Thursday, December 24, 2009

Control and the City

The small town is notoriously oppressive. It is ruled by patriarchs (mayor, police chief, pastor, banker) and through gossip and rumor. In a world made up of small towns, most people live outside town, in the country; rural people are even more easily ruled, and have traditionally been owned by lords and kings. In both cases, monarchical and hierarchical control are made easy by the fact that the ruled masses have nowhere else to go; they know their place because they are stuck there, in one spot, forever. But the absolute power that the patriarchs have held over the past 10,000 years of agricultural civilization is threatened with destruction by the inherent democracy of the city. Thus, with the desperation of the dying, they inflict all kinds of control technologies on the city in order to abolish its chaos and impose onto it the oppressive stasis of the village. Hence surveillance cameras, tracking systems, mandatory ID systems, and so on and so forth. The purpose is to reduce the city to a small town that just happens to have a lot of people. But, as the fall of Communism shows, this is easier said than done. Enter Dictel Corporation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NaNoFiMo 2009: The Index Card Stage for Bad Company

After my first NaNoFiMo writing session last Sunday, I turned back to reading library books. I'm mining them for story ideas I can use. And I think I've got a whole bunch of good ones now. In this tweet, for instance, I announce: "The role of Keyser Soze will now be played by Blackwater." You read that right: instead of being merely the giant monster in the disaster movie of anticorporate political thrillers, Dictel is now playing the Satan of gang bosses in the form of an evil military corporation. Got it? There's more crazy ideas where that came from. And now I've finally collected enough new story ideas that I'm starting to feel that the plot of Bad Company will actually hang together. So now I'm ready to begin the long-delayed index card stage. The cards are ready.

Over the past two years since I started writing Bad Company for NaNoWriMo '07, I've built up quite a deck of index cards. I've used them to plot out scenes, apparently to no avail, since the plot still hasn't come together. Now I've started flipping through the deck, separating the useful ones from the ones I don't need anymore. Once I've removed the obsolete cards from the deck, I'll return to the AugNoWriMo '09 version of the BadCo file, match scenes with cards, and write new cards for scenes without cards. Then I can lay out my cards on the living room floor and figure out where the remaining plot holes are. Then I'll take my list of new story ideas, place them on their own deck of cards (written in a different color of ink), and then insert new cards with the new story ideas wherever they fit. And, of course, I'll use this stage to fill in the remaining plot holes.

The next step, of course, will be to start writing. But I can't start writing till I have an idea what to write. That's why I have to go through the index card stage.

Then I'll write those 30,000 words that will give me my first NaNoFiMo victory...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

NaNoFiMo 2009: The Update Update

I've been reading lots of books instead of writing during the week since my first NaNoFiMo writing session. Last night, I focused on gleaning story ideas from what I read, writing them down, and organizing them. I think I have all the story ideas I need to finish Bad Company now. The next thing to do is track down my pack of BadCo index cards and complete the set.

Yes, I will finish BadCo, write 30,000 words this month, and win FiMo for the first time ever. Now I need to get the index cards and the already written scenes organized, find the plot holes, and start writing. But first, I had to get sufficient story ideas from my readings. I might not use all of them.

Next: the story is now in the cards...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dictel Corporation and the Holy Grail

Once again, I took my usual break after an intense NaNoWriMo (which is why I usually have to do Panic Time in the final week of any WriMo). When I started preparing for NaNoFiMo '09 at last, I did it by reading books that I thought would be important sources for Bad Company. Were they ever! On the side of realism, there's Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities are Changing the World by Jeb Brugmann and Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (Canadian name: The Rebel Sell: Why Culture Can't Be Jammed) by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter. On the more mystical front, I found the notorious book by Otto Rahn called The Crusade Against the Grail, which is also redirecting me toward some books that have been languishing on my bookshelves. All are transforming the plot of Bad Company. I can feel the plot actually transforming into something coherent. And, considering the trouble I've had working the various plot threads of Bad Company into something coherent since I started writing it during NaNo '07, that's saying something.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: My Progress Report

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, and for the first time I can take a rest. Well, I did do some writing today, but I decided to stop at 85,317 words. That's more than I've written in any Writing Month, ever. I can rightly say that this time around, I was on. And at no time was I more on than on Friday the 13th, when I wrote over 11,000 words to clinch my victory, before finishing the first draft of Dirty Pop just a week later.

I've definitely made progress over previous WriMos. The first two, in '06 and '07, I got my 50,000 words in a final-week push I came to call Panic Time. NaNo '08 was all Panic Time, as I wrote all 54K words in the final week, after a nearly four-month bout of writer's block that began on the first day of AugNoWriMo while I was still struggling to finish my '07 monster, Bad Company.

As for word counts, I've been breaking personal records in the last year. In last year's NaNo, I wrote over 54,000 words in that final week. Two months later, I beat that record with 63,161 words for JanNoWriMo. And now my NaNo best, 85,317 this month.

Winning NaNo on some day earlier than November 30? Actually finishing a first draft, and without using an outline or even an index card? Those are absolute firsts for me. Forget my record word count; those are the actual firsts.

NaNoFiMo is starting now. I'm not starting it yet, however. First, I want to get out my index cards, the ones I didn't use during NaNo, and do some replotting. I'll replot Dirty Pop in order to edit it, and I'll replot Bad Company so I can find out where the plot holes are and what important characters and storylines are missing so I can finish it. I might take a break in the next few days. Maybe. But there's still writing (and editing) to do, and a book (or two) to finish...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: And Now The Victory Is Official

On November 14, 2009, I wrote my 50,000th word for NaNoWriMo. On November 21, I finished the first draft of Dirty Pop, and my first complete first draft ever. November 25 is the first day of validation (okay, validation's a little bit early in my timezone for some reason), so I followed the instructions and pasted the text of my novel into the text box so the word-counting bot could count the words. It counted 67,029 words, so at last the green bar I earned during my long 11,000-word Friday the 13th session turned purple. So the NaNoWriMo victory I earned at the end of week 2 is now official. I've won NaNo! But, interestingly enough, my three-year streak of come-from-behind victories has now been shattered.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: The First Draft Is Finished!

This is a month of NaNoWriMo firsts for me. First, I wrote my 50,000th word in my long 11,000-word Friday the 13th session that lasted well into the morning of the 14th. That counts as the first time I've ever won a WriMo (one that's not FAWM or Script Frenzy, anyway) early, without a Panic Time. Here's another first: I've completed the first draft of a novel for the first time in my life! What's more, I finished it on November 21, just three weeks into NaNoWriMo!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bad Company: What Is This Dictel Corporation, Anyway?

Now that I've slowed down writing my new novel Dirty Pop for NaNoWriMo, my mind is beginning to return once again to that '07 NaNo novel that has defeated me repeatedly: Bad Company. The novel I'm now subtitling "A Corporate Horror Story" (because, remember, the villainous corporation tried to invade America in a futile attempt to keep the collapsing Republican dictatorship in power) is about to get its third go-round in NaNoFiMo, and this time I'm determined to finish it. I'm going to make this "National Novel Finishing Month" live up to its name, at least for me and BadCo.

But first, I need to know for certain what the giant military conglomerate that gives Bad Company its name truly is. What, really, is Dictel Corporation? The first thing I'll tell you is that it's more than just some parasitic for-profit entity. Much more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Character Profile: Charlie Richter-Thomas (to be revised soon)

(Note 8/15/2010: This profile will soon be updated to include Charlie's appearances in the Dictel Saga [Bad Company, Black Science, etc.] and Spanner as well as Dirty Pop and its upcoming sequel Bigger Better Faster MORE!)

Dirty Pop revolves around Charlie. She's the main character, and the narrator who tells the tale of her own adventures. So who is Charlie Richter-Thomas, really? She is the star of two of the four novels I've written for NaNoWriMo, so I'm giving Charlie her first public character profile since I created her.

In Bad Company (NaNoWriMo 2007), she is the very first character to appear in the main story, and with her sister Desiree one of the two narrators. She is the fallen pop star who uncovers a monstrous conspiracy surrounding the murder of her reporter fiancé by the giant military conglomerate Dictel Corporation in the novel's opening scene, and must overcome her bad reputation in order to get the news out to an indifferent and seemingly doomed world. In Dirty Pop (NaNoWriMo 2009), she tries to build a singing career of her own, independent of her tyrannical cult-leader stage mother, only for it to be threatened with destruction by the record industry.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: What? I Won Already?!?!

