(500 words or fewer) [I went over the 500 word limit.]
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I wake to the shrill chime of the monitor inset within the bunker’s triple thick metal door. Springing from the stiff mattress atop the thin metal bed frame, I see the monitor is green –glorious, spirit-lifting green! After a year of silent red, the green lights are a joyous sight. Hetzer, my Norwegian Elkhound, hops up from his spot next to my bed, and he barks at the door monitor’s incessant ringing.
Part of me doesn’t believe it. Something deep down tells me this isn’t real. My heart leaps as I close the distance and read the monitor’s glowing face.
The air up above is clean.
The radiation is gone.
It’s safe to come out.
Silencing the monitor’s chime I turn and look at Hetzer with a smile.
“Ready?” I ask.
Hetzer’s happy bark and wagging tail is all the confirmation I need.
I trot back over to the metal framed bed and pick up the cargo pants I tossed there the night before, and pull on a dirty t-shirt that used to be white. Plopping down on the stiff mattress I pull my gray hiking boots out from under the bed. The socks I wore two days ago – or was it a week ago? – are stuffed inside the boots, and I pull them on before stuffing my feet into the boots. With boots tied I make my way back across the drab, gray bunker and to the door.
Always ready, I grab the semi-automatic rifle hanging just next to the door. The last days before the bombs dropped were dark, and Hetzer and I only survived because of my diligence and a few well-placed shots with my rifle. Many others were not so fortunate. Too many. I pick up two magazines full of ammunition off the floor and slide them into the right cargo pocket of my pants.
Then, I place my hand on the door’s latch. I could have had a digital system installed, but if that had failed I would have been stuck in thisbunker with no way to escape. The giant wheel above the door monitor squeals and screeches from a year of disuse as I turn it. Behind me, Hetzer shuffles back and forth, anxious to leave the tight confines of the bunker.
One last, loud screech, and the door pops open.
I hold my breath, hoping that the bunker’s sensors are telling the truth, but warring with the dread that the sensors failed and in the next few seconds I would be dead.
Suddenly, a cool breeze wafted into the bunker, bringing with it fresh air.
The smell of the fresh was delicious, the sensation on my nostrils and in mouth like lemon gelato on a hot summer day.
I take the first step out the door and up the stairs. Hetzer, though so excited he can barely keep it contained in his furry body, waits for me, his master, his Alpha, to go first, and then trails close at my heels. As I ascend the steps I see above us the sky is black and clear. Billions of stars twinkle in the night sky, and the full moon is at its apex.
I reach the zenith of the stairs, my heart fluttering with excitement.
I am greeted by destruction.
The small neighborhood I lived in is gone. The only proof there ever was a neighborhood here are the foundations of homes and roads being slowly overtaken by nature. My house is gone, too. Only the bunker, what used to be the basement, is all the remains of the place I called home for so many years.
The neighborhood I lived in sat atop a hill overlooking most of the city, and now I stare at what remains. What was once the epitome of suburbia is now an empty, grass covered field. Here and there the crumbling skeletons of a few buildings remains. Far in the distance at the city’s heart stand the rotted, bombed out corpses of skyscrapers.
The silence overwhelms and presses in on me. Though Hetzer stands loyal by my side I feel the crushing weight of loneliness.
Another emotion wells up within me: hope.
Other people had to make it to other bunkers, I assume as the logical portion of my mind takes over. There have to be others out there.
With that shred of optimism beginning to take root and grow within me I step forth into this new land, Hetzer always beside me.
We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:
- Ordinary world
- Call to adventure
- Refusal of the call
- Meeting with the mentor
- Crossing the first threshold
- Tests, allies, and enemies
- Approach the inmost cave
- The ordeal
- The road back
- The resurrection
- Return with the elixir
There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.
In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.
And my mind was opened.
I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.
But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.
The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.
Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”
But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.
How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?
I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.
SHOULD be. . .
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?
I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!
Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.
I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.
But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.
Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.
But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?
So, once more, into the breach!
I am still working on my current novel set in the far future. More blog posts about that are forthcoming.
In the meantime I am jotting up ideas for new books. Here is one of my late night doodles: A Tribe of Mars. The idea is a group of colonists have to band together to survive Mars.
No his boots are not right, and I totally left the fingers out.
It’s a doodle.
What, you wanna fight about it!?
Until next time. . .
Lightsabers were brought up the most, while swords, and even characters were mentioned. It’s a pretty cool article (for we geeks) and I highly recommend reading it.
It got me thinking: what are MY favorite science fiction and fantasy weapons? I read and watch a lot of science fiction – and some fantasy. As I read the article on SFSignal it got me thinking through TV shows, books, games, and comics.
Favorite Science Fiction Weapons
Honestly there are too many to count. SciFi is where I spend most of my time. But I narrowed it down to four of them. While some may flex the definition to include vehicles, mecha, or power armor, I kept the definition of weapon pretty narrow to specific weapon systems.
