Antarctica Under The Ice and Other Details for In The Flesh

Well I decided to put part of the action for In The Flesh in Antarctica but on the actual land mass not the ice cap.  To do this I had to do some research.  As I stated in an earlier blog I tend to write with several browser windows open:  Wikipedia, and Google Earth have been extremely useful to me.

The continent of Antarctica is very broken up and much of it is below sea level due to the immense weight of the ice cap that sits on top of it.  Much like the Great Lakes area of the North American continent I suspect when the ice melts it will rise as the Earth’s crust, currently held down by the weight an interior ice sheet that is approximately 2 vertical miles thick rebounds.  That ice sheet sets below sea level in many places.  The average thickness of ice if the total were spread over the entire continent is 1.6 kilometers or about a mile.  This has made writing both very difficult and given me a bit of freedom.  See when that land mass rebounds and rises we don’t precisely know what the surface will look like.  We, and by we I mean scientists, can make educated guesses but there will be a ton of things to take into account, like glacial till and the unevenness of the melt and rebound.

At first I was stumped because I wanted to stick as close to geology as possible.  Then I realized that with all of the variables I could in fact take some educated creative licence.  As with so many things I have tried to do well for this book, it has made demands of me that I never expected when embarking upon this literary adventure.  I find myself continually excited and pushing the boundaries of my own creativity.

I can only hope that those who read In The Flesh enjoy it because it has truly become a labor of love.  You, observant reader, may have also noticed a slight name change.  Since I am new to the arena of authorship I have been trying to find my comfort zone as far as writing styles, how to share tid-bits with interested readers and what author name I would like to use.  I have settled on the traditional way of naming myself with my initials and sir name.

The last and final detail and one I have not quite settled yet is the measurement system to use in my book.  Since it is science fiction in genre and spirit I am tempted to go with the metric system.  Because my main audience will be in the United States, at least at first, and because I live in the US, I am well versed in the US method of feet, yards, miles.   Because my first love is science fiction and I hold a degree in civil engineering I am easily able to switch to centimeters, meters, kilometers.  All I need to do is make a decision and be consistent.     Currently I have written it with the US system, but am leaning heavily towards the metric system.  If you have an opinion, now might be the time to comment.

Characters and Creatures

After several chapters that hit major plot points and set up important conversations and actions I have finally hit the chapter I thought I was ready to write before Christmas.  It’s funny how writing works like that sometimes.  I knew the overarching plot but how I was going to get there took more time and convolutions than I had originally imagined.  This is good for two reasons.  It makes the story richer and it gives me plenty of freedom to edit without worrying about cutting too much out of the story.

After spending so much time building the world and introducing the major players it is nice that the last few chapters have explored the characters more.  Writing dialogue is difficult and creating complex characters takes time and thought but I think it is as much fun as world building.

One struggle I’ve had is static description versus active description.  In one chapter I spent far too much time describing how a  creature looked that I gave a very good sense of in how the characters reacted to it later on.  I was able, thanks to one of my beta readers, to cut most of the static description out and just let the movements and actions give the reader a sense of what it is.  That is a lesson I hope I can keep with me as I continue to write.

It is my sincere hope to finish up the finale within the next week and start major editing.  If there are no more surprise plot twists that come to me as I’m writing, that should work out.

Writer’s Block Busted for In The Flesh

I’ve been struggling with the last section of In The Flesh.  I’ve tried many tried and true methods for overcoming writer’s block, from forcing myself to write to just taking a little breather from it.  I knew the plot points I wanted to hit still and I knew I could come up with some way to get to them but everything was falling flat.  Then it hit me.  The final piece of the puzzle fell into place and I know what I need to do.  I’m working on it right now and I’m very excited about how it will play out.  Hopefully this will be the last trouble spot and it will come together to a satisfying conclusion.

