Story Notes: The Long, Cold Dark

Are you reading The Venturess? You really should be. Go, do it now, it’s free and barely hurts at all. I want to take a second, though, and talk about this latest installment, The Long, Cold Dark.

I started it with a couple ideas that I really wanted to introduce/talk about- namely, Laurie’s backstory, and the Dead Corps (more on them in a second). When The Venturess started, it was kind of a happy-go-lucky thing. I viewed it as sort of a serious Futurama (the parallels are fairly obvious). In that vein, Laurie’s backstory is dark as hell. Aspects of it have been alluded to- as with Chip’s father in the beginning of the second series- but this week throws what she was into pretty stark relief. I’m curious to see the reaction, even with the small readership so far, that it elicits. There are big choices in this storyline, so I am curious to see how the vote goes.

Which brings us to the Dead Corps. If I could go back, there would be no Venturess, just these guys. Man, I love these guys. I need to talk about them from two perspectives, the story perspective, and the writing perspective.

Story-wise, I love these guys. Basically, the beings themselves are parasites. We’ll see that borne out no matter which way the vote goes (though the consequences are radically different). But they are awfully judgey parasites, and seek justice throughout the galaxy. They do this by attaching to their victims and seizing control of their body, which, at that point, is effectively dead. But the mind they leave alone, so the victim is trapped in a prison of their own memories, until the body falls apart entirely. I won’t say more, since that curtain will be pulled back in the next couple stories, but, as far as baddies go, I am pretty proud of them.

But let’s talk about writing them for a moment, for the writerly types among you. The problem was, essentially, that I had a locked room murder mystery on my hands, except in reverse. The only two characters I had available were Laurie and the Bartender. Both are worldly-(galactically?) wise, so having either of them be ignorant of such a threat would undermine their credibility. Also, I didn’t want 500 words of a 1,000 word story to be rambling exposition, either by me or by a character, so a combination was arrived upon. A flashback, slight incredulity from the Bartender, and some clarification from Laurie, and what needs to be revealed, is, along with its emotional ties to the character who is in the emotional center of the story.

So, please- head over to The Venturess, read it over, and vote on it!

DESR

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Story Notes: Four

So I was invited by friend o’ the blog Scott Whitmore (I call him that because he wrote a pretty rad review of my book) to write a chapter for the 444 Project, which I did. Basically, the project is a game of telephone, wherein a person writes one 444-word chapter, then finds someone to write the next chapter. I am number four. Go read it. The come back here so I can talk about it.

*sips scotch*

Oh, good, you’re back. Hope you enjoyed the thingy. Let’s talk about it now, because it matters for huge and important reasons.

First off, I’m really glad to write this story, and not just because I think the concept is really cool, but because of a story that has been kicking around forever in my head. It opens with basically the exact same premise as this, guy on the beach with no idea how he got there (in my version, he has no memory of his past life at all, though). I always hated how, in a lot of fantasy literature, there is some prophecy pointing to the hero or whatnot, and my idea was that this was the guy who wrote that prophecy. But it never really went beyond that, I never even outlined it.

Now I don’t have to. I threw my two cents into this story, and I don’t have to come up with the ending.

Moar storees liek this pls.

The fourth chapter, more or less, is always a bit of an adventure to write. You’re past the introduction, for the most part, but still in the first act, so it can amount to the time right after you’ve met someone, shook hands and exchanged names, but aren’t familiar enough for small talk. So it can be a bit of an awkward silence, in away, where someone has to say “so… what do you do?”

And that’s about what I tried to do with this story. The Man mostly spends the first three chapters wandering around, trying to figure out where, exactly, he is, as one likely would after waking up on an alien world. He could continue to do this for all eternity, if he were not interrupted, so I figured I’d interrupt him.

Which is where The Judge comes in. Somehow or the other after reading those first three chapters, I imagined this guy. I wanted to communicate that the Man was there for a reason, whatever that may be, and he isn’t the only one. What that reason is, I leave to others (lord knows I have ideas, though). I wanted The Judge to be a guide of sorts (be that for this moment, or for the whole arc- this is also up to others). I also wanted it to be clear he is far from human. We might never find out what he is, I kind of hope not, because I know what I meant him to be, and that ambiguity is fun, but for the moment, I hope he helps this story to a good place.

