One Quarter Done

This is an update to my last post. I am rewriting a short story that lost in a science fiction contest. Above is another illustration I hired someone to make for the story.

I am an estimated one quarter done with the first draft of my longer version of my short story that I am excited about. At 8,272 words for the first fourth, it is still going to be a shorter than a novel, but probably three times as long as it was before.

I usually plan my stories in quarters, where in the first quarter I introduce the setting, the situation, the protagonist, and some of the other important characters and try to build up interest. It ends at a decision point or event that sets the story in a new, riskier direction. Hopefully that is accomplished in this new first quarter of the story or will be in later adjustments.

Calling this ‘One Quarter Done‘ is deceptive because even for people who preplan before they write, the first draft is not the last draft. I had a busy couple of weeks with relatives visiting, my real job, and other interruptions. And next week I will be helping at a week long boy scout camp in a wilderness where the internet is not available. But after that I should be able to make good progress.

I want to share the first part of the story here which is currently the first scene of chapter 1. This may become the prologue or the whole chapter 1. This scene was not in the original short story.

Originally I started the story on the alien planet with Robert newly arrived. That seemed to beg much explaining and exposition. To exaggerate how bad it was, it went something like this:

I looked out my window from my hotel suite in the human spaceport on the planet Sonik and saw all that alien landscape… etc. etc. I had arrived yesterday from Earth … took 13 years to travel here …. woke up from hibernation … in the Procyon star system … outer space, outer space, outer space, etc. Oh yeah, and now I am here.

So I made this new scene where Robert can experience his arrival in a spaceship at the same time the reader is reading about it. This is intended to make the information more a part of the story than being just information. This is my official first draft of the new first scene:

The blurry face resolved to that of the hibernation technician, Uzoma, who had been trying to put me into an induced hibernation for the last fifteen minutes.

“I’m still conscious,” I complained.

“Incorrect wording,” said Uzoma. “You are conscious again.”

I felt cold, foggy headed and miserable still. The intravenous tubes and other cables were still attached to me, but the fluid in the tank I was submersed in was at a lower level. My face was above the fluid and I was  breathing air. Did that mean I would have to acclimate to breathing liquid all over again?

How much torture did I have to go through before I could be launched into space, escape Earth, and be on my way to the star Procyon A, my first interstellar trip. I decided to be patient a little while longer. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

“Your blood will be warmed to a normal temperature in six minutes.” Uzoma said. I can then disconnect you and you will be free to go.”

That was alarming. “You mean the flight is canceled? What’s wrong.”

Uzoma rolled her eyes and smiled. “You’re here. On Sonik.”

I was on the planet Sonik? Already? The gravity did feel a little heavier, I think. It was hard to tell. “What’s the date?” I asked.

Uzoma looked at a display panel. “UTC Earth time is 2:52pm, August eight, 2198. Local native time is the second hour of the afternoon, the 9th day of the 7th week of the 17th month, of the 2806th year since people were created.”

That meant I was unconscious for about thirteen years by Earth time. Space ships that traveled at near-light speeds made travel to Procyon possible, but not quite practical. My girlfriend on Earth, Fiona, would be thirty four years old now. My age would be complicated considering near light speed time dilation. And according to medical theory with the stasis of artificial hibernation, I had only aged about one month during the trip. I wasn’t feeling particularly young at the moment.

After a long wait, I had the strength to sit up, and Uzoma helped me out of the tank to a chair. She dried me off and helped me put on underpants and a gown.

“Robert, you’ll continue to feel foggy and weak for the remainder of the day,” Uzoma said. “Your hotel room is ready, your suitcase is already there, and your cargo trunks are in the luggage office by the settlement foyer. After a night’s sleep you should feel fine. Are you ready to be wheeled to your suite?”

I nodded, eager to lay down wherever there was peace and quiet.

There you have it. If you have never seen a first draft before, here is one. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I don’t guarantee that I will obey them all, but I do want to read your insight.