World Building and Strange Creatures for In The Flesh

I write science-fiction because I like to build worlds.  I write because I like to explore relationships.  One of the most fun things I get to do when writing is design new creatures to populate my world.  Sometimes the new creatures aren’t all that new.  Most times they’re not that different from what we expect to encounter if we go to certain places in our own world but once in a while a new one gets to be dreamed up.  Such is the case with one I just finished fleshing out for the latest chapter of In The Flesh.

It is difficult to describe in words what can be plainly seen in the mind’s eye.  It is very difficult to try to make something that is unknown currently, or is different or has some kind of twist to make it different from what we are accustomed to.  It’s very time consuming but also fun.

Strange creatures, just like new worlds have to be internally consistent otherwise they won’t work.  I’ve found that the better the planning, the more I’ve developed a creature just like the more I flesh out the underlying world the better I can write it and the more smoothly it fits into the story line.

Writing is a joy for those who write but good writing takes just as much thought and planning as actual writing.  Often times it takes more thought and planning than the actual writing.  That is part of my creative process, for what it’s worth.  It does slow the writing down and occasionally gets in the way of the pure creative process where I write as it comes to me but I find that I can write better in a more creative way and with much more freedom if I know what the bounds are that I must stay within to keep my world and the creatures and people who inhabit it consistent with the internal logic.  I’m sure this is not how every author works.  It is just how I work.

In The Flesh Update and Possible Second Book

I’ve been grinding through the last couple of chapters for In The Flesh because I’m trying to create a realistic landscape for the final major setting.  This has taken a lot more time and research than I anticipated.  I’m getting there with it though.  I’ve come to the conclusion that these are just going to be long books.  But I think they will be fun and have a lot of interesting scenes and action.

An exciting thing happened while I was trying to figure out how the landscape would look.  I realized there were some characters whom I found interesting but weren’t living up to their potential.  So I started kind of thinking about how to fix that in the background of my mind as I continued working on In The Flesh.  As I was contemplating their stories an idea for a second book came to me.  While I began In The Flesh fully intending it to be a single, self-contained narrative; I now have seeds for two more books in a series.  A prequel detailing the important history that led up to In The Flesh and a sequel where some characters who did not get enough love in In The Flesh get a chance to shine in an exciting adventure of a second book.  Also, and this is an exciting bit; I dreamed up an idea for a new ship for the third book.

Now this is all still in the very preliminary stages but it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to getting In The Flesh wrapped up and starting on the others.  Yes, this is how ideas work.  At least for me.  They come in clusters, like delicious grapes.  The real trick is to stick with one long enough to get it done.  That’s where the discipline comes in.

Free ebooks from NASA

I downloaded the Hubble Discoveries ebook free from NASA and I must say it is spectacular.  Hubble has been taking gorgeous pictures of our universe since 1990.  I also got the Webb Telescope ebook but there are several others that are worth a look.

NASA is one of the great treasures of our Nation.    The Space Program has given us technology and a sense of achievement above any other program we have spent any of our national treasure on.  The amount of money we spend on it is such a pittance compared to what we spend on weapons of war and destruction.  Sometimes I imagine how much more our space program could do if we had the courage and vision to fund it, really fund it.

If we, and I know this is just a pipe dream but imagine for one minute, if we funded NASA the way we fund the Department of Defense.  We might have already colonized Mars.  If we funded NASA the way we fund our military complex we might have already sent explorers out to the stars.  We might have already solved the issue of global warming or unlimited energy or both and more.

This is within our reach.  If we have the will and we express to our politicians that we want to work for peace and scientific discovery and exploration as much as, if not more than we work for war and the military industrial complex.  I’m just saying.

In The Flesh and Cover Art Update

I’ve seen some preliminary sketches for In The Flesh and let me tell you they look amazing.  I’m tempted to ask the artist if they can do a quick one of the steampunk style ship the Lorelei II that shows up in the latter part of the book.  I don’t want to overwhelm her though.  She’s just good at what she does though.