#NaNoWriMo #DirtyPop #nanopanic
Remember that I said in a previous post that there will be no Panic Time for me this month? I followed through on my promise. I've now written over 50,000 words this NaNoWriMo and earned the green bar of provisional victory. On the 25th, I'll send my text to NaNo's validation bots for counting, and the bots will grant me the purple bar bearing the all-important word "WINNER!!!".

Of course, I'm still not done writing Dirty Pop yet. There's still some plot holes left for me to fill. And if you know the way I write, you know just how hard it is for me to fill plot holes. Which is why Bad Company and Black Science aren't finished yet...

What drove me to push my way over the top? One: it was Friday the 13th, which I consider my Lucky Day. Second: ambition. I had 11,000 words left to write before victory, so I decided to dedicate Friday the 13th to writing all of them. And so I did.

Of course, writing sessions in which I write 10,000 or more words tend to strain my forearms, shoulders, and neck. Especially if I do them back to back. So I earned my rest. On Saturday the 14th, I wrote only 1,440 words before allowing myself to get distracted reading about punk rock and New Wave bands on Wikipedia. (Did you know that New Order broke up in 2007? It was a surprise to me to see one of my favorite bands gone already...)

In this year's NaNoWriMo, victory alone isn't enough, and can't be. I have a bigger goal, and that's to actually complete the first draft of a novel in November. That's my next goal, and now I'm working toward it.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: Land Speed Record!

As I write this, I've written over 25,000 words of this year's NaNoWriMo novel. I hit that mark at 11pm my (Pacific) time. That's the fastest start I've ever made during any WriMo. Usually during any WriMo, I procrastinate long enough that it takes me a last-minute "Panic Time" to win. This won't happen. The way I'm sprinting now, I'm going to write my 50,000th word and win NaNo by the end of this week, and I'll complete the entire first draft of Dirty Pop before NaNo ends. This is as new to me as NaNo itself was when I did my first one back in 2006. And Dirty Pop has turned out to be more coherent in its first iteration than any other novel I've attempted to write. I'm beginning to awe myself.


Remember those other novels I've written the past three NaNoWriMos? Let's see: they're called The Jennifer Theory, Bad Company, Black Science, and Points of Authority New Race New Flesh. Yeah. Those. They're still not finished, not a one of them. And not one of them still has a coherent plot, or more than a semblance of one. So far they still resemble nothing so much as the "practice songs" Charlie and her band play to warm up before recording sessions and live shows in Dirty Pop. The rest of the year, except for FAWM and Script Frenzy, is dedicated to trying to finish all these novels, one by one.

I will finish Dirty Pop this month. First the first draft, with which I'm going to win NaNo in just two weeks; then the edited version that I'm posting online as my very first blog novel. But then I'll have to return to Bad Company one more time for one more NaNoFiMo before I can consider it ready for NaNoEdMo at last. I'll have to completely replot the story before I can write the final words of the first complete draft. And those plotlines and story arcs that still want to fly apart? I still need to tie them together so they can operate as a unit and reinforce each other. Then during JanNoWriMo, I'll be taking on Black Science and write the majority of the novel I still haven't written even after four years. Even after I start serializing Dirty Pop online, I'll still have to finish that unfinished business.

As for the "land speed record" of the title, it's my personal record, not an actual world record. Just forget about Kateness and her one million words in just one month...

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: No More Panic Time!

This is not about my NaNoWriMo novel. It's about NaNoWriMo itself. Specifically, what I usually do every year, and every WriMo too. That, of course, is procrastinate. That's going to change. This is not just a promise. I'm so impatient to win NaNo this year that I've already started writing. So far, even despite some nasty procrastination (I took time off writing to unfollow most of the news feeds I was following on Twitter and transfer them into a new "Newsfeeds" list, using Twitter's new lists feature), I managed to write 1,100 words from midnight to midnight on November 1! Since I'm not procrastinating this month, there will be no Panic Time.

First, I must explain Panic Time, Usually, I procrastinate so badly that by the last week or 10 days of any given WriMo, I find myself so far behind that I panic. Panic Time begins, and it puts me into Panic Mode, during which I write most of my words. Usually, I've written about 20,000 words by day 20, and I have to write the remaining 30,000 words in those final 10 days. The most extreme panic situation I got into was during last year's NaNo, when I wrote absolutely nothing until the final week; then I wrote over 54,000 words in that final week, including a 13,600+ word day on November 29. When I write over 6,000 words a day, I start to cramp. I certainly pay the price for Panic Time.

My usual pace is about 4,000 words a day. If I keep that pace, I can win NaNo '09 early, and then I can rest. But my goal is not just to win NaNo '09. I also intend to complete the first draft of Dirty Pop so I won't have to struggle with it for years like I'm still doing with the Dictel trilogy (Bad Company, Black Science, and the newly renamed New Flesh, formerly Points of Authority — my '07, '06, and '08 NaNo novels respectively). Since Dirty Pop will be shorter than those epic political thrillers, this should be relatively easy; it shouldn't be much more than 50,000 words anyway, since it's intended to be the "grownup" equivalent of a Japanese "light novel".

So, coming full circle back to Dirty Pop, I'm not just going to write the first 50,000 words of it this month, just enough to win NaNoWriMo. I'm going to finish the first draft this month. Then I might even do some editing on it, so I can dedicate NaNoEdMo to wrestling those difficult Dictel novels into publishable shape. Once I get Dirty Pop just right (or at least suitably coherent), I'll serialize it online. And when I do, I'll let you know.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Dirty Pop, the Record Companies, and the "Law" of Social Darwinism

#NaNoWriMo #writers
Lately, my villains have started invoking what they call the "Law of Social Darwinism". What is Social Darwinism? Basically, the game of "king of the hill" turned into an all-encompassing worldview. "Survival of the fittest" and all that, you know. Capitalism is based entirely on Social Darwinism, if you believe the most ruthless robber barons and the fiercest anticapitalists. When you hear the words "Law of Social Darwinism" come out of the mouth of one of my characters, especially if the character gives it a positive spin, you know you've facing a villain, and our heroes are in trouble. Case in point: in Dirty Pop, the ruthless record company chairman, based partly on the Ned Beatty character in Network, who tells our poor heroine Charlie that he owns her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Spanner Got Her Handle

Sometime in the late 1990s, I changed the name of the comic I've been working on since 1991 to Spanner, with my character Shira starring in her role as "angel of chaos". But I never gave the origin of the handle "Spanner" any thought. But then came a series of pranks that became #1 trends on Twitter. And suddenly it came to me. Here's the scene in which the handle's origin is revealed:

Shira is in a police interrogation room. It may be on a "guild violation" as she is violating the Police Guild's monopoly on disarming bombs, like those created by the fiendish "mad bomber" known as the Toymaker, which Shira routinely deconstructs. The interrogator is her archnemesis Diana Shockley, police agent of the United Corporations (and a member of the villainous Becket clan, owners of the ruling Dictel Corporation).
Diana: How did you become "Spanner"?

Shira: You wanna know how I got that handle? I'll tell you. You see, I own the Toymaker. I own him big time. I own him over and over and over. I used to jam wrenches into his cruder early jobs. So the trolls and punkers at 4chan/b/ declared me the "Spanner Queen of the Universe". That quickly became "Spanner, Queen of the Universe". The rest, of course, is history.
So now you know. And so do I.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Characters for Dirty Pop

At this point in my preproduction of Dirty Pop, I think I should give some thought to the novel's cast. After all, the characters make the plot, and I need the right balance of characters if I want the story to work. I have the right balance between our heroine, Charlie, and the archvillainess, her mother Drusilla. But their epic conflict requires various supporting characters as well. So let's see what I can come up with...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Real Life Bad Companies: Trafigura and Carter-Ruck

While reading my Twitter stream late at night, I came upon the mysterious hashtags #trafigura and #carterruck in a tweet about censorship by someone I follow. Turns out that there's this British counterpart to the infamous Enron called Trafigura has been caught dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. So to suppress any and all media coverage of the scandal, the company hires an equally nasty law firm called Carter-Ruck, which specializes in suing the media in order to censor them. The tag team of Trafigura and Carter-Ruck has succeeded in imposing a gag order so comprehensive that the media in Britain are now forbidden to cover Parliament at all, period. The Spectator defied the gag order to post this article.