New Short Story

Fairy Concept

I had submitted a short story to a contest last year. Last month I got notice that from the thousands of entries, I didn’t win. Now that the story is mine again, I plan on rewriting it to contain adventures beyond the contest limit of 17,000 words. I want to add more of the perils and obstacles that Robert faces as he attempts to raise the natives of the planet ‘Sonik’ above their current medieval level with education of Earth language and science.

The story titled ‘Shoulder Fairy’ is about Robert Vasquez’ journey to the star Procyon A where humans have an outpost on a world that the natives call ‘Sonik’. He brings hundreds of electronic tablets full of educational apps and plans on being a missionary for education.

The planet has two races of people: small (17 cm) flying people with wings called ‘fairies’ (in Earth language) and the ‘tarlocks’ which are human sized and don’t fly.

Robert finds things don’t go as simply and smoothly as he had expected. There are dangers and medical hazards to living outside the human outpost among the natives. The humans in the outpost present other problems. Robert finds that his definition of success may need to be re-evaluated, and maybe include his own survival.

I expect to publish the work this year. Shoulder Fairy will still be short, maybe half the size of a novel. It is not in the Tomek universe with my previous books. I hope to provide an update of my progress each month. Thank you to any who read my slow blog.

Experimented with Twine.fm

ProcyonB

I commissioned an illustration from an illustrator at Twine for a short story I am planning to self-publish. The guy I hired made me the beautiful piece above.

The Twine experience was a little different than the freelancer sites I have used before. I am still trying to figure out if I will use it more.

Fiverr.com is great for quick typical needs, but if you want something a little more custom or special, they don’t seem adaptable. You would often need to change your project to better match the definition of the job the creator advertises as his/her specialty. You cannot post a job and have creators give you bids.

Freelancer.com is great because you can post exactly what the job is that you want to have done, and the creators will search you out and give a bid, sometimes too many bids to review. This is perfect for me because most of the illustrations or other art I need are custom situations. However, this process can be a little burdensome if you just want a quick little thing. Also, Freelancer pesters you with several small fees during the process so you never know exactly how much the project will cost in advance.

Twine.fm is more similar to Freelancer.com. You post a job, and the creators submit bids. Twine seems more casual and the personnel seems more eager to give you their personal attention to help you through the project. Besides the bid price you agree to with the artist you choose, to pay exactly 20% extra to Twine. I think that is better than a bunch of little fees, but it does seem a little more than I expected. On Freelancer.com they charge the hired artists fees also. As far as I can tell, Twine does not charge the artists any fee, except an annual subscription if they want to enjoy premium perks. Also, Twine specializes in visual arts like videos and illustration, not in writing or other tasks.

I will probably give Twine some more business. I still expect to revert to Freelancer and Fiverr on occasions.

Detangling Quantum Entanglement

Note: Quantum Entanglement transceivers are used as fictional communication devices in each of my books that allow my characters to communicate over vast interstellar distances instantly. Julie Schoen (from fiverr.com) did some research for me and published her result here. I am also publishing it on my blog.

Detangling Quantum Entanglement: Can You Really Communicate at the Speed of Light?

Although people might like to believe that aliens and extraterrestrials are only relegated to the pages of science fiction books or the screens in our movie theaters, for centuries there have been people who firmly believe otherwise. From astronauts who have walked on our moon to, more recently, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, there have always been those on “the fringe” who not only believed in ET life, but felt like they had evidence to prove it.

The famous crash in Roswell, New Mexico thought to be one of the events that did such that, offering the proof of a ship and a body, although many still argue its validity.

In one of Musk’s recent interviews, he not only shared that he believes extraterrestrial super aliens a feasible possibility, he went on to say that, if they exist, they   existed, but that “they’re probably already observing us… and we’re just not smart enough to realize it.”

How’s that for a kick to your human ego?

A long time ago, my middle school Language Arts teacher asked my class to read Ender’s Game. Not my typical cup of tea, considering Jane Austen was, and still is, the be-all-end-all author in my book, I found myself fascinated by the world Orson Scott Card created.

But, being the daughter of an engineer who constantly questioned and destroyed every possibility of Star Wars being possible, I found myself skeptic – and I went back to Emma and her matchmaking (which, if you’re an Orson Scott Card or sci-fi fan probably means very little to you).

