Half Done (With First Draft)

RobertThis is a continuing blog series about the latest science fiction story I am working on: Shoulder Fairy. The picture is an artist’s interpretation of what protagonist Robert Vasquez looks like.

I got the estimated first half of this first draft finished last Saturday. In this second quarter of the story, trouble and obstacles arise for the protagonist Robert Vasquez. By the end of the first half he prepares to travel to the planet’s National Archives, a fort with the vault full of ancient records. It’s in the middle of a notorious wilderness, out of contact with the rest of the world. There he plans to hide from human ambassador Garth Smith for a while.

Below is a scene near the end of the first half of the story. It shows a confrontation between Robert and the ambassador. Robert came to the planet (Sonik) from Earth with the cause to convert the natives to technology, selling electronic tablets loaded with educational materials on Earth knowledge. The ambassador is opposed to educating the natives because he feels they should be left vulnerable to Earth dominance and be assimilated into the Earth empire.

There are two types of native people on the planet Sonik, “fairies” which are small and can fly, and “tarlocks”, which are human-sized and don’t fly.

With those clues, see if you can figure out what is going on in the scene:

I put on a fresh layer of sunscreen, my hat, and my glasses. As we were heading out through the building’s exit, there came the swoosh of a hover jet landing. That would have to be someone from the human settlement.

The hover jet landed, and its engines were kept idling. Two humans emerged from it, leaving the pilot inside. Copper-san hid in a wizard’s pocket to avoid the turbulence from the jet. The female human—probably the translator—started to talk to some nearby tarlocks but then noticed me. Both of them wore human clothing, which meant that I couldn’t see any of their skin, except for the parts of their glistening faces that the floppy hat brims didn’t obscure. Because of the way he walked, I knew that one of them was Garth.

“I was at a meeting with the Sonik leaders,” Garth said as he approached me. His voice was louder than necessary. “Do you know what they’re so excited about?” He waited for my answer.

“Your presence?”

“No. They’re excited about your plan to spread education to all of Sonik. Do you even remember what my orders were?!” He was shaking a clenched fist.

Orders? “You suggested that I teach only our language to the natives, and nothing more,” I said.

“Suggested?!”

The hover jet alone was a crowd magnet. His voice, however, was bringing even more attention our way.

“Perhaps I wasn’t clear,” he said, his voice softer, though still harsh. “I said that if you teach modern Earth education to the hicks anywhere on Sonik, I will forcibly deport you back to Earth. And now that you’ve gone against my orders, get into the hover jet now. Right now!”

“No,” I said.

He opened his overcoat and pulled his gun from its holster, keeping it near his waist and hidden from most of the natives. They wouldn’t have recognized such a device anyway. Garth’s translator stepped away from him with a look of surprise on her face.

Another unnatural thought surfaced. Garth is not our friend.

“Wait,” I said. “You said I could teach the Earth Standard language.”

“And you went so far as to mention teaching them to travel to the stars and make machines.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. Oh.”

“It’s true that I manipulated the bureaucrats to get permission to sell my stuff to the younger generation here at the universities. The students are suckers for video games and social media. I didn’t realize the leaders would take me so seriously. You don’t think they’ll find out what I’m really doing, do you?”

Garth thought about that for a minute. He put his gun away.

“Robert, you were dishonest to our allies, which is fine if you remember that what you say to government leaders can cause a backlash. As long as they don’t find out, it should be okay. Just teach a token number of students our language, and we can claim that you fulfilled your promise. What’s that thing on your neck?”

The bulge on my neck had grown beyond any reasonable explanation. I just shrugged.

Garth strode away, and his companion followed, struggling to match his speed. Before he boarded the hover jet, he yelled, “I’ll be checking up on you!”

As I watched the hover jet soar over the rooftops and disappear into the horizon, Copper-san landed on my shoulder. “You lied to your leader,” she said.

“He’s not my leader. He might have some jurisdiction over me, but I’m not his employee. Anyway, I don’t lie. Well, I try not to lie. But I didn’t lie to him today; I just didn’t tell the whole truth.”

How could Copper-san know what I’d said to Garth anyway? My whole conversation with him had taken place in Earth Standard language.

That is a mystery, thought unnatural alternate consciousness.

Book Trailer Video

I had a book trailer made, just for fun. It focuses on Negative Zero and Baktu but also mentions Claymore near the end.

My French translator Christophe, who is currently working on the book Claymore, had a friend who made a trailer for his (Christophe’s) book. Christophe was excited about it and persuaded me to hire his friend (Alexandre) to make a trailer for my books. I chose the lower end of the price scale, but am happy with the result. He also gave me a French version.

My latest book (still in the Tomek Universe) is taking forever to write, and still has a long way to go. I am hiring a ghostwriter (gasp) to write a draft of a chapter I am having difficulty with. Assuming her idea for the chapter makes it into the final book, I will give her credit in the acknowledgments section of the book, to be transparent and honest. I will be very interested to see her work.

