Story Problem Disintegrates!

The other night when reviewing my Otto and Socks storylines, I could have sworn I had a Me puzzleddisconnect between the 2nd episode and the 3rd. This weekend, I set time aside to resolve this annoying problem. There was no problem. Why I thought there was is beyond me…I be mystified. Maybe that shows why I shouldn’t attempt to write in town after my job and fixing supper and watching TV with Ma because she wants me to: brain drain.

Saturday I did a more final draft on the second episode, renamed Two Peaceful Maidens after the cult that has Otto experiencing visions. Then I wrote out half of the next one, Hooch. Sure, it required a preface paragraph, but it seemed to flow okay to me.

Sunday my brother came over and STAYED, so no more writing, phooey. Instead I took that stained glass piece of satin I got last week and, seeing no suitable pattern, cut it by intuition and made a fabulous two tiered skirt Ma adores. Success! I know, I should have taken some pictures…Sorry!

 

On a sad note, I did not see sweet Bridgette last weekend nor the Tuesday before. Her food dish in her little cozy Download 090915 072cat-house had plenty left. I fear Bridgette either went away as cats do when they get really old, or she was too slow for a coyote or bobcat. I have not seen the secretive and shy Scaredy Cat either, so maybe that bobcat got them both. Scaredy Cat showed up one day and my brother caught her so we could get her fixed. Apparently she harbors a deep resentment because she runs furtively anytime anyone gets near. I did dream about Scaredy Cat last night; she walked up to me shyly and looked straight at me. That would have been very uncharacteristic. Hmmm.

Inspiration Strikes!

Church Trip 039

Maybe it was the relief of Christmas obligations being over. Perhaps it was the end of the frantic push to get things done before the end of the year. I got the hood, tire and headlights fixed on the Subaru, that had to help. It could also have been getting a second four-day weekend so close upon the heels of the last that it felt freer, like a holiday. I had river of inspiration in full spate coursing through my noggin, much like the Wild Branch out front that overflowed its banks and chewed on the gravel road.

 

As I have not sent my 6th t’Hoot Sci-Fi book to the Editor yet, I took the opportunity to tweak it a bit and augment the ending. That book is now the last of the Elise t’Hoot series, the end of an age. I still love Elise, Ricky, stalwart Bartolommeo, that rascal Alvin Wing and the others; they feel like family. The new series will Tenembras World of Our Own Neighbors Distant Trees be different!

We remain in the paradigm of 100 years into the future, Earth in climate turmoil, governments holding tight reigns on the weary population and efficient space travel a reality. In the new series, we drop in on an asteroid mining operation out past Mars. Otto is a new Mechanic. Socks is a Chemist. I drafted the first book in which they both are nearly killed. Otto’s stepmother ET almost met her demise there doing the same job a few years before. Had ET not self-published some smashingly fine science fiction that sparked popular movies, Otto and Socks wouldn’t have had a chance. Except the main contributor to the danger was a guy who literally lived the movies.

I sat back dazed after drafting that story out.  Something NEW! I hit “save” over and over. I backed it up on two different thumb drives. Then I wrote up eight more storylines with those characters and put them in three categories at around one in the morning. I’m excited that I like the characters, I like the story and it feels so durned good to have released that dammed up imagination. The words of the draft poured out in a steady stream, clear water from a crystal ewer. Laptop with Ale

It seems these books will be much shorter than the intertwined storylined grand t’Hoot books. I will indeed use my new templates for the cover and interior. I will start with e-books only and print maybe two or three to a book later. Might I also create my own publishing imprint? The pearl in the big gooey oyster really seems within my grasp. Wow!

Otto Socks blue

Here’s my first stab at the cover art for the new book. If I don’t get excited about all of  it, who would ?

Trying To Get Ready

I have a full almost 400 page sci-fi adventure that I thought was ready to go to the editor. Since the editor won’t be able to get to it until book note 001Spring, I figured I had time to give it one more read-through, look for story flow, detect any silly things I missed all the previous times I went through it. It’s well known that a writer has a miserable time finding fault with something she’s written.

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Leaf it alone?

First and foremost is the fact the author knows the story and automatically fills in the holes anyone else might see in the plot, the motivations, the backstory. ‘I know what I meant to say.’ Another issue is that I’ve seen it all so many times now, it’s tough to read each word carefully. The good thing is that it’s been eight months since I finished the last draft of this one and it’s not nearly so familiar now.

So I get through the first dozen chapters, happy, and hit an idiot passage. The crew on the alien planet splits up for no good reason, in fact it’s dumb for them to do it. Okay, I put them back together. I rewrote the entire chapter. Read it. Tweaked it. Read it. Vowed to look it over again later. Moved on.