In truth I’ve been in a bit of a slump.  I’ve been worried about how long this book is going to go.  I thought I was only a few chapters from the end but the closer I get the more loose ends I have to tie up and it just makes me wonder if I’m going on too much.  Once I stop worrying about that I find writing it a joy and it just flows.  So I’m having a bit of a conundrum as to what to do.  Do I just write it and edit out any extra?  What if it is still too long?  Is an arbitrary word count something I should restrict myself too?

Giving it much thought and with ideas and words just about bursting out of me I have decided to write it and let it be how lengthy it will be.  My beta readers have not complained, except occasionally about a chapter not being finished quickly enough for them so I will trust their opinion on the content.

Stay tuned to see where we shall go.


Good Ideas vs. Killing Your Literary Darlings also Cover Art Update

Oy, a couple of days ago, ok like 4 days ago I had this great idea for a funny little bit of bonding for two of the main characters to do during a lull in the action.  Unfortunately it was out of character for one once I got it written.  You’d think I’d learn by now that if I’m struggling to write a chapter something is very flawed about it.  Well I pressed on and got feedback from two of my readers that it wasn’t quite right.   This I already knew I was just hoping the idea was good enough to make it fly.  Sadly no.  Even more sadly three attempts to re-write it later I had to remove the idea in its entirety.  It was good, it was funny, it could have worked–with other characters maybe, in another book maybe.

What it was not was right for these characters and this book.  The chapter in its current form is much stronger, fits the book much better and is good.  I’m going to send it off to my readers today and see what they think but I am confident they will agree.

Sometimes a good idea doesn’t advance the plot.   That’s ok if it is something interesting that develops characters, although arguably that would advance a sub plot important to the plot and is a good thing.  Sometimes an otherwise good idea just isn’t right for a particular character or book.  Then all you can do is accept that, set that idea on a back burner for maybe another book or character and write what is right for the book.

It was difficult and I’m still a little bit sad even though it was necessary and the work as a whole is better for it.  Or as they say (possibly William Faulkner coined the phrase) “sometimes in writing you have to kill your darlings.”  It’s as painful as it sounds.  It is also necessary sometimes.

Also I got a look at the first sketches for cover art and I have high hopes.

In The Flesh: Details and Delays

Alas, the publish date for In The Flesh has been pushed back.  I’ve run into several problems.  Firstly I’m having trouble writing the final few chapters.  I know the major plot points but the bridging is tasking me.  A lot of exciting character development is happening and it takes quite a bit of time and usually several passes through the chapter to get dialogue even close to right.  This slows me down considerably.  Then I need to research quite a bit to set the landscape properly.  I’m pretty sure the end result will be worth it but the delay is a bit disappointing and I have no one to blame but myself.

There is also the matter of cover art, which I don’t have yet but that’s minor.  It would set my mind at ease to have it but it’s not actually holding up the book at this time.  The artist I’ve selected is fantastic so I know the art will be totally worth the wait.

I’ve been using a word processing software called Scrivner by Literature and Latte and I have been pleased to discover new features as I write.  It’s fantastic software for fiction writers.  It’s quite cumbersome for non-fiction as formatting in that it can be a struggle if you want to mix unlikely formats.  For example I wanted to do a memoir with a cited research sort of scientific notation flavor since there were some facts I had sources for.  Also I wanted distinct sections of the book and that was a chore to figure out how to do.  I’m not entirely certain I’m completely happy with it yet but there is considerable flexibility in the software so I might yet figure out a way.   If you want to keep the same format throughout that’s fairly easy.  I’m going to play with it and see if I can get the headers to be different for each chapter but if not the book title is sufficient and traditional.

Otherwise everything is still moving forward and it is very exciting.  My hopes for In The Flesh are that it’s an easy read, meaning well written with likable characters, an enjoyable read, meaning lots of exciting adventure and plenty of forays into science details, and a classic style science fiction book.  If I succeed in those areas I will be satisfied and I hope readers will love it.