Saturday, September 14, 2013

Qualms for a Killer (Page 2)

Getting myself up into Murphy’s playground was no small feat. I had to find a smuggler to drop a container into orbit while avoiding being picked up on scan. I imagine the smuggler figured he was dead dropping contraband for pickup. Not me in a coffin with a self-contained atmosphere. The coffin nearly bankrupted me; no one had ever needed an unscannable box that could sustain a human in space for several days. The prototypes normally cost a fortune even without having to acquire them off of a traceless black market.

So there I had waited, crammed into an untested smattering of guesswork until my trajectory met with that of the platform’s. Normally I would welcome the chance to relax in the dark cold silence, even with the ever-present possibility of a meteorite as small as a grain of sand ruining my day.

Not this time. I dreaded the moment I wasn’t occupied with planning and dealing in back rooms. The moment that it would be just me and my thoughts. Thoughts that would inevitably include what I was going to do.

The job was to infiltrate the mining platform and neutralize the skeleton crew dismantling it. Then I would sabotage the station’s black box so history would never know what truly transpired above this planet’s atmosphere. School children will learn about the horrific accident that changed satellite laws forever, not the details of actions befitting a war-crime.

My arrival would coincide with the station travelling over the sky of a particular city. In this city is a particular office building. In this building is a particular woman. A woman whose murder will only be known to me and my client. To the rest of the galaxy she will be just another faceless digit in a meaningless casualty statistic.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Qualms for a Killer, a sci-fi short story about an assassin's first reservations about killing as he aims down the sights of the largest and most unorthodox weapon of his career (Page 1)

An assassin is allowed one moment of doubt in his or her career. A single instance of humanity. One uncalculated blink. To commit a second such moment is to stumble into the event horizon; where you will find yourself in the contract of another killer who doesn’t share your hesitations.

So I have been taught.

I am fortunate to yet suffer such a breach in professionalism. If I had, I would be entering the assassin’s event horizon right now. I’ll be honest; if I had to choose the time and place for my days as a cruel diplomat, it’d be here and now. It wouldn’t be so terrible to falter in this serene silence. This humbling view.

I stand at the most beautifully lonely place I can personally imagine. An orbital station is typically any assasin’s nightmare, but not this one. Normally I wouldn’t have taken a contract that would bring me to a place like this. Only one point of entry and exit. Well documented visitation logs with strict private regulations and public laws. Nothing but metal and bits of glass between me and a cold, embarrassing end.

This, however, is an orbital excavation platform slated for decommission. The parent company is being liquidated after a convenient leak exposed rampant corruption and draconian labor practices. What a wonderful set of coincidences. The client must have spent a great deal of money and time to align such a perfect set of circumstances for this job.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the client created this faulty mining company for this very purpose. Impressed, but not surprised. The best part of this elaborate contract?

My target isn’t even on the station.

If assassin’s could hold records I’d be breaking the one for ‘Furthest from Target at Time of Kill’.

Mom would be so proud.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Write All Day, Every Day (Mostly the the Former)

Every story was written one word at a time.

There, we got the prosy stuff outta the way.  You've read this post before.  On a thousand blogs, in a thousand books, in a thousand tweets and facebook posts.  Why are you reading this one?

Because you still aren't doin' it.

And I shouldn't be throwing rocks; my book has been worked on, abandoned, rewritten, abandoned again.  Over the course of a decade.  What's changed?  I decided that this is what I want.  That my life should revolve around my writing so one day I can quit my nine-to-five and do this full time.  I want to work on my terms.  It's truly what I want.  Unless I actually take it seriously it'll stay a distant and gilded ideal instead of a reality to wake up to.

Don't kid yourself, it's work.  You have to put in hours and show up to work just like any job.  And you have to do it every day.  Think of it as the slickest of slippery slopes, take one step down and it's going to be real hard to climb back up.  Plan on when you're going to put aside time to write every day ahead of time, even if it's only for an hour.  Even if it's only for twenty minutes.  You'll be a handful of words closer to 'The End'.

I personally recommend the task organizer HabitRPG; it's the only one out of dozens that have stuck for me.  Nothing says motivation like your little virtual guy losing health because you decided "Nah, I'll do it tomorrow."

Still, why the hell are you reading this instead of writing?  Don't read another one.  Write.


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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why you can give writing advice to writers as a writer and write whatever the hell you want

I think the best mark of a practiced writer is knowing the healthiest diet for your story.  Some need more fiber, some need less.   One of the wonderful things about creative writing is that it's difficult to quantify, arguably impossible.  So a practiced writer should be able to comb through the critiques, the self-help books, the blogs,  and the forums; then decide for oneself what does and doesn't work for their writing.

