Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creativity and Fitness

This is a post I've been meaning to make for a while.

Three years ago, as I was about to thirty-four, I was in bad shape. I don't know what my weight was, exactly, but I'd say it was around 215 lbs. Maybe more. Add in a was working a job where I had regular access to donuts, and I was on a bad track. And here's the other thing: my writing was totally shot. I would, on a regular basis, not even have the drive to open the file of what I was "working" on, let alone actually write. For weeks at a time, I would write absolutely nothing.

Shortly after that, I got my act together. Tomorrow I turn thirty-seven, and I can honestly say I'm probably in the best shape of my life. I'm weighing 188, and far more of that is muscle than used to be. I eat far less red meat, far more vegetables and fiber, and very few refined sugars. Junk food is right out. I spent the spring break vacation hiking in Big Bend.

And in these three years, I finished Crown of Druthal, which was the thing I had been working on, in some way or another, for years. I wrote Thorn of Dentonhill and Holver Alley Crew, and outlined out further installments of both series. Maradaine Constabulary is a work in progress. Vanguard and USS Banshee both have strong outlines. I have a piece in an upcoming Norton Anthology. I've been invited to submit to another anthology. Things are moving forward in the business of my writing.

Are these two things connected? I think so. I feel better about myself, as well as having more energy and vitality, which all gets translated into creativity. Plus, once you start to change your life, it's easier to make all the rest of the dominoes fall.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A few things on my plate

I want to get the draft of Maradaine Constabulary done by May 15th.
I have a short story for an anthology I've been invited to contribute to due by June 1st.
I need to finish a short play for one of the children's classes my next week.
I need to finish the second draft of Holver Alley Crew sometime in the near future.
I want to do a final cleaning pass on the rough draft of the Triple Cross scripts and send it to first readers.

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

No wonder I'm tired.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

For a sci-fi writer, there is something excellent-- I'd almost say essential, but that wouldn't be right-- but definitely unforgettable, about going out to McDonald Observatory and getting to really see the full scope of the wonders of the universe. This trip, since it there was only a sliver of a crescent moon, I got to see the vast swath of Milky Way stars for the first time in my life. Plus I saw Saturn (and Titan!), Mars and the Orion Nebula in the telescopes. More fuel for my fertile imagination.

I also, on this trip, figured out the plot progression points on Maradaine Constabulary that weren't quite sitting right. Happy about that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Terminal Cases

My writing life needed a bit more organization-- or at least a sense of going through my notes, updating things and figuring out my focuses. Today on my "All Projects" file (where I list a quick blurb of projects and their current status), I took a handful of things that were under "Miscellaneous" and created a new section: "Terminal Cases"

The Terminal Cases are projects that aren't technically "dead", and thus go into the Graveyard... but it's more likely than not that I won't go back to them and finish them. But I did do some work on them, and there are some good ideas in there that it's worth not totally writing them off... yet.

  • The Lowered Bar: The idea behind this was to follow four mediocre students as they muddled through a mid-grade college, eventually to get degrees but not really getting educations. I never really came up with a full outline, just various scenes. It never really came together into a unified whole.
  • Long Night of the Pieman: This one was based on my experiences pizza delivery, boiled down to a driver's adventure in one night. Here I had a full outline, and wrote a fair amount. But as my days as a driver got further and further behind me, the less relevant the piece felt to me.
  • The Xanadu Job: This one was a sci-fi Ocean's Eleven, quite literally. The team was even eleven people, with roughly the same jobs in the movie, and the underlying plan was similar, with some sci-fi twists.
  • Arthur Wood's Metatextual Life: My concept here was Arthur was a young man, just moved to a new city, starting up a life there. But at the same time, Arthur is the main character of a TV show, with a rabid on-line fandom. So I had ideas for how these different facets affected each other. Like, from Arthur's point of view, he had a friend that he saw all the time, but doesn't see anymore; but from where it's a TV show, the actor playing that friend left and is now on another show. Stuff like that. I had an sketch of how Arthur's life would go over five years (in the form of a five-season episode guide), but there was something structural about the whole concept that eluded me. I never quite sussed it out. So here in Terminal Cases it'll sit.
  • Convergence of Angels on the I-35: This one is well over a decade old in the Terminal Cases pile, really. I had written many chapters longhand, long ago, and then typed it up on the computer. Due to various mishaps and errors in judgment, any electronic version is lost. I still have the longhand, but I have yet to type it up and do anything with it. And I may not, because it is very much a "young man's" book-- I'm no longer 23 years old, spending long nights in diners. But I do love the title.
  • Nightingale: This was my "flawed superheroine" project, about a wife & mother who survives when her family is killed, and gets her vengeance on. I had imagined it as a short TV series, or later as a web series.
  • Dr. Hiro Hirose vs. Professor Badass: This originated from that Internet Meme of Prof. Badass, which you've probably seen. I imagined him as the head of a whole evil team (which you can see the write-up here). Then I came up with matching heroes to oppose him, lead by Dr. Hiro Hirose. (Written up here.) The whole thing started as an exercise in googling interesting hero-like pictures, really. But when I tried to actually write, at least so far, I realized I had characters, but no story. Yet. Maybe it'll percolate back up later on. Heck, a year ago I considered "Triple Cross" to be in the Terminal Cases, but it sprang back up in my brain, and now I have a complete set of rough-draft scripts. So, you never know.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Now available on Amazon...

Hint Fiction Anthology, featuring yours truly, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The Amazon page doesn't show the cover yet, but I hear that it will in the near future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More on Interstellar Worldbuilding

I have talked about worldbuilding on an interstellar scale before, but I only spoke there about my influences. I have another, "thing I don't like" about a lot of space opera settings that I'm familiar with. Namely, the tendencies for them to have been built in a somewhat haphazard fashion.

Now in the case of, say, the Star Trek universe, part of that was the nature of writing for television, especially in the 60s (as well as the 80s)-- writers tended to make something up on the fly because it seemed like an interesting idea (or in the old show's case, because it fit the sets and costumes they already had on hand), and they weren't really thinking about building a larger universe. Fair enough. But it does bug me, and I know that I can't write that way. Even if it has nothing to do with the story at hand, I need to know what's over that next hill.

Part of it has to do with geopolitics, which becomes a very complicated thing when you are looking at a 3-D map (or rather, a 2-D representation of 3-D space).

In my Space Opera setting, humans haven't ventured further than 25 light-years from Earth. They've met nine other starfaring species, and are aware of four other species that have yet to advance to spaceflight. But what have I worked out? So far, a 100-ly sphere from Earth, which is home for 60 different alien species, of which 25 of them are spaceborne. Now, admittedly, a lot of those species I don't have more than a paragraph of information... but I know they are there.

Also, my 100-ly radius sphere is a map of-- to the best of my ability to create-- the actual stars within 100 light years. On top of that, I've done my best to craft reasonable and realistic possibilities for the planets found around those stars.

One tool I use, besides an enormous Excel spreadsheet, is a program called ChView, which is a fascinating-- if slightly frustrating-- program. For a piece of free-on-the-internet software, it's really good at visualizing interstellar maps. But it isn't quite everything I'd want it to be. That's all right, the person who wrote the program wasn't doing it for me, and I think it's great. Check it out.
Anyway, will all this work come through in the actual writing? I'm not sure. I do know this-- at my first attempt to write in this setting, I tried having a mysterious artifact from a old, powerful civilization be a plot point. But I didn't know anything about said civilization, where they were, and why the artifact was left behind. I was going on the fly. Didn't work.

Now I know the neighborhood, and that makes writing about exploring it so much more fun.