Thursday, December 16, 2010

Update and Musing

Despite your best intentions, I have learned that intent cannot compare to emotion.  Both excitement and disturbance upset the emotional balance necessary for writing.  Writing must be like growing for a plant.  If your pH is out of whack, you produce, but at greater expense of effort and the result will not be as it should. Writing comes from emotion, focused emotion.

What is throwing me out of whack?  Well, I'll share the positive.  I had a job interview on the ninth.  Then I had another scheduled on Monday, and it sounds like a sure thing.  I'd say I'm about 90% hired.  Perhaps would have been 100% today if everyone wasn't snowed--or iced--in.  It is a part-time job relating to writing. 

Even good changes upset your balance.  But, finally, this week I had time to think on the Walker Universe, and I believe I have shortened the number of books in the series to five.  This is quite a change from my once-upon-a-time, fanciful ten.  Today, I hope to resume work on it.

In the meantime, I am also brushing up on grammar from basic to advanced in preparation of my job's start date.  I have good working knowledge, but it has been a while since I thought in terms of subjects and objects and all that.  It is time to start; it'll be good practice.  You may see a few posts on this, dissecting some of my own writing into its grammatical components.  If they are of help, great.  If not, I hope after this week to start truly writing again.

Thanks for your patience, but if I do not see you again, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Walker Novel 2: Key Plot Point One, Two, Three: Index.

Walker Universe Novel 2: Working Title: Paradise

(c) Jodi Ralston

Key Plot Points One, Two, and Three: Edit One

Important Caveat:  This novel is being written experimentally--that is, out of order.  Below is the correct reading order.  You can also find the same on the Works in Progress Page.  

    Walker Novel 2: Key Plot Point Three: Edit One.

    Walker Universe Novel 2: Working Title: Paradise

    (c) Jodi Ralston

    Key Plot Point Three: Edit One

    Important Caveat:  This novel is being written experimentally--that is, out of order.  I will post the correct reading order as I go on the Works in Progress Page.  

    For those interested in reading what came before this point, I will post an Index shortly.

    By suppertime, I was finishing up work on what I termed the Final Project. Horse hated the entire idea. Over the last while of our time together, he did everything he could to jar the thought from my mind. He almost succeeded. A small band of survivors almost succeeded. Hope of escape almost succeeded. Any desire to fail at the Final Project died with them. Everything came to an end. Not everyone was so fortunate as to choose that end.

    Besides, the horse would survive. He survived before my coming, survived the mist, and would survive me taking leave. He was a survivor. I was not. I didn't have the heart for it. I didn't particularly want to die, but I was resolved to escape Paradise. Permanently. Leaving nothing behind for it take. Over the year, I had come to see that this was the only way left me.

    It had taken me a week to gather the necessary supplies. Wood for the fire. Accelerants. The drug. The drug was most essential. Paradise was a reality full of pain, which it shared with me at every turn. And at every turn, no matter how terrible my wounds were, my flesh knitted and my scars disappeared. All scars but the one from before this world. Either way, I wasn't about to die in pain. But I knew what would happen if I took such drugs before I set the fuse. The pain would fade and I would forget it while it lasted. Fuse first, then drug. So as there was no turning back.

    I dumped the last of the accelerant on the pile of wood. Tossed aside the keg. I did not watch where it rolled, or this reality took it. I was beyond care of making waste and leaving signs. From a belt pouch, I fished out a fuse the length of my arm and my lighter, flicked open the lid, and poised my thumb over it to strike.

    One last time the horse sent me an image of what he preferred. Me walking away and riding off with him like we had done countless times before. Tempting. That being, if you had somewhere to ride off toward. I had watched a population in the hundreds of thousands dwindle down to pockets of tens of thousands, then wind-scattered husks of hundreds. I didn't want to be the sole survivor. The last man standing. The inheritor of hell. I would die first.

    In fact, I was planning on it.

    I struck up a flame, and set it to my fuse. Its end sparkled to life.

    That image was overlain with a new one I took for a last gambit, one last play for my life. Horse's talent was deception, after all. It was how he really survived. But the image persisted. Then, I felt the change myself in the ley-paths. Even this could be a lie, so often it had been a lie, that I didn't know why I did it. But I did. I turned around to look for myself, the smell of waiting accelerant stinging my eyes.

    But this was real.

    Someone had come through that damn schism.


    But it wasn't the man I expected never to see again.

