The Cocktail Mysteries: The Case of Alfred Smyth Concord, esq. Chapter 1 A question worthy of being interrupted
Bang. Bang. Bang
James tensed his shoulders and let out a long slow breath. Why did people do both? It was bad enough they were doing this while the light was perfect for painting. His brush was half-way to the easel when…
“I got it hun.” Sandra called.
It was too late however, now he needed to see who was at the door. Setting the brush down he went to the doorway to find Sandra talking to a stranger.
“James, this is Alfred Smyth Concord….”
“Esquire, don’t forget the esquire, it’s quite important.” The person interjected.
“…esquire. He wants to buy one of your pictures…” She said facing him, her face hidden from the stranger. The expression was one he was familiar with, ‘Looney Bin’ is what he called it. He felt his face go into his practised placid smile. Sandra’s ‘Looney Bin’ face had never been wrong. He put on his ‘so glad to meet you face’ and focused back on the stranger, who remarkably was still talking.
“All the copies…all the digital versions…all backups…I must be the sole owner of all versions of that picture, that piece of art, name your price.”
James felt his eyes widen in surprise, he looked at Sandra, he looked at ‘Esquire’, he looked back to Sandra.
“I think a cocktail is in order. Gin and tonic Mr. Concord?” Sandra asked, “I have a lovely elderflower tonic?”
The man started, “Ah yes, how civilized, yes please, I’m sure it will help calm my nerves.”
“James?” Sandra asked.
What did one drink for picture negotiations? This was a question worthy of being interrupted.
This is the way I am working on Book 2 of System War:
High level plot of the book arc, this includes the following:
The current situation – I.E. – what has happened since we last saw our heroes and villains. Spoilers below, not that anyone has read book 1.
Large Book Arc Points
An inciting incident occurs that spins out the stories for the rest of the book. The characters are scattered throughout the system. Each set of them is isolated by physical distance and separated. The common theme is they all have to rely on themselves, they can’t count on the others to save them. The weaving together of their individual plot arcs will occur after the climax of the story in the denouement. As in the first book, there will be a space battle with all our characters in various roles before they are all flung away from one another.
The main starting point is event based; they are fighting a war and they must break a blockade. The main character in this arc must control her impulsive nature and realize that not everyone can be saved. This will fundamentally change her for the remainder of the series. Until now she has been able to save everyone.
The main love arc between two characters, doesn’t move forward in the traditional sense, because they are seperated. The frustration of absence and worry. There is no communication between them until the end of the book. Each of them focus on their given tasks to distract them from the seperation.
The environment or the universe arc is summed up with the following: – The dangers of the Jovian Moon and traveling in deep space with no repair port near by. This is the outer danger, the danger of distance.
– The fear of the unknown as two characters discover a fundamental change in the universe, a mini disaster movie arc.
An Espionage/spy arc where characters have to be like spies and make contact with a foreign government, with no support.
/digression – The Bad Guys – yea they get an arc too.
The protagonists must weave their way around the successes of the heroes and then foil them. Even with the successes and sacrifices of heroes, the villians will be closer to winning the underlying contest of who will get interstellar travel and saving humanity from living in one solar system and more importantly who gets to survive. We will also learn why the protagonists are focused on escaping our solar system. The big reveal of ‘the evil’ at the end of the book will be the focus point of driving the third and final book.
These scenarios put pressure on the characters which will reveal more about them. Some will fail, some will overcome themselves and the roadblocks in front of them, some will remain the same.
Characters remaining the same. Why they are interesting. The best example of a main character remaining the same that I have heard of and agree with is Conan the Barbarian. In each of the movies he is the same. There is no dynamic change in who or what he is. The characters around him change, he enables them to change by forcing them to looking inward or aiding in their external conflict.
Seems straight forward? For me examining the process and trying to write it becomes very difficult. The character has to be put under additional strain and pressure that would force them to change, to compromise or act differently. The tests must be harder than in the first book. It is this escalation and how it is managed that is difficult. If Conan fought 10 people at once, he must fight 100 people at once in the next conflict.
This should expose if the values of the character are true? What is the price to give in? For the Series this process must be escalated slowly. In the first book I tried to show her skills and abilities. Continually building her need to be better, to be smarter. Tougher problems. She must be jeopardized and more importantly, what she loves and holds near and dear must be directly attacked with the intent of compromising her.