DESR

Story Notes: Of Sabrina

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

Of all the characters in this work, the lack of attention given to Sabrina is interesting, at least for me. She is, I think, one of the more compelling characters in the whole thing. She’s smart, she’s strong, but she’s stuck, in Imitata. Not in your typical damsel-in-distress way, but the far more realistic political marriage, where it’s just what you do.

And Digger doesn’t save her. His character is, essentially, the guy who should save her- prince, scoundrel, rebel, old flame- but Sabrina doesn’t need saving. I thought for sure Imitata would give the whole damn thing away, but instead it got people guessing (which is what it’s supposed to do). Then it ends, and originally, back in the day when I was just posting drafts, that was it. fin. I really, really wanted to leave her fate ambiguous- everyone thought what they were supposed to think, that she killed herself- but there was an image that stuck with me, that sort of summarized everything that happened, and will happen. Digger walking away in one direction, Sabrina in the other, as the music dies in the house. Somehow, it just fit and the book didn’t feel complete without it.

Story Notes: La Deforimis Perverse Imitata

This is probably my favorite story of the collection, for a variety of reasons. It felt completely natural to write and just seemed to flow (somewhat ironically, it was one of the most heavily edited, but Corissa was spot on with the tweaks and made it come across much, much clearer).

One of the things I wanted for this story was what it was not– science fiction. The whole thing takes place at a dinner party for a bunch of politicians and other high-class types. There are no spaceships, no flying cars, no lasers (well, one)- aside from a few allusions to the date and other planets, it’s not really science fiction, except by virtue of being part of a bigger scifi story. I always wanted to avoid being known as just a science fiction author, self-published author, but rather known for writing good books. Reviews are good, so far, and I think this story went a long way to that.

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

Story-wise, it’s a turning point in the book- it’s the most concrete allusion to Digger’s past (as well as the first time he comes into contact with an individual from it), and for the rest of the book, it’s all Digger, all the time. Well, not really, but everything begins to tie in to his story more directly. The whole idea behind a short story collection- especially one that serves as the introduction to the 3024AD universe- was that characters would cross paths (often unwittingly), see places and events through different eyes, etc, and after this story, all the pieces start to come together, both for Digger as an individual, and for events that shape the universe outside this collection.

Sabrina was a later addition to the overall storyline, but one I am extremely pleased with. A big part of Digger’s character is that he is always in control- his action is swift and decisive, and his conflicts come from what he’s running from. Even the couple times he is caught off guard (Temperance, The Gathering Storm), he quickly takes control of the situation. Sabrina gets the better of him, makes him question his own motives and path (more on that in the Temperance story notes).

Sabrina herself is fun to write, especially in this story (seriously, spoilers, y’all), because at first she appears to be what you expect- a vapid wife who married for political reasons and hosts dinner parties. But there is so much more to her, and you find out that she is done and wants to do something other than sit around and just take it from her pompous ass of a husband. There is, obviously, more of her in this collection, and she features prominently in future stories.

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

DESR

P.S. The title is Latin for “The Hideous Masquerade”

Story Notes: Unforgiving

Right in the middle of the Kickstarter campaign- when it looked like it would actually get funded- I logged into Twitter and clicked over to the interaction tab and saw this tweet. It, of course, made my day, and through a variety of circumstances, my plans for the cover art fell through, so I emailed Johnny asking if I could use his art for the cover- he (obviously) agreed, resulting in the cover in the sidebar there.

'Unforgiving'

‘Unforgiving’

I couldn’t be happier because from the first time I saw that piece, I felt like it really captured the 3024AD universe- cold and unforgiving. So I love that it’s on the cover (BTW, if you are an author in need of a cover, he has a pretty sweet deal).