    No, these were people entirely different. Just across the way, past my horse, they stood out, dressed in white leather kilts and vests and mounted up on gleaming mechanical, chimeral beasts. They possessed golden, living weapons snaking up and down their arms. There were four of them--colonel, captain, lieutenant, and vampire--three of which were women. Being close enough to the schism, I could recognize faces, put names to those faces. Impossible faces staring back at me: the same three as last time, from another reality entirely. Impossible but true faces, since my scar wasn't going wild. My heart began to beat for a reason other than a crazy mess of anger and fear and hate. It beat for hope. I didn't like the sensation. In fact, I liked it about as much as I liked heart attacks.

    They hadn't seen me yet. Staring at the snakes coiling and recoiling around their forearms. They saw me soon enough. Life being a little more normal here and the ley-paths far broader, the human three lucked upon a ley-path that lead in my direction. Far wiser, the unknown party, the Regulator, hung back by the schism, rubbing her wrist.

    "Horseman," Hepren said as they rode within proper hearing range. "Can you point us in the direction of Queen's City? 'Fraid our maps are a little out of date."

    My horse let them by. Surprisingly. Then it was Hepren's turn for surprise. He reined in his beast, dipping his head to peer under the brim of my hat. "Walker? Damn, mate, is that you?"

    His voice was rasp to my nerves. With each word he spoke, the more I remembered the last time I had heard his voice, and it hadn't been him. The unforgiving part of me rather desired to smash his smile in. But I didn't move from my place. I didn't say a word.

    "It is!" His smile grew even bigger. "I didn't recognize your--well, anything, mate."

    Cousin Bustis laughed and slapped her hands onto her hips as she came up short on his heels. "Walker? What the schisms do you have on?" The others smiled too, one in particular getting his yucks in.

    I knew what I looked like to them. Black top hat. Black duster. Black vest. Black shirt. Black chaps. Black leggings. Black boots. Black cowboy hat. Black overlarge belt. Black holsters with black guns with black stock. Black kerchief. Black spurs. Black gloves. Black everything, to match an immoderately sized and prettified black horse bearing more color in his white and gray streaks than his owner did. In other words, a gross parody of a native tough. To them, something to laugh at.

    Didn't have a particular problem with that. Laughter was disarming, and it tended to make others underestimate, put them off their game, making it just that much easier to come out on top. And you had to come out on top in Paradise. No, the problem I had had nothing to do with their reaction; it was with my name in their mouths. Walker had died a stupid pointless death. The Outrider hadn't.

    But they didn't know who they were dealing with.

    After a bit of awkward silence and lack of response on my side, their laughter died down. Their awkwardness grew.

    Till this point I had been ignoring to the best of my abilities the most familiar interloper of all. Though my horse took pains to point out her intense looks despite my protests. I didn't want to hear her speak; didn't even want to look at her. At that, Horse pointed her out all the more. Part of me still desperately disbelieved all this. Couldn't happen, not after all this time. Not with these people. But the little changes, like the promotions, were disconcerting and opened the way for suspicion to take root. As it was, damn, but they looked real. Too real. Impossible, frozen-in time real.

    Then . . . then there was the vampire. When all other hope of rescue withered on the vine, I still held out that a past encounter of that nature might bear fruit. But as the years wore on, I gave it up, discounted Valor as dead. He had that kind of luck.

    Even so . . . even so, I watched them until the slow fuse heated my fingers through my gloves, recalling another reality. Another choice. One I knew as one hundred percent, genuine real.

    Then she spoke, and there was no more sense in fighting it. Those words "Why didn't you acknowledge the aerial drone we sent" were too her to be not real.

    I looked down at the match and decided I didn't particularly want to die, and maybe now I didn't have to. Maybe. Had to have a think on it. Automatically, I plucked from my utility belt a cig. It would calm me down, not drop me into a coma like the vial would. I lit the cig with the last bit of my fuse, put it to my lips, lifted my head to the sky, inhaled, and blew. Already, I could see things far more clearly. I dropped the fuse and mashed it underfoot. Horse was ready for me, shouldering people aside as he trotted up, twitching with eagerness. I sucked again, settled things in my head for sure, and mounted up. "What are we waiting for?"

    And I headed to the schism, my ticket outta here. One far more pleasant than that which I had piled up and was leaving behind.


    (end of KPP3)

    Walker Novel 2: Place Holder Two, Version One

    The following summary covers the more important bits that lie between the posted KPP2 and soon-to-be posted KPP3. For those interested in this novel for the story's sake instead of the writing method, I hope this summary will help catch you up and not spoil your reading pleasure.

    Summary of Main Events between KPP2 and KPP3.

