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Best and Worst of the First Week

8 Nov

So I decided on my National Novel Writing Month novel’s main characters and basic plot on October 31st:

It is a sci-fi Gothic horror/thriller/fiasco featuring mirror universe doppelgangers as well as bounty hunters, space cowboys, and politics.

Our narrator is Mabel, the finicky secretary to the mysterious Mrs. Beaumont, who is the CEO for Teleportation and Transportation Services, LLC (a high-falutin’ company with headquarters on the moon whose products include teleporters).  Some to-be-determined shady dealings and evil plots ensue.

With that introduction, I present to you the best and the worst of the first week of National Novel Writing Month 2013.

Worst:

The opening.

Mrs. Beaumont always insisted upon taking a morning constitutional while she read reports even though one might be tempted to think it would be difficult to walk comfortably and read comfortably simultaneously.  However, whatever one might be tempted to think would never presume to flummox or impede Mrs. Beaumont in any endeavor.  She had perfected her ways, and she was bound to them by duty, routine, and probably most particularly her own stubborn will.  She had not become the CEO of Teleportation and Transportation Services, LLC by shirking a well-established and efficient regimen, especially one she enjoyed thoroughly.  Even if she hadn’t enjoyed it, which I suspected she very much did, she most likely would have continued because it was what she had always done, and it afforded her not only physical exercise–which she prized–but also extra time later in the work day for other matters that necessitated being in her office, which she greatly prized.

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If Everything Were Written by Charlotte Brontë

30 Mar

What if everything were written in the same mellifluous, melodramatic style as Jane Eyre?  Wouldn’t life be glorious?

If Double Indemnity were written by Charlotte Brontë, that scene where Phyllis and Walter confront each other in Phyllis’s living room might go a little something like this…

venetian blinds stanwyck

Rather dimly do I recall the events of this evening, though it was not long ago.  Presently, as the very life blood pours out of me, the memories come to me as through a haze, some dingy fog that might be seen in a great coastal town on a moonless, dreary night–and understandably so as I look through my mind’s eye at the scene.

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Best and Worst of the 6th Week: In Which I Kind of Stop Trying

13 Dec

The good news is, I’ve written some things for the blog.  The bad news is I’ve written some things for the blog.  Zing!

But really, I haven’t been working on my novel much at all.  Like 400 words ish.  And pretty much all of those 400 words kind of suck.

Worst:

Lieutenant Aldridge begins to answer the review board’s question about how a dude came to be murdered.

“We–” I suddenly didn’t know how to proceed.  My mind had been wandering so much that it didn’t remember how to get down to business.  I placed all my focus on Stoljarov and her eager and concerned expression.  I remembered the day she had called me to tell me I was being placed on administrative leave, and I remembered that maybe she wasn’t on my side exactly but that she was the face on the board I trusted most.  She had given me an A even though I’d deserved a B.  Maybe she could be generous again.  I started again:

“Well, Captain Martel had made a deal with the marshals.  We were working with them tracking some outlaws.  We were on their trail–maybe a day behind them–and we ran into this…couple.”  Stoljarov nodded for me to continue.  “The male was human and the female was Martian.  They claimed they were heading to Fort Claire where they knew someone who would give them safe transport to Unter Grat.  This couple had been with the Doomers–” Franklin raised her eyebrow.  “The outlaws called themselves the Doonstown Doomers.”

 It’s lame, and there’s too much new jargon.  And it’s just boring.  Which is the general problem with this novel.  I’m pretty bored with it, and I’m sure if anyone were reading it that person would also be bored with it and also thinking, “When is anything going to happen?  When will this grand mystery be revealed?”

Best:

In this section, Lieutenant Aldridge talks about how her mind is wandering while she’s answering questions during her review board.

I took a deep breath and focused all my brain on the latest question Lieutenant Franklin had asked.  Well, that was a lie.  My mind tried to focus momentarily and then wandered again for a bit about Lieutenant Franklin and why people mistook us for each other.  Rather, how people mistook me for her.  I had never really talked to her and didn’t really know her life, so I didn’t know if this mistaken identity thing was mutual or not.  We didn’t share the same face shape, nor did we share the exact shade of blonde hair.  I supposed our noses were similar and our bodies were similar.  Anyway, I focused on her question.

But then I got distracted again when I glanced over at Stoljarov, whose grey eyes were holding a subdued and ladylike rage that wanted to assert itself but could not because Stoljarov’s primness wouldn’t let it.  Her hands were pressed tightly together, folded neatly in front her on the table, but she looked tense with her unexpressed anger.  I was worried about her.

I was also worried about myself.  I was only half paying attention to my own review board, after all.

I chose it as the best because I like doppelgangers, and I’ve given Aldridge one in Lieutenant Franklin.  She’s kind of a supporting villain currently, and if I ever do any more real writing on this thing ever again, she’ll probably figure into the conspiracy.

***

Current Wordcount:  40,974

Best and Worst of the Fifth Week: Still Chuggin’ Along

6 Dec

November is over, but my novel is not.  Still.

So I guess I’ll keep up with the best/worst of the week thing because I’ve got nothin’ better to do.

Also, I’ve gotta take a minute and say this:  This thing is getting lamer every time I look at it.  I thought it was picking up for a sec a couple chapters ago, but I think that was a convenient lie I was telling myself.