As before, I plan to invite outside amateur writers (like myself) to write a short story each for the appendix of the book. They each will be instructed to select a minor character and invent a backstory for them or write an incident involving them. It’s too early for that yet. I am still trying to stabilize the plot and its current characters. I’m telling you now so you can start thinking about writing an appendix story for me.

When the Writing is Finished

I’m excited to be finished writing and editing my science fiction novel titled ‘Claymore’. I have both of the appendix short stories completed by my guest authors, Siriano Lambert and Gavin Parish. I am waiting for the last one of the ten illustrations then I can send all the interior to createspace.com for them to format into the 6″ x 9″ page size. I will then put my illustrator to work on the cover. In the meantime I can take a break and do something with my spare time other than write.

Siriano

My guest authors each wrote a short story about a different minor character. Siriano chose the minor character Jak, a police officer caught selling confidential police information to an alleged journalist. Siriano is my nephew, and as far as I know, this will be his first work published in a book. He does have writing samples available on different web sites. Here the first paragraph of his short story for Claymore:

Rain tapped softly on the hood of the air car. Jak sat motionless in the driver’s seat, eyes glued to the dash-screen video feed. It had taken so long to get approval for this stakeout that he was afraid the suspect would have moved on before he could get the cam-bot installed. Of course, he’d had to pay for the cam-bot out of his own pocket. That had been difficult to get Melysa to understand, but in the end they had agreed the risk would be worth it.

I was excited to involve Siriano and he came through with a nice story that I feel will enhance my book. Siriano focuses successfully on emotions and relationships. There is action here also. After reading Siriano’s story about Jak and his family, you understand why Jak felt justified in his later actions, even though Claymore wasn’t sympathetic.

Gavin

I had hired Gavin Parish in the past with my novel ‘Baktu’ and enjoyed his results. He chose the minor character ‘Lucy’, a person of a race known for their intellect but physically comparable to cephalopods (octopuses). He went the extra mile and read my other novels for more background information. Here is his first paragraph:

Lucy was in deep water, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. The plajoni home world was mostly ocean, but here on Regalia she had grown accustomed to spending much of her time on dry ground of late. Even so, it felt good to get her tentacles properly wet once in a while, though the level of toxicity in the water was an ever-present concern. Strict antipollution laws had long been in place across the planet, but busy traffic around a major spaceport posed a heightened risk she would be foolish to ignore. Nevertheless, she would only use the breathing filter Scod had given her as a last resort. It went against her instincts to swim with any kind of aid, and she had not liked the fit and feel of the thing when she tried it on for a test run before setting out.

He made blatant and subtle references to several other characters in the Claymore novel and my other novels (in the same universe), including the Baskin Shipping Yards, Death Ray, and others. At the end the amnesia that he gave Lucy subtly explains how she ended up a homeless tramp when she first appears in the main novel. It’s Interesting story of suspense and action.

Tiziana

The featured picture this week is the one Tiziana made for chapter 29. Here Claymore is poses as a customer in a hanger for spaceships. He is actually spying on the bad guy’s ships. Claymore ends up leasing a spot even though he has no space ship. The picture shows the environment, the open ceiling, and the general busyness of the place.

Chapter29final

Telling the Same Story Twice

Recently, writing my novel in progress, I needed to write the same scene from my previous book for my current one. Both books are in the same series. I felt this needed to be handled carefully because I didn’t want my previous readers to feel like I was recycling the same material.

The important difference was this time it was a different protagonist. That same party the “Tomek” was at in a previous book was an important event for Claymore’s story as well. The timelines of the two novels overlap. I decided this could be a good thing if I handled it right.

First of all, I focused heavily on Claymore’s perspective of the scene, leaving out all elements that Claymore did not experience, and telling things that happened to Claymore there that were not in Tomek’s story. I did include the moment they both talked to each other but still made it different by filtering it through Claymore’s mind and assumptions.

Also, I had Claymore wondering and guessing about Tomek’s reason for being there, just as Tomek wondered why Claymore was there in the previous story.

But Claymore and his ‘Trident’ crime investigation was the theme of the scene this time around. I used the chapter to move Claymore’s plot forward. Claymore finds an important clue there that propels him into a web of danger soon after.

I expect and hope readers that recognize the party from the earlier novel will enjoy the nostalgia and finally knowing why Claymore was there.

Chapter13 final

Here is the illustration of the scene that Tiziana made for the chapter (chapter 13). Tomek and his girlfriend are looking on as Claymore tries to get someone to dance with him. Can you tell how well he’s doing? (It’s a formal party on Zimvia where gowns were required regardless of gender.)

Introducing Supporting Characters

Supporting characters are important in most stories. Chapter seven of my work in progress introduces Phee, the green girl in the picture who is the major character besides Claymore himself (the other green species). I didn’t just want her to show up for no reason. Her existence on the same planet as Claymore changes the whole story.

Chapter seven was originally the first chapter until I found I needed introduce Claymore and establish his personal conflicts first. Then Phee’s appearance could be all about her, and the significant twist she presents to Claymore’s goals and hopes. Phee represents mystery, and evidence that the criminals Claymore is trying to hunt down are way bigger than a few street hoodlums. He still won’t know how big until later.

