Category Archives for "News"

Aug 02

A Ghast in the Machine Takes Shape!

By terranceacrow | News

A Ghast in the Machine continues to take shape! It’s been May since I last posted about it, and I haven’t made anywhere near the progress I wanted, but I’m still fighting the good fight!

Well, at least I haven’t given up…

That’s something!

Here’s what Scrivener looks like right now:

What? Only five chapters? To be fair, if you look at the Character folder you’ll see that I haven’t been completely idle!

Now, before you accuse me of sloth, take a look at the Characters folder. You’ll see some work’s done there! Plus, you can’t see the Planetary Systems folder, or the folder called Ships…

Like Divinity Ascending before it, the background is expanding by leaps and bounds. It’s not reflected yet in the beats, but I have the elevator speech done, so that’s guiding my development. At this stage, I have two things I’d love to share with you.

First, I just learned that one of new characters, Yessica Romero, is from Cusco, Peru. I had no idea! I love discovering stuff like this about my characters. Whether this is just me trying to make the creative process sound more portentous or not, it’s still fun to see the characters develop at this stage of my novel writing process. In case you’re interested, Yessica is the President of the UN’s General Assembly. Whereas Divinity Ascending focused on what had once been the United States, A Ghast in the Machine takes place all over the globe and beyond the Sol System. In fact, this is the book that beings to move in the direction I’d originally envisioned for the series — that of a Space Opera.

Yessica Romero is from the Peruvian city that’s home to these ruins (Machu Picchu). Beautiful, aren’t they? If a corporation were to say, threaten them, it might come across as a bit negative, right? “That’s a nice world heritage treasure you have there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it…”

Second, I just had lunch with one of my friends, Bruce Westbrook. Since Divinity Ascending takes place mostly on Earth, I can’t really call it Space Opera, can I? That was really bugging me, because I’d intended for it to be the first book in the series. Bruce, an avid science fiction reader, reasonably suggested that I make Divinity Ascending a prequel and release it after the initial two or three books to satisfy the curiosity of readers who might like the characters and situations.

And suddenly, everything made sense!

A Ghast in the Machine will likely (according to my current plans, which, as you well know if you’ve been reading this blog, change from time to time) be the first book that I try to publish. Instead of a trilogy, I think I’ve come to understand that the characters and situations are pushing me towards a long-running series. I’ll probably try to publish two or three books, then release Divinity Ascending. Or maybe I’ll save it as a gift to entice folks to join my e-mail list.

In any event, I had to write the beats for Divinity Ascending before I could understand how to start A Ghast in the Machine. So the work, far from being wasted, was foundational.

Now, if I could just figure out how to wring more time out of a day…

As it stands now, I’m having a blast fleshing out the world and writing the beats. I really hope to have something concrete to share with you soon! Until then, have you ever read fanfic? You might know that I watch a lot of anime (it’s good for the creative juices!). One of the series (Sekirei Pure Engagement) inspired me to write a short story, and you can read it here.

At least it’s evidence I can write fiction! Note that I’m not making any claims to its quality…

Thanks for reading!

May 17

The Beats for Novel 2 (Trilogy 1) Are Underway!

By terranceacrow | News

I’ve been able to give real life the slip for a few days, so I’ve been able to get started on the beats for the second novel (of the first trilogy)!

Remember when I announced that I’d finished the beats for Divinity Ascending? At that time, I wasn’t sure what the next novel would be called. The two main characters of Divinity Ascending, Melchizedek “Dek” Conrad and Matsushita Sachi, had staged a coup, and they forced me to reconsider my plans for the first trilogy. After intense negotiations (you have to keep both eyes on Sachi, I can tell you!), we’ve decided on the title of the book 2:

A Ghast in the Machine

Wow. It sure looks empty.

Before, I mentioned that the Ghast wasn’t even supposed to be in the first book. Well, not content with a larger role in Divinity Ascending, she demanded to be featured in title for the second book. And to be honest, I still don’t know her motives. I’m not kidding — this character’s going places I didn’t intend!

