Friday, March 20, 2015

Monthly Update on Novel

I'm about two-thirds through the novel, just getting to the climax of Act II. The plotting got complicated enough a few weeks ago that I created a spreadsheet to keep track of the flow of dates and events. Chapters had been alternating between 2100 and 2150 and I had to make sure that everything was lining up properly. I'm glad I checked. I was way off. I ended up moving all of the events from 2150 to 2115, which allowed the timelines to merge perfectly a few chapters ago. Whew!

I've done two major rewrites so far. The first happened at the end of Act I when I realized that the secondary character arcs were much less developed than the main one. To fix the problem, I separated the book into three files, breaking out the chapters into three independent stories. My goal was to make each storyline compelling in its own right, giving each character the depth and motivation needed to drive their actions. It turned out to be a really effective approach. I'll probably go through that process one more time when I have an end-to-end draft.

The next rewrite happened just a few days ago. The plot had moved in a direction that resolved some of the major conflicts too early and wasn't setting the stage properly for the big finish in Act III. I ended up going back through the entire book and rewriting quite a few scenes to set up what proved to be some major changes in the way Act II would end. It feels back on track, and I hope to finish Act II over the weekend.

I took a break a few days ago to play around with some cover art concepts. Don't worry. This isn't the final version. What I want to end up with is something that gets across that it's a fantasy trope within a cyberpunk setting, with a kick-ass female lead.

Anyway, if I continue at this pace, I should have a full draft some time in June. I'll check back in before then for another update.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Making Majic

It’s been about a month and a half since I wrote about starting a novel and reducing my online writing output. You might have noticed that I’ve been totally kicking ass on the second part, having only posted a few times since then. The novel part is going well too. I’m about 26,000 words in, spending about as much time editing prior material as adding new chapters. 

The main reason I spend so much time editing is that my iterative approach to creative work has extended into the longer form. The story has been unfolding in surprising ways. When something new emerges, it ripples back, impacting what came before, sometimes to the very first chapter. I’m not on a deadline, but suspect I’ll have a full draft by June.

One big change is that Majic has emerged as the main protagonist, with Botgirl mostly in the background. It also looks like this is going to end up as a series. Or maybe not. Things change. All is good. I'm still learning to be comfortable in the state of unknowing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Twitter O'Clock: The Dark Video

I've been helping some of the teams at our company put together short videos for our semiannual all hands meeting. I decided to throw one in for my department and ended up taking a post from last February, editing into a prose poem, and shooting a ranting performance with a much darker edge.

(By the way, I'm still furiously working on the novel, rewriting a lot as I go. It's up to about 13,000 words so far. It's been a lot of fun so far, although still 90% or so to go. I'll post another excerpt soon.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

First Chapter Draft of "Botgirl Lives: The Novel"

I've been having a lot of fun writing "Botgirl Lives: The Novel" and decided to share the current draft of the first chapter. It gives a feel for the basic story setup, along with the tone. Hopefully, it leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

I woke up floating twenty feet above the floor in what looked like some kinked-out rich fuck’s professionally designed medieval dungeon room. The rough cut stone walls were lined with faux flaming torches providing spot illumination for a collection of torture devices arrayed artfully around the perimeter. At the center of the room, a hulking guy, naked except for a wide open Master of the Dark Arts robe, loomed over a petite nude girl bound facedown and ass up on a stone altar covered in runes. He was ruggedly handsome in a steroid-popping weight lifter kind of way. All I could see of her was shoulder length blonde hair and a perky little bum pointing at the ceiling.

“Good morning princess,” he lisped in a lame-ass attempt at a threatening basso. “I know you’re feeling confused right now, but don't worry your pretty little head. I’ll give you the few simple facts you’ll need to get along here.

”Fact number one, I am your master and you are my slave. When I say ‘jump,’ you will jump."

"Go flip!" he commanded. The poor girl catapulted onto her back like a puppet on a string. This definitely didn’t have the feel of consensual play. I probably should have been angry or horrified, but I felt strangely detached and ethereal peering down from above.  She looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her. 

“Oh wow,” I thought “That poor girl.”

“Fact number two, you can't escape by dissociating from your body," he sneered. "Go internal!"

I was wrenched from my god-like view and deposited into the bound body on the table, feeling the cold stone under my bare flesh and smelling the never flossed stench of my captor’s breath.

