Blocked by Overwhelm

My novel is now two novels. It makes sense to me on many levels, but this change has created problems I hadn’t anticipated. For one thing, Book I now has an ending that somewhat leaves the reader hanging and I’m not sure it’s enough to keep a reader interested enough to comeback for Book II. It makes sense to leave the story where it ends, but it doesn’t seem to be dramatic enough for a sci-fi story. I don’t know, maybe it is. I’m having great self-doubts, even considering walking away from the project(s).

Regardless of how Book I ends, I’m been mulling Book II’s storyline and the historic events that engulf that it. Also, Book III is becoming the end of the story but while I have the ending in sight, the events and scenes of the story are not at all clear. So I’m in a type of writer’s block with Book I about 60% written and the remainder in a state of disrepair caused by chopping and splicing.

The thought also occurs to me that I’m just not good enough or smart enough to write a novel/trilogy of this depth. I follow a forum where the historic period in question is discussed weekly and each new post reveals something I didn’t know about events and characters. I’m hoping for an inspiration that will carry me forward, but for now the novel sits in the cloud.

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The Monkeys 12

I’ve been a fan of the television series “12 Monkeys” and last night I watched the series finale. I’m glad the producers played this through a final season, and I feel that the entire crew handled the ending well. Even though I’m a fan I found a couple story telling devices to be overdone; for one, the constant jumping from date to date which caused me to get confused about what was actually happening on numerous occasions. Regardless, I bought all four seasons and will re-watch the series again in a few years.

Logo is owned by Syfy for 12 Monkeys

The casting was very good and I especially liked Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) and Jones (Barbara Sukowa). I also liked everyman-hero Cole (Aaron Stanford) although I didn’t care for him at first, but when I learned that he and co-star Cassie (Amanda Schull) were in love it caused me to warm-up to him quickly. Unfortunately, I feel that during the first season Cassie lacked visual credibility as a prominent CDC immunologist, although her acting was fine. The only cast member I didn’t care for was Ramses (Kirk Acevedo); he had visual credibility but seemed to be a one-trick pony as an actor until season 4 when his acting seemed to improve. Nonetheless, the whole cast seemed to work well together and made the story flow well.

One major criticism I have is that this was a 48 episode series that probably could have been told in a lot less; just saying. Maybe its the era jumping thing again, but it made the story seem overly long. My guess is that work on the production was non-stop for all four years. I liked the way the directors, writers and designers endeavored to create an intriguing time travel mechanism. I also liked many of the escapades, especially adventures woven into history. Loved the Emerson Hotel scenes and Titan was simply ominous! Of course, I love the original movie with Bruce Willis also. The Army of the 12 Monkeys is just such a fun idea.

So, bravo to this production company and thank you for a good ending.


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A Long Break

In December I took a break from writing the novel. It was an unplanned break because I began playing the very addictive game Fallout 4 (it provide for a female protagonist… yay!) and this lead to that, and that turned into a break. For one thing, I found the game to be an adventure in storytelling. I should explain more but I should do that on Being Yordie Sands, soon.

I didn’t start writing again until February and I’m only now getting into it with the vigor needed to make it happen. In those months of doing other things I had time to let the story sort itself out, and while I still like the way it unfolds I found several problems.

Too Many Characters

This first book is intended to set the stage for a trilogy. Well, it I decide to break the first book into two then there’d be four books in total. ((Good grief! That sounds so far away right now.)) And I introduce most of those characters in this first novel with the result of having over fifty named characters, including incidental characters. So, I’ve begun culling the herd, so to speak. So far I’ve eliminated about six either through reducing their importance, writing them out or consolidating their roles into other characters. I think this will make the story easier to follow. Also, my editor suggests the use of more anchor points and I’m sure that will help.

