Busy Time

 

Now that I'm retired, I have all the time in the world.

That's a lie. I have been incredibly busy, and most of it is self inflicted.

I have finally gotten my Starship series out the door and up for sale on Kindle. It is two related, novelette-length stories about the distant future when humans have ventured to the stars. At the moment I am writing a third Starship story. This story takes place in the same world as the other two, but it is a prequel about the building of the first starship. While writing about future technology is fun, the real story is in the relationships between the people. This one includes a murder.

My King's series of books are off to the copy editor. This will be a two-round process, but my goal is to have these three books finished and out in ebook form sometime around the first of the year. I've been posting draft versions of King's Exile and King's Dragon on WattPad, and I've gotten a great response. *Thank you WattPadians!* The whole project has been a great deal of work, but I'm excited about the end product. I think you will enjoy this fantasy adventure trilogy.

So what's kept me so busy? First of all, I have had to integrate forty-some years of educational detritus into my already crowded home office. That sounds much more sophisticated than the reality of sorting through mounds of 90% trash. The other project is our new puppy. We now have a little blond labrador retriever. At the moment, she is very labor intensive. Fortunately, she also takes frequent naps—the current nap just long enough to get this post finished.

Where Did My King's Series Come From?

 

Were did my King’s series of books come from? Complicated question, and I’ve been giving it some thought. All my life I have been piddling at writing fantasy and science fiction, but I never got serious about it until I completed my PhD dissertation. Once I had finished that project (about three years of researching, writing, rewriting, etc.—Blah!), I had the perspective and confidence to tackle book-length projects. I did three local histories in quick succession. 

My PhD program also generated the story for the King’s series. No, I was not gathering data for a multiple regression analysis of dragon bonding predictors (interesting idea though). What I was doing was trying to stay awake on the hour and a half commutes (each way) to and from the university. I made tapes and later CDs of heroic music—movie themes, inspiring classical pieces, etc.—to listen to and keep my adrenaline pumping.

Heroic music encouraged me to think about heroic deeds and characters. In one of the first examples, the theme from “Back to the Future” inspired the fight scene in Dinwiddy in the next to last chapter of King’s Exile. The flow of the music, to me, matches the flow of the action. There are other examples of this in the series including the fight with the drakon in King’s Dragon and several of my favorite scenes in the last book, King’s Crown.

Over the seven years it took to finish my degree, I accumulated quite a number of these little snippets of fantasy adventures. I can’t remember exactly when and how, but in late night reveries while waiting to go to sleep, these pieces began to interconnect. It took a while, but I finally realized I had quite an involved story line. I needed to write it down before I started to forget parts.

Once I got started on the story, the characters became more real. They started interacting in ways which gave much greater depth to the story line and suggest new directions and events. That was exciting! Instead of being a dreary slog to get all the information together in a logical, structured narrative with good grammar, writing these books was an exhilarating process of discovery to see how the characters reacted to the plot elements I threw at them.

Because of the motivation to tell this story, I’ve practiced writing and rewriting. This has made me a better writer. I’m hooked. Writing fiction is the most fun I’ve ever had!

 

Summer Writing Schedule

 

Ah. The frantic pace of the end of another academic year is behind me. My summer free time stretches ahead of me. Unfortunately, it's not completely free. A pattern of recent rain showers has whipped the grass into a growth frenzy. After I finish mowing, there are all those other routine household jobs I've been postponing...

All moaning aside, I am making writing progress. Yesterday I sent the two Starship stories off for final copy editing. Look for them to be out in electronic form this summer. Copy editing is due to start on my King's series of books in July. I have embarked on another polishing trip through the kingdom of Landly and the adventures of Dax and friends. The comments and reads on WattPad for the first two books are really encouraging. I am hoping to get these books out in ebook format sometime this fall, and physical copies will follow on create space.

With all the work on editing and revising existing works, my creative productivity has been low. I've piddled with (that's a technical writing term) my fourth dragon-bound book without making significant new progress. The fifth story about Puck is developing slowly. The basic plot structure of the next chapter or so is ready to go. I just have to write it.