But I’m going to stick it out.  No matter how much I hate it!

Worst:

Here Lieutenant Aldridge is waiting around to be questioned by the Mission Review Board directly after Captain Martel.  Note: Captain Derek Martel = Captain Vera Martel’s ex-husband; oh, and our lady captain has a cybernetic eye that Aldridge can always hear making cybernetic noises; hippoid = a Martian horse

I arrived at 10:30 for no other reason than to pace outside the conference room.  My skirt looked all right, I supposed, but I still felt the residual effects of the panic attack thing I had had.  I thought I might still puke if provoked.  I didn’t know what exactly might provoke me, but I was sure I would know it if I saw it.

At 10:37 Captain Martel walked out of the conference room looking as casual as if she had just been in having brunch with a few old friends.  She saw me and walked over, taking off her gloves and smiling as she crossed into my personal space slightly.

“Don’t look so tense, Blondie.  They don’t bite,” she said.

“Or at least not if you don’t request that specifically,”  I heard a silky and leering male voice say behind me.  From the leeringness of it and the change of direction of Martel’s eye’s whirring, I knew it must have been Derek Martel.  I turned slightly, and sure enough, there he was, smiling unctuously.

“What are you doing on this floor, Captain?” she said to him, ice lining her voice, which had dropped to one of its lowest registers.  It was the tone she used on hippoid thieves and cheaters at cards.

“Just taking a stroll,” he said.  “Seeing if I could find any pretty girls in skirts to look at.”  He took a long look at me and then another, perhaps longer, look at his ex-wife.  She was running her tongue over her teeth and clenching her gloves in her hand.  She did not appear amused.

“Well, you found them, and you looked at them.  Time to move along,” she said, her voice still low in pitch and especially in temperature.  He smiled broadly at that.

“And what if I’m not finished looking?”  He was walking closer now, strutting even.

“I think you are,” she said, voice dropping another third.  He raised an eyebrow and looked at me.

“What do you have to say, Blondie?”  I kept my features as blank as possible.

“I was under the impression this was a private conversation,” I said, trying not to show how unnerved I was starting to become.  He laughed.

“All right.  I’ll take a hint,” he said.  He ran his eyes over me again before he said, “Have a pleasant review board, ladies.”  And he swaggered the rest of the way down the hall and disappeared around a corner.  Out of my peripheral vision, I could see Martel shaking her head.  She then turned to me.  She looked at me squarely and said,

“Keep your chin up, Blondie.”

And she left down the same hallway.

I don’t know why I keep dragging Captain Martel’s ex-husband into the proceedings:  He shows up every five or ten chapters to say yucky things and be creepy, and this section’s appearance is one of the least relevant episodes.  I really want to come up with some clever way for him to be an intricate bad guy, but I end up just writing stupid/weird scenes with him that I don’t really like.  

Best:

Our narrator currently is Admiral Stoljarov, who–as head of the Mission Review Board–is questioning Captain Martel about the happenings on The Persuasion.  Martel has just given an overview of the mission and her account of Commander Jeffs’s untimely death.  Also joining us in this section is Lieutenant Franklin, a board member picked by the string-pulling admiral while Stoljarov was recovering from xylenium poisoning.  Lieutenant Franklin doesn’t know she’s supposed to leave the questioning to Admiral Stoljarov.

“Thank you, Captain.  And is that all you know of the circumstances of his demise?”  Her eyes bore into me.

“Not entirely,” she said.

“Please elaborate,” I said.

“You’re not interested in suppositions,” she said with a hint of amusement.

“You’re correct, Captain.  If that is all you know that can be corroborated, we will move on.”  She ran her tongue over her teeth, perhaps in thought, or perhaps idly.

“I also know that logs indicate he had seen Dr. Dalsgaard on the evening of the fifteenth.  And that encoded transmissions were being sent and received before his death but not after from various workstations to which he had access.”

“To which he had access?” I said a little more scoffingly than I had meant to.  “Excuse me, Captain, but the vessel was not exactly on lockdown.  Almost anyone had access to almost any work station.”

“Of course, Admiral.”  She smiled.  “What I meant was logs indicate he was in the vicinity of the workstations in question when the messages either arrived or were sent.”

“And you suspect he was sending them?”  Lieutenant Franklin asked.  Martel looked at her with her eyebrows raised and then looked at me, as if asking me whether she should answer.  I nodded to her.  I was not personally interested in suppositions, but I supposed others on the panel might be, especially unseasoned people of whom I knew very little.

“Yes,” Martel said.  “And if you’re wondering, I did not kill him, and I do suspect someone.”  Before Lieutenant Franklin could take the bait, I said,

“Thank you, Captain.  Let’s move on.  On June twentieth, you employed the Red Line.  What precipitated this?”  She actually laughed at this.

“Admiral, what else is a starship captain supposed to do when both of her engines fail?”

“Please.  The facts.”  She licked her lips, perhaps trying to smooth away her smile.

“On June twentieth, Engine 2’s carburetor malfunctioned and caused a fire in the engineering room.  Henley and Lieutenant Aldridge effectively contained the fire and vented the smoke so that the engineering team could return safely to their work environment.  Within an hour, Engine 1’s carburetor also malfunctioned.  Henley engaged generator power so that the ship could have life support systems, and I deemed it necessary, as per Space Service Regulation 8.1.7, to use the Red Line to make an emergency landing.”