Story Complexity

The story is seems complex, even to me and I know it so well. Nonetheless, I’ve come to believe that it flows well and those complexities contribute to suspense, but a balance that is challenging to manage. In my mind the story is comprised of thousands of threads (from my software engineering background) and those threads are constantly being woven into  historic events, character development and plot. This is hard to do and I’m troubled by the way my concept of the story has changed. It’s the kind of troubled that leads me to doubt myself.

Publishing Book I/Book II

A year ago I was hoping to publish in early 2017. HAHAHAHA! Then when I finished what now must be considered the second draft of the book, I thought I’d publish in early 2018. HAHAHA! And just a few days ago I told my editor that I’d have the final manuscript ready by June. Unfortunately, I just don’t know when I’ll finish working my way through my work list. I think June is possible, but I’m working toward turning Part I into Book I, and Part II into Book II. It seems more and more logical to me, especially when considering that I’ll make Part I/Book I a free book. Nonetheless, I’m not even sure I’ll do that now.

Writer, Author, Storyteller, Whatever

I always knew that I was working on an epic tale and now I know more of what it takes to tell such a story. Some people who’ve helped me in the early stages seemed to think that my goal was to be a published author (make that Published Author). That certainly a logical assumption, but this project was never about ‘getting published’. One person wanted to know if I want to be a ‘storyteller’ and that seemed logical to ask also, but I wasn’t comfortable with that label either. I told her I just want to get this story written. And while I want to publish it and out there for people to read, that’s not why I’m writing.  The story has been inside my head and on thousands of pages of research for over two decades now. I don’t even understand how it happened. ((Fantasticks/El Gallo: “You wonder how these things begin.”))  I’ll be happy just to get this thing out of my head. Heh.

As the Brits say, TTFN (Ta Ta For Now).


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The End

The Ending is in Sight: The novel word count is 112,000 and I’m within one chapter to an ending. In two weeks I’ll send the manuscript to the editor, then there’ll be revisions. I expect it will take another month or maybe longer before I can submit a final edit. After that, I’ve been advised to let it sit for awhile as I work on the next book in the series. At first this sounded ludicrous to me, but it makes more sense now.

Book I, Book II… Again: And… I’m back to thinking about breaking out Part I (near future) into Book I, Part II (the past) would be Book II. I’d have to pull a chapter from Book II into Book I, but I think it would be a better ending anyway. So, Book I would probably run 50,000 words, Book II maybe 70,000. I’d publish them concurrently, but Book I would be an ebook and free. Still noodling it, and my editor doesn’t like the idea.

Got That Feeling Again: One thing I’m finding is that I’m regaining my ease in writing. Some of my early editors gave some good advice but I didn’t have experience to put it into perspective. Now that I’m settled on an editor I have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Office/Word: Another thing, I’ve got the new Microsoft Office and Word has a much improved feature over my previous Office 2010. The Read Aloud features is much simpler to use I think and the voice is much easier to understand. This is an amazing device for finding grammar errors and finding sentences that need jiggering around. Being dyslexic means I have to labor over reading my work–yeah, even my own words–and being able to set the computer on auto-pilot, so to speak, is sure handy. I’ve already begun ‘reading aloud’ from the start of the novel and I’ve completed about 10 of the 28 chapters, and made numerous revisions.

Second Life: A guy I knew from Junkyard Blues turns out to be a published novelist. We got to chatting and he volunteered to be one of my beta readers. This will be immensely helpful as I have only two, both on again, off again. Speaking of SL, a few months ago I dropped into the Junkyard for Fiery Otaared’s bluesy gig. While she spun tunes we chatted. And she was surprised that my novel is science fiction. I suppose with my persona the expectation would be  romance or adventure, even something literary, but not sci-fi though.

Joining a Guild: I decided to join a local sci-fi writer’s guild. I filled out the application and got to the part requiring my credit card information. Ouch! After the many hacks–Equifax, Target, et al–my alert status high. So, I called the president and asked if I could simply use PayPal or just pay cash, but their system won’t allow that. And I won’t hand over my personal information to a standalone system run by a local administrator. I’m probably paranoid, but I believe online credit systems are truly at risk.