    Last we saw Walker, he had recently been taken by the mist-men. He emerges after some time (think, weeks at minimum), worse for wear. He teams up with the demon horse who waited for him and they make for Queen City, a cut-throat, degenerate, paranoid place where naturally he runs into trouble. But unlike before his experience in the mist, he is more than ready for it. He shows he is someone not to be messed with, and before he retires for a well-deserved rest at the hotel, he manages to get a job in the trade of "killing things and keeping those who pay alive." Basically, it is the start of his occupation as Outrider.

    Other Notes.

    Basically, time passes pretty quickly once he reaches Queens and shows not only how messed up he is but that he is no one to mess with. He is a dangerous man, hurting. And he will hurt for a long while. But most of this is off-screen from that point to the point of KPP3--although, I will likely write novellas and novelettes based of this material. This novel simply cannot do it justice and the focus of this novel is elsewhere. The novel is about him experiencing hell, yes, but it is also about his escape and eventual return, and the need to face his hell to truly conquer it and escape for real. During his return, the reader shall see more of what broke him.

    Final Note.

    Placeholders like this post will be replaced from time to time. The summary gets updated as I write and edit more of the novel. Later on, they will be replaced entirely by the text from the novel itself. For now, these will have to suffice.

    Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the process so far. I know I am.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    No progress

    No progress this weekend, due to happy and not-at-all events.

    Happy events included a Christmas walk where my mom, aunt, and I got to ride on a horse-drawn wagon.

    The unhappy events involved falling prey to a sneaky virus-like program. I assumed it was part of Windows Vista and telling the truth that my computer was about to go kaput. It took me about 12 hours to backup my data and remove 40 GBs of pictures from the harddrive. Then I scan disked. Then I let the program run. It did a few things. Claimed other things were still unfixed. The minute it asked for money, my spidey-sense began to stir. I went back into safe-mode, eventually stumbled across my Temp folder. Inside it, were several exe/applications that went into the trashcan. Why? Because it is extremely unlikely for any legit program to run from Temp. Once I did that, I was ok. Well, except a harddrive free space discrepancy--in safe-mode, I have about 82 GBs free. In regular mode? 70 something. Can't quite recall but I believe it is about 78 or 79. Where did they go?

    Anyway, lesson learned. Any program that claims critical problems? Check out where it is running from. At least something else was gained from this. First, I cleaned up my harddrive some, because these newer computers hate for you to dip under half-way mark on free harddrive space. Second, I have several backup copies of important files. Third, I had to pull out my older computer. It is slower but more reliable--love Acers--and is now my writing computer. My other one, which seems to get a couple viruses a year is now my Internet/Movie watching computer. Even so, internal harddrives are about the most reliable form of backup media. So my writing files and like are going to be backed up from Old Reliable to Panic-Attack Computer from time to time.

    So, those are my excuses. Should have time to write today and snippet tomorrow.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Belated Snippet of Walker Novel Two

    Normally I wouldn't post a snippet on Saturday, but yesterday got away from me.  So here it is.   A little setup and a little spoiler.  Walker has been rescued (that is KPP3, under revision now thanks to a nifty new idea that is gonna effect the rest of the novel from this point onward).  He is currently back in the border-guard/mehnsettir barracks.


    Walker Universe Novel 2: Working Title: Paradise

    (c) Jodi Ralston

    Snippet #1

    Maha gestured me to a chair and bid me to sit.

    I declined.  And pulled out another special blend cigarette to replace the dying one.  Lit it from it.  After a deep puff, I asked, "How long have the Regulators been deceased?"

    That put her out of sorts.  After a moment of a recalculation on her part, she answered, "Six months after you were exiled."  She eyed the cig.  "Put that out.  You know regulations."

    I ignored her and stubbed the dead on out on my hip and flicked it into her gold-plated trash basket.  Even it bore her name.  "Six months.  Exactly how long ago was that?"

    She gave me a look.  Then gave my cig a new one.  Considering the damage smokes have done to my mind, eh?  I tapped it on a paper-free edge of her almost entirely-paper-free desk.  Her face alternately colored than paled.  Then firming her look, she ponied up, "Six months ago."

    A year.  A year.  A year.  One godsdammned year.  That was how they counted the time they robbed me of.  One year.  [1] My fingers crushed the cig better than my heel ever could.  I pocketed it.  Waste not, want not.

    "You seem surprised, Walker."

    And she had gone blind in the interim.  Surprise was the least my emotions.  Then again, she always found it easy to read what she wanted to in me. 

    After a moment, I managed plainly enough, "Time flows differently when you are the other side of the equation, Colonel."

    Her title was like a slap.  And she returned to the true business at hand, moving to slide behind her desk.  Keeping her desk and duty between us.  She was always good at that.  "You are the current sole heir as Regulator to both Lands, Walker." [2]


    Footnotes, spoiler-heavy.  Some sections have been whited out, so that if you want know, highlight the area with your mouse.