At the same time the arc must be balanced against what is going to happen in the third book. This balance is often compromised by not being realistic. The Death Stars in Star Wars escalated out of control. Even for the Star Wars universe.
In the first book, the plot attacks on one of the main characters were focused on the external components of the character – can she lead her crew into battle? Is she a good tactician? In book two the focus will shift to the game of diplomacy and spy craft, something she is awful at and the underlying mystery of the character will be revealed. This answers the question: If she is such a great Space Ship Captain and military strategist, why was she dishonorably discharged from the Fleet? This of course leads to the question: Why tell us this now?
If the overarching point of the book series was about this character, then it would be inappropriate to resolve this plot in book two. Why read book three if main plot point is resolved? However, the answer to this question must be answered at some point as it is an implied promise to the reader. Secondly it is one of the mysteries in the series. Book Two must move the main arc of the series AND have a fundamentally satisfying resolution to a character arc.
Could this be handled in book three? Certainly? But at what cost? The pace of this book series is deliberate with the intent of the tension in various plot points to be satisfying, not a constant roller coaster. The action and anxiety may run for several chapters and scenes, but in the overall pacing I’ve tried to keep specific points where you get to see the characters recovering, being ‘normal’. Why? I’ve always enjoyed books that have done this. Who doesn’t like witty banter at a coffee shop? I mean really…it’s necessary…even in the Marvel universe – why else is there a Shawarma scene?
And that’s this weeks ramblings – return next week where I’ll write something – I hope – until then wash your hands and
I got back from the writing retreat setup by Randy McCharles earlier this week. Randy’s a great friend to writers of all levels. Check him out. He has new series coming out soon. More news as events warrant.
Ok – the people at the retreat made me feel ashamed of my commitment level.
They were a bunch of BIC’s (Bums In Chairs) It was humbling. Their schedule looked something like this:
Writing by 630 AM
Short Break 10:15
Lunch Noon (45 Min)
Short Break 230 ish
Dinner 6:00 PM (an Hour)
And most nights another 2 hours of writing then a sit around chat.
With the guilt hanging over my head after the first day I tried to buckle down and get crunching out the writing.
Here’s what got accomplished:
30K editing pass – and then sent to an editor for revision, plus alpha readers. Yes I crapped my pants.
10K New words
Major problems resolved- two
Incorporate all changes from Editor on the Prologue. (2500 words)
This is for what I refer to as the “CheeseSpaceOpera” Today’s working title “Icarus: Book One of the System War”.
Some of you might be still coughing about me sending something to an editor, please check her site out: http://moreedits.ca/. If she can work with me, she can work with anyone.
So in an effort for full transparency – Yes – I am on the road to having something published; either self-published or otherwise. (Insert Laugh Track Here)
The biggest single new technique I learned and put into practise – Editing pass while you listen to the story. I did this through MS Word’s “Read Aloud” function. It’s astounding the sheer volume of prepositions I don’t put in when I write.
What are you going to put into practice for your writing?
While it is important to cultivate being creative and make it a habit to be creative without care for your surrounds, it behooves me see what I could do to maximize the success of the writing retreat. I’ll stop with the horsing around now and get to the point.
For several years now I’ve recommended the following videos in this order to help writer’s. As a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy I am drawn to the new and the old or ancient. It’s good to remind myself there are excellent resources for writers in the near past. I would include Stephen King’s Book, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft , In this list of resources.
Shawn Anchor’s presentation at a TEDxBloomington in May of 2011 is my goto when I get off track. It involves outliers, unicorns, breaking his sister’s arm and most of all happiness. If you’ve watched it before, watch it again.
The second video is from Elizabeth Gilbert. This presentation is not about “Eat, Pray, Love”. It’s about creativity and the dreaded “M” word – MUSE.
This presentation is from Ted2009, February.
Sadly there is another side to this preparation, dealing with the stress of day to day life or problems that have to be dealt with.
Do the doable before you go. The issues will be there when you get back.
Don’t pack problems for others at the retreat to solve for you. If it’s a writing problem, sure, but you know what I mean.
In my experience, many creative people have trouble being selfish. You owe it to yourself, be selfish, enjoy the retreat, relish the time you have to write.
Balance. You can’t write every single second of your retreat. So don’t judge yourself when you have a second cup of coffee or a second glass of wine.
Strive to find flow. Most authors and artists talk about getting into a flow where the writing just comes out. Work on finding Flow. Basketball players, indeed professional athletes talk about finding flow. If you don’t believe in “flow” that’s fine, you’ll thank me when you find it.