Next was a glaring style difference. I do my first drafts quickly, just writing down the gist of the story, to establish the story structure. Then I go back and record what the characters had to say and do to get each part done. The result is that dialog and action carries most of the story and takes up most every page. So here goes little Aroun, in a dangerous situation, performing an important part of the story arc. And he didn’t have one thought. The entire chapter was ‘he did this’ and ‘he did that’. True, if you’re sneaking you might not talk to yourself. You would feel nervous, maybe afraid, you’d get hungry, you might worry about surveillance catching your breathing. Poor Aroun’s ordeal chapter came across very different than any other chapter and he was severely short-changed emotionally. Okay, fixed that. Read it. Tweaked it. You know the rest.Keyboard 001

This reminded me of this year’s ale batches. They all seemed fine when I capped each bottle and smiled. It’s much later when I discovered I didn’t do it quite right. Comparatively speaking, I do believe the book is much better written than the ales were carbonated.

 

What Does an ET Look Like?

As a Sci-Fi writer, I have given excessive though over the shape, temperament and environment needs of an alien being we might meet someday. There’s no reason to not have a billion different forms of life and limb, but some attributes seem likely to be more common than others. We are more likely to cozy up to aliens with the ability so communicate and that are not microscopic or gargantuan. They would be friendlier looking if not blobby or reptilian either.

If a planet has a sun similar to ours and the rocky planet is at a similar distance, many of the natives should have senses adapted to the available light and have body temperatures much the same as well. The basic  Line of Planetsquadrapedal plan might be a common solution, but not necessarilyTriple planet. For a sci-fi book, nobody wants to meet the same old alien that looks like a guy in a costume. My favorites are the Falana here.

Copyright Mary Ellen Wall, June 2013
Mama Kreeek, Papa TaaTaa and the precocious little girl LeeLaa (with apples to throw)

I varied a few parameters. The planet orbits a binary with greatly changing temperatures and gravity. These aliens will be rather resilient, I’d think. A soft body like ours would have a tough time enduring the rigors of annual variations in such an environment. I submit that a carbon rod shell to protect the tender body inside might be appropriate. And just because the vision should respond to a similar sun in a similar war does not mean the alien must have an eyeball. I gave the Falana eye stalks with different wavelength ranges for each sensor. They are two to three meters tall and can manipulate gravitational fields. Really handy, that.

Plus they are professional and respectful as well, as contractors out looking for work should be. Why not? I think civility in an advanced species is more likely than wanton blood-thirst. Besides, they would have alien DNA and our blood would be incompatible to their digestion.

Little Ita Whams Solomon Islands, then Australia

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As cyclones (southern hemisphere hurricanes) go Ita packed strong winds into a tiny package.  Cyclone Ita drowned the Solomon Islanders, then zeroed in on Cooktown in Queensland and blew trees and roofs around before heading south for the city of Cairns. Haiyan (super-powerful) recently smashed the Philippines, Sandy (super-sized) inundated New Jersey and New York last year and the Gulf Coast including New Orleans hasn’t recovered from Katrina yet. Some data says we’re getting stronger storms because of climate change while other data implies that there is too much natural variation to confirm one way or another. Weather Underground has a great discussion on the question.

In Neighbors, the fourth of my Elise t’Hoot science fiction books, I had the north Atlantic coast of South America hit by two Ita-sized hurricanes in a row, destroying all the families there possessed. They became refugees and were exiled along with lots of other ‘excess’ people. It may be hard for scientists to state for sure that any given hurricane or cyclone or typhoon is more vicious because of climate change, but when the sea level rises a few feet, these storms and their flooding storm surges will certainly get closer to more people. With the jet stream going loopy, these storms may romp outside their typical tracks. For example, three strong wintertime storms just pummeled England only a day or two apart, revealing World War 2 ordinance and 10,000 year old forest remains.

A Planet of Our Own – Ready and Waiting!

Hark! The third installment in the Elise t’Hoot series, A World of Our Own,  is now buyable in print and in the ever-popular Kindle format on Amazon. Elise and her comrades find out that Independence isn’t easy. There’s guerrilla action and alpine adventure…of course Elise gets run through the wringer again.

It was great fun figuring out how the different characters would respond to  adversity. Elise crashes into frozen mountain peaks at the same time Mort and crew struggle to make some progress with the sun-blotter volcano. Barto bravely takes the reins as the Amigo handler and loses control when the whole mess of them is dropped into the liberation of Alcatraz.

What about the indomitable Alvin Wing?

Elise finds bounty for Tenembras, and something even more precious, then nearly loses it all. Ricky’s psychotic episode just about does him in, blood-stained lullaby and all. Doc Trogden learns what XXX means on a whiskey jug. Naomi gets out of jail scot-free and vows to be a happy single, for all of two seconds. Lottie Floating Feather of vicious tomahawk fame shows her more peaceful side. A World of Our Own introduces odd characters (Potters okay, but Eskimos?) and really gets inside the characters’ heads. 