And then I moved to Boulder and found myself immersed in a company that not only wholeheartedly believes in intelligent life on other planets, many of the people they work with believe that they are contacting people here on this planet, perhaps even right here among us.

Yes, I live in New Mexico. No, I’ve never felt like I have seen something inexplicable streak across the night sky.

However, I was interested to see what the possibility of all of this really could be. Now, I’m far from being an expert but I have some incredibly smart people in my life that let me pick their brains, especially about communication with extraterrestrials: is it actually possible to talk with life on other planets in real time? Or, at least, without having to wait hundreds of years for a text message to finally arrive in your inbox?

During this picking I was pointed to fiction books that have some plausible ideas about communication with other planets, the idea of quantum entanglement, and, less helpful, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

I found myself tangled in quantum entanglement, which apparently is no surprise to anyone familiar with the concept. In a nutshell, quantum entanglement is a phenomenon that joins particles in their quantum state so that they are no longer separate – everything becomes one whole no matter how far apart they are. Albert Einstein is one of the scientists to write about this phenomenon, something non-scientist folk can understand as “spooky action at a distance”.

To break this down in an easier to understand way, quantum entanglement posits that if a particle were spun on one side of the world and it was entangled with another, the spinning of that first particle would cause the second to spin as well and in the same direction.

Yep, spooky.

Some physicists believe that quantum entanglement is the answer to extraterrestrial communication, although it hasn’t been proven yet that information can actually be carried and passed through this phenomenon. There is an interesting book that was written about quantum entanglement being a possible scientific explanation for ESP and psychic readings, although, of course, everything in this realm of science is always up for debate.

(Haven’t Sheldon and Leonard taught you anything?)

So the big question is if you can find a way to send information with entangled particles as doing so would allow for speed of light (or faster) communication that could put us in cahoots with super smart aliens on Planet X (or was it Y?)

While the decision is still out with the jury, many physicists say that you can’t simply because trying to alter the state of an entangled particle breaks the entanglement. And then, there are the ones that argue there’s a way around it – they just haven’t figured it out exactly yet.

But, where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.

And if quantum entanglement isn’t the answer, is there somewhere else to look?

Perhaps interstellar beacons can be used to create some sort of informative light show, like an EDM festival crossed with Dan Rather.

Others believe that learning to understand dolphins may hold the key to unlocking extraterrestrial communication. In fact, researchers in Hawaii are currently practicing communicating with animals, like dolphins, in order to prepare for contact. Researchers involved with this project say that when they’re asked if they believe “we’re alone”, they answer, “No, we’re not alone. There are many animals communicating right here that we don’t understand.”

Point taken.

And this is where my dizzying exploration into the detangling of quantum entanglement came to a screeching halt. Can you learn to communicate at the speed of light? My guess, contrary to Elon Musk’s belief in our lack of intelligence, is that of course we can – it’s just a matter of time. But, until an alien comes up to me on the street to try to ask for directions, I’m going to focus on honing my communication skills for the intelligent beings on this planet.

Flipper, will you be my friend?

My Illustrator’s Daughter Gets Involved

My latest book ‘Claymore’ has been on Amzon.com for a few weeks in all three formats now (ebook, black & white paperback, and color paperback). Besides my day job as an engineer, I have been a bit lazy since then, playing games and watching shows on Netflix. Soon I will need to start my next project in earnest.

Meanwhile I have had some exposure and sales for the new book, especially with friends and relatives. My illustrator bought an expensive version of the book (the version with color interior illustrations) for her daughter. As you can see in the attached picture, she is really happy to have my story in her hands. (Okay, she is happy to have the illustrations in her hands.) I appreciate her positive response.

TizianaDaughter

I am indecisive about my next project. I have two more books planned and outlined for the Tomek series that I want to complete, but I also want to do a ‘hard science fantasy’ story that I have in my head.