Publish Date: Anyway, my dream of publishing in 2017 is looking more like January or February of 2018. The biggest delay has been and continues to be, research; I find myself checking every damned thing. I’m disappointed that I’ll miss 2017, but living with it.


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100,390 Words

I’m closing in on the ending to this novel. The many threads hanging loose are starting to worry me. Some threads are necessary to begin Book II, but others must be resolved. And there happen to be plenty of those threads dangling at the moment.

Three chapters remain and I have a nasty habit of pushing a lot of outline items down to further chapters. The last two chapters have very large outlines, but I’ve also noticed that in the writing the chapters seem to self-regulate. This story must end and it has the ingredients necessary to come to conclusion in three chapters.

The writing is so hard. The historic period has very specific events happening on days that won’t change. So I must fit my story’s conflict into those events. It sounds simple, but some of the historic characters just don’t want to be nailed down the way I want.

The research is so demanding. I’m a member of several science and history forums, and especially those history forums have kept me connected to the current thinking on the era my story takes place in. I never intended to become so deeply involved in the history, but it is so rich with people that make good characters because they knew other people who had impacts on documented events. I enjoy this story, but have no choice but to continue writing it.

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99,000 Words, 3 Chapters to go

The novel is moving along again, but the writing is much more complex. Many threads have been created and a lot of them must converge to form an ending. Others will have to remain open for Book II… and Book III, seriously.

The biggest problem is coordinating the story within the context of historic events and characters. Again and again I relearn the same lesson, no matter how much I want to, I will never be able to satisfy scholars and historians. For one thing, scholars don’t even agree amongst themselves. But I want to achieve a high degree of historic accuracy. I’ve read stories and seen shows about this era and many of them play fast and loose with the history, but I’m simply compelled to get this right.

I’ve already scheduled on last developmental review with my editor. And I plan to squeeze in a final edit before year-end; although this is feeling a bit unrealistic at the moment. I have enough material to split Book one into two books, but I’m committed to a single novel that will probably run 120,000 words.

As soon as the novel is cleaned up after the final edit, I will submit it to a couple of select editors; just to say I did, if for no other reason. But I’m convinced that I’ll just have to go ahead and self-publish.


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Hurricane Irma, My Novel, and Me

My novel word count is 94,000 words. My editor returned a large chuck of part II just after Hurricane Irma. So there is a lot to do. She asked me if I learned anything from the storm and I had already been thinking about this, so the answer was a resounding yes. My novel actually begins with an evacuation from a disaster.

Hurricane Irma

Most readers know that I moved to Florida a few years ago. I landed on Cocoa Beach, just below Cape Canaveral, and a place where hurricanes rarely strike. We felt immune to hurricanes, after all, the government was very selective in choosing the site for rocket launches (love those things!). The reality is that the Cocoa Beach and nearby islands below the Cape are barrier islands.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew came right up the east coast of Florida and had path leading right to Cape Canaveral and environs. So we evacuated to a hotel and watched hurricane coverage the night the storm hit, until the lights went out. Fortunately, our hotel was right near Brevard county’s disaster center and we got power back quickly after the storm. The thing is, as the storm bore down on our homes we had the distinct sense that there would be severe destruction and flooding. It was a lesson well learned.

This year, when Hurricane Irma burst on the scene at 185mph sustained winds and 220mph gust it hadn’t even swept through the main Caribbean islands. It’s winds were historic and barometric pressure dropped as low as 914 millibars. The magnitude of the storm was unmistakable and frightening. It was being called one of the greatest Atlantic/Gulf storms in history. So we tried to make hotel reservations like last year but people who had realized the danger had already booked every room in the state of Florida. There were even news reports that Georgia was quickly booking up and a few days later reports came out that people were booking in Tennessee.

I will never forget feeling that THERE WAS NOWHERE TO RUN.

