My National Write a Novel Month Writing Goals

Just a quick update on my National Write a Novel Month Writing Goals, or since the whole endeavor seems rather enamored of acronyms: NaNoWriMoWriGo.  And if you can say that out loud without giggling, you might have something wrong with you.

My goals for this coming month are to complete four stories.  The first is a novella in the Renegades series, Out of the Cold.  It covers the arrival of the crew to inhabited human space… and some of their misadventures.  The next one is Renegades: Assassin.  The one after that is an as-yet untitled Renegades story from Pixel’s perspective.  Last, I want to complete Renegades: Privateer.  All told, the writing goal for November is around 130k words.

On top of this, I’m continuing to edit several novels and novellas for self-publishing.  Next one to come is another Renegades novella, with (hopefully) The Fallen Race, my first full length self-published novel, to come before December.  We shall see.  I’ll also have a bit more free fiction available, to include a background short story of one of the more interesting characters from Renegades: Run the Chxor.  That one will be out in the next few days.

Thanks for reading!

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The conniving plotters

Funny Pictures | quotes  | Plot twist of life

Plotting is an essential part of writing any story.  There are a number of ways that people plot out their stories.   The first one is what is sometimes called ‘discovery writing’ where the writer has, at most, a vague impression of where they want to end up and they just write wherever the story takes them.  At the opposite end of the spectrum are the writers who rigidly outline their entire novel, and then write from that framework.  Then there’s somewhere in the middle, the writers who outline a bit, but also improvise as the story takes them someplace new.

There are perils and benefits for each type of writing.  Outlining allows a writer to know where they’re going and focus on other things, such as characterization and description as they write.  Outlining also prevents writers from writing themselves into a corner.  On the other hand, writers who outline can often find their stories take on an almost mechanical procession, and sometimes this squeezes the originality and freedom out of the story.  Discovery writing can allow a writer to explore whatever areas of the story and plot that they find interesting.  This often leads to a very organic and flowing story, but some hazards include writing yourself into a corner or to becoming stymied when the plot takes you someplace you didn’t expect.

Why is this important?  As a writer, you need to understand your own writing habits.  Very few people are pure discovery writer or pure outliner.  Most of us are some combination of the two in varying measures.  Understanding what style of writing works best for you is essential.  If you’ve written off a rigid outline that details each scene and found that you just don’t have the energy to write anymore, then perhaps you should try writing in a more looser format.  If you write rambling stories that don’t seem to go anywhere, perhaps you should put together a framework or spend some time outlining things you want to happen.

As far as outlining goes, there are various methods that work.  Some people write up a ten or twenty page outline or synopsis.  Some people write up a simple one sentence summary for a chapter or scene.  I’ve also seen people do up flow charts, which show character interactions and conflicts and how that leads to the final scenes.  When outlining, the method of thought that works for you is the important part.  Whatever method of outlining you choose, it should be one that helps you visualize the scenes you need to write.  An outline, in this way, acts like a checklist and both gives you some measure of completion and a course ahead.

That’s all for today’s writing post.  As a side note, I’ve set my writing goal for National Write a Novel Month as 100k words.  If you are a writer (or an aspiring writer), National Write a Novel Month is a great way to force yourself to write.  You’ll see lots of posts online from various people about their progress.  I’ll start on Friday, with the goal of finishing three novellas for the month of November.  When combined with rewrites, working 60+ hours a week, and various other things, this will be interesting to say the least.  I’ll post my progress each day, both total wordcount and if I’ve finished my project(s) for the day or week.  I’d love to hear from other people on their progress as well.

Urban Fantasy

It's easy to imagine the extraordinary when superimposed on the ordinary...
It’s easy to imagine the extraordinary when superimposed on the ordinary…

