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Posts tagged ‘real life’

LibertyCon AAR and More

Real Life has intruded on the scheduled poster here in a most delightful way. He’s greeting his third child into the world properly. So since the blog goes on, even when family is coming first, I offered to step in with a few words.

Community is grand. It’s a beautiful thing. I came home from LibertyCon earlier this week exhilarated, exhausted, and enthusiastic about my writing again. It had been three years since we last managed to get to Liberty, and as I said to Rich Groller at the Kaffeeklatsch, I didn’t know how much I needed that until we were there and in the thick of it. Read more

The Crack of Dawn

So, um, I had plans this morning. They involved getting up way too early, rolling over, fooling around with my husband and later, while he made coffee, my writing a post for here.

Yeah. We all know what happens to well-laid plans. They become unlaid plans, and sadly, that is the condition of my day. The First Reader is no happier about this than I am.

It all started about a week or more ago. I scheduled a technician to install internet at the new house – because as you all know, having the ‘net is just as important as the electric and running water (which we didn’t have until yesterday due to some confusion on my part and the landlord not communicating with the property manager, but I digress. There will be a lot of digressions.) So anyway, the only time I could get the tech was for the 8-9 am time slot, and that meant we had to be over at the new house this morning far too early. Still, I’d planned on posting before we went.

Why hadn’t I posted last night? That part of the story involves a trailer, a pile of boxes my kids dubbed ‘boxtopia’ and a hyperactive 11-year-old boy. Let’s just let that fade into the mists and say that I was very happy this morning while unloading at the new house that we hadn’t lost a box off the trailer, and nothing was broken, not even from the box of booze that had been packed with no protective wrapping. My son is excited about the move, to say the least.

Still, even knowing we had a ton of work to do, I thought I could write this morning. Except that at 7 am, as we were stirring ourselves, I got the call saying that the tech was on the way. um. Ok, we can do this. Where are the tie-downs for the trailer? Dang, it’s dark and foggy out at this hour. Is that frost?

Some time later, we made it safely there, to find the tech waiting, and a bit after that, we had unloaded, made coffee for the first time in the new house (a milestone!) and had internet. Now, I’m not blogging from the new house. Maybe next week. Because by that point (sorry!) I’d forgotten all about you guys, since my dear man was arthritic (we don’t have the heat on there, yet), cold, cranky, and hungry. We drove into the little town we’re local to, and discovered a very nice diner/restaurant, and enjoyed a lovely meal (ate way too much. So much food…) before hitting the local hardware store (you know the kind I mean. Crowded aisles, old-school, but they have one of everything) and returning to the old house. Where I remembered that I hadn’t made a post for today.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, a little bit of everything, and nothing. When you’re writing, let your characters make plans. Get as detailed as they want to. And then, cackling, rub your hands together, and smash them all to smithereens. Because if you don’t, your readers won’t believe it. Honestly, in my life I’ve had things go perfectly, and it was still stressful since I was holding my breath waiting on the other shoe to drop. The other thing this has to do with writing is that at some point this morning I turned to the First Reader and said “I have to write. We need money, this move is expensive!”

So, I know most of you are familiar with my work. But if you haven’t read it yet, check it out, and if you have, feel free to share the word with friends who like this sort of thing.

pixie-for-hire-coverPixie for Hire

He’s a pixie for hire, and she’s just another job.

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?

This omnibus edition includes the full text of all three books in the Pixie for Hire trilogy: Pixie Noir, Trickster Noir, and Dragon Noir. With a new author’s foreword, you’ll be introduced to the books and then plunge into the world Underhill.

“The unlikely love child of Monster Hunter International and the Princess Bride, this book … is unalloyed fun all the way.”
-Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Darkship Thieves

“If Dashiel Hammett, Larry Corriea and Jim Butcher had a love child, it would be Pixie Noir. A wonderful mix of mystery and fantasy with just the right touch of noir.”
-Amanda S. Green, author of Nocturnal Origins

When real life collides with make-believe

As I sit here trying to figure out what to blog about, I am listening to the morning news. A local reporter has just finished interviewing a former DEA agent about the tragic events in Dallas last week. My adopted hometown is hurting. It is crying out in anger and pain and yet it is healing, much to the despair of some in the national media and on Capital Hill. I am proud of Dallas and the surrounding area. We have pulled together to help not only the families of the fallen officers and those injured in the cowardly attack last Thursday but we have pulled together to help one another.