I’ve never heard that term (hard science fantasy) before and I may have made it up. The general concept is a world similar to the one Tolkien created (not too similar, but with magic, magical beasts, and wizards). Earthling astronauts land there and try to make sense of it. I have specific ideas in mind (about the science behind the magic and about plots and characters) but haven’t outlined them in any document yet. I would want the plots and characters to dominate and not have it all about the science. It would be, at some stage, a battle of science against magic where science is losing. Later as they ally with the good guys they learn to meld the two technologies together.

I am sure something like that has been done before somewhere, but I want to do my idea with it.

It’s On Amazon

My latest book is listed for sale on Amazon.com. That seems like the final proof that it’s published and the work is done. I can show my friends that I am a published author with multiple books.

Actually, I still need to publish the kindle version, especially since that is expected to sell the most. And I will publish the paper color version with color interior illustrations, but that will sell the least because of the high cost. But that will be easy on my part, once createspace.com has it formatted.

This is the best moment in writing a book, when it’s done and on sale. Tiziana from freelancer.com designed a beautiful book cover for it.

Cover Claymore

Waiting for the Author’s Proof

I submitted my book cover and interior to createspace.com. They will send me the printed author’s proof (first copy of the book for my review). I already know it will be perfect (from the electronic proof) so I expect to click the “Publish” button. My book should be on Amazon in a couple weeks. It’s exciting.

Last week I told you I would include the first chapter page from the interior of an earlier book (Baktu in this case) which I formatted myself using default Microsoft fonts and styles (BaktuInterior6x9.paperBW.FirstPage), and the first chapter of this new one that I paid to have it professionally formatted (Claymore_Proof_Interior_FirstPage). I am real happy with the professional one. It is clean and stylish.

As I mentioned, the cover is done (by Tiziana of Freelancer.com) and I will feature it in another blog. It’s beautiful.

It’s always a relief to me to have finished a novel. But getting it on Amazon is when it will really be finished. However, in this case, I still need to submit the color version to createspace.com, so it won’t really really be finished until that one is also on Amazon. Color is so expensive on createspace.com that it is hard to recommend buying the color version of a book to friends with a straight face. But Tiziana’s color illustrations are so beautiful that I must publish it.

The featured picture this week is the illustration for chapter 49, the last illustration. This is a moment of suspense when Claymore is injured and fading. One of is nemeses is about to kill his friends that are chained to the wheelchairs.

Chapter 49

 

Writing Obstacles into the Story

For my latest manuscript the editing is done and all the interior illustrations. This illustration featured today is for chapter thirty-one. This chapter has Claymore finding exactly where prisoners are being kept.

When I wrote my first book, my editor complained that I had my character solve problems almost instantly. I learned challenging obstacles are important in a story, something everyone seems to know, but I didn’t back then. Obstacles that are quickly overcome are not really obstacles.

Now I am on my third book, and in this particular case, the character Claymore has spent over half the book trying to find where the prisoners of the evil covert organization are. Here he finally gets a peek into the bad guy’s surveillance room and recognizes video feed of one of the prisoners. Now he can switch to planning the rescues.

I am still an amateur writer, but here I have the produced the most serious struggles for the protagonist. I just wonder if I went too far. Nah. It was a struggle for me personally though. I have a tendency to want my character to be masterful or expert. And I still do that to a degree by making the opposition stronger.

I try to have the character to be strong in some things, but also have some significant flaws that cause him or her problems. In Claymore’s case as an example, he is a bit snobby and overconfident. He is a wealthy and clever lawyer. That is one of his weaknesses that make his problems worse. At a point before this illustration, he is living homeless and broke. While he never gets his wealth back, he does become successful again and makes a difference in the lives of the victims.

Chapter 31 final

Sequels as Standalone Novels

Some of the feedback that I got back from an editor on my sequel sci-fi manuscript was that I did not explain particular things, such as various sentient races and what they looked like. This is a sequel, and I did go over those details in my previous books. That means readers of my previous books would not need those explanations again. So it did not occur to me to explain them again. Right?

I suppose the decision is whether the author wants to require the reader to read each book in the series, and in order. I’ve read some first-of-a-series books that ended on a cliffhanger such that none of the major plot lines were resolved. You had to buy the next book to get any resolution. I decided against this. I did design in a series plot line that would require reading all five books to resolve. However, I wanted each book to be a satisfying novel all by itself. So I made special efforts to have a special plot for each book, with the series plot being secondary. This may be an old concept to experienced writers.