Battletech Particle Project Cannon (PPC) – The PPC, and later the Clan extended range (ER) PPC was one of the most devastating ‘Mech/tank weapons in the game. Because it was energy based it didn’t need any reloads. While it created a lot of heat, most ‘Mechs could handle it and PPCs were the end of many an enemy ‘Mech in games. Just the thought of man-made lightning slicing through and blowing up armor is awesome!
Command and Conquer GDI Ion Cannon – I’ve been playing C&C since I was very young, and I love the original game even today. While The Brotherhood of NOD was fun to play, GDI had the orbiting satellite ion cannon that we lovingly termed “God’s middle finger” and would sew destruction across the battlefield.
Warhammer 40k Heavy Bolter – Sure, the standard bolter in WH40k is an awesome staple, but I’m a heavy weapons lover, and the heavy bolter is a death-dealing masterpiece. And it just looks cool.
Firefly – Jane’s Gun “Vera” – Jane has to be my favorite character from Firefly, and his tricked out beast of a gun “Vera” just looks cool. Though I lose geek points for not knowing whether or not he actually got to use it in the series.
This one is a little harder. I don’t normally delve into fantasy these days. There are, of course, swords and axes galore. But specific weapons are harder for me to identify.
The Cinder Spires Crystal Gauntlets – In the first book in Jim Butcher’s new series “Aeronaut’s Windlass” the militaries of the spires have crystal gauntlets that fire magic. These are handy and very cool, not to mention the battle scenes with them are fantastic.
The Hobbit “Sting” – When I was very young I watched the animated “The Hobbit” movie and was immediately hooked on the fantasy genre. The sword “Sting” holds a special place in my heart. Later I would read the book, and I still thought Sting, though really just a long dagger/short sword was still a fine weapon. Plus the blue glow early-warning orc detection feature is quite nice.
Warhammer Fantasy Warsword of Khaine – The only books I enjoy from Warhammer Fantasy, and the series I’ve read three times now, the tales of Malus Darkblade have to be the best. The action and adventure, not to mention the dark plot really draw the reader in. The Warpsword of Khaine had the ability to keep Tz’arkan the Slaanesh demon at bay, and was a blood thirsty blade that drove Malus to kill more. My kinda sword.
What are YOUR favorite science fiction and fantasy weapons?
Until next time. . .
In my last post on editors, I talked about the last editor I worked with, and my experience with her. There was a lot of criticism – some warranted, some crushing, and some that left me with more questions than answers received.
Now I’d like to discuss the latest editor I worked with, and the night-and-day different experience I had with her.
I met my most recent editor through a friend. My friend, we’ll call him MV, is part of a Catholic Young Professionals group in Omaha. There he met a woman who had self-published two books. Through their conversation MV learned that this woman had her sister edit her books, and through several emails they put the two of us in contact.
I was skeptical at first, but sister of this editor has done exceptionally well for herself and her books are still selling. It helped that her price was a fraction of what most editors charge as she was just getting her editing services off the ground. Jackpot!
Over a four week period my editor and I worked through my manuscript, first two copy-edits, and the finally an in-depth content edit looking at story structure, flow, identifying plot holes, and strengthening certain points such as one main character’s growth from meek to strong and the culture of the fictional people I am writing about.
My most recent editor was very thorough with grammar and punctuation. She was able to catch quite a bit of what the previous editor and I had missed. My editor was also able to go through and help make sentences and even paragraphs more clear and concise to better get the story across to my reader.
Through the in-depth content edit, my editor identified areas of confusion which need clarification, and areas where the story was weak and need additional dialogue and/or description.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. While my story is now stronger, there were times I wasn’t sure about my most recent editor. In all edits, and especially the last, she gave me a lot of pumping up and “your story is great, you’re a great writer” type of compliments. While this is a stark contrast from my previous editor, I don’t think it’s what I need to hear. I needed a hard, critical perspective and many times it seemed I was being provided too much positive reinforcement in a place where it wasn’t warranted.
Sometimes too many compliments and the like can be debilitating to identifying problems and fixing them, in this case in my manuscript. It can lead us into believing we have a great story when, in fact, we don’t.
With my current editor I had to be even more critical of my work, and bring things up to her and try to have her look at them in different ways. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she replied with, “I actually feel that’s really good and I don’t feel it needs to be changed.”
Regardless of whether it is actually good or not, she said things like that so often that my blood pressure spiked a little and, after our meetings, I would go back and comb through my manuscript more.
So maybe it was a good thing?
Most recently (within the last two years) I have had two very different editors. One was overwhelmingly critical and, after paying a hefty sum for a single edit, cut off her availability. The other was much cheaper, but the constant positive reinforcement on things I thought were wrong made me concerned about the quality of her edits. The result: I believe I have a completed, ready to publish manuscript. Unfortunately, these, and one other editor many many years ago, are the only benchmarks I have for what editors should be like.
After reading both posts, what are your thoughts on these two editors? What have been your experiences with editors? I’d also like to hear the thoughts of editors/agents in the business.
Until next time!. . .
Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.
Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.
Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.
But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.
Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.
Now Communicate Some More
I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.
I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.
I quickly found that this would not work in this case.
First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.
While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.
For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.
The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.
I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.
As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.
Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.
The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.
Until next time. . .