Write down what distracts you, make a list that you will deal with later.
I would say that all of you have read the blog and not watched the videos. Now is the time to go back a watch the videos.
Remember the goal is to prepare for the retreat, not start the retreat early. Don’t confuse preparation with doing an activity. Proper preparation helps maximize what you get out of something, whether it’s a holiday or a retreat.
“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I think that most people have dreamed about flying. How freeing it would be. But if there is no physical component to flying, say like wings we have to move, my lack of physical fitness would literally balloon to epic proportions. Think zeppelin size people floating around. And the price of toilet paper! Sanitation systems. The list goes on and on. It would be a shitty world.
Or by being able to fly, we solve global warning, or at least take a big chunk out of it. No need for cars, roads, parking problems are thing of the past. Parkades are torn down for parks. No road rage, stress is down. Commute times plummet. Without cars to haul goods around we focus on local stores and markets.
Both of these are examples of worldbuilding. You could use either one of these ‘worlds’ in a story, but as you can imagine, each bring radically different impacts to my story. (or your story). What this example does for me is clearly demonstrate that setting is a character in any writing you do. Whether it’s for local papers or epic fantasy like Sharlene Engel is doing, once she stops traveling the world. And yes that was a cheap shot at Sharelene to finish her re-write on her awesome novel so I can read it! (This digression brought to you by it’s all about me (r)).
My struggle with world building is containing the ideas and concepts of the world. They have to make common sense. Practical impacts on the awesomeness of your world. What are the limitations? We are all limited, what constraints do apply to your world? Here’s an example.
Imagine your flying people are space explorer’s and they are in researching a planet for possible first contact. No one on the planet they are investigating can fly. So our intrepid researchers have to walk. What is the impact of walking, on people who have never walked? Or only walked very short distances? (If you like do this as homework)
The better question might be, how can this impact my story?
In our example one of our researchers stubs and breaks her/his/their toe and is forced to go to a local hospital. How can this incident impact first contact between two species? I am sure you can see dream up several ways this can be used in any genre of any story.
My current work in progress has a situation where the artificial gravity goes on and off as a result of intermittent power failure. And while artificial gravity is fascinating to me, what’s more important is the physical impact on characters as they move through the environment trying to save their friends. There is no need for me to explain in glorious detail how the artificial gravity works, it just does. We don’t stop to explain how electricity flickers on off in power failure, it just does.
I am trying very hard to let common sense and character interaction be my guide. For those of you that know me, you can stop laughing about me using common sense.
A joy for me in writing is planting Easter Eggs. Why? because I love finding them in books I am reading. They can be as simple as recognizing a fictitious character name as someone I know. Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Nighthas a number of them, including a reference to a Randy McCharles. Randy helps run and organize the greatest writing conference you never heard of, When Words Collide. This conference, more than anything else has encouraged me to write.
But I digress..
When looking for supporting character names or locations I’ve started looking for historical references I am interested in. This is where Hedy Lamarr comes in. More than a great actress. An actress who’s beauty made audiences gasp when the first saw her with Charles Boyer in Algiers(1938).
She also tinkered with Howard Hughes and his wing designs for planes. Patented a frequency hopping system with George Antheil in 1940. And no, frequency hoping is not code for her private life escapades. It’s actually frequency hopping. You of course can find this all on her wiki page
And so in the Space Opera Novel I am working I have a pair of characters named Hedy and Erwin. I’ll leave it to you to figure out Erwin. Let’s just say he’s not a dog person. All of this circles back to reading and my youth where I discovered in Science Fiction and Fantasy much more than an escape.
I discovered a lens to see the world I lived in. A lens that taught me tolerance. A place where equality was the norm. Dystopian fiction didn’t exist yet. Writers were pushing the boundaries of how great humanity could become, not pursuing the depths of despair and destruction. A place where every one was along for the ride, not just the one person who survived to try and rebuild the world. There were plenty of grim stories. But there were also stories of hope, of discovery. A world where people changed. And so the Easter Eggs I will leave will be about people and places that helped make the world better.
As always be well… dcd
Six days of #NaNoWriMo2017 and I can see my goal of 60K words in the distance. Just passed the 50K mark, the “official” finish line for NaNo. Why 60K? Why not? Or is that to trivial an answer?