Trafigura and Carter-Ruck have, in essence, repealed the 1689 Bill of Rights in the UK. This may have been the ultimate goal of the firm's founder, Peter Carter-Ruck, who had been highly impressed by Hitler in the 1930s. Criminal American corporations and their legal defenders can't even dream of repealing the First Amendment of the US Constitution through anything short of a military coup. Sure enough, their censorship strategy has backfired: the blogosphere has declared war. Just click the Twitter search terms above (except "#NaNoWriMo") and you'll get an idea of the fury Trafigura's censorship has unleashed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Pop Culture Research

I'm not touching my index cards for my NaNoWriMo novel Dirty Pop till just one week before NaNo begins. But that doesn't mean I can't do some Internet research on the pop culture world in which main girl Charlie is trying to make her mark in.

First of all, there's the behind-the-scenes stuff that's going to be the tricky part: managers, crew, labels, legal stuff, etc. What you see on MTV or YouTube has a huge infrastructure behind it, and it needs to be part of the story.

Second: fashion. That's always been difficult for me to imagine, much less draw. In the non-Disney pop music world Charlie is trying to break into, it's important to have the right style — and right now that style tends to be a cross between the outrageous and the science-fictional.

Third: What real-life pop-cultural figures do I want to loosely base characters on? No, there won't be any roman à clef type stuff with thinly disguised real-life characters; my imagination is too powerful and strange for that. Knowing as well as I do how I work, I'm likely to mix, match, and mutate characters till they only vaguely resemble their real-life inspirations. Case in point: Charlie's mother Drusilla, a major villain in Bad Company and Black Science as well as Dirty Pop. As a New Age cult guru, I threw together at least half a dozen real-life cult matriarchs into the blender and set it to "puree". Dru has elements of JZ Knight (of Ramtha fame), Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Sylvia Browne, and my family's ex-guru from the late 1970s and early '80s, along with the fictional character Erica Kane (from the soap opera All My Children). (My suggested casting for the role: Cate Blanchett, unless it's Meryl Streep in full "Nuclear Wintour" mode.) This is the kind of character mashup I have in mind.

A good idea to keep in mind is that sometimes even the most frivolous pop-cultural confection needs some intensive research, even if it doesn't need quite the research that a political thriller about an evil military corporation that invades America needs. Of course, it shouldn't be overdone; that way lies procrastination...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bad Company: The Horror, The Horror; or, America Is God and Dictel Is Cthulhu

In my previous entry on political horror, I said that in Bad Company and other entries in the Spanner cycle I would depict governments as gods and corporations as hostile alien lifeforms. But then I read this blog post on how government has annihilated privacy (and, just as important, the comments), and I realized: my political horror scenario is real! It is our reality. So the horror elements of BadCo are in fact realistic!

In the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, I'm giving out the big spoiler even before the novel is published. Here it is:
  • The United States Federal Government is the Second Coming of Christ, but only in the sense that the cruel and vengeful Old Testament God is returning as the merciless Christ of the Book of Revelation.
  • Dictel Corporation is the vessel of Cthulhu; in fact, the world's largest military conglomerate is the ideal form in which the dread god can reincarnate.
Why am I doing this? Because BadCo's big shock revelation will shock you anyway, even if you know it's coming.

But now I know that when I unmask the US government as Jehovah and Dictel as Cthulhu, I'm being perfectly realistic. We live in an animistic world more terrifying than we can currently imagine. My job in the Dictel trilogy is to show it to you and make you believe it. Is this one objective justification for Karl Marx's theory? Sure, and some people will interpret it that way. But now you will know why libertarians and anarchists believe government is evil, and why Marxists and other socialists believe capitalism is evil.

Now my next task is to figure out exactly where in BadCo to put this big revelation...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: One More Alternate Candidate...

All of a sudden I realized that I have one more alternate novel I can write for NaNoWriMo 2009: the Spanner novelization. If I've been working so hard writing that prequel trilogy (Bad Company, Black Science, and my still unnamed 2010 NaNo novel) and all those side stories (The Jennifer Theory; Dirty Pop and its potential sequels) and yet have come nowhere near to finishing them, shouldn't I go back to the core story of the cycle and start actually writing it? Since I have so much story material built up in the project notebooks I've kept since 1991 (the current, and last, being #14), I should be able to assemble it all, add the new story ideas I've been playing with, and perhaps finish the first book by the end of the year. Since so much of it is in script form already, I could write both the complete script and the novelization in as little as two months (NaNoWriMo plus NaNoFiMo).

Now, Spanner is supposed to be a webmanga. Problem is, I haven't been drawing anything, and I've even neglected the story itself to work on all those prequels. NaNoWriMo, which got me writing the prequels, would be the perfect opportunity to finally get off my butt and start writing Spanner itself. Actually, I did start writing Spanner already — but for Script Frenzy '08. But I didn't follow through on that. Besides, I'm discarding the majority of the script I did write.

There's still 25 days of October left till NaNo. My decision is not yet final. Maybe I've put Dirty Pop on my NaNo profile, but I can always change it. I still have time. My choice of novel isn't final till NaNo begins. Right now, Spanner itself is starting to look like a possible alternate to Dirty Pop.

But if I do choose to make Spanner my NaNoWriMo novel for 2009, there's two things I'll have to do in addition to the prose: 1) write the script, the basis for the prose, and 2) draw. A lot. My script will rely on thumbnail layouts, and I'll need to create character designs. And I'll have to improve my drawing skills so that I can do both much better than I can now. If I commit myself to Spanner the novelization, then I commit myself at last to Spanner the manga.

Choices, choices...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Black Science: Two New Scenes for Desiree (Pre-NaNoWriMo Update)

Sometimes ideas simply come to you. Like these two scenes that emerged pretty much full-blown today. One overwhelmed me in the library. The other emerged out of a conversation I got into at my local guitar shop. Both involve redheaded Desiree, one of the two main characters of Black Science.

The first is a love scene. A new male lover convinces shy Desiree to remove her inhibitions with her clothes (actually, he removes the latter) and make love. This scene — is he a character from Bad Company, or a new character? I haven't decided yet — serves as a counterpoint to Desiree's incubus-seduction by the terrorist villain Rashid in BadCo, so I realized that it belongs in Black Science, which is in part a sort of "Desiree Thomas' Lehrjahre". This new man (if it isn't BadCo's Billy Hunter) in effect initiates her into the true pleasures of lovemaking, at least the heterosexual variety. I'll find a place to put it in the Black Science plot where it will advance Desiree's character arc.

The other new scene for Black Science features a cameo appearance by Desiree's sister Charlie. The sisters are out shopping in some mall in the Seattle area, I haven't decided which one. As you'd expect, there's packs of teenage girls running around, each one representing some conformist school clique. Some of them scowl at the two nonconformist sisters in unison, partly in disgust at Charlie's politically incorrect hairstyle, never mind the clothes (which all but have a whole novel to themselves in Dirty Pop). Desiree, still only 18, is concerned, but Charlie (already 21) shrugs it off. Charlie says to Desiree, "Don't mind them. They still don't know how to think for themselves. We're the cool ones here. They're merely 'in'."

As you can tell, I'm still getting new scenes for my previous NaNoWriMo novels. I'm getting new song ideas too. It isn't till the last week of this month (October) that I'll shift my focus entirely to my '09 NaNo novel, Dirty Pop.

Monday, October 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: A Savage Plotbunny Attack Creates a Murderous Crime Thriller

#NaNoWriMo #writers
I have a temper. Sometimes it attacks me, perhaps just to remind me that it's there. It likes to latch onto true crime stories and force me to hate the culprits and/or victims (depending). Today it turned a dormant plotbunny into a steroid-crazed Frankenstein's monster that jumped all over my head until it hurt. The story in question is called Mass Murder, and its antihero is an ex-Catholic vigilante who begins by summarily executing pedophile priests, starting with the ones who raped him when he was a boy, and ends up attempting a murderous terrorist attack on Saint Peter's Square during the Pope's Christmas address and intended to take out not just the Pope himself but countless thousands of his followers as well. In the meantime he massacres convicted sex criminals, brutally assassinates Roman Polanski, and firebombs a halfway house for sex offenders while shooting the firefighters and police officers who try to save the house's inhabitants. Out of his self-righteous crime spree, a deadly terror cult is born: the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus that first appears in Black Science. The terrorist calls himself the Sexecutioner.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo is coming again, and I've got my novel...