Now we sit here, holding our breaths and praying nothing happens today. You see, today is a private memorial service for the fallen officers, one that will be attended not only by local dignitaries and members of both Dallas Police Department and Dallas Area Rapid Transit but by the President, Vice-President, former Speaker of the House and who knows what other politicians. Governor Abbott will not be here because he is undergoing skin grafts for serious burns today but he was here Friday, despite his injuries.

Why are we holding our collective breath? Because we are still on edge after last week’s events and we remember what happened in November 1963. The last thing we need is for something to happen to a visiting politician. That is the burden we carry, thanks to Lee Harvey Oswald. Unfortunately, we have also had salt rubbed in a very open wound by certain folks on social media over the last few days as they worry that evil Texans will rise up to kill the President. After all, we all wanted to secede from the Union. Is there any proof for their allegations? No, but they just love to kick the puppy when its down and they have proven it once again by politicizing a tragedy.

So, Amanda, what does this have to do with writing and why are you talking about the assassination of the five officers on a writing blog?

The answer is both simple and complex. The simple part is that the attack last Thursday and its aftermath came close to bringing my writing to a screeching halt. Partly because my mind simply could not fathom for a bit what happened. Partly because, once I realized it wasn’t all a bad dream, my worry for the officers I know with DPD grew as I waited to make sure none of them had fallen victim to the assassin. And yes, the shooter was an assassin. Partly because what happened last week will continue to impact those of us in the DFW area will forever be impacted by what happened.

It is complex because I am now processing what happened and find myself looking at it from a writer’s point of view. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet but bear with me.

I have watched video of what happened and the aftermath and my writer’s brain has started taking it apart, figuring out how I can adapt it for a story that had been simmering on the back brain for some time. No, not a story about an attack on a peaceful protest and the escorting police officers. This is actually the final short story I have planned for the current arc of the Honor and Duty series.

Heck, I even have another story where I have a politician who can’t open his mouth without inserting both feet. Well, guess what? Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has moved to the head of the pack of examples for that character thanks to his comments after the shooting.

The writer’s brain also works overtime when I think of the area of Downtown Dallas where those horrific events took place. I can picture the area, the buildings around it and now I find myself imagining what it must have been like during those long eight hours as the police worked to secure the area, locate and neutralize the shooter.

I find myself doing what I have done so many times before when reality hurts so much it would be easy to pull the covers over my head and hide fro the world. I write. I write about what happened and how it has impacted not only myself but those around me. I write my stories. They are my emotional outlet.

It all comes down to coping. How do we cope with traumatic events as writers and as people?

This post is not meant to be an invitation to debate gun control or any other hot button topic. So don’t go there. What I’m interested in knowing is how you as a writer cope with traumatic events. Do you write about them and then, at some later time, use those events as inspiration in your writing? As readers, what do you think about writers who use such events as inspiration?

Finally, because this is a writers’ blog, a bit of promotion.

About two weeks ago, I published the first in a series of short stories set in the Honor and Duty universe. Taking Flight told the story of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment as a member of the Fuerconese Marine Corps. The second story, Battle Bound (Honor and Duty), is now live. It takes place approximately 4 years before Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1).

Newly promoted, Captain Ashlyn Shaw has been ordered to take Delta Company to the Bennington System. Their mission is simple: secure groundside defenses and seek out the Callusian invaders. It should be a simple assignment. The Fuerconese Navy had proven itself time and again since war had been declared to be more than a match for the Callusians. Once Taskforce Liberator, under the command of Admiral Tremayne, secured the system approaches, Ash and her Devil Dogs could get to work.

Except no battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy. This time the Callusians are breaking pattern and it will take everything Tremayne and Ashlyn have to lead their people to victory.

The Devil Dogs will get the mission done, no matter what the cost.

When fiction turns to reality and vice versa

(I’m filling in for Kate, who is under the weather this morning.)