The screen shot above is from what I’m evolving as my default Scrivener template for a book. It’s only a little different from the standard Scrivener fiction/novel template, but I like to add things like the “In a Nutshell” section with the elevator speech. I was surprised how much that helped me focus the direction of Divinity Ascending. Want a taste of the first few lines of the elevator speech from A Ghast in the Shell?

What if you try to get away from the corporations, but they get there ahead of you?

Starts in Spring, 2166.

At the end of Divinity Ascending, Mel and Sachi had struck a deal with TCP to fend off the destruction of TransStell. But TransStell was no less damaged, and TCP no less strong. They’d only bought themselves some time — if they could use it.

Now, if I can elude Real Life’s attention for awhile, maybe I can crank out these beats!

Nov 21

Progress! Otherwise Known as “Beats are Hard!”

By terranceacrow | News

Over forty and counting! Conrad’s in Old Cleveland and Sachi is trying to keep TransStell together.

Okay, maybe “Beats are hard” is a little hyperbolic. They’re only hard in comparison to something, and when I’m in a complain-y mood, beats are hard compared to sitting and drowsing on the couch. But if I’m honest, beats are actually easier that the regret I’ll feel if I don’t finish them!

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on the beats for “Divinity Descending” (it was called “Divinity Falling”). Then, I had about 10 chapters outlined. Now, I have over forty.  I’ve finished the Setup and the Response (based on Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering, which you can buy it here — I can’t recommend it enough!), which means that according to Billy Wilder’s plot nomenclature, my main character is up in the tree, and the tree’s now fully engulfed in flames.

I’m really enthusiastic about that description!

During the time this story takes place, what was the US has broken up. Kinda the way things are now, but with national boundaries and military involvement. Plus corporate interests. The profit motive and international politics are a bad mix…

Not only do I have the beats sketched for 40+ chapters, but I’ve greatly refined the map of the North American continent since the time of my screen shot comparing Scrivener to Storyist.

I’ve also greatly expanded the list of characters and locations. A lot of the story happens in Columbiana, Ohio, which rests northwest of the remains of Columbus. It’s basically the result of Delaware, Ohio and Marysville, Ohio. I’m not sure if the backstory will make it into the novel (at least the first novel), but Colonial America made several deep incursions into The Middle States, and both Columbus and Cleveland were nearly destroyed.

Fortunately for the story, Old Cleveland is fertile ground: The ghast has taken up residence there. What, a ghast? You can read a little about the ghast in this post.

I still hope to get a mailing list up and running soon, because if I’m going to independently publish this, I’ll need to have folks (like you?) interested ahead of time.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! I hope this sounds interesting to you.

See you next post!

Oct 18

No More Excuses! (Said More Timidly than the Exclamation Point Suggests)

By terranceacrow | News

I should probably tell you to sit down.

So, for your own safety, please sit down!

Ready?

I’m trying to write again! Semi-defeatist humor aside, I’ve been plugging away for a couple of weeks now after wrapping up the massive spring/summer project. Here’s proof:

 

I told you to sit down, didn’t I?

 

I have the major character fleshed out, as well as many of the world’s settings. It’s been just over a year since I selected the working titles for the trilogy, and only my full time job and family commitments have stopped me from moving forward more rapidly. Well, that and insecurity. Oh, and on a more positive note, I invested in Sterling and Stone’s Fiction Unboxed 1.0. It’s a video/audio/artifact journey. Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (with some guest appearances by David W. Wright from Undisclosed, Florida) go from no concept to finished novel in 30 days. Putting aside the achievement of writing a 100,000+ word novel in 30 days, I found the insights gained from seeing how they leverage beats and story planning sessions to be fascinating.

And helpful.

I don’t get any kickback if you invest in that series, so please know I’m only recommending it because I thought it was helpful.

Not ready to invest that much? Then I can recommend the book from Amazon. And I do get a cut if you buy that book, since I’m an Amazon affiliate!

I’ll keep you up to date on my progress. I might share an occasional scene, if there’s interest.

Okay, back to writing for me!