I wanted a story that equally captured the essence of the universe- it’s not some dystopian hyperbole, but it’s harsh. It’s set at a time of expansion, similar to the British Empire of old, with colonies all over, some greatly supported, some… not so much. This collection covers most of those, mostly through Digger’s eyes, but I wanted a story that captured that feel and gave it to the reader in one dose.

I kicked around a few ideas before settling on this one- following a recruit through his first battle experience. So we meet Corey White, a listless teenager who joins up to find some purpose in his life. He turned out to be much more fun to write than I had imagined. It worked, too, as he felt at home with structure in the military, ending up as a gunner on a destroyer. I won’t say much about what happens after that, except that you should pay special attention to the final story, Possession (which is my favorite part of the whole thing).

In any case, I really enjoyed how it turned out and fits in. It serves as, I feel, a powerful introduction to the universe that sets the stage for what is to come. I hope you agree!

DESR

Story Notes: GalSpan ‘Havok’ Fighter

The Havok fighter first appears in ‘Escort Duty’ which, for my money, is probably the funnest story in the collection. I wrote it before ‘Unforgiving’, which opens the collection, mostly because I wanted something that had more action than a lot of the stories do. Not that I the others are lacking action, but it gave me a chance to explore things from a different perspective; namely, that of a GalSpan employee. 

GalSpan's Havok fighter

GalSpan’s Havok fighter, Lego version

GalSpan, as an entity within the 3024AD universe, is not a unique concept- you don’t have to look far to find examples in fiction of giant, amoral corporations- but the thought of a fully militarized corporation is a big part of what happens on the periphery of this collection and is central to the next book (which is, incidentally, a novel, so if you don’t like the semi-sequential manner in which this collection works, you’ll be more at home with the next one). In addition, it emphasizes that a career that is fairly alien to you and I is entirely commonplace and respected- namely, that of being employed by a corporation to fight and kill for it.

Which brings us back to the fighter itself. I actually built it out of Legos years ago, and always wanted to use it in something. Since GalSpan is at the center of most of what happens from here on out (which is only sort of a spoiler), it feels right at home in the 3024AD. The original construction was taken apart years ago, and took me about two days (between writing) to rebuild it (the first one actually didn’t have a stand, and let me tell you, best idea ever. It doesn’t sit well on the lower stabilizers). Here are the (Lego) stats:

Wingspan: 48″

Height: 7″ (stabilizers down)/ 12″ (stabilizers up)

Length: 10″

If you want to read about it in action, the links are at the right!

DESR

Front 3/4

Front 3/4

IMG_20130529_120719

Starboard missile hardpoints

Cockpit detail. The console folds down for access.

Cockpit detail. The console folds down for access.

Rear 3/4, stabilizers up (in its home in the office)

Rear 3/4, stabilizers up (in its home in the office)

Story Notes: Digger

With the release of 3024AD: Short Stories Series One, I thought I’d revive the ‘story notes’ feature and pull back the curtain on my writing process a bit. Enjoy!

Digger-8x10Digger is as close to a main character as there is in SSS1, his story woven through all the others. Initially, he was sort of an accident- a character for a short, like any of the others. But the story just kept going, reaching 9,000 words before it was halfway finished and I realized there was a lot more to him. So I scrapped that story (which was later re-written as The Gathering Storm and partially, Pride of the Empire. Incidentally, the original version introduced evidence of alien life and I didn’t want that in 3024AD, so that was part of the reason too). I went back and wrote Ruins of New York, which is something of his origin story, since that’s where he picks up the ‘Digger’ nickname.

Buy 3024AD: Short Stories Series One: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

The really fun thing about writing him was his ‘sandbox’ quality- most everything I write is outlined in every way, and so were his stories, but I could just put him in a situation and see what happened. This lead to Worlds Away, which is probably my favorite story in the whole collection. I love a story that covers all the bases- action, drama, etc- and I feel really good about how it turned out.

The problem with Digger’s enjoyable sandbox is that it can’t last forever, and his whole secret past catches up to him- and events outside the proper of this collection force his hand (these will be covered later, up-close-and-personal style), but it was fun to see how he’d respond to that. The result is a character that is now central to the whole universe, and has a large role to play.

DESR