Character Interview: Walt

As part of a blog promotion I did a while back for Idyll, here is a character interview with one of my protagonists: Walt Starboard.

Walt Starboard is a settler on the planet Idyll. His ancestors travelled there in search of a simpler life, free from the dependence on technology that they believe crippled society—and the human spirit—on Earth.

Unfortunately, a mysterious syndrome of ‘contagious’ sleep has decimated the Idyll settlement, and now Walt has spent the last three years in quarantine with his brother Samuel and his bedridden mother on their lonesome ranch. Desperate to find a cure for their mother—and to find out what happened to their father—Walt and Samuel are finally venturing away from their homestead in search of answers.

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
Walt Cygnus Starboard. Yes, quite significant. When our forebears left Mother Earth, they gave up their traditional surnames and took on new last names based on the roles or their quarters on the starship Marathon. It was a 600-year trip that required a great deal of sacrifice. Relinquishing their surnames was more symbolic than anything, but it represented a break from the Terran way of doing things—and a new commitment to our cause. I’m just glad my ancestors didn’t live near Marathon’s poop deck! Ha ha. That’s a nautical joke. Marathon didn’t have a poop deck. Sorry, it’s a fairly serious topic.

2. How old are you?
I’m twenty-three.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
My father Josiah is… or was… the best rancher in Glenn County. After the Lullaby hit, he traveled to the heart of the Settlement to find out what was being done about it. But he hasn’t returned yet. That was three years ago. My uncle was a doctor, but he died. My mother was infected with the Lullaby, so I’ve been doing my best to care for her. My brother Samuel… he’s good with the animals.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
A gentleman doesn’t talk about that. Trust me, I’ve had my share of female… interests… females who… Fine. I’ll level with you. In my youth, I focused on my studies. Then the Lullaby hit, and I’ve been living in quarantine for three years. If it wasn’t for the epidemic, I’m fairly confident I’d be married to a beautiful, charming lady by now.

5. What is your occupation?
I was training to be a county doctor. When I was young, I wanted to run the ranch. But I suppose that duty will fall to my brother. Or perhaps I could do both. It’s all moot at this point. Right now, we’re struggling to stay clothed and fed.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
I like to think I’m fairly intelligent. And disciplined. And neat. And cool and collected in a bad situation. And keen at shooting and riding. And admired by my peers. My brother says I talk too much, but he hardly talks at all.

7. What is your most treasured possession?
Uncle Warren’s pharm-garden. It grows the pharms that keep Mama alive, despite her coma. I don’t know what we would’ve done without that.

8. What is your greatest fear?
That my mother will die before we can find a cure for her. When my father left, he entrusted me (and Samuel) with caring for the ranch—and that included, in my mind, keeping Mama safe. She was infected on my watch, and now I have to do everything in my power to reverse that one moment of stupidity and neglect—and to make sure she doesn’t die from it.

It’s been three long years, taking care of her… feeding her, bathing her, treating pressure ulcers. Sometimes I wonder if she knows what’s happened to her. If she dreams of us. If she wishes that I’d let her die… Can I level with you again? Sometimes I’m not afraid of Mama dying. Sometimes I think my greatest fear is that my father will return, and he’ll see what we let happen to her.

To read more about Walt, check out Book 1 of the Idyll Trilogy, available now for only $0.99 on Amazon!

 

Idyll Chatter: Writing Progress

In May of 2008, I started keeping digital journal to keep track of my writing progress. Basically, I’d make a new .RTF file each month, and record what I wrote on for that day. Over the years, it’s developed into more of a personal journal—but more of a ‘dudish’ version of personal, as in recording what I did on my lunch hour, or what I watched on TV that night.

But I still list my writing (or lack thereof) for every day. And as I switch from one writing project to another, I color code the months with different color tags. That usually gives me a daunting (and usually depressing) look at how long it takes me to finish a book. I’ve included a screenshot of the last 4 years of my ‘Writing Journal.’

The yellow dots are months that I worked on IDYLL, and the purple dots are months I worked on the novel that became LINE OF DESCENT. I swapped working on those two books, on and off, for nearly ten years! The blue dots were months I worked on polishing SHADOW SIDEWAYS. The orange dots represent progress on THE WILDS.

I had forgotten that I started a first draft on The Wilds for several months, then went back to do one final pass on Idyll, then came back to finish The Wilds. So last week when I was checking how long it took me to write The Wilds vs. writing EXILE, I was disappointed to see 12 red dots (EXILE months) vs. 11 orange dots for The Wilds. Exile overall is about 3,000 words shorter, and also it has a more streamlined and straightforward plot. Also, I thought I was getting faster with my writing, and I thought I was really motoring along. Then I scrolled up in my Finder window and saw that in truth I worked on The Wilds for an 11-month clip and also an 8-month clip before that. So Exile WILL be the first book that I finished in a year or less. Pretty cool!

By the way… The green dots at the bottom of the window? Starting in April and May of 2017? That’s the beginning of a completely new series of novellas! I’m very excited about that, and it’s been major fun creating a new world. For this new series, I’m hoping to keep the novellas around 40,000 words, so that I can finish them and publish them at a more rapid pace. (By comparison, all of my other novels are around 80,000 words.) I’m hoping the series will have a sort of pulpy, episodic vibe—but with no cliffhangers. Stay tuned for more news in the coming months!