Urban fantasy is, at its root, a mishmash of a variety of genres.  The typical urban fantasy author often combines one or more genres of fiction with fantasy in their story.  The fun of urban fantasy stories often lies in the contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Wizards duke it out with magic and bullets, Police investigate supernatural crimes, and elves drink Miller Lite and watch Nascar.   The possibilites are limitless, especially when the stories can be told in so many ways.  Supernatural Romance, Paranormal Investigation, Zombie Apocalpyse, even Superpower Crime Noir novels are all under the broad catagory of Urban Fantasy.  As a market, the genre has been extremely successful, from the Harry Potter series to Twilight, there has been far more mainstream appeal to Urban Fantasy than other aspects of Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Why is that?  Well, there’s a number of reasons.  Honestly, one of the big ones is that it’s easier for the average person to get into.  They don’t have to try to memorize funny names for people or places, they don’t have to figure out some other world.  The setting is someplace they’ve heard of, maybe even lived in.  The events and history, while different in the particulars, are the same history that they learned in school.  Sure, magic might be a smaller or greater effect in that history, but these little changes often are part of the charm.  What if the Kaiser used necromancers in World War I to raise zombie hordes such as in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles?  What if the Red Vampires secretly seduce and abduct thousands of people across the country as in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files?  It doesn’t change how the main course of history went, and society, places, and events are still the same.  This makes it easy for the average person to pick up a book for casual reading.

Another reason that Urban Fantasy novels tend to be so popular is that they’ve gotten their hooks into this generation.  Many kids grew up with Harry Potter, and now that they’re adults, urban fantasy seems relatively mainstream.  They read these types of books, they’ve seen the movies, they are ready to suspend their disbelief that magic exists in secret.  The resurgence of general media such as Warehouse 13, Doctor Who, and others has also encouraged this.  These are shows that amplify the paranormal, and put out logical reasons for the existance of the supernatural.  These shows are also extremely popular because they encourage such imagination and questions of ‘what if.’

Another reason for the popularity, urban fantasy stories often provide characters that the readers can easily identify with.  A soccer mom makes an easy person to relate to, she drives a minivan, picks her kids up from school, films her daughter’s softball game, and happens to channel the powers of light to slay demons such as in John Ringo’s Princess of Wands.  It is an easy buy-in for a reader.  A private investigator who helps out the police now and again could be the character in almost any standard fiction story.  When that story’s character happens to be best friends with a twenty thousand year old vampire who is the lone survivor of Atlantis such as Ryk Spoor’s Digital Knight, the story becomes interesting to say the least.  Yet everyone has the odd friend or two, so this isn’t something that would totally confuse a new reader.

Of interest to me, both as an author and a reader, urban fantasy often acts as a gateway genre to more traditional fantasy books.  Readers sometimes really like the ideas and concepts and so they’ll dive a little deeper into the overall broader fantasy genre.  Also, writers who have made their break in urban fantasy often branch out into other areas, such as Jim Butcher with his Codex Alera series.  Sometimes it works the otherway, such as with John Ringo, who wrote Princess of Wands after he established an extensive science fiction bibliography.

Overall, there are a number of excellent books that I’d recommend.  Urban Fantasy is an exciting and fun genre of books to read, and there are plenty of books to check out.  Off hand, I recommend: Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series, John Ringo’s Princess of Wands, and a few others in the Books I’d Recommend section.

  

Characterization Case Study: Gravity

originalThe best way to study characterization and plot is to look at examples, both good and bad, and to note what worked and what didn’t.  I’m going to do a quick case study of the recent movie Gravity.  It’s an interesting movie that (due to a very small cast and a rather linear plot) can be analyzed with relative ease.  As a quick disclaimer: this is not a movie review and it will hold some spoilers.  As a secondary disclaimer: I enjoyed the movie, the music, special effects, science and plot were all relatively well grounded and a lot of fun… but I’m going to dissect the characters in the movie as examples of good and bad characterization. 

First things first, a look at characterization.  There are really only two characters in the movie: Stone and Kowalski.  The movie does an excellent job right away to establish Kowalski as a cowboy, right down to his music selection as he bounces around the hubble telescope on his EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit).  He’s excited to be where he is, cocky, and clearly knows what he’s doing.  Throughout the rest of his (brief) stint in opening part of the movie, this is all we really see of Kowalski.  Stone on the other hand, is more difficult to characterize.  At first, she is totally focused on her work.  Later when things begin to go wrong, she panics.  We learn that she doesn’t want to die, that she is afraid, and that she really doesn’t seem to like space.