Oct 20

A Ghast in Melchizedek’s Backstory

By terranceacrow | News , Novel Pre-Production

You know how when you’re really into writing — when you forget there’s a keyboard and the words flow unfettered from mind to screen? It’s like establishing a warp field. Until something pierces the field, your creativity’s flowing — but even then, you’re only mostly in control.

Case in point:

I’m working on a scene from Melchizedek’s* adolescence to help me fully envision his backstory. I had a specific goal in mind, and I was happily writing toward that goal. Dek’s was a VR landscape when he encounters an AI ghost that’s supervising some children.

Here’s where things got weird.

I had intended for him to interact first with the ghost, then with the inhabitants of the church/school behind her. I had the several scenes of dialogue queued up. But — and I swear I have no idea why this happened — I got to watch an AI ghast split away from the ghost and confront Dek. As The Spooks Beastiary notes, a ghast is a ghost splinter. The ghost remained on task with the children; the ghast interacted with Dek.

I’ve learned to go with these moments, and by the time the scene was done, a new potential theme and subplot dealing with the ethics of imprisoning an AI, especially an AI that didn’t know it was imprisoned.

Nobody expects the ghast! At least, I didn't. It's cliche, but the creative process is a mystery!

Nobody expects the ghast! At least, I didn’t. It’s cliche, but the creative process is a mystery!

Maybe it’s cliche to say, but I’m still a little in awe of the mysteries surrounding the creative process.

If you’re interested in ready the backstory, I have good news! As soon as I get my e-mail list up and running, I intend to offer the backstory as a gift for subscribing. Then, I’ll periodically “reward”** my subscribers with new backstories, story notes, starship sketches, or other pre-production material. Just think: someday, I may be famous! That stuff could become cool mementos!

See you next post!

* My wife suggested that instead of calling him Mel (as I intended to), I should call him Dek. I think she saved me from forever associating the main character of book one with the TV sitcom Alice, in particular Mel’s Diner. I enjoyed the show; I’m not trying to disparage it. But it’s so not the vibe I’m going for in Divinity Falling.

** I hope it’ll seem like a reward!

Sep 01

Prose Just Got Real: The First Trilogy Has Working Titles!

By terranceacrow | News , Novel Pre-Production

My last post mentioned Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering (you can buy it here — I can’t recommend it enough!). The book’s a wealth of information about all aspects of writing a novel, from the nuances of character creation to plotting. The latter was of particular interest to me, since I had concluded that my writing skills lacked one critical part: I didn’t know how to plot a novel.

Yeah, I’m kinda disappointed with me, too. You’d think by now…

Putting aside my natural tendency to take myself to try myself, convict myself, and give myself a stern talking to, I’ve finished Story Engineering. I’m excited to say that after digesting the chapters about plot, and after applying the architectural principles Mr. Brooks described, I’ve come to a conclusion.

He’s right. There’s a repeatable way to approach plot. And I think I can do it.

That was the last obstacle to me starting my first trilogy. Well, to be completely honest, my first trilogy since high school. That means my excuses are exhausted.* It’s time to get started.

The trilogy’s working title is The Fall of Caerleon. I’m going to grapple with the idea of the purpose of power; of its uses, abuses, and controls; its links to our empirical and mystical aspects. The Conrad family, much like Masayoshi Son, has a long term plan to better humanity. Will that plan survive the enemies arrayed against it? Will it survive the Conrad family?

The first book, Divinity Falling, follows Melchizedek “Dek” Conrad as he struggles to push back the advances of Terran Consolidated Products and its hyper-cash reserves against his company. At the same time, his company is trying to get off world to gain the breathing room it needs to take the family’s plan to the next stage. Which force will be more compelling?

Olympia Dreaming, the second book, follows Jack Conrad’s fight against Aldertraum, one of Earth’s colonies, as it tries to take humanity on a dark but unfortunately familiar path. Can humanity rise above its hard-wired behaviors? Or is it doomed to remain in the cave forever? This takes place a couple of decades in Divinity Falling’s future.