Those who I share this writing adventure with have busier lives than I do. Some of children, some are working longer hours with other goals besides writing. I on the other hand, have the time to write. Time to write better, quicker, faster. I don’t have to be satisfied with 1667 words and day for NaNoWriMo. Indeed, I should be able to do 2K words 5 days out of seven, seven out of seven during November.
I also need to take time to learn from my writing. This NaNoWriMo has been the easiest so far. By being easier, it has also taught me many lessons on what I need to do better. But that is a topic for another blog. I am hoping to get 5k done today and maybe tomorrow. Then NaNoWriMo2017 will be over for me.
Here’s your raw NaNo writing excerpt:
“I’ll see what we have and get the water Lady Isott.” The server said and headed off to the kitchen. As she reached the kitchen door, Mila and Cara came out bumping into the server. Mila and Cara grabbed the serving woman and pinned her to the floor, Mila with a knife at the women’s throat. The guards at the door drew swords and rushed towards the kitchen, as they ran, Trevor stuck his foot out tripping one. The other plunged straight at Mila’s back with a sword. He didn’t see Slode step out of the privy hallway running him through with his sword. By the time that Isott swung her gaze back to the other fallen man Gris was ontop of him, binding the man’s hands as Slode walked over blood falling onto the man’s face from the blade of his sword. The man stopped stuggling instantly.
“Back room.” Trevor gestured and everyone dragged their captives down a corridor near the kitchn to what looked like stock room. Two serving staff rolled the dead body into a table cloth and took it through the kitchen. Another two staff immediatley had mops out and were wiping up the blood. Isott was amazed at that everything disappeared so fast.
“Isott,” hissed Trevor, “Get over here.”
She went to Trevor and the rest. Trevor closed the door
“Won’t someone call the city guards?” Isott asked.
“Most people won’t remember seeing anything if you ask them tomorrow. Some didn’t even see it tonight.” Trevor said.
“How? How can that be?” Isott asked. “It happened in plain site.”
“What people will remember is that a serving girl stumbled going into the kitchen. Most didn’t see Slode kill the man. They weren’t looking that way. What they will say is the guards went to help the fallen serving girl helping her into the kitchen.”
“Those that did see everything will keep their mouths closed for fear of being associated with the bandits. And no one will believe that Mila Xygen was involved in anything.” Mila said while looking directly at the serving woman who Slode had tied to chair. Mila’s dagger was dangerously close to the woman’s face. The other would be assassin was tied in another chair. Gris was staring at him.
Today’s installment of mindless drivel from the land of NaNoWriMo…
Cara stepped from her hiding spot and dropped to the floor in silence.
“Well, what should we do?” Cara said.
With a bang Isott crashed backwards out of her chair spilling onto the floor. She spun with her dagger held out to Cara.
“I could have killed you.” Isott said, trying to regain her composure. Cara was still laughing.
“Oh yes, you are so scary.” Cara said putting her hand over her mouth. This did not prevent her shoulders from shaking.
Isott’s eyebrows knit together. She took a slow breath to regain control. It didn’t work.
“Damn it Cara, with all that has gone on, is going on. It wasn’t funny.” Isott said. “How long have you been listening?”
“Long enough to know that I need to be at that meeting.” Cara said.
Isott thought about this. “No, I have a different task for you.” Isott said.
“I don’t take orders from you, Isott. I provide information. I try and get information you are after. But I don’t take orders from House Adunthe.” Cara said.
Isott considered this. Did she mis-understand the relationship that Daniel had with Cara? Maybe the direct route to her problem.
“I need you, no, let me re-phrase that. I would take it as a favour, if you followed Daniel for the next several days. I am afraid he is going to do something stupid.” Isott said. She found Cara studying her closely. She in turn looked at Cara.
“You’ll have to be more specific,” Cara said, “I need to know what you are afraid of.”
“He’s going to go after the rogue magic users by himself, I know it. And I don’t think he understands how dangerous it is.” Isott said.
Cara shuddered, remembering the scene from the docks. The sickening popping sounds still clear echoing in her mind. She forced down the rising bile in her mouth.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.-George Santayana
We live in a world where memories are measured in seconds and the ‘apps’ of our lives are often designed to forget or erase what we just shared with others, the moments of our lives. It’s not that we can’t remembered what happened last week, it’s that we can’t remember what happened last snap.
Chose to remember the truth: the good the bad the ugly. Lest we forget.
Be Well -dcd
My father is third from the left. He fought in Korea for Canada.