Appalachia Map

Here is a…rather grim (and obviously fictitious) map in which my Appalachia book will be set in. While it is an arguably bleak dystopian future, this book does have an overall vision of humanity; themes such as community, beauty, friendship and love. It is a simple and sometimes lighthearted story, focusing on a single traveler; not an over-arching geopolitical sort of thriller. The book is still in the editing phase, and I will continue to provide updates and perhaps some pages or snippets here on the ‘ole blog.

Click for larger version:

dystopian US map north America future Armageddon

Also, yes, I made this map from scratch in Photoshop, over a few evening hours last week.

A bit of a run-in

Spent the last few evenings writing again! Perhaps it’s just being back in Oregon that gets me in the literary mood? Also I started reading The Hunger Games last week, and it’s been a good while since I’ve read anything. Since both my Applachia book and Hunger Games are set in a dystopian future, I felt the urge to work on this project, instead of…say All Around Bend…which I ‘should’ be working on instead, being an actual book that I’ve been hounded to print more of and people are holding actual cash to my face over. I guess that’s just how writing goes though, and I’m happy to just be back in the mood, can’t risk being picky about the project itself!

 

On the subject of Hunger Games, I want to make it clear that my book has very few similarities, upon finally reading HG. Sure, it’s a bleak future, but the premises, plot, and characters are all so wildly different. I don’t plan for this to be a young adult book either… but to be honest, if someone who’s 16 reads Hunger Games first, I feel like my book could become a very satisfying, and mature followup for a roughly similar genre. So yeah, anyone know a bigshot movie producer I can pitch this too?! 😛

Here’s a sampling from Appalachia, not written recently, but something from early in chapter 1-2ish that I did some small revisions to yesterday:

 

 

“Say, that’s a nice weapon you have there, looks familiar.”

“Oh yeah, it’s a beautiful shotgun, best purchase I ever made,” Theo lied, but the old well-dressed man seemed to not be fooled.

“That’s a funny thing,” he laughed grimly, before pausing to cough into a handkerchief. “Because I just got word on the radio that my cousin is dead…and you know what’s even funnier?”
Theo’s stomach knotted, he didn’t like where this was going.
“What’s even funnier is that you have my cousin’s identification card right there in your hand.”
Theo didn’t need the man to tell him that, because mid-sentence he looked down towards his left hand, which was grasping the forestock of the shotgun. And sure enough, an ID card was squeezed between two white knuckles. Theo knew that a small image of a man’s face, in his mid-3o’s…cocky, wife-beating smirk and all…was looking back at them.

Without another word, one of the large men took a step forward, reaching out, taking the shotgun barrel in his hand and forcing it up into the air with little effort.

Theo couldn’t have shot if he wanted too. Not only was he looking down a gunbarrel himself, he did not have the time to react, or even the willpower to do it. Even if had been determined to stand his ground, the gun was a late model – it didn’t recognize his grip – the trigger was locked.

He was apparently going for a ride with these men, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. The other hulking man turned towards the rusty passenger door, opening it…

 

 

More about revisioning

This post is in regard to the other day’s post on revising/editing. One thing I’ve done for a while now, is to order single copy versions of my writing from the folks at Lulu, all throughout the writing process. It’s less than $10, and printing/shipping is quite speedy. Here’s a few reasons why I like to do this:

  •  I spend a lot of time at my computer, and any time I get the chance to just sit back in an armchair or in bed and hold a book is a welcome treat.
  •  I like writing in margins, jotting ideas, and generally not dealing with Word, commenting, scrolling, and other silliness. It’s a lot more relaxing to scratch at my words with a pen.
  • It’s nice to have a version that I can throw on the bookshelf when I’m done.
  •  Printed books can be shared with others easily. Having my wife or friend read it, or sending a draft to my parents is a nice perk. Don’t want to make anyone read 200+ pages on their computer, bleh.

quick tretise on revising

In general, editing my own writing is fairly tedious. It involves staring at the screen, scrolling through the text. Obviously, catching the spelling and grammatical typos is the easy part. Beyond that, my editing involves the actual manipulation of my words; changes to the story itself. At times, it’s simple tweaks to my character’s conversations, clarifications or re-wording something that I think might be confusing, moving sentences around; little stuff like this. On rare occasion though, it’s major. For example, the main character of every book had been ‘renamed’ at some point. Granted, this is an easy feat from a technical standpoint, just using the find/replace functionality in Word, but it brings a quote from Tolkien to mind, referring to trees and spoken by Yavanna: “But the kelvar (animals) can flee or defend themselves, whereas the olvar (plants) that grow cannot. And among these I hold trees dear. Long in the growing, swift shall they be in the felling, and unless they pay toll with fruit upon their bough little mourned in their passing.”

Tolkien is talking about trees here, how they take many years to grow but can be cut in an instant, and rarely with remorse. I feel this way about my writing sometimes as well. I make such an emotional connection to a character, to an event or situation in one of my books, then poof! I decide to make a change. A reader would’ve never knew it any other way, that a sentence, a character, an event had existed. It’s the most apparent in a recent case where I decided that a character of mine should die. It was one of those ‘re-write’ situations I mentioned earlier. I woke up one morning, spacing out as I took a shower, when it just clicked: that this specific character should die. When all was said and done, I feel any reader couldn’t have expected it any other way, yet for two years and plenty of reads and revisions on my part… the story unfolded starkly different.

