Space Stuff In The 21st Century

Jericho nuclear explosion

Source: Paramount Pictures

I had a good weekend with the SF project. I got to drop an atomic bomb on a character and have her survive. Yes. I know. I need to get out more.

But I reached an important milestone as well. I reached 100 pages in the manuscript. I know page count is not as important in our word processing, ebook world. It’s still an important milestone. 100 pages mean that I’ve been at this a while. That the characters’ world is in transition (including the aforementioned nuke falling on one of them) at this point is a good thing. It means the story will go long, but not so long that it will bore the hell out of the reader.

In the meantime, since this is a big universe where they live, I’m contemplating writing some related stories that take place elsewhere. It’s kind of an Age of Sail motif, where sometimes, people don’t know what’s happened somewhere for months because communications are so slow. One real-world situation where that went horribly wrong? The US declaration of war on Britain passed  the ship carrying the British offer of peace in the Atlantic in 1812. Thank God Americans and Canadians had bacon to resolve their differences. (You thought it was that they both spoke English, didn’t you? Nope. It’s bacon. Remember that next time you have your Egg McMuffin™.)

The reason for this is simple. I’ve been reading Kristen Lamb‘s latest, Rise of the Machines. No, she’s not riffing on the Terminator movies. (Besides, that Terminator movie sucked.) She is talking about platform building for authors. And as you know, this is my Dick Bachman writing alongside the Steve King that is Jim Winter. And my Dick needs a platform. (Har har har!). Even though I plan to start out traditional with this project’s publication attempts, even traditional authors need to build a platform. It’s the same method beloved by dope dealers. (“Psst! First one’s free! Next few are cheap! Then you’re mine.*”) The difference here is that nothing is illegal or hazardous to your health. But building a ready-made audience is something to consider before even going independent.

Next week, I need to have my protags altogether as one big unhappy. But for now, I’ve got to have a fourteen-year-old girl wait out a mushroom cloud, and two more teens find a cabin in the woods. Because they watched Doomsday Preppers. Right?

Actually, I’m a bit disturbed by Doomsday Preppers‘s lack of anyone preparing for alien invasion or the zombie apocalypse. These things are important, yanno.

*And in conclusion, mwhahahaha.

Giddy Up, Glacier

The new novel moves slowly, 25,000 words since September. Usually, that’s my output for a month. This is different. This is a bigger book. Bigger in scope, and likely, bigger in length.

Don’t know what possessed me to do this one the way I’ve been doing it. Fictional setting, feeding finished scenes to a friend, banging away without an outline and only a vague idea of what the end game is.

I have three (or four, really) touchstones driving this book. Hopefully, they drive the series as well. For starters, I take my inspiration from the 87th Precinct. It’s an ensemble piece, though hopefully, I have come up with a first among equals in a disgraced female detective. And like McBain, it’s set in a fictional city.

Second is the combination for Ken Bruen’s Brant series and Stuart MacBride’s MacRae novels. Both are very much the modern descendants of McBain’s 87th Precinct (though MacBride says he’s never read McBain. Can’t tell. He writes like he’s picked up where McBain left off.) Both stories are set in Britain, and the MacRae stories benefit from Scottish law vs. English or American law. So while I’ve learned how to modernize the McBain formula from both Ken and Stuart, I’ve also learned from the stark differences between these series and those set in America.

Third (or fourth if you count Ken and Stuart separately) is The Wire. Is there anyone writing noir, thrillers, or hardboiled crime fic today that doesn’t watch this show? But The Wire is not a television show. It’s a novel written by committee and presented in video. Sure, I can point to it and say, “That’s where I learned I could write morally ambivalent stories.” But what I learned from The Wire is how to pace a sprawling story with lots of characters. I don’t have nearly the huge cast The Wire does. This season, it not only pulled in two of Laura Lippman’s characters, but Laura herself is a character in one episode. David Simon, Ed Burns, and crew juggle a lot of balls, and from their juggling act, I’ve learned a new way to manage chapters.

That’s not to say this book will be the new 87th Precinct or Inspector Brant or DS MacRae. Certainly, it’s not The Wire. But all those have let me aim higher.