“And why weren’t you at Hangar 6?” Lieutenant Franklin said.  I was glad that I hadn’t sat her closer to me on the panel, for I wasn’t certain I would have been able to stop myself from slapping the presumption off her.  Martel turned her eyes toward Franklin and spoke slowly, as if to a child–a bright child, but a child nonetheless.

“Well, when both engines are offline, and you’re down to bare-bones emergency power, you don’t exactly have the requisite navigation for a perfect landing.  Lieutenant Aldridge calculated and locked in our trajectory, and I took over helm control, and we all crossed our fingers that we would land in one piece.”

I chose this as the best of the week because we get some exposition, and it’s hopefully not the most boring thing ever, and we get to know Martel a little better.  We also get a little internal drama with the board members and their interactions.  Also, I just really like writing both Stoljarov and Martel, and I giggle incessantly writing scenes with both of them.

***

Current Wordcount: 40,502

Best and Worst of the Fourth Week: In Which I Accept My Fate

29 Nov

I’m not finishing this book by Friday.

I’m not adding a love story, no matter how much my slightly tipsy roommate insists upon it.

What I will be doing is continuing to write it.

I like that I’ve written every day this month, even though sometimes I didn’t want to, and a lot of times what I ended up writing wasn’t worth a damn.

So maybe I’ll just continue writing every day until this monstrosity implodes and then maybe continue to write every day, even without a novel to write.

I think it sounds like an ok plan.

So, here’s the best and worst this week.

Worst:

In this section, Admiral Stoljarov tells us about her convalescence after getting xylenium poisoning.  Stateson = deceased aeronautics pioneer; Dalsgaard = evil-ish doctor; Martel = sleazy ex-husband of captain of Persuasion

I had many dreams, long and languid and surreal and realistic dreams that seemed to stretch on for days at a time.  When I awoke–or, to put it more accurately, when I was in that suspended state between consciousness and unconsciousness, that ethereal, phantasmic place that could be both reality and fantasy, sky and earth, male and female–I remembered them all in some great detail, but as I awakened more fully and became aware of my surroundings–a dimly lit hospital room in which I was the only occupant although the room allowed for four–had left my memory in leaps and bounds like a herd of gazelle escaping some hunter.  And just like a herd of gazelle, the weakest one lagged behind and was seized upon by my predatory brain, hungry for any meaning that might be gleaned.

The remaining dream memory remained, shrouded in a gossamer, hazy cloud.  I saw two figures, who might or might not have been Sylvia Stateson and Sylvia Dalsgaard, and they were performing an operation on me.  They whispered to each other, and they whispered to me, for they had not completely sedated me for the surgery.  I looked down at my supine dream body.  My abdominal cavity was open, and instead of organs or blood, I had what appeared to be wooden blocks, the kind a child might play with.  The lights in the dream suddenly went out, but it was like a movie, in which I could still see Sylvia Stateson’s and Sylvia Dalsgaard’s panicking faces.  Suddenly, Captain Derek Martel appeared and turned the lights back on.  He smiled and asked what he would receive for saving them.  They whispered to him, and he grinned.

As I lay in my hospital bed, I thought of this dream often.  I was attracted to it for several reasons, I supposed: it was very bizarre; I was intrigued about what all parties could be whispering; I wondered why this particular dream was the only one I could remember–it hadn’t been the last dream, nor had it been the most vivid, but it had been the one my mind had been able to capture, and, consequently, I pondered it.

After I had named the evil doctor, I realized I had given her the same first name as a peripheral character I had mentioned much earlier in the book (the aeronautics lady).  I decided to give this slip up a little thematic relevance in this totally space-filler section that serves no other purpose than to fill space and be ominous.

Best:

Ugh.  Nothing was the best this week.  I guess I’ll go with this:  In this section, Lt. Aldridge recounts the opening session of the Mission Review Board.  Stoljarov = head of board; Dalsgaard = evil-ish doctor; Charbonneau = evil-ish string-pulling vice admiral; Martel = captain of Persuasion

“I know that you all are compelled by duty, your oath, and the law to be here, but I’d like to thank you for showing up bright and early this morning all the same.”  I supposed that was supposed to have been a joke, but it came out a little too tentative and a little too rough, and no one laughed.  I smiled at her and made sure to hold it until she saw me.  She looked as though she needed encouragement.  If I could’ve given her a stiff drink I would have.

And then I realized I was sitting there with my career on the line feeling sorry for the woman who was basically prosecuting me.  I got kind of mad at myself for a minute, but then I thought, why the hell shouldn’t I be encouraging her?  She certainly didn’t ask for this job, and she had xylenium poisoning a few days ago.  On top of that, she was probably still used to the way things worked on the moon, which was a lot different from Earth, and several million billion lightyears different from Mars.  Anyway, I refocused on what she was saying.

“I’ve assembled these fine people to comprise the board because I believe their respective intelligence, neutrality, judgement, and keen sense of right and wrong will lead them to fair and accurate rulings on the matters at hand.”  She had hit her stride now, talking in big, weighty words and keeping her eyes squarely on the clock at the back of the room or above my head or in the middle aisle and certainly not on Charbonneau or Dalsgaard.

“Beginning in two hours, we will call you in individually to give your testimonies.  A tentative list of who will give testimony at what times will be posted on the data stream and outside the door although all of that is subject to change.  We will attempt to update it as frequently as possible.