#NaNoWriMo #writers
...only it's not actually part of the Dictel trilogy. Bad Company and Black Science are still so unfinished, there's no way I could get all three novels in the trilogy finished before NaNoWriMo 2010. So I'm writing a side story.

It's called Dirty Pop, and it accounts for Charlie's absence from Black Science. So what has she been doing in 2009? Why, trying to restart her singing career, of course! When we meet her early in Bad Company, she's about to kill herself, partly over the fact that her own mother, the narcissistic cult guru Drusilla Becket, destroyed her career over a forbidden lesbian fling. For Charlie, success is the best revenge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After Litfic Dies: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

Face it: literary fiction is dying. The question is, what will replace it as the new mainstream? I've been championing science fiction in recent posts; I'm convinced that its method will be the core of the literature of the future, and indeed of the present. However, from what I've seen lately, it isn't the most popular potential successor to the old litfic. What is? Fantasy.

In the bookstores, science fiction and fantasy are always put together in the same section as if they were the same. The assumption seems to be that they form a single genre. But the official publisher and bookseller category is misleading. You see, science fiction and fantasy have opposite worldviews. Science fiction usually relies on some sort of scientific logic and a whole lot of awesome future technology, but fantasy always requires at least one supernatural thing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spanner: Shira Is 10!

#999 #webcomic Today Spanner main character Shira turns 10!

Back around 1995 or so, when I was in my longest period of artist's block ever and I compulsively wrote story notes for 5 full years (and then went on for another 7 or 8, only with drawings), I read a book by American ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes (his site here) in which he revealed to Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi that he was born on September 9, 1949 — the number 9 has special significance to the ninja — I realized right then that Shira Thomas would have to be born exactly 50 years later. Spanner begins right before Shira's 15th birthday. So today is a major day in the Spanner mythos. And Shira's birthday party will have to be a significant event in Black Science as well (toward novel's end, in fact).

But since Spanner is supposed to be a manga, this is a reminder that I need to start drawing again. I've been procrastinating this for over 2 years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Kinds of Science Fiction

I just found out that there's actually two kinds of science fiction: fiction in the genre, and fiction outside it. The latter is called, somewhat disparagingly by fans, "mundane"; the most popular writer of "mundane" SF is, of course, Michael Crichton. Some mainstream or even literary fiction is all but indistinguishable from science fiction; one famous example is Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, which is set partly on an alien world in some sort of trans-time. William Gibson's current "Blue Ant" cycle belongs to this category. Meanwhile, there is some genre SF that could fit just fine in the mainstream. For example, I've noticed that Philip K. Dick's proletarian-realist novels (the literary fiction he longed to be known for, such as In Milton Lumky Territory) are sold in the SF/fantasy section of the bookstore simply because he is an SF God. Some novels are (or were) on the borderline: Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and Don DeLillo's Ratner's Star were both nominated for the Nebula Award; Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon tends to be put in the SF/fantasy section with Snow Crash and the Baroque Quartet, but rests right on the boundary between "genre" and "mundane" and is intended to be there.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

As Literary Fiction Dies, Science Fiction Must Take Over

Face it: the traditional literary fiction that defined the mainstream in the 20th century is on its way out, much like the newspaper it drew from starting in the late 19th century. During its period of dictatorship, anything outside its narrow boundaries was ruthlessly relegated to the lowbrow genres of pulp fiction by the cultural establishment's literary police. But now literary fiction is almost extinct. Why? Because its ideology, called Naturalism, no longer reflects the daily lives of ordinary people.

What does? Science fiction. You see, far more than in Isaac Asimov's day, we are living in the world predicted by science fiction. Rockets and space stations? Check. Supercomputers, internets, virtual reality? Check. Robots do more of our manufacturing work. Cyborgs are increasingly banal. Androids and jetpacks are in development. Can interstellar spaceships, wormholes, antigravity, and time travel be far behind? And there's some amazing stuff now commonplace or in development that were inconceivable to the likes of Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and their contemporaries: nanotechnology, personal area networks, quantum computing, augmented reality — the list goes on...

The conclusion should be obvious. The central place in the mainstream of modern literature that was once held by the now dying Naturalist literary fiction properly belongs to science fiction. Why, then, is it still relegated to genre and fandom? Because the old literary establishment still controls the publishing industry.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Science Fiction Is The True Modern Literature

Remember my post in which I vowed to destroy science fiction? Now I'm going to assert with J. G. Ballard (in his introduction to his novel Crash) that science fiction is the only true modern literature, and the only kind of literature that fits the science fiction universe we live in.

On the surface, the two are exact contradictions. But they're not. In fact, they're the same thing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Black Science: The Back Cover Copy

I've been trying to write Black Science for both JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo, and yet I've had little idea of what the plot is. No more idea, in fact, than when I first tried to write it for NaNoWriMo back in '06 and got two plots in one for my trouble. Well, yesterday I realized exactly what the conflict is: the battle between two "tribes" of scientists, the "Prometheans" dedicated to human improvement and evolution vs. the "Faustians" who sell their scientific integrity (if not their souls) to the military-industrial complex for money and power. And those two ex-spouses turned mortal enemies at the center of the novel, (respectively) Willa Richter-Thomas and C. Henry Becket, represent (or even lead) them.

So how did I manage to get a plot out of the cast, vague concept, and many background ideas for Black Science? I asked myself: "What would I print on the back cover?" It goes something like this:

Black Science

Willa Richter-Thomas. Clinical psychologist drawn deep into experimental neuroscience. Secular humanist. Liberal antiwar activist. Musician with a shady rock 'n' roll history. Mother of two. Den mother to a small tribe of hackers. Dedicated opponent of pseudoscience.

C. Henry Becket. Behavioral psychologist. Inventor of the mind-control machine. Patriarch of a clan of soldiers and police. Retired army officer. Conservative commentator. Fanatical patriot. Torturer.

For one month in 1993, they were married. Now they are mortal enemies. They battle over the soul of science itself as leaders of two powerful factions:

The Prometheans: Single-mindedly devoted to the advancement of human evolution, even if it causes chaos, anarchy, and revolution.

The Faustians: Dedicated to the relentless pursuit of personal wealth and political power, even if it threatens the extinction of the human race.

In 2008, Dictel Corporation, the world's largest military-industrial conglomerate, attempted to take over the United States by force. Now it sends out its siren song to those on the cutting edge of knowledge. Can even the most dedicated Promethean resist — and save not only the world, but her own soul?

This Is The Cyberpunk Universe -- With A Twist

If you've read cyberpunk novels from the 1980s, they're generally set in this decade or soon afterward. The 21st century of the classic cyberpunk cycle from Neuromancer to Snow Crash is dystopian and corporatist; a majority of its heroes are science fictional versions of the hard-bitten heroes of hard-boiled crime fiction. The future tech was not only up-to-date, it was different from anything seen before in science fiction: basically, personal tech and street cyborgs, plus something then new called virtual reality.

In my last post, I floated the idea of abolishing the science fiction genre. I think the name's misleading and so 19th century. There's just so much "science fiction" that sneaks in magic of some kind (like the new Star Trek movie's unexplained "red matter") that the label has long since become meaningless. Also, there's the fact that we are now living in the science fiction universe, though without the spaceships; even the androids and jetpacks have proved much more difficult to develop than we expected back in the 20th century. I'd suggest the new genres "speculative fiction", "future fantasy", and "technofantasy"; but science fiction and its fandom are an institution, so that 20th-century label's sticky. Especially if Hollywood uses it, and a cable TV network names itself after the genre. (But one sci-fi offshoot has managed to escape the genre — by latching itself onto a far more powerful and mainstream genre. I'm speaking, of course, of "future romance".)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

AugNoWriMo & 50/90: Panic Time approaches!

Let's see. It's the middle of August. How many words have I written for AugNoWriMo? A little under 2,500. How many songs have I written for 50 Songs in 90 Days? Well, I've got 5 posted, but none unlocked. It's the middle of each.

Yep, it's almost that time of the month again:

Panic Time!

For those who don't know, Panic Time is when I panic and write almost all the words required to win any WriMo. It started with NaNoWriMo, of course.