This last was the part that broke characterization for me.  The way things are now, if someone isn’t totally dedicated and driven to become an astronaut, they won’t even stand a chance.  It doesn’t matter what your background is or how important your mission, you can always train someone else.  There are millions of applicants and countless intelligent people willing to learn whatever skills it takes to go to space, they won’t want someone who doesn’t want to be there.

But then Kowalski shows up to save Stone.  The two learn that they are the only survivors from the shuttle and both deal with it in their own ways.  Kowalski becomes professional and reverts to an almost military mode.  From the perspective of characterization, this is excellent.  We see the other side of a character, and we see that his cowboy persona is just one facet of a more complex person.  Stone just sort of shuts down.  She says that she’s low on oxygen, she doesn’t volunteer any information, and at several points, tells Kowalski that he should leave her, that she’s slowing him down.  This, frankly, makes her character seem rather dull.  In the initial panic and worry of the disaster, we are immediately sympathetic to her character.  She is adrift and struggles to survive, we want to root for her.  Her giving up after being found and rescued by Kowalski gives away a lot of that initial viewer sympathy.  No one likes a quitter, and the apathy that she begins to show about her own death makes her character seem very bland and hard to identify with.

Then, in typical survival mode, Kowalski asks Stone about where she is from, if she has anyone who waits for her back home, if she likes her job and what she does after work.  This is the perfect moment in a book for the viewer to identify with a character.  You learn about the details of their life, the things that guided them and shaped them.  The scene could not have been framed better, with only the two characters, tethered by a single cable and with the entire Earth as a backdrop.  Literally, they’re the only two people who exist, with no other distractions… and Stone takes a right turn to depression.  Stone doesn’t have a family, she had a daughter who died in an accident.  She apparently doesn’t have parents, siblings, or any romantic interest at all either.  In fact she seems to have no reason to go on living.  She concludes her brief explanation with a statement that she ‘just drives.’  She seems to be a woman with no reason left to live… so why exactly is she in space?  Please, tell me that her device would prevent future falling accidents such as the one that killed her daughter or cure cancer or at least give her some goal or drive to base her life upon.  Give me something, I want to root for these characters.  They’re in a disaster with miniscule odds of survival, I want to think that their lives mean something.

The two characters reach their destination, but in true movie fashion, the EMU (rather like a jetpack) runs out of fuel in the last seconds.  The two tumble and scramble for a hold, and in the end, Stone is tangled in some line attached to the station and Kowalski is attached to Stone by the tether.  Of course, the cables are slipping and there is too much mass for the friction of the cables to overcome.  Kowalski says that he’s going to cut himself loose, and explains to Stone what she’ll have to do to survive.  This is a pivotal moment in both character’s story arcs.  The cowboy/professional mission commander sacrifices himself (showing yet another side of himself) while the frightened and confused Doctor Stone has to come out and shine, to find her internal strength and succeed despite the odds.  Frankly, I think it was a bit heavy-handed.  The scene could have played out more true to Kowalski’s character if done in a split-second decision, rather than as it played out… a long and agonizing moment for Stone.  They did it more for plot reasons than characterization, I think.  They set up Stone without the tools to survive so they wanted Kowalski to give her those.  Given the amount of time they had, and the way they established Kowalski’s character, I think it more likely he would have attempted something dramatic to save them both.  However, clearly the story they wanted to explore was Stone’s growth, even if Kowalski was the more interesting character.

Stone then follows Kowalski’s guidance.  As an added threat, besides the debris that moves faster than any Earth-bound bullet, the station catches fire.  Because, really, Stone needed something to get her to get moving again.  Stone begins step two of three towards her return to earth and then discovers that her ride to the next stop is out of fuel.  This would be a perfect time for her to show her internal strength and that drive to survive.  Instead, she tries to reach someone, anyone, for help.  In the end, after a tearful conversation with some chinese guy with a dog and a baby, she decides that she doesn’t want to wait another ninety minutes for the debris to hit her yet again, she’ll just turn down the air and go to sleep.

Okay, I’m sorry, but while the plot of the movie had me hooked, at this point I just stopped caring about the character of Doctor Stone.  She has no family, no goals, no dreams, no ambition… she’s survived to this point because she doesn’t want to die and because someone we did care about sacrificed himself so that she would have a chance.  Honestly, I come back to the whole question: why is Doctor Ryan Stone here in space and who chose the hardest person in the world to identify with to be the survivor?