“We ask that you answer the board’s questions with complete honesty and completely factual information.  We are not interested, by and large, with emotions or suppositions, so please stick with things you observed.”

She took a breath and looked around the room and settled her eyes back on the clock.

“We project that this board will last seven to ten business days, during which time we ask that you adhere to the same confidentiality rules that you did during your administrative leave.  Additionally, we ask that you be especially vigilant regarding your transmissions.  If we want to contact you, it will probably be fairly important.”  She tried a trepidatious smile at this one, but still no one was ready to laugh at her jokes, such as they were.  She paused and looked imploringly at her audience.

“Are there any questions?”  I could feel Martel’s hand rising beside me.  I gritted my teeth and wondered what she could ask.  Stoljarov locked her eyes on Martel, and she cleared her throat before she said, “Yes.  Captain Martel.”  Martel recrossed her legs and said in a light tone,

“Might you need to recall any of us?”  Stoljarov nodded blankly.

“Thank you for reminding me, Captain.  Yes.  We might require anyone’s presence more than once due to the nature of eyewitness testimony, etc.  This, of course, makes it even more important to keep a watchful eye on your data streams.”

Stoljarov then locked eyes with someone else, someone in the back.  I didn’t turn to see who it was.  I waited for what seemed like a long time until Stoljarov said, “Yes.  Admiral Charbonneau.”

“Would you like to tell them about consequences, or would you like me to do it?”  Everyone sat completely still.  It was so quiet with just breathing and the quick whir of Martel’s cybernetic eye.

“Thank you, Admiral,” Stoljarov said with a ragged voice.  “I will do it.”  She took a long glance at the room, seeming to want to encourage all of us with individual eye contact.  She took a quick drink of water and folded her hands in front of her.

“At this time, the Mission Review Board exists to investigate the events that comprise the entirety of the failed Mission 4640-Alpha.  Depending upon the board’s analyses of the situations therein, a subsequent board may be necessary to dole out appropriate consequences and/or punishments for those involved.”  She had said it all rather slowly although her breathing had been rapid.  Her eyes darted to the back of the room.  She began to call on someone, “Yes, Doctor–” but she was cut off by Dalsgaard’s voice, which sounded high and strained to my ears.

“And do you anticipate many court martials?”  The room began to murmur, and Stoljarov spoke firmly.

“The board has not currently heard any testimonies; therefore, I cannot answer that question with any level of certainty whatsoever.  And as I’ve already mentioned, this board is not interested in suppositions.”  Stoljarov’s eyes had narrowed, and she had looked rather fierce and admiral-ish, instead of librarian-ish like usual, and I wanted to cheer for her fortitude.  She waited a beat for any follow up and then looked around again before she spoke.  “Thank you again for your time, and thank you in advance for your cooperation.  We will begin at ten AM.  Please check the schedule posted in the data stream and outside this room.  You are all dismissed.”

We see that Stoljarov does not have a good poker face and that Aldridge is compassionate.  The suspense builds a little with everybody in the same room together, and we know there’s some antagonism within the ranks.  Bum bum bum.  Kind of.

So there’s that.  Pretty sucky right now.

***

Current Wordcount: 35,855

Best and Worst of the Third Week: In Which I Fall Really Behind on Word Count, But at Least the Thing Has a Title Now

22 Nov

The other night, I stopped writing in the middle of a sentence.

To my credit, it was a really long sentence, and I was partway through a second beer, and I’m a real lightweight when it comes to alcohol.  I did not have the stamina to be Ernest Hemingway.  And good thing, too, because the character I was writing is the one who uses super long everything, and we all know how Ernest Hemingway feels about that sort of thing.

Anyway, there were a few surprising and delightful developments this week: more of a plot is happening–although currently, because I’m so behind and because I’m so lame, the plot stuff that’s happening is kind of lame; I finally wrote a Henley chapter that I don’t hate/think is garbage; the thing has a name now.

Slowly Tip the Scales of Space Justice.

I wanted it to be super cheesy and pulpy.  If I were any good at art stuff, I would make a bookcover for it that would be super cheesy and pulpy with buxom ladies and rayguns and lots of garish colors.  But I’m not, so I won’t.  Sigh.

And now for the best and worst.

Worst:

Henley (the former chief engineer) is our narrator in this section, and he’s sitting in the parking lot outside where they’re housing the now-home Persuasion.  He reminisces.  Remember, Jeffs = dead XO

Then I thought maybe I was waiting around so I could get a glimpse of Jeffs’s body.  Sometimes I got the feeling he wasn’t really dead.  I had never seen his dead body.  And while we were planetside, sometimes Farren, and the rest of us, too, would talk about him.

About a week into our stay on Mars, Farren had been preparing another trading run to the Martian village.  He had looked at me very seriously and said,

“Jeffs should really sign off on this first.”  I had looked at him and had wondered if he’d accidentally said the wrong name.  But then again, I had thought, what name could he have meant?  He had been acting captain, after all.

