Writing Process: Lingering in the Moment

As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t engage well with fiction that verges on therapy, where the voice is exhaustingly self-centered. Even if the work conveys immediacy or suggests raw documentation, this too often comes across as tedious, much like the bastardized fictions that are sprouting on TikTok and Insta, the faux confessional of the “look-at-me” generation.

I’m much more intrigued in the crafting of narrative, where the story moves forward and characters express. “You must remember to paint the walls”, my workshop leader reminded me. “Linger in the moment. Allow your reader to look around.”

Ausable Canyon, New York

I was actually stunned by her comments. How wasn’t I doing that? As my work tends toward the cinematic – dialogue and visuals – I thought I was already doing this. However my perspective does tend to race from start to finish. Linger? No, I didn’t really do that. Explore the interiority of Dee Sinclair. That was the thing. Picture and paint, so that I can draw the reader in to believe in going to another planet.

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).

Big Ideas in Tiny Rooms

I like the bathroom for its clean lines and tight confines. I like closets and storerooms too. I think about staying in there for days and days, the rest of my life in this safe little place, the opposite of claustrophobia.

That’s where I leave the orphans from my book, alone in their room where they must stay:

They watched the ranger and two of the others amble toward the dead moose, the other one vanish from view, and then moments later, a pickup truck come careening through the grass.

“These boys are up to this tomfoolery? The ranger boy included.”

“I don’t like this, Tommy.”

“None of it is good, my love.” They moved quickly down the path, across the beach and were just getting to his camper truck when the pickup appeared behind them on the road.

“We’ll just keep walking, Deirdre. Same pace and that. We know nothing of them.”

“You’re the one who has to keep his cool, right?”

“As the Bay of Fundy.”

The truck pulled alongside them, the ranger in the passenger’s seat. “Glad to see he’s back on the leash.”

“Just like you said,” Tommy replied quickly.

“What the hell is that?” A high-pitched voice called from inside the truck. “A goddamn leopard?”

Dee walked just ahead of Tommy, her eyes on the ground; they were almost at the camper.

“Seriously.” The truck stopped and the man got out. He wore dark sunglasses and had close-cropped hair. “What is that?”

Dee looked at him briefly. “A serval.”

“A what? Never heard of that. What is he like? African? Looks a hell of a lot like a leopard. Or maybe a puma-like. Can I pet him?”

Dee pulled Apollo close to her legs as Tommy unlocked the back of the camper. “He doesn’t do well with strangers.”

“You come here from Newfoundland?” Another had got out and stood by the first. He was taller with a thick head of hair and beard. “Quite the place, I hear. Hell of a lot of moose up there, right?”

Tommy opened the door, and Apollo jumped inside.

“You two on a trip?” The first one moved closer, rifle in hand. “Driving up the coast?”

“What’s your hurry, huh?” The second man leaned toward Dee. “Have a beer with us before you head on.”

“We would like that,” she replied. “But we’re supposed to be somewhere.”

“My name’s Steve, all right?” He turned to the man beside him. “This is my buddy, Dale. And that’s Carter driving. You already met Alex. He’s the big ranger.”

“Nice to meet you fellas.” Tommy nodded back.

“You see our moose?” Dale waved to the back of the pickup where the hind legs and antlers were visible above the brim. “Nine hundred pounds easy.”

“Have a beer with us.” Steve turned back to Dee. “We’ll carve you up a steak.”

“We have to go.” Dee pursed her lips. “Like we said.”

“Who breaks camp at the end of the day?” He leaned on the camper. “We can chill and then you can split.”

Dee went down the side of the camper and climbed in the passenger seat.

“Hey, you can be polite, right?” Steve had followed her down; his face got hard, stupidly so. “Aren’t you Canadians supposed to be friendly?”

“I’m from Pittsburgh,” Dee replied.

“You all right?” Alex, the ranger, held onto the driver’s door of the camper as Tommy climbed in. “You seem upset about something.”

Tommy stopped, one leg in. “No.”

“We just have to get going,” Dee added.

“There’s nothing going on here,” Alex replied.

Tommy tried to close the door but Alex held on. “I’m not getting your meaning.”

Alex sighed. “Maybe I should impound the cat.”

“Why would you do that?” Dee demanded. “We’re leaving.”

Tommy started the engine.

“I’m sorry.” Alex leaned toward the keys in the ignition.

“Listen, b’y.” Tommy elbowed Alex’s hand off the door and put the truck into the gear, gunning it down the rutted road, his teeth clenched, getting the door closed as he glanced in the side mirrors. “Is he coming? You see anything?

Dee turned back, waiting to see a cloud of dust. “I can’t see anything.”

“Fucking hell.” Tommy laughed angrily. “Fucking hell, those boys. Up to no good, that’s what they were. No good.”

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

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.

Writing Process: Characters Need to be Disgusting

Readers are troubled by Dee Sinclair because she acts like doesn’t care about others. If she doesn’t care about people, why should we care about her? That’s the thing.

She needs to be more raw, more awful and wrong, more revolting and lost. It’s about that, her disgustingness. We will care about her because we’re all disgusting.

Research for Cx Trilogy: Dark Matter Propulsion

The power source for an intergenerational space is a matter of great conjecture because the technology does not exist as of yet.

The spaceship in The Cx Trilogy, Aqaara, is powered by Dante, an immense engine – the size of a concert hall – made up of a series of collider chambers which process dark matter during flight. The process is highly unstable and requires a reconfiguration every three days.

Research for The Cx Trilogy: Alloys and Polymers

Researching speculative fiction is a wide open thing, all about imagining a future far beyond the here and now. As remarkable as the SpaceX launches have been, they are well short of my vision in The Cx Trilogy of an intergenerational journey to a planet light years away.

Aqaara is constructed in outer space, specifically in the Lagrangian orbit between the moon and Earth, thus eliminating the problem of leaving the planet’s atmosphere. Aqaara is composed primarily of anorthite, a high-grade mineral found in abundance on the moon.

Anorthite is a rarity on Earth but found in abundance on the moon

An anorthite-obsidian alloy is used for the exterior of the craft while an anorthite-rubber polymer is the primary material for the ship’s interior. Is this believable? Yea or Nay? The power source is a much bigger challenge. To be shared soon.

Pandemic Accomplishments: Month Nine

Despite the recent excitement of vaccine and Trump’s repeated failures at the polls and courts, the pandemic drags on. I learned to appreciate the term “Toxic Positivity” over these past days. As Uncle Joe says, a dark winter awaits, meaning that I have learned to reflect more regularly on the utter of pointlessness of this existence and, ipso facto, survived multiple waves of depression and despair.

Mouse blends back into his environment at the Bronx Zoo.

On a more concrete note, I had my bank account cleaned out by a fraudulent check and await the fire marshal’s clearance to helped my wife salvage what we can be from her office which was destroyed by fire.

The remains of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village, New York.

On a more positive note, I have applied for jobs in all five New York City boroughs as well as Paris, Helsinki, Lisbon, Lucerne, Lugano, Rome, Newport, Atlanta, Havana, Cayman Islands and Kathmandu. I have also rewritten the first 110 pages of Anori, with some satisfaction.

Eternal me

On a more moronic note, I have achieved Level 2234 of Fishdom and came, oh so close, to getting the Ghost Robot Fish.