The exciting part about writing a story is when a basic plot idea begins to develop substance. I have a couple ideas in mind for additional stories in the Starship series, but ideas are not really stories until they begin to gather plot points, characters, conflicts, etc. Right now that process is happening for "Starship: Dawn." The plot centers on the creation of the first of the three starships and their controlling (non)artificial intelligence. I have three interesting characters, two living and one dead, and the outline of the story is gathering in my head. I've likened the process as like vultures being attracted to carrion. The ideas won't go away. They keep coming back. I'm going to have to write it.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

 

Where do I get my ideas?

I often use a sort of “bedtime-wandering” technique. While I’m trying to fall asleep, my mind wanders off in all sorts of directions. How do I keep from dwelling on the past day’s failures or tomorrow’s challenges? I wander off down the road to fantasy or science fiction.

 I may get an idea for an intriguing incident, a heroic triumph, an unbearably romantic moment, etc. I play around with it. How would various types of characters react to it? How interesting are those reactions? Where would this take place? Maybe I'll get an idea for an interesting character I'd like to write about. What could he/she encounter that would push him to have to deal with their worst qualities? Their best?

 Out of all the random bird-walking, I often find myself coming upon the tracks of ideas I've followed before. Sometimes the tracks are heading in the same direction. Once a track gets trod down into a path, I have a direction to go with the story. The whole picture will not be there, but I’ll have a piece of a story, a direction. I enjoy revisiting familiar pieces of stories, but what really makes me sit up in bed is when I see a connection between two pieces. This piece leads to that one, and suddenly there are new twists and implications I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes several more pieces get drawn into the picture and a real story with a beginning, middle, and end emerges.

 It may take me a while of playing around with a story at bedtime to be confident enough I know what is going to happen. Once the story has jelled (a very apt word because the structure is still sort of like jello), I can start to write it.

 So what is going on in my head these days? The fourth book in the Chronicles of the Dragon Bound had stalled, but after some wandering through the social wilderness around the city of Silverdale, I think I have some suitably nasty ideas for real heroic conflict. I also have a hot idea for a new Starship story, but I have to wander around in it some more to develop an interesting narrative.

 Summer vacation is almost upon me, but before I can do too much new writing, I have to deal with some editing projects to get the books I have written out the door. That will be a good thing, because you will actually get to enjoy them instead of just watching me natter on about writing.

What Is Old Is New Again

 

This weekend I had the file drawer open where I've stashed stuff that I've written over the years. Curious to see what was there (and postpone the yard work for another hour), I pulled out the stack and looked through it. Much of the writing was so old I had forgotten where I was going with it. I would unfold three or four typed pages (what we did back then) and read a sort of interesting introduction to... What?

However, as I had hoped, there were a few pieces with possibilities among the brittle-yellowed pages. Right now I am transcribing (and improving) "The Old Hidden Ball Trick," another entry into my Weird Sports collection. The other has an excellent idea for a new story in my Starship series. In fact, if I can figure out how to connect the dots, this will become the first in the chronological series of that world. This story is currently in the "thought gestation" stage. I have an additional Starship story idea, but it needs considerably more thought before I will be ready to tell a coherent tale.

Speaking of the Starship stories, the two completed stories, "Starship" and "Starship: Free Mars," are undergoing editing even as I write this. I plan to release these stories on Kindle Direct sometime this summer. I will post details later.

No Fooling

 

Nothing foolish for April Fool's Day. Don't think I'm not tempted, but I don't want to do something lame. "Better to do nothing and be thought a fool, than to do something that will prove it beyond question."

As of this last weekend, I have completed one more read-through edit of King's ExileKing's Dragon, and King's Crown. The story is a lot smoother, but the technical writing mechanics still need work. I'm taking this as a sign of progress. The parts which have needed the most developmental work, mostly "critical action sequences," still need revising to weed out awkward constructions, passive voice, etc. In a way it's like wood work. The areas which are misshapen (action sequences) need to be planed down into shape. Only once they are shaped to the right form, can they be sanded smooth and finished. It's not sawdust in the wood shop, but my RAM is heavily encrusted with word-dust.