    [1]  It will be explained later on that due to a device on Paradise, his place of exile, he has been gone far longer than one year.  It was in fact, 50 years by his reckoning.  How did he survive that, without aging?  Well, I have a few excuses in place, but he won't learn the real reason until probably Novel No. 3. Back to story.

    [2]  In novel number one, in Romeo and Juliet fashion, the heiress of the Regulator's from the Land he calls home married the heir of the other Land.  In the first novel, couriers are introduced.  They can carry objects, magically miniaturized inside themselves.  They can even carry souls, memory, personality.  Walker is a former courier (no one know this, it is illegal for mehnsettirs to be one), and due to circumstances, he ended up carrying the heiress inside himself and having to marry the heir in her name.  His too--for, in this world, there are such things as name-marriages, or in name only marriages.  This is the type of marriage he has to both heirs.  The main purpose of this kind of marriage is usually to marry an heir to his or her sibling.  This makes it so that all children of either person can be potentially heirs, along with the sibling, without the siblings having to actually have children together.  Sorry, I found the whole sibling-marriage thing of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt icky.  This is how I used that penchant but got around it too for my higher-ups.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Snippet or Post

    I only have a few more edits left on my Key Plot Point Three.  It is a huge, troublesome part.  8,500 words.  Would have probably been 9,500 if I hadn't removed a section from it for use later.  Even then I am not comfortable with it.  Maybe because I'm not sure if all of it is really Key Plot Point Three material or not.  Also, there is a section of it that is slow.  I envisioned that scene, but what you see in your head doesn't always translate to the page so well.  Maybe that is also part of the problem.  It is not quite what I saw in my head.  Another problem is that it is harder to cut a scene when you know there is some good bits in it.
    Alright, I talked myself out of it.  I will post a snippet today and work this weekend on that plot point.  Monday will be good for posting the actual bit.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    On Beginnings

    Interesting question about beginnings in first person novels at the Absolute Write forums here:

    Beginnings are hard enough when you write in third person, but when you can't even say the name in line one or hint at gender because you are using "I" instead of "he", it sucks that much more.  It is even harder when you can't just skip the beginning and write it later when you know what your novel is really about.  With my new method of writing, whether I write beginning and ending first or just all key plot points, I can't skip the beginning.  It must be written.  And it must work, because around it and other plot points, I flesh in the novel.  Then let's not forget the problems that occur if this is not the first novel in your series. 

    It's tough, writing beginnings. 

    How do you do it?  By not trying to stuff a ton of stuff in a paragraph one.  Besides giving a picture of where my characters are, the key thing I seek to explain is gender.  My main characters/pov characters are male.  I'm not.  And I sometimes put them in situations where the default expected gender is not male. 

    For example, my Confessions of a Vampire's Courtesan (working title).  Courtesan brings to mind female. So, I have to right away hint at his gender.

    When a member of the Society takes interest in you, it is bad form to discourage the relationship.  My schoolmaster, Mr. S-- had believed that so deeply, that when a gentleman in hunter attire interrupted our exercise with water-magic to remark upon my "good aroma", Mr. S-- took it upon himself to act in my mother's stead and arrange a private interlude. 

    He hauled me out of my class and into the washroom with a simple explanation that cut through the bull-field as he called it.  "That is a gentleman, Mr. Bek.  The Great Ones know, the hunt rarely takes them past our community.  Correct that, the hunt never has.  You'll improve your lot.  You'll improve the lot of your family.  And of our school.  First though, a bath and then dressing."

    Usually I don't try to hint at name right away.  I feel that can come a bit later after you know whether or not the guy you visualizing is indeed a guy or a gal.

    For example, from the rough draft of my first novel in the Walker Series

    My sometimes-wife had the knack for finding me while I was in the bare.  It was how we met, how she left me when she was done with me, and how she found me now when I was knee deep in Teardrop pool at the first House of Health.  She of course was fully clothed back then; this time she barely was.  A sheer dress.  And stringy golden breast-band and loincloth rivaled in size by the matching kohl around her eyes.  Dressed to impress in other words.  Dressed for trouble. 

    It didn't help any that she was carrying my bundle of clothes.  Clothes I had left with the attendant to purify.  Ketesha did not offer them up as she stopped before me. Her gaze raked me up and down, lingering now on the silver, healing waters, then ascending somewhat higher as she tutted.  "Such is a pity."  She stroked my clothing.  "Truly."

    "Ketesha-Uret."  I stepped out of the pool and made a grab for the clothes, which she pulled away.  Teasingly. 