Cue the return of Mission Commander Kowalski.  His snarky comments and upbeat words breathe some life into Stone just before the obvious reveal that he was a figment of her subconscious as her brain shut down from lack of oxygen.  Luckily, she realizes she does have a way to survive after all, and goes about it.  She seems to have decided to live because Kowalski wanted her to, which in itself is something, at least.  Do it for the dead guy, it works in sports movies for a reason, and it at least gives us a reason why the lone survivor doesn’t just die.

As far as characterization, that concludes the entire movie.  We get a brief moment at the end where Stone stands up on the beach, somewhere on Earth and walks away.  This seems more a statement of survival than anything more profound.  In fact, the character of Doctor Stone doesn’t really seem to draw any closure.  She survives, which closes out the plot, but we don’t have any way to see what she has become, or even if she has changed at all.  What will drive her, after her survival, what will she do and who will she become afterwards?  These question remain unanswered, which, as a viewer I would find supremely irritating… except I really didn’t care at that point.  Stone was just the point of view for the ride, and I could walk away without any of those questions being answered.

Hopefully my fellow writers can take away some lessons from this.  I know I did, the biggest being that if you create a character that doesn’t care about themselves… your audience wont either.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a disaster, but the rest of your product, book, movie or game, will have to make up for that in other areas.

Guest Free Sample!

Everyone loves free stuff, right?  Author Leo Champion graces us with a sample from around the middle of his book Legion.  If you haven’t read it… it’s a hell of a book.  Check it out.

What the hell is this all about? Mullins thought, as Sergeant Alonzo led his group out of the passenger section of the terminal and into the truck-freight handling area. Past loading docks, swinging winches, a forklift. A couple of stevodores stood smoking on one loading dock.

A little bit later, they passed a crew busily moving grey plastic tote boxes from the back of a truck to a conveyor belt.

They weren’t going to help unload some freight shuttle. That was obvious.

This isn’t some shady black-market thing, is it?

It certainly seemed like it.

This seems shady as absolute hell. I don’t want to be sent to a Black Gang within a day of my first deployment!

Alonzo led them into an alley, where four covered five-ton trucks sat. They were grey, with dark-green covers over their cargo beds. ‘US Army’ was stenciled in black letters on each door, above a large five-pointed star. Army markings were on the covers, too.

“Alright, you boys,” Alonzo said. “By now you’ve figured – some of you have, anyhow – that what we’re doing is a little bit sketchy. Don’t worry – nobody’s going to wind up in a Black Gang because of this. If we get caught, the Army is going to whine and send us to Division HQ for discipline. Where a big noise will be made, and we’ll all get publicly chewed out, and then our officers will wink and tell us to look appropriately sad for a while. OK?”

“Sergeant,” said a man from Third Platoon called Johnson, “exactly what are we going to be doing?”

“Well, boys, I may as well give you the details. Officially, as far as you all are concerned, it’s a work detail. We’re going to be moving freight, just like I said to the LT.”

“And unofficially, sergeant?”

There were nods and murmurs from the rest of the group, including Mullins.

“Unofficially, we’re going to be moving freight between different branches of the US military. The Army just received a shipment of goodies. Techno-toys that they’re not going to put to use anyway. The Legion, as you may have heard, is under-funded and under-supplied. One way that we make up for this problem is by borrowing equipment from the other service branches.”

“So we’re going to be stealing Army stuff for the Legion,” said Andrews.

“‘Stealing’, Private, is such a prejudiced word. Yes.”

A more serious look came onto Alonzo’s face.

“I assure you men that not a penny’s worth of this stuff is going to wind up on the black market. I’m not, and none of you are, going to get anything personally out of this job. Army quartermasters sell shit to Buddy on the side, and don’t fucking get me started on the local CGs. Ninety percent of this stuff is going to Fourth Battalion’s S-4, and it might save some of your lives. The rest goes to Division G-4 in exchange for the loan of these trucks. Either way, it stays within the US military. It’s just going to the guys who’re going to get the most use out of it. Understood?”

There were nods and murmurs.

“Now, boys, in the back of the trucks you’ll find US Army PT uniforms. T-shirts and running pants. Change into them – we’re a loading party come to pick some of this stuff up.”