Here's the tough part: Panic Time for two WriMos instead of just one! Not just for AugNo (novel writing; my goal: 50,000 words) but 50/90 (goal: 50 songs in 90 days, of course) too. Making it even harder still is my efforts to increase my presence and influence on Twitter, complicated with my increasing preoccupation with social media stuff starting with FriendFeed. I even started a new blog at Posterous (you can find it here, including my most popular post ever, my whiny complaint with the irresistibly catchy name, "Social Media Is My Crack"). Plus, blog platforms have started going social as well: Blogger using Google Friend Connect, and Posterous using its own built-in social subscription system.

All this is getting a bit overwhelming. It's hard to obsess over Twitter and write at the same time. So, I might just want to ease up on the tweeting some while I catch up with my word and song counts. It doesn't really pay to get focused on one thing at the expense of more important things.

But before I can write, I first need to shift my attention. That's been pretty hard lately. But Twitter can wait. Got work to do.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spanner: Destroy the Superhero Universe?

And now, to explain the apparent arrogance of that last entry...

I started collecting comics in 1989. By 1991, when I (re)discovered anime and started writing my first story notes on what would become Spanner, I'd gotten tired of superheroes: they had begun to blur together into one featureless super-blob. By 1994, I was a pretty fanatical otaku and had begun openly proclaiming to my fellow anime club members that the only way to break Marvel's stranglehold on the American comics industry was to destroy the superhero universe altogether. Manga publishers Viz and TokyoPop eventually broke that stranglehold, driving Marvel to the movies, but by then my purpose was fixed.

My original purpose for Spanner: to destroy the superhero universe!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Black Science: Destroy Science Fiction!

In his June 1998 article "The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction", the author Jonathan Lethem makes the case for dismantling the science fiction genre altogether. He claims that the refusal to give the Nebula Award to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow was the turning point: from that point on, science fiction followed the trendy identity politics that passed for "radicalism" in those days into its own ghetto, so that now (in 2009) it's nothing more than a minor subgenre of fantasy closely related to superhero comic books. Even cyberpunk has become reactionary, basically Blade Runner-type neo-noir set in the future. True speculative fiction is now a rarity. "Sci-fi" (or, even worse, "syfy" or "skiffy") is considered cheesy and disreputable; its place in the popular culture is now taken by horror and dark fantasy. Barry Malzberg is right to say that science fiction is one of the most reactionary genres in fiction. Therefore...

The purpose of Black Science: destroy science fiction!

(If I intend to use Spanner to destroy the superhero genre, then...)

Monday, August 10, 2009

AugNoWriMo: Getting Back to Black Science, with Notes

I finished my AugNoWriMo short story last night. Then I spent the rest of my session reading articles and retweeting on Twitter. I didn't feel ready to do anything with Black Science. Well, now I'm ready. But first, I need some story ideas to play with. Some of these come from a book I reread often: Screams of Reason by David J. Skal.

Here's some of the ideas I'm likely to throw into Black Science:
  1. Good mad scientist vs. evil mad scientist! Even better yet, the two enemies were once married:
    • Dr. Willa Richter-Thomas, a psychologist who sometimes works with neuroscientists and is sometimes considered one herself, once wore a shunt in her brain for a year so she could observe the neurochemical activity inside it. She also has a scandalous rocker past.
    • Her ex-husband, Dr. C. Henry Becket, is notorious for his eager participation in the CIA's infamous MKULTRA mind control project and was heavily involved in the interrogations at the Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay prisoner-of-war camps. His monomania is the creation of a "psychotron", or mind-control machine. He was a leader of the pro-torture faction which led the American Psychological Association during the Bush era and is a fanatical proponent of "conversion therapy" of homosexuals.
    The reason I'm including as a backstory subplot the story of Edward Teller's destruction of J. Robert Oppenheimer is not only because of the obvious analogy between the atomic bomb and the psychotron, but also because of the similar struggle between the two main characters of Black Science.
  2. The automaton of the classical variety, modernized into sleek gynoid robots inspired by the likes of Hajime Sorayama. I should specifically relate this to the origin of the "PowerSuits" in Spanner.
  3. Social Darwinism and eugenics raise their ugly heads. Again. This carries over from Bad Company and is one of the consuming obsessions of the Becket clan behind Dictel Corporation.
  4. How about today's crop of "Frankenstein monsters" being developed by and for the US military? Hover drones, cybugs, biomass-eating EATR robots (which the manufacturer claims is actually vegetarian — a classic case of plausible deniability), and other components of Skynet. In short, the combots. The ones Dictel Research is working on are humanoid, like the Terminator.
  5. Uploading human personalities into computers and robots, the engineering of new "posthuman" species, and other obsessions of the Extropians and similar cults.
  6. Cybersex, cyberfetishism, and other such things beloved of the cyberpunks.
And so on. I could go on almost forever. This is just a sampling of the ideas I'll probably throw into that masterpiece of mad mixology I call Black Science.

Now all I need to do is get out those index cards and start giving this story a plot — something I haven't done yet, even though I started writing it in NaNoWriMo '06...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spanner: Now They Call It Augmented Reality

I follow a lot of interesting people on Twitter. One of them just happens to be William Gibson. Sometimes he tweets or retweets something that catches my attention. In this case, he retweeted a post by Chris NakashimaBrown pointing to a Bruce Sterling blog post on augmented reality that NakashimaBrown calls an "awesome riff". Needless to say, I myself had to retweet:
But what does this have to do with my still-neglected webmanga project Spanner?


I was actually introduced to the concept back in 2003 when I discovered, a site run by scientist/inventor Steve Mann. He refers to "augmented reality" under its technical name, "computer-mediated reality" and is in fact a pioneer in the field. His concept, as I saw it, involved something like VR goggles, ultimately miniaturized into eyewear indistinguishable from ordinary eyeglasses or sunglasses. (What more cyberpunk concept can there be than mirrorshades used as a surveillance device, especially against the authorities?)

Fast-forward six years. Now camera-equipped cellphones are extremely common. Some cellphones are more powerful today than top-of-the-line computers were fifteen years ago. Now there's an iPhone app that promises to bring augmented reality functionality to Apple's popular smartphone, though Apple doesn't plan to open the iPhone API for such purposes anytime soon. And, of course, we know that cellphones will be getting ever more powerful, so we're bound to see AR apps proliferate in the years to come.

It could very well turn out that by 2014, when Spanner begins, wearable computers with eye- or sunglasses as their monitors could be not just feasible for everyday use, but all the rage in the fashion world. Eventually — and some science fiction writers have already picked up on this — the computers will be built into our skulls or flesh, and our eyes will be the monitors.

From Gibson's Neuromancer to Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, the whole cyberpunk genre has had cyberspace (a term Gibson coined in Neuromancer) as almost its monomania. Now cyberspace is everywhere; the virtual reality in Snow Crash has even inspired the creation of actual virtual worlds, most famously Second Life. Now that we've brought to life the virtual reality Gibson's cyberspace cowboys jacked into, how about we bring cyberspace to RL? That's what Augmented Reality's all about.

I'm using the idea in my comics. I hope to make it interesting.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

JulNo Fail -- But AugNoWriMo Begins

Face it. I didn't win JulNoWriMo. I never shifted into Panic Mode. Why? Probably for two reasons: 1) a cold that put me out for a week; 2) my upgrade from dialup to broadband internet, and the "honeymoon stage" that followed with not just broadband but also with Twitter. My final word count: 26,397. Not quite "epic fail" in my opinion, but not quite a success.

Well, now that's over. A new WriMo has begun: AugNoWriMo. Can I win this? Of course I can.

What am I going to write this month?
  1. Black Science, of course. I neglected it during JulNo.
  2. A short story called "Any Monkey with a Typewriter". It's only distantly related to Spanner or the Dictel trilogy, but I wanted something to write for the short story anthology that AugNo plan to publish. Most AugNoers are still struggling to find an idea for their short stories, but I got a cool name and a cooler idea even before JulNo was over.
I'm starting with the short story. I can write an entire short story in one night's session, and this may be the session.

Once more: here goes...

Monday, July 27, 2009

JulNoWriMo 2009 Progress: Panic Time with a Vengeance!

It's about time for me to stop whining and start writing. I've been so busy following links on Twitter that I haven't bothered to write anything for JulNoWriMo since at least last Thursday. And I use the current heat wave in Seattle as an excuse? It's only an excuse. I need to face up to the fact that I've been avoiding writing. Since I'm still only halfway to 50,000 words, I need to do some serious writing. Maybe I can use the heat wave as an excuse to get in front of my computer, fire up Word, and write. But I'll have to write a lot of words in the next five days.