“Sir?” I had said, a little alarmed.  He had continued to look at me very seriously for a few seconds, and then he had laughed and had said,

“I’m shitting you, Number 1.  Let’s make this happen.”  And then we had gone out to the Martian village.  But the whole time, he had talked to the Martians about how he should consult with Jeffs about this or that thing and how Jeffs would like this or that item.  I hadn’t known what game he had been playing, and it had made me very uncomfortable, as if I had not been in on some joke that he had thought was very, very funny.  This Jeffs talk hadn’t ended after that particular trade run, either.  He had continued for about two weeks and then had abruptly stopped just as abruptly as he had begun.  I couldn’t figure it out then, and I couldn’t figure it out now.

I had a hard time picking the worst writing this week because a lot of it is pretty lame.  I finally chose this because I’m doing a really bad job of conveying any sense of mystery or urgency or anything intriguing at all about what had happened on Mars to elicit a mission review board.  This is a pretty lame attempt to cast Farren as kind of crazy and Henley as complicit in craziness.

Best:

In this section, Lieutenant Aldridge laments getting a bunch of phone calls early in the morning.  (Bryson Vega = her sometime boyfriend, who works for Charbonneau, the big-shot admiral; the previous early morning calls were from Admiral Stoljarov telling her she was on administrative leave pending investigation and Captain Martel requesting a secret meeting at a shopping mall)

I was beginning to think there was some conspiracy against me.  Not the administrative leave pending investigation thing.  That was to be expected when a gal was on Mars three weeks longer than she was supposed to have been and had killed more Martians than she was supposed to have killed and had made fewer xylenium mine deals than she was supposed to have made and had been a higher position than she was supposed to have been under a woman hardly anybody in the Space Service trusted.

This conspiracy was far more dastardly.  They were conspiring against me to always call me at the exact moment in the morning when I would look my absolute worst.

This time, I had fallen asleep on the couch clutching a half-empty bottle of Martian wine and that novel I had started.  I still hadn’t finished it and had no real desire to do so.  It was, last night, my cover story if anybody asked why I looked like something the cat dragged in.  In reality, the wine had had much more to do with my current state of unsavoriness.

And how unsavory it was.

But, it was seven AM, and, of course, someone wanted to rouse me from my disheveled slumber to talk at me on my data stream.  I didn’t even bother with any beautifying.  I just got up and tried to moisten my mouth so that I might be able to croak something out.  I didn’t turn on the communication screen.

“Hello,” I said, and to my chagrin, I sounded even lower and gruffer than I had thought I would.  It wasn’t even like Martel this time.  It was more Kinjo-ish.  I had to cut it out with the wine!

“Lorraine!” a male voice said.  My sleepy, maybe slightly hungover brain tried to figure out what man it was.  Who called me by my first name?  My dad?

“Dad?”

“No!  It’s Bryson!”  Oh, him.  Of course.  Only Space Service was in on this conspiracy.  Not every person I knew.

“Yes?” I said.  I had still only said three words, so the voice was still rocky.  It was more Martel-ish now, which was a slight improvement; at least it was the appropriate gender.

“Can you– Well, maybe it’s better if you don’t turn on your communication screen.”

“Ok,” I said.  I had no intention of doing so, anyway.

“I’ve got to talk to you.”

“You are talking to me,” I said.  That was definitely Martel.  The voice and the words themselves.  I shuddered and cleared my throat.

“It’s important.  I’ve got to give you something.”  This was sounding bad, as if he might ask me to meet him in a shopping mall soon.

“Ok.  Where do you want to meet?”

“Um… Not at Headquarters.”

“Obviously,” I said.  I was waiting for him to outline all the other places we shouldn’t meet, like his place and my place and Martel’s houseboat and in Rear Admiral Stoljarov’s office and on Admiral Charbonneau’s lap.

“The coffee shop across from Atlanta Tent and Awning Office Suites in half an hour.”

“How about an hour?”  There was a pause.

“Ok,” he said finally.

“See you then.  I’ll be the man smoking two cigarettes.”  He didn’t even laugh, and we hung up.

Lieutenant Aldridge is a gal who likes to do things right; she’s not used to being on the wrong end of anything, and she’s pretending to be okay with the circumstances she finds herself in, but, especially in this section, we can tell she’s using sarcasm to hide some pain.  I think this section is pretty fun and subtle.  Also, Gatsby reference.

***

Current Wordcount: 30,550

***

PS Happy Thanksgiving!

Best and Worst of the Second Week: In Which I Had Forgotten about the Dead Guy’s Body and Had to Shoehorn This Crucial Thing In

15 Nov

I interrupt this Best and Worst of the Week to tell you about the brunch my dad and I had this morning.

Because it’s the actual best part of the second week.

This is how he opens conversation with me today:

Dad:  What do you think about your dad having a girlfriend?
Me:  I think my dad’s a grown man and can do what he wants.

So then he tells me about the woman whom he calls Double D–which kinda grosses me out/offends me, but I don’t say anything–and then we finally get to talking about stuff that isn’t as awkward.

I told him about National Novel Writing Month.  I started by telling him about my spite novel, and he loved that I had decided to write a novel for spite, and then he got on a tangent about how to train horses.

And then we got back on topic when I told him I knew all that stuff already (half a lie) and that the horses were already domesticated (didn’t go into the details they were Martian horses commandeered by the crew in a pinch).

And then I was telling him about the main-ish character, Captain Vera Martel, the roguish lady starship captain whom the Space Service distrusts and gives shitty old vessels and stupid assignments to.  He saw in her a kindred spirit and asked if she was red-headed.  I told him no, unfortunately, and did not go into detail about how I could not make her too much like Captain Janeway, for I knew he would not understand, alas.