“Won’t they ask for paperwork or something?” asked a man from Fifth called Vai’id.

Alonzo produced what looked like a snub-nosed yellow pistol. A taser.

“This is our paperwork,” he said. “Any questions?”

“I have one,” said Andrews. “Sergeant, you picked a bunch of total fish for this. Why’d you pick us when there’s a division and a brigade HQ in this town?”

“Good one,” said Alonzo. “I took Fourth Battalion, Fourth Brigade men because this is a Fourth Battalion, Fourth Brigade operation. If I went to Division or First Brigade for bodies, they’d take most of the loot and only give One-Four-Four a piece of it. And not necessarily a big piece.”

“So why aren’t they doing it themselves?”

Alonzo smirked.

“This shipment just came in a few hours ago. Theydon’t know about it yet. By tomorrow, they’ll know. By tomorrow, we’ll be in Roanoke.”

“Surely the Army’s going to know we did it,” said another man.

“Sure they will,” said Alonzo. “Proving it’s another story. And getting it back is right out of the question. This happens all the damn time, and so far as I’m concerned it’s the Army’s fault for not guarding their shit properly.”

 

 

Mullins rode on the center seat of the lead truck’s cab. Alonzo, who wore a dress shirt with first lieutenant’s bars, rode shotgun. Andrews was driving.

This could get us into some serious trouble, he thought. It’s theft, by any other name.

No; Alonzo had justified it well. It was merely transferring property from one branch of the US military to another. And some of it might save their lives. Save his life.

And if we get caught…

He wasn’t sure he believed Alonzo on that. The Army would press hard for punishment and he might well wind up in a Black Gang.

Too damn late now. Besides, Alonzo’s a senior sergeant. He knows what he’s doing.

The trucks made their way around the edge of the shuttleport, bumping a few times as they crossed railroad tracks. Two or three times they heard sonic booms as freight shuttles blasted off, ascending at acceleration-rates that would have killed any passengers.

“Stop! Who goes there!” came a shout, as they entered the floodlit zone around the secure storage area.

Alonzo leaned out the window. Gesturing for Andrews to keep going forwards.

“What do we damn well look like, rebellious sepoys?” he snapped.

Mullins could see two soldiers standing in front of a double gate. They held rifles – heavy, multi-magazine weapons that he recognized as M-31s – but they were pointed at the ground.

“Gotta be sure,” said one of the soldiers. There was some kind of enlisted rank insignia on his arm, but in the shadow Mullins couldn’t tell what it was. “Here for a pickup?”

“Yeah,” said Alonzo. He opened his door and got out. When the soldiers noticed the silver bars on each arm, they saluted.

“You got the paperwork, sir?”

“Yeah,” said Alonzo. “You wanna open that gate? My last truck is blocking a rail track.”

That was probably true – they’d bumped over one not long ago.

“Hey, LT,” the man shouted. “You wanna open the gate? We’ve got a pickup here.”

“First I’ve heard about it,” said a voice from the other side. “He got paperwork?”

Alonzo had a black clipboard under his arm. He showed it to the two enlisted men, who glanced at it and nodded.

“Yeah, they’ve got paperwork,” the man said.

“OK, gate’s unlocked. You two pull `em open.”

“We’re going to reverse our trucks in, Lieutenant,” called Alonzo. “There room for four in there?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

The gates, which like the walls were topped with razor wire, began to open outwards. The two enlisted men, helped by another two from the inside, pressed them flat against the wall.

“Three-point the truck and reverse it in,” Alonzo called.

“Yessir,” replied Andrews.

So far, thought Mullins, it’s all going according to plan. But how does Alonzo know how many guys the Army has?

A horrible thought struck him: if things go wrong, they might think we’re secessionists in disguise. They’ll shoot first and ask questions later.

The fourth truck backed through the open gate of the secure area, clumsily reverse-parking next to the other three. From where Mullins sat, he could see a guardhouse just inside the gate, with a couple of Army types standing just outside.

Sentries sat in the corner towers and paced along ramparts inside the fence. Those guys seemed intent on their jobs – they were looking, pretty attentively, at the floodlit area outside the holding area’s walls. What took place inside the area wasn’t their concern.