This is Panic Time with a vengeance.

First of all, I've announced on my Twitter account that I'm going to start a cyberpunk Twitter novel called Headhunter. That's right: I'm going to start writing a cyberpunk novel, then posting it in a series of tweets. I'm starting this tonight.

Also, I have a plan for another Spanner side story, this time involving Shira's alleged "evil eye" in relation to its origin in African-style magic wars. The basic plot: an African cult goes on a terrorist rampage that even the cops can't stop because it's so ultraviolent. Enter Spanner. She does a big "voodoo" performance that kicks off a big "magic war" battle which ends badly for the bad guys. That's because Spanner's a master of psychological warfare. If Christian and Islamic terrorists can't stand up to her use of their faith (not religion but superstition) as a deadly weapon against them, these voodoo killers don't stand a chance.

Finally, I'm returning to Black Science after weeks of neglect. I want to at least finish Willa's part of the prologue and the chapter in which Willa, Desiree, and their friends use cellphones and Twitter to hunt down a serial killer whom one of Willa's enemies has sent after her. I intend to finish at least those, and maybe write one more chapter, before JulNo is done.

Now I need to stop allowing myself to get distracted, by Twitter or anything else, and start writing. I'm starting now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cybugs: A Spanner Side Story

This has nothing to do with insect-shaped robots, or simulated bugs for kids, or the war machines in a videogame called AI Wars. Rather, it’s about cyborg insects developed by the military, as revealed in a LiveScience article. This time Spanner herself tells the tale, something that doesn’t happen very often in the (still) proposed webmanga. The year is 2021, five years after the end of the series. During a series of cybug attacks — not just murders but mindjackings — Spanner searches for what's behind it and attempts to stop the attacks. (Note: The "Crusader" mentioned in this story is based loosely on [or is my "Silver Age version" of] a public-domain superhero by that name. Tech note: a “daemon” is not one of those programs that runs in the background, but a robot made entirely of energy; a force field is one of its functions. Too futuristic for 2021? Probably. Still, with the current force field revival, it could happen...)

[Revision 1.1, 11/25/10: Revised formatting, corrected dates, corrected two character names to the final versions in Spanner.]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mind Bomb: A Spanner Side Story

Want to know just how powerful Spanner can be? You’ll get a taste right here. This is the character's world public premiere (she's been with me in some form since 1986), and also in part a “flip side” to "Destroying Angel". Basically, after the end of Spanner, a tiny Nazi faction uses the Israeli civil war as an excuse to try to take over parts of the former US and ends up holed up in a department store with hostages. Spanner arrives just as special ops commandos are about to blow the whole place sky high and does what she did to bring down the once-powerful shadow dictator called the Crusader in Spanner. Note: All mid-sentence paragraph divisions at climax are entirely deliberate.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Picking Up the Pace Now

I've finished all the business that's been distracting me this week (though it didn't stop me from writing and posting this first of the Spanner Side Stories). Foremost was upgrading my Internet connection from dialup (which was excruciatingly slow). Now I'm ready to get back to business at last. It's the middle of the month, and I don't want to force myself back into Panic Mode yet one more time.

What am I planning on doing this time? Writing Black Science, of course, plus a few more Spanner Side Stories. I'm also getting back to my music for 50 Songs in 90 Days (though my electric guitar problems still pose an obstacle). (And, fellow 5090ers, I'm now ready to start listening to your songs too.) And one more thing: I now intend to keep my blogs up to date. In this one, I plan to keep everybody posted on my fiction and art projects.

I've had a fairly busy month so far. Now I intend to make the second half more properly productive.

And now I throw myself back into the fray...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Destroying Angel: A Spanner Side Story

(Note: I've recently thought of loads of ideas as to how to improve this story, so I intend to revise it soon. Stay tuned...)

This is the first of the side stories set in the world of my (still) proposed cyberpunk webmanga Spanner and of the “Dictel trilogy” of novels I’m writing which currently include Bad Company and Black Science. This story takes place a decade after the events of Spanner. I took the technique of telling the story from the villain's first-person point of view from Bruce Sterling, but the "infernal epiphany" theme (I hope this isn't a spoiler) comes from Camille Paglia's passage on Matthew Lewis' gothic novel The Monk (a major influence on the English Romantics) in Sexual Personae; in homage to her, I shall conclude with a resounding "Carthago delenda est".

After the short but brutal Israeli civil war of 2016 that put the ultra-Zionist extremists in control of Israel and sent the surviving Palestinians and secular, liberal, and moderate Jews into exile in the Diaspora, merciless Israeli agents bearing the names of the angels of punishment and destruction hunt down Jewish and Palestinian exiles in hopes of exterminating them. Desiree Richter-Thomas, the almost-tragic heroine of Bad Company and (under the codename "Livewire") a major player in Spanner, is one of the exiles' fiercest and most prominent protectors. In the summer of 2025, shortly before the economic crisis and subsequent war that destroys the State Capitalist system of "Imperial" dictatorships, the two forces collide. Who is the destroying angel: Agent "Hasmed", or...Livewire?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A New Story You'd Never Have Been Able to Read

During JulNoWriMo, I found myself distracted from Black Science to work on a new story called Mind Bomb. It started out as a short story but is rapidly escalating into a serial novel. So I find myself posting the chapters on my DeviantART account. (NOTE: both chapters are now deleted from my account.) Here's a Wordle word cloud for chapter 1, which I created just because:
Wordle: Mind Bomb Chapter 1

So why was I posting a story where hardly anybody can read it? Well, I had the account, so I figured I'd use it. Big mistake. Nobody but me would ever be able to read Mind Bomb as long as it remained posted on DeviantART. Ever.

So I deleted both chapters as soon as I could. Mind Bomb didn't belong on a site where only a very few would be able to read it. I didn't want it to be like a private vanity press with a total circulation of one. I want people to read it. So I'll have to find an alternate place to post the story. I may have to abandon it for a while and return to Black Science. *sigh*

Friday, July 3, 2009

JulNoWriMo Day 3: A Little Setback

I wrote no words on day 2 of JulNoWriMo. Why? Because I spent too much time on the JulNo and 50/90 forums! All these Internet forums tend to distract me, especially since I'm stuck with a slow dialup connection. But I have a remedy for my problem: write myself a note!

I went online ostensibly to get some information that would help me write Black Science. That information is on Wikipedia and other sites. I didn't go there, nor did I search for any other sites related to what I wanted to write. Instead, I posted to forums and wrestled with Facebook and Twitter. And I uploaded my second photo to Flickr for the Project 365 thing (take and post a new photo a day for a year), as I relate here.

For day 3, I intend to start writing again. But I need to write myself a checklist so I can get all my research done. Then I can write. I can post to forums and wrestle with Facebook later.

And I'll have previews of the new draft of Black Science right here on this blog. Wait for it!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

JulNoWriMo Day 2: Starting Again From A Standstill

I haven't written anything in my novels for two months. So it's taking me a little while to get back into the swing of things. Once again, words are trying to evade me; once again I have to chase and capture them so I can type them in Word. I may have to force the inspiration to come if necessary. Finishing Black Science won't be a cinch. This JulNoWriMo won't be easy at first.

Some of my fellow writers have a similar problem: the words don't come at the proper pace immediately. Some are slow writers anyway. The words pour out of other writers; sometimes it seems they can't even stop. I'm the kind of writer who needs to build up my pace. That's why, during any given WriMo, I do most of my writing in the second half of the month. And anyway, I've barely even started. Day 2 is early.

Current word count: 337, all in Black Science.

In site-related news: I ran out of room for tags for my blog entries. I was going to eliminate all the character tags, but that may be more trouble than I need. However, I had all these tags for individual WriMos. I condensed almost all of them into the single tag "WriMo". So you probably can't search for individual WriMos (e.g., NaNo, JulNo) anymore, but at least I have room for new tags now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

JulNoWriMo Day 1: And They're Off...

At midnight I start completely rewriting Black Science for JulNoWriMo. I'm looking to beat the almost 65,000-word WriMo record I set with Bad Company last JanNoWriMo. And I'm doing it with not just Black Science, but with at least one Spanner Side Story ("Mind Bomb") and maybe some still unwritten scenes of BadCo as well. And all this while I'm doing 50 Songs in 90 Days and resuming my Project 365 (I'm in the Flickr group).

