Writing Process: Editing “The Cx Trilogy”

Two more scenes have been aborted – still legal in the writing world – from my speculative novel, Anori. My aim for both scenes was to give context, both historical and geographical, for the narrative, but seemed redundant in the end.

Scene One: Dee looked out at the Temple of Poseidon across the bay and thought about how it had been built, the exhaustive excavation of the site, mining the stone and carving of so many columns, dragging them through the brush, and imagined all the people who died to build it.

All of that labor and pain for that, something that was supposed to be permanent. That was the idea, that they just had to level out the ground and pile up stones to prove that their existence mattered. It was odd how important all of this once had been, this civilization with its government, rights and citizenship. And now all of that was gone, the temple now a tourist attraction atop a barren, thorny place.

Scene Two: The ship carried on to Karachi and then Sri Lanka, Dee cataloguing everything all of the shrews, jerboas, sun bears and dholes. The deliveries were at night, trucks waiting, the tailgates toward the edge of the docks, militiamen always there, black SUVs, cranes towering above in a metallic sky.

It was a routine, sleeping much of the day, watching the shore. The Repaks were the hardest, at the end of each month-long segment. What should have been satisfying, an accomplishment, was wrong, the animals taken back to Greenland. The feeling wouldn’t leave her, nor in Aden or Marka, not anywhere on her seven months at sea.

Getting the Details Right in “Anori”: Writing Process

I have been struggling with the shade of blue for the Infinity Corporation logo for years now. There are many shades of blue: baby, sky, cobalt. And then I realized that the right shade of blue would have to be the darkest one of all, hedging toward black, the color of the deep ocean, the only color that might appear in the void of space. And that is Midnight Blue.

Also of note in today’s writing was the naming of the Lunar colony (New Phoenix), the ship (Umiariak) and their news channel (Mina).

Writing Process: Day and Night

The difference between the morning and evening edit is day and night. I am methodical in the morning, sorting through scenes like cupboards and drawers, matching the colors, straightening everything out.

My brain is loose in the evening, searching for the magic and music more than anything else, adrift, catching at the flotsam.

It’s a balancing game, getting those two to work together, always interesting to see which gets the last word.

Anori Edit: Killing the Precious Ones

It took me ten weeks to process Tennessee’s notes, but at long last I have begun my eighth (ninth?) draft of Anori. Tennessee (my editor) made excellent suggestions related to killing characters – a terse goodbye to Valerie and Robi – as well as complete restructuring, which means sideways, headache-inducing thinking and no more scenes in Newfoundland like this precious little one:

Flagstones, newly dug, and boards bent into the red earth, led down a narrow path, following the base of a rocky ledge to a meadow. Fitz walked ahead, his windbreaker too small, pants heavy and large. The archeological site was deserted, a wheel barrow with shovels and picks lined up at its side, standing by a row of tents, the one at the far end with its front entrance unzipped and flapping in the wind.

“A bit of sloppiness that.” Fitz bent down to the tent, head-first into a man, middle-aged, as he backed out. “Watch your—Unh!”

“That’s the irony,” Eileen whispered behind Dee.

“You all right there?” The man zipped the tent shut before standing up.

“Looking about for Tommy Baines.”

The man adjusted his glasses. “He must have gone with the others, an hour or so ago.”

“Off to the pub, that it?”

“Don’t know about that.”

“We’ll just show the girl around before he makes his way back.”

“You’ll need Tommy to take you through for that.”

“We’ve been around the heath, seen the pit, the chunks of slag,” Fitz replied. “We know where not to put our feet.”

“That a leopard you got there?”

“He’s a serval. His name’s Apollo.” Dee smiled at him. “He won’t bite.”

“Aim to keep my hands intact, thanks.” He gave them a wide berth as he headed up the path. “Evening to you.”

“That’s his spot.” Eileen pointed out the yellow and blue flagging tape in the distance. “They’re saying it was an iron ore camp, set up to make their nails for the ships.”

A lot of theories about the Vikings could be gutted with a place like this,” Fitz added. “They’ll be looking up and down the coast and across to Nova Scotia next. See what they can find.”

Dee watched the wind churn the distant water into a wash of whitecaps, each chasing after the thick grey clouds low in the early evening sky.

The Sentience of Po

The final book of The Cx Trilogy is centered on Po, a being-non-being borne of a catastrophic deceleration from close-to-light speed to gain orbit. Po has human sensibilities of the temporal – desperation, uncertainty – yet remains indifferent, aware of the immensity of the whole.

Po’s story – and of the humans on the planet Mina with it – is diametrically opposed to the space operas centered on the ceremony of civilization. It is instead of irrelevance, accepting and dissolving into that, an antithesis to humanity and its childish aspirations

Anori: Receiving Editor Notes

It took me two weeks to open my editor’s email. Even then, I was only able to scan them and fixated on one line: This is the point where my growing frustrations would cause me to close the book and not pick it up again. WTF?!?

The opening remarks were positive: I really love this book. So much of the writing is fantastic—clear, evocative, and crystalline. Dee is such a great character! And then…a descent into what he really wanted to say: The tone of the novel, as I’ve mentioned, is at times difficult to discern, at times seeming like realism, other times satire, and others as purposefully surreal.

I still haven’t been able to read all of the notes. It’s like a mild form of PTSD. I mean, I understand the essential problem is the narrative bouncing back and forth between Greenland and New York. What I wanted to do was to emphasize Dee’s indecision, but the audience won’t have it because she needs her motherfucking arc/ark.

I am getting to a point where I can call my editor and talk about it. I’m almost ready. Soon.

My Screaming Pitch – Cx! Cx!

I do my research and read the tweets and bios of the agents who specifically request speculative fiction. And I make my pitch. “No” is all I hear.

The biggest clunker came from an agent asking exactly for what I am writing – a generational ship off to a distant planet – and I got this form-letter response.

My Cx Trilogy pitch must be more of a scream. They need to know that the book is the future of the speculative genre. It is real. It is direct and clear. It has the voice of terror as we go straight off the cliff. In other words, it’s now or never. Now. Or never.

One step at a time. I’m getting there.

One Down (Anori), Another To Go (Fuck Pedagogy)

I just completed a more-or-less final draft of Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy about leaving earth on a generational space ship to another galaxy. There might have been a brief moment of satisfaction – more of relief – but it was emptiness that reigned.

The final line of the book reads: Dee felt almost calm as she looked ahead for the ship, realizing she had no idea what it would be like, how anything would be at all.

Next up is the first draft of my teaching memoir, Fuck Pedagogy, which should be much easier to write. After all this is not an imagined world but a place that I know all too well. The opening lines of this book now read:

“Why do you want to teach?” Phil was my supervisor in teacher’s college, a big friendly guy with a thick beard and glasses. “I want you to draw what that looks like.”

Posterboards were distributed. I drew a prison.

“Hmm.” Phil hovered over my shoulder for a moment. “Why the barbed wire?”

“I didn’t like school.”

“Interesting.” He stayed another moment, nodding to himself, and then carried on to chat with others.

Writing Sex

The feeling came into Dee, a distant tremor, hardly there, and then deep and she held it long, making it straight, more fully inside, her truth in this raw pleasure. She dug into the bull-man’s shoulders, pulled on his arms, incredibly, childishly on that.

She held on and then didn’t, succumbing, sliding off, her chin jutting into her chest, all of that streaming out of her, jerking her hips up, thinking if she stayed still, she might climb back into that perfectness again