So then I told him about the character I based on him and read him part of a chapter, and he laughed SO MUCH.

So that was the REAL best part of the second week.

As for the writing, here’s the best and worst parts and why, as per usual:

Worst:

In this section, The Persuasion’s doctor appears unexpectedly in the prim rear admiral’s office, requesting that she be interviewed for the investigation.  Note: Commander Jeffs = the XO who died mysteriously at the beginning of the mission

“Forgive me, Admiral Stoljarov, but I assumed my testimony would be needed.  I did perform Commander Jeffs’s autopsy, after all.”  I looked at her face, which to my untrained eye appeared to show a cross of earnestness and cockiness, and I fought down the rising bile in my throat, which was spurring me on to say spiteful things.  I hadn’t much medical experience, but I did know a “hack job” when I saw one, and her report was both short and uninformative.  I assumed this was because she had not performed a full autopsy and planned to supplement the report later.  They had not given Jeffs a space funeral.  For all I knew, his body was still on board The Persuasion; the thought of which painted a grotesque and almost phantasmagorical picture in my brain of rotting cadavers amid broken glass, perhaps haunting the unwitting crew.  I shivered anew.

“Yes, of course,” I said as I put on a smile.  I felt unease creeping into my veins, and it was not all because I had allowed my thoughts to drift to Jeffs’s unaccounted for corpse.  As I looked into this woman’s clear green eyes, the goldenish depths of which seemingly twitching in something akin to anticipation or perhaps challenge, I hadn’t the slightest idea why she put me off.  She was attractive and pleasant in her manner, but something about her–something I could neither see nor smell but merely keenly feel–alerted me to a strange sense of danger.  Her request was neither illogical nor outside the realm of protocol, but I simply didn’t like it.  Surely it had been an oversight not to include this integral player in the investigations–that much I could concede; however, I had not been in charge of making the lists, and I had no real power over the final list, and I suddenly did not want this woman in my space any longer.

“Have you brought your concerns to Admiral Charbonneau?” I said.  I was trying very diligently to keep the ice out of my voice, but it was a futile endeavor because of my growing anxiety at this woman’s presence.  She seemed to suspect something of my emotional state and smiled what–to most–was probably a dazzling and disarming smile–although to me it was certainly disarming but not in the positive and charming and reassuring way she had undoubtedly intended it.

“I talked to him.  He told me to come see you.”  I could not shake the feeling she was lying, and I wanted her out of my office.

“Well, let me put you on my list, and I will contact you forthwith.”

“Maybe you could put me in touch with your investigator?” she said in a lovely–but to my ears intensely grating–mezzo soprano.

“Yes.  I’ll give you his transmission number,” and I did so with much haste and sent her on her way.  Perhaps Commander Kinjo was not a man I would have ever imagined myself having a close connection with–let alone a kinship or friendship of any kind–but I did find him a useful ally, or perhaps tool, on this occasion, for I supposed he would be able to make heads or tails of this woman, and hopefully I would not have to deal with her again.  I did not know what it was about her, but I felt she was–for lack of a better term–bad news.

This is not the worst because I hate it.  I don’t.  It actually cracks me up, honestly.  I absolutely love writing the Admiral Stoljarov character, and I love making her emote ridiculously.  What makes this the worst is that I decided I wanted another bad guy, and I threw this doctor in.  Right now, there’s no reason for us to mistrust her at all.  Also, I had neglected to do anything with Jeffs’s body.  He’s been dead for a month and some change by this point, and his body, so far in the story, has been MIA.  I introduced some thoughts about it here and had a lot of fun making Stoljarov a Gothic heroine in the process, but it’s still ludicrous for a civilized, bureaucratic, futuristic society to not have done anything with this dude’s dead body yet.  Bad planning, Al!

Best:

So, we know this thing has four narrators; it will also eventually have three parts and a prologue and an epilogue.  All of these will have inanely gigantic titles and will be followed by a song or a piece of poetry or what-have-you that adds to the setting and the mood and the theme of the section.  Here’s the opening of part two.

Part II: The Return of the Downed Consolidated Terran Space Service Vessel CTS Persuasion and the Postliminary Investigation Thereof in Accordance with the Ongoing Investigation into Mission 4640-Alpha of the Aforementioned Vessel

“This Vermillion Orb”
A poem by Major Chester Kinlan of the Confederate Terran Republic, c. 2108, published posthumously upon his courageous death during The Battle of Tithonius Lacus, the final battle of The Great Civil War

Oh grass, thou art red
with blood and dust and tears of the
dead.

Oh wind, thou art dry
without rain, without mist, without tears of the
dead.

And I hear–oh do I listen for–thy
voice, my dear
est one.

Thou art fighting and blind
I am fighting and blind
They are fighting and blind
We are fighting and blind

This world is not our own, yet we possess it.
Thy hair is not mine own, yet I caress it.
And I’d rather caress thy sweet hair than possess this
vermillion orb

that has so long possessed my dreams–
waking and sleeping dreams.
When I open or close mine eyes,
thy red dust I see,
thy red dust I feel,
thy scarlet lands I steal
away from.

And now, mine enemy, my friend,
we come to cross at The Rift–
thy flag held high and my flag held high.
We see each other’s faces clearly, though the dust be thick
and red.