So what are my plans for JulNo '09?

First thing, start writing Black Science at midnight my time. I'll be writing it as if it were a brand new NaNoWriMo novel, basically a first draft of a novel of which only one scene survives from the original fiasco I wrote during NaNo '06. I want to write as much of it as I have time for before my busy July 4, in which I'm recording two songs for 50/90 and playing my first songs live (albeit in front of family members).

Second, there's the first of my Spanner Side Stories. I've decided I'm going to use my neglected DeviantArt account and post these short stories to it. "Mind Bomb" will be the first. I'll post it chapter by chapter, and of course hope there's not too many chapters to call it a short story. After that, I'll start a new one. I hope to do one a week — if I don't pour out too many words of Black Science.

Third, I intend to start drawing again. At first, I intend to spend at least a few minutes a day on practice sketches so I can get back into it again. It'll be rusty at first, since it's been so long since I've drawn anything; I've spent too much time over the past couple of years writing novels and songs.

Of course, I'll write songs.

I've got an ambitious agenda for the next month. Let's see if I can actually pull this off for the first time...

Goal before I go to bed: 1,000 words. After I wake up: 5,000 words.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Black Science: Preparing for JulNoWriMo

Instead of returning to Bad Company, I started a new short story (which is turning novel) instead. I'll post the first few chapters soon, and I'll inform you here (and elsewhere) when I do. Though I'm now delaying BadCoFiMo, I still plan on doing the complete rewrite of Black Science for JulNoWriMo. I'm already assembling reams of old handwritten story notes, writing new ones, and collecting a small library of books and websites as research material.

A short synopsis of Black Science, or a rough treatment for the eventual plot: After the disastrous events of Bad Company (in short: Barack Obama gets elected, and giant military corporation Dictel invades America in a futile attempt to restore Operation Permanent Republican Administration), the government psychologist Willa Richter-Thomas is confronted with a choice to either join the super soldier project at Dictel Research or get railroaded for espionage. She chooses to fight. The big question: Why does the new Democratic government want to bring back the evil corporation that tried to destroy them in 2008? The answer, in one word: Afghanistan. President Obama is escalating the Afghan war into yet another Vietnam. And the Pentagon sees Dictel as the key to victory.

BadCoFiMo Delayed...But A New Strategy Emerged From Its Failure...

Turns out that, unfortunately, there will be no BadCoFiMo in June. The strategy just wouldn't come together, at least not now. If I start editing Bad Company, I'll have to take my time doing it, since I'll be focusing on Black Science for JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo while taking part in the 50 Songs in 90 Days challenge. But instead of BadCoFiMo, I decided to take a different strategy: writing short stories to prepare for BadCo, Black Science, and especially Spanner. It's called "Mind Bomb", and it's the first of a new set of "Spanner Side Stories". And it's already expanding into at least a novella...

"Mind Bomb" takes place in 2025 (or 6025 by the "Neo-Egyptian" calendar), almost a decade after the spectacular ending of Spanner. Shira and Desiree are back, in a new post-"Corporate Empire" world dominated by a large collection of constantly warring imperialist governments dedicated to the economic philosophy of state capitalism. And guess what? Even despite the fall of the Corporate Empire and the leading member of its ruling Cartel, Dictel Corporation — guess what? Dictel's back, and it's up to no good yet again! This time it involves the latest version of its infamous mind-control machine, the "psychotron", the biggest project of Dictel Research since the 1950s. When word gets out, thanks in part to a new recurring character named (in a sudden spasm of geekiness) Lala Sun-Microsoft (note name of corporations used as family names, something I'll explain later), a notoriously insatiable gossip, word gets out. When the state-capitalist empires all find out, all hell breaks loose in a free-for-all over the new psychotron. So a new character I created just for this story, calling herself Lucy Williams (formerly a Russian businessman [male], now a young [and very much female] roving activist), hires Spanner and asks her to repeat the "mind bomb" trick that took down Henry Becket, only on a larger scale.

This short summary omits several elements that I created for it, of course. First there are the factions: Corporates, Imperials, Crusaders, and so on. Then there are the posthumans of various kinds, including the strange cyborg-beings prominent in Spanner and a new breed of cyber-entities who have uploaded their consciousnesses to the Internet and/or Hans Moravec-inspired robots, and thus abandoned carbon-based lifeform altogether.

Unlike the Dictel trilogy, and far more than even Spanner, "Mind Bomb" is a true science fiction story — cyberpunk, in fact.

So this is what I've been doing instead of BadCoFiMo. That and writing notes on the Spanner and its spinoffs, from Bad Company all the way to "Mind Bomb" and beyond.

I'll keep you posted here more frequently. And I'll make sure to tweet updates.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bad Company: BadCoFiMo Starts Late...

After losing Script Frenzy, I took a break from the whole WriMo thing. I took May off. As it turns out, I took almost the first half of June off too. That means my "Bad Company Finishing Month" is starting late — when the month is already half over. But at least I've actually started BadCoFiMo...

I changed my BadCoFiMo plan when I started trying to insert those JanNo/FebNo scenes from their standalone files into the main manuscript. Each day during JanNoWriMo, I wrote scenes from various parts of the novel and saved them in separate files to make sure I could count the words more easily and not mess up the main file. However, some difficulties ensued when I tried to put the scenes in their proper places in the novel. So I realized that I need a new strategy:
  1. Separate the chapters of the novel from the main file and put each chapter into a separate file, named in the order I find them in the main file.
  2. Separate each of the JanNo and FebNo files into the separate scenes, one file per scene.
  3. Organize (and, if necessary, reorganize) the files so that all the scenes are in their proper order.
  4. Take out the index cards I've already used and write ideas for the missing scenes on new blank ones.
  5. Map all the storylines and character arcs so that I have a better idea of those I've already written and how to write the unfinished and unwritten ones.
  6. Write all the remaining unwritten scenes and put them in their proper files (new ones if necessary) in the proper order.
  7. Organize the scenes and chapters again if necessary.
  8. Finally, put the whole thing back together, restoring the main file with all the original and new scenes in their new order.
This should make everything a lot easier for me to write and edit, even if it's more unwieldy on my hard drive and in Word.

I still plan to finish the first complete draft this month. I've simply gotten a late start on it, as I've gotten distracted by news and opinion websites, which can get addictive...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bad Company: Preparing for June's "BadCoFiMo"

So far this month, I've been pretty much content to take a break from writing. Mostly, I've been focusing on my guitar lessons. But on June 1, my break ends. Sure, I'll continue with my guitar practice; after all, I've got songs to rerecord. But on June 1, I will return to the '07 NaNoWriMo novel that has given me so much trouble over the past year and a half. For me, June '09 is "BadCoFiMo" — "Bad Company Finishing Month"!

I have a whole bunch of small files in the BadCo directory on my hard drive, built up over a period of about two months from mid-December (NaNoFiMo '08), through January (the JanNoWriMo in which I pulled off my most spectacular WriMo victory ever, with over 65,000 words), and fizzling out in February (in which I shifted my emphasis from NaNoPubYe's FebNoWriMo to FAWM). Some of these files contain scenes from different chapters in widely separated parts of the book. My first challenge, which I never bothered to get around to during NaNoEdMo, is to assemble all these files and all these scenes, putting them all into their proper places in the book. That is my first task for BadCoFiMo.

Even once I've put every scene back into its place, there will still be some plot holes remaining. My second task is to fill them. I will plot every single storyline, determine where each scene fits within the various storylines, find where the plot holes are, and write all the new scenes I need to fill them. This will give me my first complete draft.

My third task: a one-pass revision to create the second complete draft. In her workshop, Holly Lisle strongly suggests that her method will get you "from first draft to last in one cycle". I'm going to see if I can actually pull off such a feat. The first draft will still be rough, even after all the revisions I put into my many incomplete drafts. The second draft will be much smoother and read much easier.

Once I get the second draft finished, I'll prepare an "e-book" version that I'll have certain friends, relatives, and fellow "wrimos" read and critique. They may give me criticisms and ideas that could result in a third draft — but if I don't have the time left, I'll leave a third draft till later, like after I'm done writing the first draft of Black Science during JulNoWriMo and AugNoWriMo. Interestingly enough, it was on the first day of last year's AugNo that I burned out on BadCo, pretty much preventing me from even touching my computer till almost the end of NaNo '08, which I would have lost but for one of my most productive Panic Times in my entire WriMo career. A book never emerged out of it, but at least I won...