    "Ketesha is so . . . "  She cradled my clothing like a pet cat.  "Formal, my love, for our relationship."

    "Where's the attendant, Ketesha?  What are you doing with my clothes?"

    "I sent her away, so we could . . . talk.  But I suppose that can wait until your prescribed time is finished here."  She shook her head at me, narrowing her gilded lips into a pout, but she offered my garments to me.  I took them. 

    "Beware of strange women; that is how you got in this mess, my Pheteh."   

    Beware the woman you know, in Tesha's case.  Well, let her keep her supposition.  Taking the waters saved me from her from goadings about remissness in fulfilling my matrimonial vows, vows which I have never quite figured out were legal or fictive, or some singular combination of both.  My only regret would be that the word would get back to her sister.

    "The name is Walker."  I shook out the first piece of clothing out carefully.  Ketesha-Uret was the pharaohine of suprises. 

    Damn, that opening line means I have to change the intro in the vampire harem novella I'm writing about him.  Oh, well.  Anyway, it took a while to get to his name of Walker.

    Besides hinting at setup, gender, and name, I reveal information characters and setup an interesting situation.  In Walker Novel 1, the situation is that his sometimes-wife has came back into his life, setting into motion the events of this novel.  Her nature is revealed as seductive and manipulative.  His as being at the disadvantage around her.  Also just for fun, it became a running theme to see how often I could get him in the buff in this novel.

    In the unrelated Courtesan novel, the situation is a meeting between one of the Society (aka vampires, though they don't like that word) and my main character.  It is blood the vampire seeks, and Bek is being pimped into a downfall that sets into motion the events of this novel.  This opening hints just a little that Bek is product of his upbringing; he goes by the rules.

    Finally, Walker Novel 2:

    It was a beautiful day to be exiled.  Our party of eight stood in a schism's clearing, illumed by that giant, restless, iridescent spark.  The air didn't suffocate.  The sun didn't blind nor boil you.  The mid-morning sky was a cheery clear blue between fluffy confections of . . . .  Who was I kidding.  Pretty or not, they were going to throw me through that schism never to return this reality again, for doing the right thing.

    "Does the accused have any last words?"

    Many, I wanted to answer Maha.  But during my trial and sentencing, no one had said a word on my behalf.  Not one.  Not her.  My former superior officer.  My sometimes sister-in-law.  My one time savior.  The woman I loved.  Had loved.  Was still in love with.  I had done my best to distance her from my current legal entanglement; she did better. I couldn't even look at her, because when I did, I only saw how much more the law, her job--the boarder-guards--meant to her than me.

    I realize now that I didn't mention his name until the end of first chapter's scene.  I may have to remedy that.  That is one of the problems with series.  Some things you leave later than you would in first novel.  But anyway, my point is I started the sequel without too much introduction.  It takes a few more paragraphs to find out what exactly he is being exiled for.  Why?  Because, reading about the details right away or even showing a trial is boring to me.  If I'm bored, so is the reader.  Also in this chapter I do not go into much detail, just that he has gotten a raw deal and that he is being exiled primarily for helping to develop a cure for vampiric creatures.  Looking back at it now, I see the need for a little more information early on in the novel about the exiling, so it doesn't seem out of place or an excuse to exile him.  But not much.  But I do have to answer the question I set up better than I did.

    Finally, before I end this post, I'll make a note on something I am bad about.  Description in general, but especially of people.  Especially of my main/pov characters.  I have a picture of my character--literally.  He looks like that dark-haired beauty of that Bleu de Chanel ad found here:  When I first saw that picture, I thought he'd make a good vampire.  Then I realized, no, he makes a better Walker. 

    But I don't say a lick about what Bek or Walker look like in my novels.  It's because of mainly one thing:  I hate it when you build a picture of the character in the beginning and then chapters later you get a detail from the author that contradicts your mind's image, forcing you to stop reading and rebuild the image.  I hate that in general, not just of people in fiction.  Which is why I have such a hard time with writing description.  Since I have yet to find a reason to point out that Walker is a beaut of dark wavy hair and blue eyes and general hotness, I just don't. Unless it is something I can show right away and matters to the story or situation--like in Walker Novel 1, flexibility--I just don't physically describe my characters.   

    After all, sometimes what you think is essential may not be so in the beginning and throughout the novel.  Things like appearance I generally leave to the reader's imagination.  Not all has to be answered right away--just be aware what you don't say speaks as strongly as what you do, and don't let it contradict the unspoken image and impression the reader is building up.  It tends to throw the reader out of the story.

    On that note, I think I'll bring this long post on beginnings to an end.