I like to think I'm fairly good at taking advice that I know will improve my work and passing over advice that won't.  There's always room for improvement, you don't need to (and can't) please everyone.   It will only hurt your progress if you assume either everyone knows what's best for your story or that nobody does.

My last blog was how every major plot point requires some prior allusion.  A patron of r/writing, arkanemusic, pointed out that sometimes one can forfeit the foreshadowing for a certain kind of shock appeal; albiet carefully and rarely.  When you're comfortable with your voice and style you can forego the unofficial "rules" when you feel it'll bring a unique advantage to your work.  Not something one should do lightly, but not something one should be afraid of.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Foreshadowing is Fun!

So I might as well call the current chapter I'm working on "Cryptic Messages About the Future" because I forgot just how chock-full of foreshadowing it is.  Foreshadowing is one of my favorite mechanisms because it's a long con.  The longer you can pull it off, the greater the cash in is when you yank back the curtain.  Also helps keep the dreaded deus ex machina beast at bay.

One thing I've run into that's worth taking notes on: take notes.  There's a few bits that are obviously foreshadowing something but I can't for the life of me remember what.  Kind of defeats the purpose to deliver a strange and leading line and never know for yourself where it was supposed to go.  So remember to jot down what your cryptic bits are intended to point to, especially with a larger project like my Towers of Adrala.

The tricky part is to be cryptic enough to make it past both the readers and your characters (nothing like a character looking the other way just to fulfill a plot tool) yet understandable enough that your readers feel like they should have figured it out.  In hindsight, of course.  Christopher Nolan and Isaac Asimov are great individuals to study for this; The Prestige and Foundation are both excellent stories brimming with foreshadowing.

Even if you're not one for puzzling lines of prose, foreshadowing is an essential part of any story.  Every critical plot point must be referred to earlier in the story to avoid your readers feeling cheated.  Don't be the guy that deus' up his machina.

BAM! Blog post! (Oh and the faults of re-writing)

Hey you!  Look over there!  Yeah, just watch that interesting thing over there while I quickly crank one of these out.

So, editing.  New chapter.  Discovered once again the downside of deleting and rewriting certain chapters. One forgets to replace critical dialogue points that are related to later in the book.  So Sye and Jakmin suddenly break into a conversation about how Sye could always change his mind about going to go see Flaar and-

I'm just think, huh?  Have they discussed this before?

Not since the chapter I deleted I hadn't.

Can't find a spot to reintroduce that bit of dialogue, so I'm smoothing it over by implying that Jakmin knew all along.  He just reminds Sye of his options.  Bam, band-aid until I figure something out a bit more stable.

That's the lesson for today folks.  Read what you're deleting.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


About five or six years ago, I wrote a scene about an attempted sexual assault in my book.  It's a brief scene, not even a page long.  It's not a graphic scene.  The perpetrator receives swift and final retribution quickly after.  Even so, I remember that this particular scene was the most stressful one of my book for me to write simply because of my ability to empathize.

During the gutting and restructuring of the book I've been well aware I'll have to revisit this particular scene. Much has changed from when I originally wrote it.  I've met and become close with individuals who were survivors of sexual attacks.  Hearing those stories, seeing for myself the impact, from people I knew and cared about changed how I saw things.  No longer was this horrendous crime something that 'happened', I was one degree of separation from it.  I saw how it hurt.

Honestly, I wanted to delete it all.  I still do.  It's not even something that happened to me, yet the mere thought of it wrenches my gut.  I'm also unsure of whether I command the level of writing necessary to properly address this scene.  Too often sexual assault is used as a lazy way to progress a plot; a cheap way to characterize a character.  Too often the victim is cast aside as collateral damage to anger/motivate a protagonist.  I don't want my writing to be any of these things and I don't want to marginalize the real survivors.

It is a complicated and tangled event with a lot of fallout.  I've decided to keep the scene and see if I'm capable of writing how the character handles it.  How it becomes part of the character, but doesn't define the character.  I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I hope I can handle it in such a fashion that my readers can accept and still enjoy my stories.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shaky Foundations

I'm not unfamiliar with heavily revising existing work; actually, it's kind of my forte'.  It's a special kind of fun to break down an existing chapter and build it up to something better and new.  But when the foundations are just shaky enough to warrant a large amount of reshaping, yet have have enough structure to weigh against an entire re-write, it can be...trying.

But it's done, just have to give this chapter another few look-overs and nit-pick.

What'd I do?  I had to rework an interaction between Jakmin and Sye that was referring back to a scene I cut out, which involved me getting creative and finding a better way to characterize the two.   Involved a lot of my "think, don't tell" show method.   Having a character persistently narrate their opinion and perspective fleshes them out quite well.

The more somebody talks, the more you get to know them.

I wonder how common of a process this is, to gut large portions and rewrite others of an old, lengthy work.   I just can't wait to see how it shapes up so I can get back to book II