Now I'll get back to my guitar practice, and spending way too much time on the Web, and trying to find some way to get broadband access (I'm poor, I'm afraid) so I can avoid those long dialup load times. And I'll continue my rest from novel writing till June 1. But in June, I'm going to finish Bad Company, no matter what!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Company: The Script Frenzy FAILS!

I made my third attempt at Script Frenzy last month. However, it seems, attempting to adapt my NaNoWriMo novels jinxes my Screnzy. Once again, I failed to adapt a novel. Plus, I had a huge complication: I moved across town. Moving takes your attention away from creative things. And so all I ended up writing was 15 pages of the movie adaptation of Bad Company, basically the "Intro" and "Outro" from the novel.

So I decided to take a break for an entire month. I'm skipping MayNoWriMo.

So what am I doing this month? Mainly, I'm focusing on learning how to play the guitar. My guitar lessons started almost serendipitously in the middle of FAWM, while I was furiously writing 38 songs (write 14 and you're a winner — some extremely productive FAWMers actually wrote over 100 songs). Early this month, I got this year's birthday present from my mother two months early: a new Stratocaster-type electric guitar. One of my goals is to record all the FAWM songs I haven't cut demos for, and rerecord almost all the songs I've already recorded (the one exception being "Stayed Up Too Late" (MP3 link), the "Casiopunk" tune, in which I'm keeping my MIDI-simulated guitar sound). I'm not practicing my guitar(s) as regularly as I'd like, but at least I can actually play guitar now.

As for Bad Company — after the failure of my Script Frenzy in April, and limited success in NaNoEdMo in March, I've decided to dedicate June to finishing the first draft. Sure, I'll still be continuing my guitar lessons (in part, to prepare for 50 Songs in 90 Days). But my main focus in June will be what I call "BadCoFiMo": Bad Company Finishing Month. My goals:
  1. Assemble the many fragments I wrote during NaNoFiMo and JanNoWriMo and import them into the main manuscript file.
  2. Fill in all the remaining plot holes, and finish the plotlines I've left incomplete.
  3. Give the finished manuscript a one-pass edit.
During Script Frenzy, my goal was to adapt Bad Company into both movie and graphic novel scripts. As I said, I only managed to adapt the novel's prologue and epilogue. Since the adaptation attempt was unsuccessful, I'm going to focus on the novel for one more month. Any adaptations will then have to wait.

Meanwhile, I've started to get a fresh new set of story ideas for Black Science. But I'll save that for future posts...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bad Company: The Script Frenzy!

It's been way too long since I posted here. The reason? I got way too wrapped up in FAWM! Well, after 38 songs, 24 of them recorded, and after nearly missing out on NaNoEdMo, I'm working to complete the first draft of Bad Company again. This time, for Script Frenzy, I'm writing not one but two scripts: the movie, and the graphic novel! And I'm drawing the latter, and may even release it in regular installments (the frequency depends on how fast I can draw) as a webmanga like Spanner.

I have these periods when I can hardly write anything (like 4 whole months last year), and others in which I get so obsessed with something that I can't do anything else. In February and March this year, that obsession was FAWM. February was the month in which I discovered I can actually write songs, and write them well. I don't have the guitar or keyboard skills to actually play those instruments yet, so I used TuxGuitar and my MIDI keyboard to simulate a rock band. The result sounds okay, but the MIDI-simulated rock guitar is only satisfactory, and the simulated acoustic guitar is even worse! I'll eventually redo all my songs with real guitar and keyboard parts, and they'll sound tons better.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bad Company: The Spectacular Finale of JanNoWriMo

For those of you who have been paying attention, one of the goals I made for this year was to finish Bad Company once and for all. So, when I found myself falling behind in the last week of JanNoWriMo, I pulled off a series of 10,000-word marathon sessions. I won JanNo in spectacular fashion, breaking my all-time WriMo record in the process. However, even though I ended up with pain in my neck and shoulders to go along with my satisfaction, I didn't finish the first draft. That's my next goal: finish BadCo before NaNoEdMo begins on March 1.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bad Company: The Mid-JanNoWriMo Progress Update

It's the middle of the month, and I'm attempting to finish Bad Company, or at least write 50,000 words of it, for JanNoWriMo. How am I doing so far? Right now, I'm behind on the word count — just a little over 15,000 words — but I'm ahead of where I usually am during any given WriMo. So far, so good...

Last year, I tried to fill in some of the many huge gaping plot holes that have always plagued BadCo. Most of them remain unfilled. This year, I'm determined to write every single chapter and scene that's still missing, and there's still a lot of them left to write. However, I've already written some very important scenes, and there's now at least a sense of continuity between the "trial of Desiree" subplot and the leadup to Dictel's invasion of America.

However, most of the early part of the novel remains unwritten, including everything Charlie's in until the "trial of Desiree" sequence. Also, I haven't gotten to the corporate invasion at all yet. However, the month is only half over, so I have more than enough time to take care of it all.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Project Site Is Up...Finally!

At last, I've finally put up the Spanner's World project site — after many, many years of delay. I only put it up last week, so it's still crude and still has hardly any content yet. But at least it's up. Now I have a central site for all my projects in the Spanner "universe". From now on, when I mention any of my fiction projects here in this blog, I'll make a direct link to the project page on my new site.

Now, the hard part is thinking up exactly which content I'll post. I need to come up with story synopses and character profiles, and these take some thinking. Another challenge is the character designs I'll need for each profile, and the cover designs and logos I want to create for each story. I'll need to do this pretty soon.

Now I have no more excuse to delay my art or my site updates. (None except early burnout due to lack of sleep, something I've been struggling with recently due to the fact that I now have to wake up early, and I'm normally very much a night own...) Another thing to spur me back to the drawing table is my new DeviantArt page, which right now still doesn't have content — something I will correct very soon as well.

More project and WriMo updates coming very soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Goal: A Drawing A Day

On the NaNoWriMo forums, I discovered something called Project 365, in which you take (and preferably post online) a photograph a day. Digital cameras make it easy. And so I set up a Flickr account and a photo blog just for this. (My blog entry on this is here.) Which got me thinking: shouldn't I do something similar with my drawing? If something like Project 365 can make you a better photographer, then posting a drawing a day (drawn and scanned that day, of course) can make me a better artist.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bad Company: Finish It This Month!

I've started JanNoWriMo with a bang. Word wars, that is: I'm writing 10,000 words today, and writing the entire climactic scene of the trial sequence, the trial of Clayton Starr, Charlie and Desiree's persecutor and the head lawyer of Dictel. For my second word war, the first 10,000 words count toward the 30,000 I'm writing by the 5th. Why so many words so soon in a WriMo? Because I intend to finish the first complete draft of Bad Company this month!

Bad Company has always been incomplete. After every WriMo I wrote for it in, I left scores of plot holes, some of them humongous. I had many story ideas I never wrote. I've decided to write them all now.

The trial of Clayton Starr is the first of many plot holes I'm filling this month. Writing the unwritten scenes allows me to win a WriMo without cheating. I'm spending the first 5 days of JanNo writing as many unwritten scenes as I can so I can get the major word count job out of the way early and do some major rewriting till the last week of the month. I'll do all the rewrites starting the 6th; once I run out of chapters to rewrite, I'll go back to writing unwritten scenes and hit my word count target (I chose 50,000) and score my JanNoWriMo victory.

Meanwhile, I decided to do a simultaneous project that I think will help me with the novel. For a January challenge in the Script Frenzy, I announced that I would write the script for a BadCo movie adaptation. To this end, I'll be downloading the latest version of Celtx, a popular free scriptwriting program. (I hope Celtx has a comics template by now, or gets one by April.) Writing the novel and the script at the same time will help me put the long and complicated novel in better order.

Writing the "trial of Clayton Starr" chapter went a whole lot more smoothly than the rewrite of chapter 2, in which Desiree runs away to half-sister Ruby's apartment while Charlie is hiding out there. I didn't realize at first that Ruby would be a "mentor as threshold guardian" kind of character until I was in the middle of writing it. Chapters 1 and 2, therefore, will be the first chapters I'll rewrite once I've written my 30,000th word of new story.

I have my primary goal for January now. Soon I'll get Bad Company written, rewritten, finished, and ready for NaNoEdMo.

And now, back to writing...