The last book of this trilogy, Founders’ Rising, presents Benjamin Conrad and the maiden voyage of the Resolution. Set just after Olympia Dreaming, the story portrays the conflict between human power and its links to claims of divinity. Can human overcome their ancient tendencies, even in the face of species extinction? Will Aldertraum’s attacks prevail? Are they even the real enemy? Or is our own nature much more deadly?

The problem of human power has always fascinated me. We need power to get things done, to influence groups to come together to accomplish things that individuals can’t achieve. At the same time, our history’s littered with the aftermath of power gone mad. History’s also full of attempts to manage or control power. Most recently, we see the foundation of the United States and the establishment of three branches of government to act as checks on power. We’re witnessing a time when those checks have been attacked and eroded, but that just increases my interest: how can humanity harness its collective will without falling into demagoguery? How can we withstand the corrosive effects of hyper-cash — and should we? If we should, why? What’s the justification? I hope to explore those questions in this trilogy.

How do the titles sound to you? Any thoughts on humans and their exercise of power?

Now, please excuse me. I have some work to do!

* If you’re a writer, you’ll understanding to interpret this not as a statement of fact, but as a desparate plea!

Jul 29

One More Piece of the Puzzle…

By terranceacrow | News

One more piece of the puzzle and I’ll be ready to start working on the arcs for the first trilogy.

No, really! That’s the plan! This time for sure!

Why now? What’s changed since I wrote my last novels?* Well, my wife introduced me to Sterling & Stone. If you have any interest in self-publishing, go check out their site. Right now. I won’t mind! I’ll wait.

They’re busily perfecting the art of self-publishing high-quality works in a number of genres. Even better (as if that accomplish weren’t enough, which it is!), they share what they’ve learned. Watching their videos and listening to their podcasts is an investment that I have no doubt will pay off. I now have an idea of where to start when it comes time to publish the first book. That is to say, when I finish writing the first book.

I’ve reviewed my writing skills, and I found I have a gap. I know how to write sentences. My character development will improve over time. Thumbs up to my dialogue! But I don’t know how to weave a compelling story. I gave myself some homework: find a popular, self-published book on Amazon and figure out why it was popular. Here’s what I chose:

I could nit-pick the book — I hate similes, and I don’t think the writer, A. G. Riddle, ever met a simile he didn’t like. But you know what? I had a hard time putting it down. I was disappointed when it ended. Apparently, I’m not alone. Amazon says the trilogy (which includes The Atlantis Plague and The Atlantis World) has sold over 2 million copies.

Let that number — that astonishing accomplishment — sink in for a moment.

My homework was to figure out why that trilogy has sold 2 million copies — despite me not liking its similes.

I think I found the key in Larry Brooks’ book called Story Engineering:

He does an outstanding job of covering all aspects of writing novels, but his chapter on plot blew me away. He laid out, in clear and concise terms, what a successful plot should look like. He didn’t dictate an inflexible set of rules: he pointed out a clear set of guidelines that define what a successful novel’s plot should look like.

I think this is the last piece I need before starting the first trilogy.

How do I know that’s the last piece? I don’t. Not yet, at least. But I know this: I can’t tolerate any more excuses. My daughter’s out of college. I’m not getting younger (quite the contrary!). It’s time to put up or shut up; do or do not; spread my wings and fly; and <insert your favorite cliche here>.

As I work on the material, I’ll share bits and pieces here in the hopes you’ll see something interesting. Feel free to comment!

Now, time to get writing!

 

* Are you ready for this? I wrote my last novel over 30 years ago. 30 years! That’s like, a lot of time. It took me that long to exhaust my reservoir of excuses! It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Olympia orbited the planets of Sirius, or the Resolution was lost…

Jul 04

Wasn’t This an Application Security Blog?

By terranceacrow | News

Yes, it was!

Interstell, Inc.’s adjusting its properties to better serves its customers, so this site, www.terranceacrow.com, is transitioning to a blog covering the challenges and jobs of writing novels.

Realigning Our Sites2

The application security material is moving (and we hope expanding!) at this site: www.interstell.com.

Please visit us there!

And if you’re interested in writing novels, please check back here from time to time!