Anyway, since I want the Claymore novel to be good and satisfying without reading the previous ones, I took the editors concerns seriously. But then I was still concerned about boring the readers that already know what the races (or other things) look like. So I tried to either be concise, or to explain it in a way that added insight that previous readers wouldn’t already know, or “show, not tell” in a way that was an important to moving the scene or story forward or to show the particular character’s unique personality compared to others of her race. I think I was able to address most of the issues that the editor brought up in a good way.

On another front, the appendix short story for the minor character Jak is almost finished. The guest author just needs to review some editing that was done to his story. It is a backstory that explains some of Jak’s motives and dilemmas. I am excited to include it in my novel.

Tiziana created the illustration below for chapter 23. Here, Claymore, the lawyer accustomed to wealth and power, is penniless and homeless. With help, he has escaped from prison. But the bad guys are monitoring all his accounts. If he spends anything, they will know where he is. The picture shows this scary new experience as he and Phee try to find a place to sleep in a strange city.

Chapter 23 Final version

Short Story Writers

I wanted to update you on the three short story writers I recruited. I had hired three writers to write a short story each about some minor character in my science fiction manuscript for $250 each. For a peek at the formal invitation with requirements and details click ‘Short Story Invitation‘.

So far two of them have picked characters (tentatively). They picked Jak and Lucy. They had been busy with other things when I contacted about this and just recently have been able to turn more of their attention to the project.

I had my manuscript edited by http://www.scribendi.com using their proofreading package (with query letter, etc). It was my first time with scribendi.com for editing, and it was a positive experience. The editor went beyond proofreading and pointed out some important inconsistencies in the story that I intend to follow up on. A great edit even though I was hoping it would be my last one. Below are the comments from the anonymous editor who did the work (not counting the comments in the actual documents). They were glowing and made me feel good.

This is really an outstanding work, well written and well edited. Naturally, I have made grammatical and other editorial changes, but since the text was already in good shape, I’ve focused most of my efforts on spotting inconsistencies, discontinuities, loose ends, and things of that nature. I’ve made copious notes throughout the revised copies of your manuscript, and have also summarized some overall things I noted about the novel at the end of the TRACKED version of the document.

I think I read on your blog that you were looking for short stories from other authors aiming to develop some of the minor characters. This is a great idea and I would love to contribute, though you’re probably looking to finalize content at this point rather than add new material. Nevertheless, reading this novel has really made me curious about the backstories of some characters, and I’d love to help you fill in the blanks.

The attached TRACKED_REVISED version of your manuscript shows all changes and comments. The CLEAN_REVISED version shows just the comments (apart from my overall comments at the end of the work, which I’ve retained in the TRACKED version only). In addition, the query letter aims to pitch your work to your prospects. The synopsis is a concise one-page summary of your novel, highlighting the major points. The outline provides a more detailed summary on a chapter-by-chapter basis, laying out the plot, characters, action points, and ideas in the novel.

It’s been a pleasure to review your novel, and I mean that as fact–it really is an interesting story. Feel free to contact us again for any additional help. You can request me specifically by entering EM1229 in the Editor Code field after uploading your order. If you make further edits to your manuscript and you want us to proofread them, you can just highlight the new/edited sections and include only those in the word count. Thanks for using our services. I wish you success with your novel, and I look forward to seeing it in print.

The editor was wanting to do a short story for me. I was flattered and intrigued. The problem is, scribendi.com enforces the anonymity of their editors. Customers have no way of contacting the editor directly. I am not complaining about their business choices, I am just sad about it in this case. However, once he (she?) saw my meager $250 price tag, he may have changed his mind anyway.

The next illustration I am presenting from Tiziana is chapter 17. Here Claymore is imprisoned by the bad guys. Tiziana went for mood here, capturing the hopelessness of Claymore’s tiny isolated world for the next indefinite amount of time, with death the most probable resolution.

Chapter17 Final