Unless someone raises the alarm. Then we’re fish in a barrel.

Alonzo didn’t seem worried.

“So you say you have paperwork, sir?” asked one of the men outside the guardhouse. There were gold bars on his shoulders; second lieutenant.

 “Yes, Lieutenant,” said Alonzo. Holding his clipboard, he went over to the lieutenant. The second man outside the guardhouse moved a respectable five or six feet back, holding his M-31 cautiously.

Oh, shit. They suspect something’s up. Whatever’s on Alonzo’s clipboard is bullshit.

Alonzo handed the clipboard to the lieutenant, who moved into the guardhouse to get a better look at it. From his vantage point in the truck’s cab, Mullins saw the Legion sergeant draw his taser from a hip pocket.

Saw him go over to the other man, who didn’t quite raise his rifle. Clearly he was wondering what this strange first lieutenant wanted, though.

He didn’t have time to say anything. Just as the lieutenant in the guardhouse threw the clipboard down and walked outside, Alonzo brought his taser up and in a single move lunged forwards, pressing it to the enlisted soldier’s chest. There was a blue flash and the man collapsed, quivering.

“What the–” the lieutenant began. One hand reached for his pistol.

Faster than Mullins could have imagined, Alonzo whirled and tased the lieutenant. The man collapsed in a quivering heap.

Alonzo gestured at the truck cabs – ‘come here.’

Mullins and the others climbed out and ran.

“Zag `em so they don’t wake?” one man whispered to Alonzo, finger twitching towards his sheathed combat knife.

Hell no,” whispered Alonzo. “Drag `em into the guardhouse, tie their hands, gag them. I’ll be back in a moment to check. You” – he pointed a finger randomly at Johnson. “Stay in the guardhouse and answer the phone if anyone calls. Your name is” – he looked at the nametag on the lieutenant’s shirt – “Gorman. Second Lieutenant Gorman. Answer the phone that way. If they give you a sign and ask for a counter… hell, look in the guardhouse, he might’ve written `em down somewhere. If you can’t get them, don’t guess. Say something about a bad connection, put the phone down, and get me immediately because we’re bugging the fuck out. There’s a CG barracks right next door, but the Army won’t trust those fuckers… they’ll send their own response and we’ll have five to ten minutes before it shows. Clear on that, soldier?”

“Yessir,” said Andrews.

“Good. You others, let’s grab.”

 

 

“Imperil guideds,” Alonzo hissed, gesturing at a stack of crates. “Get those. All of those. You four, start loading `em.”

There were crates everywhere – hundreds of them, stacked under eight-foot-high shelters that consisted of little more than sheets of corrugated iron held up by steel poles. Alonzo paced past more stacks of crates, glancing at the serial numbers until he found something else he liked.

“HD batteries. Sweet. All of these. You guys.”

“What about these?” asked Kiesche, gesturing at some crates next to the goggles.

Alonzo took one glance at the stencilled label on top.

“Replacement actuators for the heavy-infantry suits. What the hell use do we have for those?”

Kiesche shrugged.

“No damn idea,” he said.

“Get loading those ones,” Alonzo said, pointing at a stack he’d passed earlier. “WP grenades. Never enough of those. You four.”

Mullins was one of those last. He picked up a crate from the stack of about twenty, carried it – it was heavy, but not impossibly so – over to the back of the nearest truck. Andrews was waiting there to take it.

“Those,” Alonzo said, when the crates of WP grenades were all taken. “Each of those has half a dozen sniper scopes – really, really good ones. Be careful handling `em.”

“Yessir.”

Over the next half-hour or so, Mullins loaded crates that apparently contained radios, guided rockets, computers, flares and flareguns, sniper-rifle ammo – those ones required two men each to carry – and optics.

Then Johnson came running out of the guard shack.

“Boss! Sarge!” he hissed frantically.

Alonzo whirled.

“Boss, they asked us for a countersign. Gave `em the one I thought it was – it was written down – and he was silent for a moment. Then he asks me what Saturday’s was. I gave him the bad-connection spiel.”

Shit,” hissed Alonzo. He checked his watch.

“Of course, it’s oh-two-hundred on the dot. Should have figured they’d check on the hour. Let’s go!”