In that Tolkien quote, Yavanna’s solution to protecting her trees was the creation of Ents, the tree-like creatures that guarded the forests from the axes of other races. In my analogy, I have no such protection for my characters, for my story’s continuity and original ideas. When it comes to fiction, the author is ultimately godlike in their abilities; omnipotent and able to alter both the future and history itself with the swiftness of a penstroke. Perhaps that’s why a lot of authors write fiction; they relish in the total control, the world-building aspects of it. It’s no surprise how disheartening it is for most authors to then have their work picked apart by a publisher or third-party editor. I’ve not had to deal with this reality yet, but it’ll probably be coming…

thronal games

For anyone who doesn’t know me…let me just say that I’m not a big TV watcher. We don’t have cable, I don’t have a favorite show, and I’ve probably never seen a whole run/series/season besides perhaps the Simpsons.

However, after several recommendations…as well as access to Comcast’s online on-demand service, I decided to watch the HBO series, Game of Thrones. It certainly seemed like it would be right up my alley… a fantasy medieval-themed drama, based off a very good (from what I hear) series of books that run in a similar vein to my East Realm series that I’ve been writing.

While it’s quite dark and grim, it’s got wonderful depth and very very good characters. It’s refreshing to see heroes in shades of grey, rather than good and evil. Everyone seems to have some flaw or another, and it makes me want to go back and re-write Theo, Rey, Willow or Charlie. They’re just too right, too moral. I want to make my characters a bit more rough on the edges, less wholesome and protagonistic. I of course want to go back and read Martin’s Song of ice and Fire series too…though I hear they are a bit over-detailed and drear at times.It’s been far too long since I’ve been buried in a big thick book…besides my own.

 

Laundromat trouble

Theo’s hands fidgeted in his pockets and he tried to squint at the timer on the dented washing-machine, its motor whining and grinding; still another sixteen minutes.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” the woman bleated.

Theo scowled, ruing his lack of courage and numbness to mercy. He wished he were armed, but no, he didn’t even have a gun anymore. Before the Blasts he had not been able to legally own one, having had a criminal record for some stupid pranks and thefts he had committed during high school; the sorts of non-violent things a young impressionable miscreant and his older friends get into.

After the Blasts he quickly bought a revolver though, but had been cocky enough to not hide it when Enforcement raided a friend’s house where he was crashing. He didn’t get charged with anything, but they took his gun nonetheless.

There was also a very good chance this obnoxious, disrespectful husband in the Laundromat was armed. Theo just grit his teeth, sitting there, watching his clothes spin.

bunches of words

Here’s an excerpt from Appalachia, some ways into Chapter 18. I’m sure it needs context, but you’ll just have to wait for me to finish writing it to figure that out, now won’t you?!

Theo’s back ached as they turned down an overgrown lane. A small clearing opened up on the left side. Abandoned ranch-style houses sat rotting along the right, some collapsed with trees sprouting up from their ruins.

“This’ll do,” Reiley muttered as they approached the clearing. Theo thought it looked like a playground, but all the equipment had long been ripped out for scrap metal. Only concrete bollards, benches and a crumbling picnic table sat there now, slowly being devoured by gnarled vines and the encroaching woods.

There were few words shared as they began setting up camp; all three were weary and miserable from the long day’s march. It was Reiley who finally broke the silence.

“Theo, you can have your tent back tonight. It was kind letting us use it, but Willow and I are fine in our shelter.”

After some vacant retorts, Theo took her offer and began setting his tent up. While it was arguably no less bear-proof than their tarp, there was a good amount of solace to be had in a cozy tent…four walls and a floor being utmost.

“We won’t be lighting a fire tonight,” Reiley also added. She had noticed Willow beginning to unpack the food. The distant echo of gunfire was barely audible over the chatter of insects and birds. “It’s not safe. Not tonight.”

cunning-linguist

I’m hoping to begin posting a lot more writing-related content here in the next few weeks, as well as update the writing pages on this site. I’ll try to include some snippets and teasers here and there, as well as updates and assorted fun stuff.

Here’s a brief overview of what I’m passively working on:

The East Realm Series (working title): 3 books (a trilogy, if you will) that take on a somewhat fantasy-like vein, though without anything too fantastical. There’s no elves or dwarves or magic, so maybe considering it ‘alternate history’ might be a better descriptor. The level of technological advancement sets it perhaps around the middle ages or even classical. The writing style is from a narrator standpoint and while the story occasionally zooms out to the larger meta level, it usually focuses closely follows a group of four protagonists on their adventure.Currently ERS is in the editing phase.

The Yellow Dress Ladies: An immature group of clueless, naive, and bored guys join up to form a wannabe street gang in a small rural desert town. It’s a humorous romp with a loose plotline, likeable characters, and many random ‘wtf’ moments. It’s currently around a hundred pages and I write a chapter here and there every few weeks or month if the mood hits me

All Around Bend: It’s my travel guide for Central Oregon. It’s been on shelves for 3 years now. Go check it out at http://allaroundbend.com, silly.

Appalachia (working title): A post-apocalyptic adventure, following Carl as he leaves the comfort of town and his dull routine. He leaves his entire life behind him as he explores the wastelands, wilderness, and the remnants of society. It’s not too dark, but has a deeper philosophical aspects, as well as theme, setting, and characters. It follows in a similar narration style as the East Realms, that of an author (myself) who has found a journal or pieced together stories from the protagonist’s adventure and compiled the materials into a narrative. It’s currently around 200 pages and I’m likely to turn it into a series, as I’ve got more ideas and the books gettin’ quite thick.

Well, I said that I’d like to start featuring some writing here on the blog; but I’ve already written a bunch already ^. Instead, here’s some eyecandy. This is a before and after of the map that will be in the beginning of the second and third books in my East Realm Series.Really happy with how well it turned out (first one is pencil/pen on paper).