And though we be separated
on this vermillion orb
by this vermillion orb
for this vermillion orb
our hearts are one,
and they beat on until
they beat no more.

Deliciously maudlin!  Isn’t this the best war poem you’ve read in the last 30 seconds or so?

***

Current Wordcount:  22,464

Best and Worst of the First Week

8 Nov

So, it’s going ok for me as a novel writer.  My second shift job and I have kind of a system worked out in which I get up late, write for an hour or two, do some eating and showering, go get a pop, outline/write in my car for fifteen minutes before work, work, come home, write for another hour or so, go to bed.

So that’s been serving me pretty well.  Except the last couple nights I haven’t made my word count.   But that’s ok because I’ll catch up on Friday or Saturday, and also, whatever close enough.

Plot-wise, it’s coming along as well as anything I write does.  I’m the kind of girl who really digs structure and outlines and academic papers.  I’m not so great at fiction because I’m too lazy to actually do all the outlining that would really suit me.  I usually just like an idea a lot and start writing it and like the taste of it under my finger tips and start really caring about the characters and end up with basically nothing for a plot.  Blech.  Plotless sucks, but it’s where I’m at, most of the time.

So here I am now.  I’ve got a couple characters who are trying really hard to move the plot along, but then they end up being lame.  And I’ve got the characters I like who would rather just talk and interact with each other.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Best and Worst of My First Week of National Novel Writing Month.

Worst:

Our narrator in this section, Chief Engineer Henley, has just gotten a call from the Admiral telling him he’ll be put on administrative leave pending investigation.  His wife (the “she” in the first few lines) is talking to him about it.

“Administrative leave pending investigation,” I said finally.

“Paid?” she said.  She stepped a little closer.

“Yes.”  She stepped a little closer still.

“You know,” she said.  “Even if you get fired, you’re better off than a lot of those people.  You know how to make an engine run!  You can get scores of jobs.  What does Martel know how to do?  Fix her hair so it doesn’t touch her collar and bark out orders?”  I laughed, maybe a little more bitterly than I’d wanted.

“I’m going out,” I said.

“Ok.  Be back for lunch?”

“No,” I said.  “And don’t count on me for dinner, either.”

I decided it was time for a walk.  I’d better tell the truth this time.  Nobody would lie for me in a Mission Review Board; it’s too close to a Court Martial for any fraternity.

Maybe the review board would see that my actions had been justified.

This is the worst because 1. It’s boring. 2. Henley is my least fleshed-out character.  I have no idea about who he even is half the time.  3. I’m trying too hard to create suspense with the last line.  I don’t even know what his actions were.  Cheapest.

Best:

Our narrator in this section, Lead Investigator Kinjo, has just been rousted out of bed and taken to a diner by Vice Admiral Charbonneau–the (spoiler alert) guy who is pulling all the strings and is kinda shady.  They discuss what Charbonneau wants Kinjo to do.  Notes: Tripod = Kinjo’s three-legged Martian dog; Stoljarov = prim rear admiral leading review board; Dr. Earth = Martian Alcoholic Beverage

After coffee, the hangover that was producing the sloshing started to subside, and the sloshing instead became a faint rolling sensation.

“Well, get on with it, Charbonneau,” I said.  He looked at me for a moment, sipped his coffee.

“You’re a drunk and a louse, but you’re nevertheless the best,” he said.

“What’s the job?”

“Hear anything about The Persuasion?” he said.

“I try not to keep up with Space Service news.”

“Me neither,” our waitress said as she brought us our steak and eggs.  She winked at me and left.  He narrowed his beady little eyes.  It was hard to tell when they were narrowing both because of the beadiness of them and the fatness of his face.

“But have you heard anything about The Persuasion?” he said, more forcefully this time.

“Good name for a ship captained by Martel.  Lady could persuade a steer to give milk.”  I took a bite.  My eggs were undercooked.

“Yes,” he said.  “She just got back from Mars–”

“And boy are her arms tired?” I said.  He always interrupted me; I felt it my duty to do the same.

“Yes,” he said.  “Jeffs is dead.”  I put down my fork.

“She killed him?” Jeffs and I had worked together right before I had retired.  He had been a lieutenant then, angling to get promoted, angling for a spot on Martel’s crew.

“I didn’t say that,” he said.  “I need you to find out what happened.”  He put another creamer in his coffee and looked at me.

“There’s more,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.  I scooted my plate to the side.

“I’ll take the job.  Tell me what you want me to do.”

“The Persuasion left a month ago to secure an agreement with the governor of Rho-Beta to sell Consolidated Terran his portion of a xylenium mine.  Jeffs died… in an ‘engine accident’ shortly after they disembarked.  Martel appointed a lieutenant from security as her XO.  The engines failed.  She used the Red Line to land.”  He paused and let me absorb that.  Complete engine failure, unfortunately, was not that uncommon on ships as old as The Persuasion.  However, an investigation always followed use of the Red Line.  He continued, “Martel left most of the crew with the ship and took five crewmen with her in a Rover to complete the mission.”

“Sounds like standard Martel to me,” I said.  Stuff that wasn’t exactly right but wasn’t exactly wrong always sounded like Martel.

“The mission was not completed.  There may have been fraternization with Martians.  There may have been undue force used with Martians.”  Undue force I could understand, but fraternization with Martians did not sound like Martel.  She was an old Confederate; she’d have to be getting something pretty good out of the deal to let a Martian look at her, let alone touch her.