Most of you who are regular readers of MGC know that I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. So you know that, for the last few days, we’ve been in the news a great deal due to the first confirmed Ebola case in the US. I’ve seen all sorts of comments online and in the media. They’ve ranged from comparing what’s happening now with John Ringo’s Last Centuarian or his Black Tide Rising books to political conspiracy theories. The worst, to be honest, have been the reports from the national media that are playing for headlines. The latest came this morning when the lead-in to the story had the reporter telling the world that Dallas is a city in panic.

Sorry, wrong.

Let me repeat that. WRONG!

Sure, there are folks around town who are running around, looking for gas masks and surgical masks and planning to bug out as soon as they can. But you get that with the first sign of any sort of trouble or potential trouble. These are the ones the media tries to hunt out and interview because they help ratings. Folks don’t want to see their fellow man reacting to a potential problem in a calm and calculating way — at least that’s what the media thinks. So, instead of being told what we should be doing (at least not until they’ve gotten out their sensational headlines and interviews), we are given more reason to panic and to hell with the consequences.

It makes me wonder if these folks grew up on a steady diet of truly bad made-for-TV disaster movies. You know the ones I mean. Those movies where something horrible is about to happen to either wreck the economy or destroy the country or the world and the government is in a panic, the world is in a panic but there is one poor schmoe the government did wrong to at some point who will step up and save everyone — and get the girl in the end.

If I were to write a book following that scenario, I’d be crucified in the reviews. Every scientific error, every forensic mistake and every common sense mistake would be taken apart and dissected.

Let’s take some of the so-called facts folks are spouting about the situation in Dallas and see if we can spin them into a story someone might actually buy:

Patient Zero grows up in a country being hit hard with Ebola or some other horrible and feared disease. He is a hardworking man who has just quit his job and is renting a room from a family with an infected family member. When the family member becomes seriously ill, he helps her brother take her, via taxi, to the local hospital. Because of the epidemic of the disease, there is no room at the hospital and they are turned away. So they take another taxi home and Patient Zero helps carry her inside the house where she dies a few hours later.

With me so far?

As a story, it isn’t too bad. At least not so far. You have a good friend or maybe just a good man who is trying to help. Whether he understands the danger he is in is anyone’s guess based on the information you’ve been given. But, it is easy to assume that he has to have some idea because his country is being hit hard by the disease. Still, he tried to help, potentially putting himself in danger. Readers could buy that — but will they buy the next part?

Several days later, Patient Zero goes to the airport to board a plane on a trip that will eventually land in the US. When he arrives at the airport, screening is being done to make sure no one who has been infected gets onboard a plane and infects the other passengers. Patient Zero fills out his paperwork, which includes being asked if he has been in close contact with anyone who has contracted Ebola. He has his temperature taken and is cleared to fly because he has no temp. So he isn’t contagious.

Here’s where, as the author, you can start throwing out some “interesting” possibilities. Did Patient Zero tell the screeners that he’d been in contact with someone who had died from Ebola? If he did, why was he allowed board the plane in the first place? But if he didn’t answer the question in the affirmative, why? Was he trying to get here so he could get treatment he wouldn’t be able to get in his homeland or is there another, bigger and more nefarious reason behind his actions?

Now Patient Zero has made his way from his homeland, via Belgium, to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. At the same time, the brother he had helped back home has fallen ill and died from Ebola. Patient Zero is starting to suffer from the symptoms hospitals have been told to be on the lookout for by the CDC. He goes to a local hospital and is “screened” to determine if he might have been in one of the countries where Ebola is active. Supposedly, he answers in the affirmative but the medical staff evaluating him doesn’t admit him and place him in quarantine. Instead, they give him a prescription for antibiotics and send him home.

Here’s where the reader’s suspension of disbelief starts to get strained. CDC issued a directive several months ago about the proper procedures in dealing with patients who have come from certain parts of the world, or who have been in recent contact with people who have been. Upon having a patient present himself at the emergency room who displays symptoms consistent with early stage Ebola and who just came from Liberia, immediate discharge was not only countra-indicated but against the CDC directives. Assuming the screening medical personnel had been briefed on the directives, why in the world would they have discharged Patient Zero? More importantly, after seeing what happens to someone suffering from Ebola, why wouldn’t Patient Zero demand to talk to someone else and refuse to leave, making it clear why he was scared, etc.?

