In Which My Writer Brain Surprises Me, and I Wax Celebratory Over It.

My 10th graders are doing an in-class essay exam today.  And I’m all caught up with grading and planning.  So I opened my laptop and started writing.

I’ve been stuck in this battle for days–weeks, even.  I’ll get 300 words out if I’m lucky, and that takes HOURS.

Today I opened, looked at the screen, thought for about thirty seconds on what could happen next, and got a wide-eyed look of “Of course!” and started typing.

I drive a 2007 VW Passat that has a turbo engine.  It’s no supercar, but one of the things I love to do–more than I ought to love it–is to floor the gas and feel the power of the turbo accelerating to freeway speed, or to pass someone.  I’m not even a car guy, and I freaking love doing this.  This car has power.

Just now?  My brain felt like that.  Once I knew what I wanted to do, what made sense, the words just flowed.  That happens so rarely that it’s like a drink of cool spring water after hours of working in 100+ heat (Fahrenheit, of course; I’m an American).

And the best part is that I’m not even done.  I had to quit because in five minutes a new class is coming in, and I have to actually teach, but my lunch will be me taking a quick look at the notes I just wrote down and flying.  And then this afternoon I’ll get some more writing in before it’s time to pick my daughter up from her basketball practice.

Actually?  That’s not the best part.  It’s great, but the best part is that what’s happening right now in the scene?  The moment that will engage the Protagonist in the last desperate actions that will save his ass?  I never saw it coming.  It came out of left field, and it ties directly into stuff from an earlier scene I was afraid might not work, and ties it into his larger journey as well–and even dips into some of my favorite techno-spiritual ideas.

I love my brain when it works.

While I’m here, I’m going to thank my Viable Paradise 17 Instructors, who gave me the courage to trust my writer self when it does this.  Before VP I might have said “No, it’s dumb, it won’t work.”  Now I know I can trust myself.

I Like Writing Space Opera. Space Battles, Not so Much.

This final battle is totally kicking my ass.

Because I’m writing in first-person, I am trying to limit the battle to only what my narrator sees and does, which on the one hand makes it easier, but on the other hand does precisely the opposite.  HE may not see what’s going on in another part of the fight, but I have to know, and it’s making me insane.

While I am a decent star pilot–at least in the admittedly-unrealistic realm of computer simulations–I am not a tactician by any stretch.  Give me one ship and an objective, and I can usually get it done without having to reload and restart.  But give me a fleet to manage a wide-scale battle with, and I will get that fleet largely destroyed, if not completely annihilated.  Apparently I come from the Ender Wiggins school of sacrificing ships to win a battle.

I’m trying to keep my narrator instrumental to the plot, and not rob him of agency–but at the same time, it isn’t realistic to have him come through all this by himself, so I’m having to rewrite my original plans so that he isn’t sitting in space getting rescued by someone else, but he also isn’t saving the day alone.  It has to be an ensemble effort.

Anyway, my students are writing in-class essays, so I really ought to get back to work grading the last assignment.  Then we’ll see if I can’t find some time to write this afternoon.

The Odd Behavior of Memory

Last night I thought of Caisha.

Caisha was my cat, an adorable, staid, stoic kitty who was black as night with beautiful golden eyes.  When he was born, I hoped he’d keep the blue, but of course he didn’t, and as soon as I saw them change I knew that was right and proper.

CaishaCaisha learned, fairly early, that he was hard to see in the dark.  As I have a habit of walking around in the dark, he developed a “trill,” which he only used at night when I came into a room he was in, to let me know he was there.

Caisha was with me for twelve years.  There was another cat, Shinji, who was sort of Caisha’s little brother.  Shinji died in 2005 of an unknown illness. It was hard to let him go, but I still had Caisha.

In December of 2009, I came home to find Caisha laying on his side under a cabinet.  He didn’t respond, and when I pulled him out, he continued to lie there without comment, not reacting to anything, even my then-two-year-old daughter prodding at him.

We rushed him to the vet, and they determined that Caisha had a tumor, one we could not have detected, and that it was already far too late.  I made the incredibly hard decision to let him go.  When it was over–I never let my animal companions die alone if I can help it–I calmly walked to the car, handed my wife the key, got in the passenger side, and immediately dissolved into heaving sobs.  I felt like a part of my heart had been ripped out of me.

Cut to last night.  I walked into my room, saw my current cat, a lovely little creature named Celty, who is totally unlike Caisha and yet has become my new buddy.  She’s ill–in fact, I’m taking her to the vet this afternoon–and thinking of that reminded me of Caisha, and tears threatened again.

I really hope the news with Celty isn’t bad.  It’s way too soon to go through all that again.

Treading and Sweating: The State of Michael Today

All in all, I’m doing pretty well, really.  I’m writing the last chapter of the book, and although I’ve got some ideas for additions that I’ll work on when I’m doing the first revision, it’s going OK.  I’m learning to trust myself, which is actually the single hardest thing for me to do as a writer–I haven’t yet learned the knack of not comparing my first drafts to Steve Gould’s or Elizabeth Bear’s or James Macdonald’s and Debra Doyle’s or Ken Macleod’s final, published drafts.  But I’m getting there.

The Day Job is, well, the day job.  My classes are mostly easy, and being prepared and planning weeks in advance is helping me stay on top of things, mostly.  But the administration implemented a foolish “fix” for a recurring problem from last year that is actually making things harder on me, and the other teachers, too.  So, that’s a mess.

Home is home, which is to say that some days are amazing, and other days less so.  This is married life, I guess. My family does their best to give me space to write, but it doesn’t always work.  Theoretically I have one night a week to duck out and write on my own, but I never seem to take it–which is an ongoing issue in our home, anyway: I am notoriously bad at taking what I need, even if everyone else in my life wants me to.

Anyway, this book will be finished soon.  Then on to the next.