing, and Plotting, and Sussing …      Oh My!

I’ve read a number of literary discussions on the relative merits of “pantsing” versus “plotting” when it comes to developing one’s story line, and have always been left in a little quandary as to which I’ve done when writing my first novel, “The Expanding Seas”. I didn’t start out with a plot. I began only with a scenario that I found intriguing.

As I wrote, the typical form of most SciFi/adventure plots took shape. I placed my protagonists in the most impossible position. They would have to outwit their captors, overcome great odds, recognize and accept they had a greater responsibility, and ultimately take action to protect others. Obviously, this is a common trope in many genres.

But wait! Not so fast! Rather than plot out how I’d lead my characters and story toward resolution, I found myself approaching each new chapter in their journey from the standpoint of “why have these particular obstacles been placed in front of them”, “what would they need to do next”, and “how might this affect their goals”.

I had already set up a myriad of questions in my opening chapters. I felt I really needed to answer each to properly grasp the next logical action or event – before I could move on. Sussing these out, recognizing this natural progression, is what drove each successive chapter. Moreover, it’s what logically forced twisting the plot before the end.

Now, I won’t suggest that Sussing – as a concept – should be given an equal place next to Pantsing and Plotting. Perhaps it might be regarded a subset to plotting. But I do suspect it fits somewhere in between the two.

You start your story, establish the rules of your story world, then must follow those rules. If you are writing SciFi, or procedural (detective) novels, some of these rules may be strict, leading you down the same path to discovery as your characters. And the more confidant and professional you make your characters – both heroes and villains – the narrower that path will be. Their logic begins leading you down the path to a better understanding of the world you created, and maybe even of your own world.

My own sussing led me in an entirely new direction, and dramatically affected my novel’s theme.

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