Here’s one of my favorite parts (although it sends poor Ricky way off the deep end…):

A Grand Birthday Present!

What personal thing could I wish for on my birthday? Well, getting a fabulous review on one of my books is a wish come true. Tenembras just got a grand review by Kirkus Indie…Here it is:

TENEMBRAS

An Elise t’Hoot Novel

Wall, Mary Ellen
CreateSpace (428 pp.)
$14.99 paperback, $2.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1469942995; April 24, 2012

BOOK REVIEW

A rollicking interplanetary tale of cunning, gumption and the human spirit.

In the not too distant future, Earth is environmentally wracked, with much of its population corralled in refugee (i.e. prisoner) camps or dispatched to colonies on far-flung planets. Wireless-network monitoring and mind-reading scans are the norm, tactics for totalitarian “Patriots” to rein in rebels who revere the Constitution and to keep earthly ethnic and geopolitical loyalties alive in outer space. After one outpost goes down in flames, spacecraft arrive on the planet Tenembras with a doomed settlement’s few remaining vestiges—the exact nature of which must stay off the Patriots’ radar. The band that rallies to protect the payload is wide-ranging enough to warrant the introduction’s playbill-like character list. At the group’s core is Elise t’Hoot, a gutsy technological genius and all-round survivor with a knack for bridging language and cultural barriers between peoples, not to mention between her species and the nonanthropomorphic aliens who are infinitely better-intended than most humans. Not immune to the ravages of harsh politics and terrains, t’Hoot succeeds as a poster child for girl power. Wall’s (The Distant Trees: An Elise t’Hoot Novel, Pre-Elise, 2012) Kentucky roots and pride help illuminate her heroine and the folksy, fast-moving narrative, which pits greed and oppression against ingenuity and the basic goodness of humanity. Her high-spirited, irresistible storytelling extrapolates an all-too-possible future from current political and environmental conditions. She fleshes out this could-be world with pitch-perfect dialogue and characterizations, song lyrics that enhance the plot instead of stalling it, and an astute yet accessible command of technology, science and human nature. Despite its length, this unflagging novel invites a one-sit reading.

A stellar sequel that can stand on its own.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744

Science Fiction and Social Responsibility

Hey, isn’t science fiction just for entertainment? Maybe not. If you think about it, what do you know about robots? Aren’t we familiar with sentient, friendly servants that come in handy to heroes? How about Azimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? If a robot didn’t bow and scrape in a friendly manner we’d know there was a mightly big problem somewhere because sci-fi has shown us what might happen. Whereas in reality, most robots perform inspections in small or dangerous areas at the direction of handlers or are anchored to a defined area to repetitively build sections of cars with less innate intelligence than a bedbug. I think that robot engineers are working hard on that science fiction vision of a robot, that some of them picture CP3O as the goal. Too bad we don’t have Artificial Intelligence to guide the robots from science fiction.

Gee, science fiction warns us about Artificial Intelligence too, doesn’t it? We know not to let AI take over our military. We also know that AI could take a big load off of folks in charge of very complex operations like power grids. Science fiction informs our questions as current scientists work toward artificial intelligence; AI will be better because science fiction has explored the good and bad aspects and we’ve already seen many of the pitfalls.

How about Mars? Mars is an inhospitable little crust of a planet but we think of Mars as a DESTINATION. Why? I think it’s because so many science fiction stories have led us from initial exploration through terraforming and on into Martian society. Science is planning exploratory missions and is working up to sending humans there. Sci-Fi makes us believe it is doable and worth it for a grand big pay-off. Science fiction doesn’t stop with Mars, either. We know about other planets in our Solar System and even about societies on planets light years away.

We’ve learned quite a bit about society through science fiction from reading about or watching those characters in Dune or Star Wars or Serenity or Tenembras or in hundreds of other examples. How many stories tell of wars over resources? Or ruined climates that hurl the poor inhabitants into famine and rampant disease? We can use science fiction to help us see how destructive changes in weather patterns and rising sea levels will be. We know it’s a fair possibility that millions of people all along the coasts of every continent will be drowned or battered brutally with ferocious storms. Right now science tells us of record high temperatures for summer and winter and about tropical diseases reaching further north every year. Climate change is here, now.

Science uses actual to tell us the threat from climate change is real and that  a bleak future is very possible. Science says we can affect the severity of what happens in the next 100 years right now.  Science fiction illustrates that bleak future so we can feel the hot wind, taste the dust in the air, hear the cries of the orphans and smell the sickness from the refugee field hospital. Science cannot be 100% certain people are causing the climate to get mean, but the probability is very high. I believe it is my social responsibility to limit that harsh future any way I can, and the science fiction picture of our failure drives me to get up off my patootie and act on that belief.