Patient Zero returns to the apartment where he is staying and continues to be in contact with family/friends, including children. His symptoms continue getting worse until an ambulance is called several days later and he is transported to the same hospital where he’d gone before. This time, the screening process and the severity of his symptoms trigger admission and isolation. The EMTs who transported him are isolated and tested. His family/friends are placed on “restricted isolation”, which means they are told to be really good and not leave their home. It’s an honor system. You promise not to leave and we will assume you won’t for the duration of the isolation. In the meantime, CDC flies to Dallas, the county health department gets involved and the media descends.

In real life, national media plays up the fear and panic. Local media reports on what you need to be alert to, why there is no need to panic and how doctors are more worried about influenza than they are about Ebola right now. Add in the internet and the usual theories — incompetence, biological warfare, allegations that Patient Zero is an illegal alien, etc., — and you have all but the final conclusion of your book written.

Now be honest, how many of you would still be reading and wouldn’t have been tempted at least once to toss the book against the wall with the scenario I just set up? Let’s add in the folks who jumped onto the bandwagon with their own take on what happened and why. They become the “experts” the made-for-TV movies always included for the “interviews”. You know, the ones who paint the worst case scenario to raise the tension level but who left you wondering why in the world you are still watching the movie. These are the ones who, with the current situation, usually start off by saying “I’m not trying to cause a panic, just get out the facts” and who then do the exact opposite.

I guess what I’m getting at is that real life does sometimes come across like a bad TV movie, usually when aided by the media. But that doesn’t mean we have to write our books that way — something I’m seeing all too often of late, not only with indies but with traditionally published works as well. Your plots have to make sense and they have to work within the rules of the world you are writing in. When the dust settles down from the real life Ebola scare down here, we will be able to see how the dots connect and what went wrong. I can almost guarantee there will be no huge conspiracy — either by Patient Zero to get here to get treatment (which I could understand) or by some terrorist group to strike at the US or by some pharmaceutical company to raise their stock prices or by the government to take more control of our lives (believe me, if that was the case, they’d have chosen somewhere besides Texas with Rick Perry as governor).

Point A has to get to Point Z and there has to be a logic to it. Yes, you can have twists and turns, red herrings and mistakes by your characters along the way. But you can never break trust with your reader by throwing the rules out the window without thought or care. Imitate real life and not life as painted by the media. Be honest with yourself as you write: if you can’t believe the scenario you are putting down on paper, don’t assume your readers will. They probably won’t. So go back and figure out where you went wrong and correct it.

Be true to your world, your characters and the science in your universe. If you aren’t, be prepared to pull up your big boy pants and take your lumps as the reviewers come at you with their figurative guns ablazing.

Who am I?

I am Kate, Destroyer of Universes.

Yes, I know that sounds kind of… well… overblown, but it isn’t really. See, in my day job I test software. The company I work for does business to business applications that have a naming theme that’s kind of stellar (and all our servers are named for stars or constellations). And I make it explode. Add to that I have an innate chaos magnet effect that means I can guarantee that I will find something weird doing what I would think is normal and sensible (and get asked “What did you do that for?”).

The effect carries over, too. So far this week, I’ve caused severe damage to a customer’s expectations (I pointed out how long it would take to get them what they said they wanted), discovered that Windows 7 does not play nice with critical hardware and software I need to use for my job, and blew up the official software in several different spectacular ways. Oh, yes. And wrote (cough) Overlord fanfic as well as somewhat disguised Overlord tribute fiction. While pulling insane hours because some twit forgot to press the button. And dealt with the Bugger-cat pissing where he shouldn’t because he’s still battling his terror of teh ebil in teh basement. Why he thinks Basement Cat is going to get him I don’t know. Seems to me Basement Cat should be worshiping the Bugger-cat.