“And what do you want me to do?  Reinterview?  Go to Mars?” I said.  He set his jaw.

“I don’t have the funds to send you to Mars, and even if I did, what Martian is going to want to talk to the likes of you?”  I laughed.

“You bring up a good point, Admiral.  And that is the subject of funds.  What kind of funds do you have to pay me with?  Tripod can’t live on scraps alone.”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist, Kinjo.  I’ve got enough funds for that.”  He looked at his watch.  “I have to go get ready for the ball tonight.  You coming?”  I laughed.

“Why?  You need a date?” I said.

“No, but Stoljarov might.”  He laughed.

“Don’t tempt me.  I’ve done worse than Stoljarov.”

“See you tonight, then?” he said.

“I have an appointment with Dr. Earth,” I said.

“And Dr. Earth doesn’t like to be kept waiting.  Just don’t drink too much of him; you’ve got a job to do in the morning.”

 This is one of my better sections because it gives us exposition and builds suspense organically and also gives us information about characters organically.  Also, Kinjo is based on my dad, who is the best.

***

Current Wordcount: 11556

Best and Worst of the First Two Days

2 Nov

The following passage comes from chapter three of my National Novel Writing Month novel, which is as yet unnamed.  The chapter introduces Rear Admiral Esperanza Stoljarov’s (not enough people voted, so I had to make an executive decision) viewpoint.  Here, she has just recounted how she was asked to head up the Mission Review Board and is contemplating seeing the people to whom she will soon become a pariah when she tells them they’re on administrative leave pending an investigation and review board.

Seeing the people in the reports in person–in arms’ reach, in pristine clothing, in smiles–tonight made me palpitate to the very core of my being.  Protocol dictated that I stay away, and the waiting for the official interviews only caused the pulsating in my blood to pulsate more wildly, rapidly seizing my heart in anticipating wonder that was, in some part, dread.  Duty, thou cruel and kind mistress!

So, dear readers, this is both the best and the worst of the first two days.  It’s rather artfully trashy and stupid, wouldn’t you say?  Rather like a Victorian romance novel?  I knew this character would be my favorite to write!  Also, this personifying duty as a mistress thing pops up several times in this chapter, and it is this overwrought every. single. time. Lol!

 

Current Wordcount:  3564

T-Minus 29 Minutes

31 Oct

Ima try this National Novel Writing Month thing again.

I’ve got a better plan this year:  This summer, a dude I went to college with self-published a vampires-in-the-Old-West novel, and because I thought he was super lame in college and that his writing is boring, I started writing an Old-West-inspired sci-fi novel out of pure spite.  Well, I started reading his novel, and I decided it wasn’t that bad, and then as I was writing my own spite-novel, I realized I really liked it.

Well, I haven’t finished reading that vampire book, and I haven’t finished writing that sci-fi book.  But now November is nigh upon us, and I wanted to join NaNoWriMo, and you can’t use previously written material.

So I decided to write a sequel to my unfinished novel because I’m lame.  And maybe kind of a d-bag.

Here’s the gist of the unfinished one:  The Consolidated Terran Space Service sends the USS Persuasion to Mars to make a deal with a group of Martians to use their xylenium (a made-up fuel) mine.  But on the way, the Persuasion encounters a million and a half problems and must send a small team to secure the deal.  A million and a half more problems assail the six-person crew, and a million and a half Old West style things happen to them, including gunfights at high noon.  Along the way:  Murder and conspiracy.

The sequel goes as follows:  When the Persuasion crew returns, they give conflicting accounts during their debriefing, which leads the head honchos to suspect shady stuff occurred, especially since they already only half trust the kind of roguish Captain Vera Martel.  A vice admiral who may or may not have an agenda of his own orders a Mission Review Board to investigate.  We learn of the details of the investigation through four narrators:  Lieutenant Lorraine Aldridge, First Officer; Chief Warrant Officer Clayton Henley, Chief Engineer; Unnamed Alcoholic Retired Commander, Lead Investigator; and Unnamed Prim Rear Admiral, chief Review Board member.

So, even though I sometimes rail against multiple narrators, I’m going to rely heavily on this device to create suspense, extend my word count, and keep myself from getting bored because each character will narrate in a different style.

The first officer will be very similar to my own voice.  She’s the narrator of the unfinished prequel novel.

The chief engineer will be intellectual but clipped and technical.  For now, he’s my secondary antagonist–behind the admiral who is pulling the strings.

The lead investigator will be a hard-boiled ’40s-ish detective.  Very Sam Spade. His sections will be so fun to write.

The prim rear admiral (who is not pulling the strings.  She is also a pawn.) will narrate in kind of a circumlocutory, purple way, à la Charlotte Brontë.

I’ve got the first couple chapters pretty well lined out, and if I play my cards right, I’ll be able to get on kind of a roll and do it.

So, I say all of this for a few reasons:

  1. I may or may not continue Monday Night Specials this month.  I mean, I’m 50% of the time late with them anyway, without any novel stuff happening.
  2. I may replace Monday Night Specials with a Best of/Worst of the week post, in which I share the best thing I’ve written in my novel and the stupidest thing I’ve written in my novel.
  3. Any help with naming is appreciated.
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