We joked that we could run to Saint Louis didn’t want to get swept way in the freeway system and end up in Kansas. But everyone who had any sense was afraid of this hurricane. Key West was generally safer than other islands but anyone with a television who saw the size and fury of this storm evacuated. Of course, there were fools down in the Lower Keys who felt they could just ride it out. We heard stories of several families equipping their kids with life jackets if the storm surge was too great; the stupidity of this… who knows. Maybe they survived and are smug about their decision.

I was genuinely afraid, but I was afraid but more than that I became numb to the fact that our options were running out as the storm changed it’s course. As Irma turned of the west coast instead we felt like we’d been saved from serious damage. Storm surge in our region was predicted to be 2-4 feet, well within our tolerance. We also assumed that we’d get lesser winds because Tampa, 150 miles away, was going to take the biggest hit.

I remembered that last year, Matthew took a last minute wiggle in its course and that wiggle saved our homes from serious damage. And even though there was general agreement among all the storm models, this was on my mind. But by the time this storm did a wiggle that saved Tampa, it’s course change walloped Orlando. We felt we’d be safe enough though and were glad we didn’t evacuate to Orlando, but when the storm finally hit it was vicious. We got hit with winds of 90-100 mph and the damage was more severe than what we suffered last year.

The feeling I’m trying to convey is the sense of being trapped. We were calm and our decision was well thought out. Seriously, we could have fled to Arkansas or Missouri or Kentucky or even Ohio, but we feared there might not have been enough gasoline. I think there would be gasoline on the Interstates, but this was one of many considerations. We felt it would be safe to flee west because of all the displaced people from Texas.

Getting Back to Normal

The situation here is getting back to normal. Well, the Sykes Creek bridge might collapse and cut water supplies for months. This includes everyone on Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, etc. Hope the  Disaster guys figure this one out. I mean, put some f’ing stuff under the damned bridge. Geezus.

Anyway, there’s a lot of repairs that need to be made, everywhere. But I’m also rethinking my evacuation plans if another one of these storms comes along I have decided to take clothes necessary to rebuild my life. I’ll take some life sustaining stuff, computers and valuables but everything else of value (books, paintings, dishes, kitchen stuff, televisions, sofas, chairs, desks, beds, the bedroom wicker furniture I love, et al) is now just stuff to be replaced. If my house is destroyed, I’ll find a new one. It’s like that. Seriously.

I assume that a lot of people who face the destruction of their homes begin to think this way. This hurricane provided a lot of time for me to decide on things to pack and load into my car. I think I can do this again with relative ease.

People who face by disasters that hit without warning, like the Mexico City earthquake, must adopt a different attitude. You need a different type of preparation. When I lived in Seattle I had a ‘Go Bag’ at home and a smaller Go Bag at work. The bags had enough stuff for me to survive under harsh conditions.

There was one funny incident. My iPad had a full battery when the storm hit, so I did some writing on the novel, even when the lights went out. I mentioned this to my editor and she thought it showed some kind of determination, but really, I was just looking for something to do.

Working on Novel Delayed

The storm cause a type of writer’s block, but with the newly edited material I’m able to focus on fixing things. I’m trying to work on the complex historic scenes of the last chapters. So, the novel is a lot of pieces that need to be connected and a lot of holes that need filling. It now looks like the novel will be 120,000 words when it’s done.

Before completing the novel I’ll try to arrange a tour at SwiftShips in Louisiana. I want to make their 35m Patrol Boat one of the ships in my story. Also I want to visit the Coast Guard station at Port Canaveral. They have a class of ships that also will be part of the story. I need some physical reality–all the senses–on these ships.

Isn’t this a beautiful ship! When I saw it I envisioned it as one of the ships in the novel. I’ll contact SwiftShips soon.

I’m increasingly serious about offering Part I (~40,000 words) for free and selling part II (80,000) to those who want to continue the reading the story.



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