This is why I do not do “time management”. Like I said last week, I do priority management because things like this are my normal, and have been for quite some time now. If it’s not the Bugger-cat cowering at the basement door, it’s the Shani-cat hairballing, or a critical piece of hardware blowing up (my writing computer has spent more time in a state of kablooey than working), or something that everything says ought to work outright refusing to do so. Then a crisis rolls along so it’s drop everything and get the crisis sorted so I can go back to normal chaos.

This is why I positively adore theory. It’s the only universe I haven’t been able to destroy – and the only one where everything works as intended. Maybe one day they’ll let me visit… nah. I’d probably make it implode just by being there. After all, I can walk into a room and find the one huge problem no-one wanted to think about, and point it out without ever realizing people didn’t want to hear that. Social ept. I no can has.

And yes, this is why I stink to high heaven when it comes to things like marketing my books. For me, zero clue would be something to aspire to: I have negative clue.Facebook I mostly read with occasional comments and very rare actual posts. Ditto the assorted forums I follow. Actually trying to publicise something of mine is at the same level of wrong as… oh, pick something you find really horribly gross, and magnify it. So, I don’t. I work on the assumption (or possibly faint hope) that if I hang around, contribute as I see fit, and don’t hide that I write, people will check my stuff out and if they like it, they’ll do the marketing for me. Yes, I am prepared to let this be glacial. Trust me if I tried to promote myself I’d make “Authors Behaving Badly” look like something you’d do for pleasure (and having seen a lot of authors, that thought is just… EW).

So. Destroyer of Universes. Writer (which implies creator of universes). Chaos magnet. I’ve been told I’m scary but I don’t see that – I see deceptively ordinary (deceptively because I have the ability to fade into the background when I want to). Would possibly be more than passable if I could find a way to get about 100lb somewhere other than my body, which would require said body not hoarding every last calorie as if it were more precious than gold, or possibly work that did not involve spending 9-10 hour workdays parked on butt with major leisure activities in a similar posture). I even know who I’d give the pounds to. Pity I can’t put any of these in an official biography. They’re much more interesting than the real one and they have the added bonus of being true.

In which Kate rambles about fiction vs real life

Well. I was going to write something thoughtful and profound and all of that, then the day job intervened. Most people aren’t all that much use after an 11.5 hour work day, and I’m even less use than that, being narcoleptic and prone to sleep-anything (Yes, I’ve dozed while working out. I don’t recommend it).

This kind of not terribly focused rambling is why I try to write my posts a day or two ahead. Sometimes though… It might not be tornadoes dancing in downtown Dallas (Hi, Amanda! Glad nothing really serious got you), but when life happens, it happens but good.

And you know the absolute worst thing about it? You can’t put this kind of thing in a story because it would seem too much like beating on the character for the sake of beating on the character. Rules of story aren’t like rules of life. Life has hordes of people all desperately trying to make their own personal story happen and being thwarted, helped, tangled up in and otherwise impacted by everyone else’s attempts to maketheir story happen. When you write something there’s a small number of people who the thing follows, and everything that happens has to relate to those people and move their challenges somewhere.

Unless you’re writing slice-of-life or gray goo, anyway.

In fiction-land at least one of the conspiracies has to be real. It might be the one where you the author are manipulating all the characters to reach the desired ending, but there’s a conspiracy happening. Real-world will give you the same result through nothing more than human perversity (This is why I subscribe to the notion that whenever there’s a choice between stupidity and conspiracy, go with stupid every time. Even intelligent people can lock themselves into perverse thought patterns and do the most insanely stupid things, but very few people are smart enough for long enough to carry out a conspiracy. Not least because they’re people. They want to tell someone).

Real world is also capable of a lot of people making the best and smartest decisions as they go, leading to an end result that totally messes them around. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one happen in fiction. I’m not sure I’ve got the skill to write it, either.

Oh, yes, and the biggest difference between real-world and fiction is that real-world enforces inconvenient breaks for things like food, sleep, and eliminatory functions (part of medieval warfare that I doubt will ever find its way into fiction because it’s just so ew – and this is the woman who was raised on dinner time conversation that focused on potty humor). With the need for sleep (it being Wednesday night as I write this) making inroads into the pigheaded stubborn, I’ll leave it at that before I start sleep-typoing at people and leave them to try to make sense of the results.