Introducing Phee properly was so important to me that chapter seven is probably the most carefully crafted chapter in the book. (Though, I’m still an amateur no matter how hard I craft.)

This illustration for the chapter is another by tizianafruiu of freelancer.com. Here Claymore is trying to research the strange planet Phee came from. I think Tiziana did a good job making research look intense.

chapter-7-final

Claymore and Content Editing

Hello. It has been a while since my last blog post. I have been working on my next novel, tentatively titled Claymore.

A preliminary bit of news is that my published book ‘Baktu’ is now available in audio format.

In my last post I claimed that my last book in the Tomek series was all planned. Well, things change. I decided the plans were too big to fit comfortably in one book, so I planned three books. With the current plan there will be a total of five novels in the series. I have finished the first (sharable) draft of Claymore last Saturday. That does not mean I am ready to publish it. However I am excited by this milestone because it means I can start dragging in help in the form of content editors.

I have been noticing fiverr.com, and decided to try a sample of the service from two specific content editors that are sellers there. For a sample I submitted my first chapter of Claymore to each of them.  The chapter is between 1500 and 2000 words. One cost me $10 and the other was $20. Both of the editors turned out to be good. I want to share one of the results here, in case you want to see what a good content editor does to your draft. Click here: ClaymoreChapter1_developmental_edit_CateHogan

Now I want to sent in my full manuscript for content editing, but I need to fix my chapter 1 first, based on the editor’s input.

When I send in one of my precious documents for editing, I usually go through stages. I don’t know if these stages are typical of all authors (who use content or developmental editing) but I will list mine anyway:

  1. Almost immediately after I submit it, I am impatient to get the results. I monitor my email  several times a day. I am tempted to contact the neighbor girl (when I hire her) or check guru.com, freelancer.com or fiverr.com (if I hired services from there) several time a day, and sometimes I give in to the temptation.
  2. I get the manuscript back and read all the comments and notes the editor made, with feverish anticipation.
  3. And then I feel crushed, deflated. The evil editor found flaws. They have implied that my precious words, that I worked so many months on, of are  defective. You won’t feel that when you read mine because you haven’t given birth those darling  words. I even start feeling rebellious. What to editors know anyway? What is so special about their opinion? I am exaggerating. The editor is usually polite about it, and they do sprinkle in compliments.
  4. I think about it. For a full book manuscript I ponder a whole day on it. I start to understand what they are talking about, and understand why those flaws weaken the story. I start seeing how the book could be so much better if I make specific adjustments to address the various issues they pointed out.
  5. And now I am excited. I can’t want to add all those improvements.

In the specific content editor’s notes attached to this blog, some things you will see are where the editor simply misunderstood. And that is good information too. I don’t want the reader to misunderstand. For example, the editor complained that I had Ramos (the human) looked down to talk to Claymore. Since Claymore has four arms he should be taller, right? No. Navinos have always been shorter than humans in the series. So I need to clarify that somehow in chapter 1. There was another item that was a simple misunderstanding.

Another specific item, and this one is a big deal, is that Claymore is not properly motivated. The reader does not have a sense of why Claymore would take risks, or why helping Phee would interest him enough to make sacrifices. This, I decided was deadly important. Sure Claymore wants law and justice for all (like I do in real life, so I automatically assume the reader has the same feelings). But is that enough? Even if is  a valid motivation, it is not specific enough. (Like she pointed out, there are lots of injustices in the news. What is so special about Phee’s situation?) And even that were his only motivation, I have not properly shown enough of Claymore’s background to show why. I am not sure all of this motivation needs to be established in chapter one, but I think I will try to do it in a prologue + chapter 1.

In any case I am planning on giving this serious attention. I now have planned something very specific about Claymore’s background that I want to write as an exciting prologue, where he loses someone dear to him. And it’s something that not only motivates him to help Phee, but goes beyond that and has specific repercussions in the remainder of the book and the plot. I won’t tell you the specifics of my plan, but I am excited to implement this new idea. The bad news is now I have to write a prologue, rewrite chapter 1, and make adjustments throughout the book. Probably before I submit the whole book for content editing. My schedule slides again, but that’s normal.

My Review of Phantasia

I read a novel called “Phantasia” by R. Atlas (who I have never heard of) as an free advance reader copy from StoryCartel.com, and then bought it from Amazon. I gave it four stars with an Amazon review.

This was a fun read. I enjoyed the author’s imagination. The book kept me interested to the end. The story takes you through various environments: the academy when Red and his friends are training to be warriors against the dreaded Xenosites, the test battle in the desert gone out of control, the bizarre and exotic caves, the glacial swamps, and the royal palace, all with wondrous and often dangerous creatures. The mysteries and suspense pile up. I liked it and thought it a worthwhile read.

The book was was sprinkled with a few wrong words spelled similar to the words he should of used. I think some professional editing would of helped it. Also, the end is just a cliff hanger, with no resolution. I think each book in a series should have a conclusion, where some subplot is resolved with a satisfactory end, even if the overall series plot continues to build up.