In another month or so, I'm going to give the series another go-through before I send it off for copy editing this summer. Once that is done, I publish—either with a publishing company or myself. This series will see that light of day.

In the meantime, I've gone back to work on a few of the projects which have lain fallow while I focused on the King's series. My Starship stories are off to be edited. I will release them on Kindle Direct sometime this summer. I have an idea for a third story in the series in the gestation phase. I have the basic idea, and I have the basic conflict. However, the isolated scenes have not jelled into a coherent story.

There is an idea for another book in the King's series. The question is, can I bring forth the fourth? I've got a good start on the draft, but the concept needs more work. I have the stage well set for the main conflict to begin, but I need a little more off-line development. I don't like major rewrites, and I like to have a better plot outline to follow than the one I have now. (Feel free to interpret that as meaning I have no outline.)

No major responsibilities this weekend, so I'm anticipating some serious writing.

Back to work

 

This last week was the college's spring break. I had intentions of getting a lot of writing done, but the weather finally broke and suddenly there was no longer a glacial excuse for delaying the start of spring clean up. I could go on about the deep, existential pleasure of having a clean garage, but to sell that, I would have be a literary master of the highest caliber.

I did make significant progress on revisions to the King's series. I am well into the second book, King's Dragon. I'm afraid the first book is going to need another session or two. It was the first one I wrote, and I keep finding more things to change there than in the other books. From experience I know I have to reread my changes of changes several times before things smooth out.

My other active project is moving the Starship stories off to be edited. My plan is to have a 26,000 word, science fiction novelette on Kindle Direct by summer. I have other stories and book ideas waiting their turn, but right now I am focusing on actually getting something out there to sell.

Polishing, Polishing

 

More polishing on King's Exile today. Even though I went through it carefully several times before I sent it off for editing in December, "upon further review," I am finding way more bad writing than I should. New theory: Since this is a fantasy work, the crap-faries must sneak into my computer and put in all the tortured construction, mangled syntax, and all the other crummy composition I see. That must be it. I would never write such drivel on my own.

I am half way through King's Exile, the first book of the Dragon-Bound series.

We'll Miss You

 

Leonard Nimoy's passing reminds us that we are all mortal. Unlike most of us who live in quiet anonymity, Nimoy had the rare chance to create a character who will be known and loved for ages. I was already a fan of science fiction when the original series ran for the first time on TV when I was in high school. Later, I had an opportunity to see Nimoy speak at a fan gathering in the 1970s. It was reality therapy for me, of course, because he was just an actor. However, the character of Spock is iconic. It played particularly well against the other, all too human, characters in the series. Still, in many ways Spock was something we all aspire to be: intelligent, logical, and unperturbed by the daily indignities of daily life.

Speaking of the indignities of daily life, I worked through revisions on several more chapters of King's Exile today in and around bouts of snow shoveling. Winter has not been gentle this year.

... And, thank you again!

 

Since I've discontinued my trial marketing of King's Exile, I've received a number of inquiries about the books. Thank you for your interest! You have really inspired me to redouble my efforts to get these books to the public. I am working on revisions from the final round of developmental editing. My editor has me scheduled for final copy editing starting in July, and I have to get the books ready by then. Copy editing will take some time, but I hope to have something finalized by this fall. I appreciate your patience.

So—right now I am reworking King's Exile. Reading it again after some months, I see a lot of things I missed before. Work, work, work. However, reality does intrude. As an educator, I still have papers to grade, lectures to plan and revise, meetings to attend... One saving grace of our winter deep freeze has been I am free of having to mow the lawn. There is snow removal, of course. I long for that all to brief interlude between the last snow fall and the first lawn mow. Last year I think it was about three weeks.

Back to work, but thanks again,

Bill

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