Oh, shit, thought Mullins, running for the cab of the nearest truck. Dashratha was already in the driver’s seat, starting the engine.

One of the soldiers pacing the wall, evidently noticing the frantic running, turned around and looked down.

“Everything alright, sir?” he called.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Alonzo shouted back. Gesturing to two men who hadn’t yet boarded trucks.

“Open the gate, you two.”

It seemed to take forever for them to push the gate open wide enough to get a truck through. The moment it did, Dashratha hit the gas – simultaneously with two of the other three trucks.

“Fucking go,” Mullins snarled, gesturing at the one on the right. It had almost collided with his.

That truck moved forward, Alonzo climbing in as it headed out the gates. Then another truck, and then the driver of the last one gestured for Dashratha to go ahead.

Heart pounding, Mullins watched the huge Rajput drive his truck forwards. Followed by the last one.

“Lieutenant Gorman?” one of the guards outside the gate asked. Going in.

“Oh, shit!” he exclaimed a moment later.

From somewhere came the sound of high-powered engines. Alarms started to wail.

Alonzo leaned out the window of his lead truck as it started to power across the landing grounds.

“Hey, Army motherfuckers!” he shouted. “Semper fucking fi, assholes!”

***

You can find Legion here at Amazon.

Finding Time to Write

Quick disclaimer: this is a post about what works for me, a bit about my methodology of writing.  This stuff works for me and your mileage may vary and all of that.

 

So, working full time, self publishing, editing, and managing my private life all compete with my time for writing.  To top it off, I have a number of hobbies such as playing role-playing games, tabletop strategy games, skiing, hiking and lots of other outdoors stuff.   Oh, and now with the self publishing gig, I’ve got to do self promotion (which is another can of worms).  So how do I find time to write, and when I do find that time, how do I maximize my time?

A big key to that is establishing a rhythm or pattern.  Arrange some section of time every day where I always write.  A pattern or structure like that means that my brain settles into the process much more readily, essentially, I’m training myself to write.  Key to this, I can’t give into the “I’m not really in the mood” excuses.  Sometimes this means I’m writing stuff that I know is total crap, as I beat my head against the wall and try to get everything to click.  Sometimes, I never break through that wall and I just churn out crap that I dump into the bytes bucket.Sometimes, when I break through that wall, I find that I’m doing some of my best writing.

I do most of my writing late at night, when I’m really writing.  Three to four hours is essential, and when I can afford the lack of sleep, I’ll go five or six hours sometimes.  What do I get in that time?  Typically I write around 3000-5000 words in around four hours.  On a good night, when the stars are in alignment and things are really flowing… I can do 8000-10000 words.

Part of the essentials for writing like that lie in maximizing my use of time.  To get myself in the mood I’ll eliminate distractions: no Facebook, no emails, no Google Plus, and most importantly, no internet research.  Those things will go from, “let me just check” and quickly turn into “Where did my time go???”  Next up, I try to find either a quiet spot in the house (not always easy with multiple roommates, cats, dogs, and a fiance), or I just plug in the earbuds and crank the music.  Music is one of those things that work excellently for me.  The right songs, paused when I stopped writing, put me right back where I was when I left off.   The right music can act as a soundtrack to my writing and lets me focus on what’s important.

A comfortable position is also important.  I’ll spend three to four hours a night in the same spot.  At the end of it, if I’m hunched over a keyboard for that time, I’ll have to take breaks or I’ll end up with back issues.  A comfortable chair, brain food, and some drinks (Caffeine!!!) all are part of this.  All of this is to help focus though, and nothing should be enough to be a distraction.  I don’t want to do my writing lying down in bed, if I’m too comfortable I’ll be fighting sleep.  If I have a pile of snacks, or I’m eating a full meal, I won’t be focused on writing.

And what is brain food?  Brain food is stuff that stimulates your brain.  Chocolate, Mints, and stuff that stimulates my taste buds but doesn’t overpower them.  Eating healthy before hand (IE, eating a full meal that’s got everything I need to function) is a good thing too.

So, all in all, I do put a lot of thought into preparing for writing.   I have written out in the field, in flight (no fold down trays on a C-17), and various other places.  Even so, I get the most done when I properly prepare myself.