Idyll Chatter: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I want to apologize in advance for letting my blogular presence slide over the last few months. I’ve been really buckling down and focusing on finishing the last revisions of IDYLL, Book 3. I thought I was doing really well, finishing the first draft in mid-December. But for some reason these last few rounds took a really long time.

I’m thinking about redesigning the covers for all of the Idyll trilogy. What do you think of this new logo style?

Probably the biggest factor was work, which has been crazily busy over the last few months. I’m working after-hours more than ever, and that’s certainly been cutting into writing time. But I have to admit there was a period there where I got complacent (about 75% into my final set of rewrites), and I slowed my pace. Also, I’ve been thinking more and more the next series I want to write, and there’s been a few hours of writing time that I’ve devoted to outlining and world-building on that series.

After two years of straight writing on THE WILDS and EXILE, I needed a little break from the planet of Idyll, and I think those little bits of break have helped me re-approach the IDYLL finale and re-excite myself about the whole series. I’m really pumped about the way the Idyll trilogy ends, I can’t think of any other heroes who have had their story end in quite this way!

How will Samuel, Walt, Miriam, and Virginia ride off into the sunset? Will ALL of them make it to that last ride? I’m proud to announce that readers won’t have to wait long to find out. The manuscript is now finished, and EXILE should be released by May 16!

Also, I’m planning to release the entire series to Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re a KU subscriber, you’ll be able to check out the entire series for free. Stay tuned for more news.

And thanks so much for visiting and reading!

The Pulchritude Award: Inflammable

Nick_RivieraHi, everybody! The Pulchritude Award goes to words that don’t sound like what they actually mean. Today’s winner…

In the immortal words of the all-too-mortal Dr. Nick: “Inflammable means flammable? What a country!”
‘What a country,’ indeed, Dr. Nick. And what a word!
Or should I say ‘What a prefix?’
Or should I say ‘What a series of prefixes?’
Or should I just shut up?

You see, there are a couple of ‘in-’ prefixes, that come from a variety of Latin roots. Most obviously, ‘in-’ can mean ‘un-’ or ‘not,’ as in invisible, incredible, or inadequate.

But there’s also an ‘in-’ prefix that means ‘in,’ ‘into,’ or ’toward,’ as in income or inundate. This is also the prefix for inhibit, which comes from Latin roots that roughly mean ‘hold in.’ Therefore, uninhibited is not a double-negative. That’s also where inflammable comes from—an adjective that means something is liable to burst ‘INTO’ flame.

Now if someone could just explain why invaluable is better than valuable!

Past winners of the Pulchritude Award are:
Alacrity and Phlegmatic

A Writing Tip That Ruined Me: Prologues

prologue_114378562What do agents and editors have against prologues? Several times, at conferences or online, I’ve heard publishing experts recommend against starting your novel with a prologue. Also here. And here. And here. The prevailing wisdom seems to be this: “If your prologue is important enough to be in the book, make it your first chapter. If not, then cut it.”

I guess if I were filtering through a slush pile of 100 submissions a day, and a mere 10% of them began with prologues, I’d get pretty sick of them too. But if I analyzed that irritability, I think I’d draw the conclusion that the slush-pile/submission process is stupid, not prologues.

I think I read a LOT of books, for the average person—which is to say maybe 30 books a year. In the last year, have I read a book that begins with a character waking up? Not that I can remember. And if I did, would I have rolled my eyes and immediately judged the book to be not worthy of my time? Absolutely not. But according to industry wisdom, that’s another one of the unforgivable cliches that should never open a book:

– The main character waking up
– The main character dying (then coming back in subsequent chapters as a ghost, or in flashbacks)
– The main character looking in a mirror

Does anyone outside the established publishing industry care or notice if a book starts in one of these ways? I don’t think so. Just jaded, bleary-eyed slush-pile readers.

As a casual reader, I love prologues. They create an air of mystery. The add suspense, or foreshadowing. They can lay groundwork for the themes or the character arc of the book. They’re typeset in all italics! What’s not to love? I recently read a book, Blue Remembered Earth, that began with an all-italics, nearly incomprehensible frontispiece, and followed that with an eight-page prologue. And I loved both of them. And then the all-italics tone reappeared at the end of the book, creating a perfect wrap-up. Voila! Great!

In fact I’d probably read a book that was all prologues, kind of like how Kentucky Fried Movie was mostly movie trailers.

Once-a-Book Word: Sanguine

Like Mr. Miyagi teaching ‘the crane’ to Daniel-san, I will now teach you your own ‘special move’—a once-a-book word that will awe and befuddle your readers. I beg of you: Use it sparingly!

Sanguine: You have to love this adjective. Depending on your context, it can mean either cheerful or murderous. Who among us hasn’t been to a family reunion that starts off sanguine and ends up sanguine?

Jekyll Island, Before the storm

I went to Jekyll Island early in October, before Hurricane Matthew rolled through. Like most of the barrier islands on Georgia’s coast, Jekyll is owned by the state park system. There are houses and businesses on the island, but I believe they all lease their property from the state. So the island usually has a very isolated, uncrowded vibe, especially on the southern end. Here’s a few pictures and movies:

Sunrise on the island:

 

Rickety walkway to the island’s southern beach:

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I ran into lots of dead horseshoe crabs:

img_1309A windy afternoon, and the buried mast of a shipwreck (a shrimp boat from the 1990s)

 

Listen to those bugs!

 

Live Oaks at the South Dunes Park:

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