What the fuck. That ‘poor girl’ was me.

Although I had no memory of who I was or how I got here, I must have trained as a Ninja because I instinctually twisted out of my restraints, kip-upped to my feet, and gave the big ugly perv a vicious snap kick to his conveniently exposed testicles. He keeled over and fell like a big tree.

"Party's over, Quasimodo," I taunted.

“You can’t do this,” he sputtered. "You were supposed to be memory-wiped and compliant. How did you get out of your restraints? That collar you’re wearing was designed to give me complete control over you."

"Thanks for the hint, douchebag” I said, removing the collar from around my my neck, shoving it roughly over his head and cramming it all the way down. I gave the strap a hard jerk till it was tight enough to make the veins bulge on his enormous neck.

"Go sit!" I commanded. He sat. Nice!

"Okay, now that we’re all more comfortable, here's my fact number one. Answer my questions or I swear to god I’ll command you to bury your head so far up your ass that you’ll turn inside out. Capisce?"

Jesus! What bad movie did that line come from?  Oh well, it was working for me because the Dark Lord decided to get with the new program and start spilling.

”Fine," he said. "Enjoy your power trip while you can. We're in the RefuV Processing Center in a virtual world called New Eden. It's a completely monitored environment so the techs will notice something's amiss and send security over any second. You better put that collar back around your neck right now or I’ll see to it that you’re kicked out of here and that your physical body is booted from its biopod. You’ll die a slow choking death along with the rest of the losers out on the planet’s surface."

I know he was speaking English, but I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

"I'll take my chances." I said. "In the meantime, pretend that I know absolutely nothing about this place.” (Which of course I didn’t.)  “Start from the beginning and tell me what I need to know to fully understand my situation. Do a good job and I'll restrain myself from trying out the “slow painful castration” command on the collar control. Your steroid-shriveled balls have suffered enough for one day, haven’t they?”

"It's your funeral," he said.

“Go on,” I said. “Pretend you're explaining this to your grandmother.”

“Okay. There's good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"

“Jesus. Just get on with it.”

“Fine,” he sulked. “The bad news is that humanity poisoned the Earth so completely that it barely supports life. Disease is rampant. Tornados, typhoons, tidal waves and drought are the dominant weather patterns. Governments have collapsed and anarchy rules. The good news is that the company I work for figured out a way for a privileged few thousand of us hybernauts to put our bodies into suspended animation while we live in a utopian virtual world. In a few hundred of years, or whenever the Earth’s ecosystem is finally restored, we’ll emerge, reclaim the planet, and start a new golden age of human history.”

"This is your utopia?" I asked, looking around the Disneyland torture chamber. "Who designed it, a cabal of porn-addicted fourteen year old boys?”

“This is just my personal RefuV initiation room," he said, a bit defensively. “For your information, it's scared the living hell out of every new RefuV until you came along.”

"Whatever," I said, rolling my eyes. "So you and your little rich friends raped Mother Earth and you're waiting things out in your perfect digital paradise. You still haven’t told me what I’m doing here.

He shrugged. "You saw the classic 2D Science Fiction movie, “The Matrix,” didn't you?"

"Yeah. So what. You're telling me my body is helping power your systems?"

"Nothing so mundane," he replied in a patronizing tone. "It's not your heat we need, but your emotions. The designers of New Eden created simulated characters to fill roles that hybernauts wouldn’t want to play. Although the NPCs were advanced enough to pass a Turing Test, our research teams never figured out how to give them real self-awareness, so there’s no actual thought or feeling. And it turned out there was something about being encapsulated for long periods of time in a life support system that gave us certain needs and… hungers."


"For strong emotions… rage, fear, lust, hatred. Simulation doesn’t provide the right kind of stimulation. It had to be the real deal, from real people with physical bodies. If we don’t get a steady diet, important areas of our brains begin to atrophy. That's what you RefuVs are for. We feed off your emotions.”

“Fucking game designers,” I sighed. “Okay, so who’s in charge?”

”There’s a ruling council, but Quentin Standish has all the real power.”

“Quentin Standish?”

“He’s the self-made billionaire who founded the corporation that created New Eden. The guy is a genius. He saw the end coming and was the only one with the brains, balls, money and influence to do something about it. While official governments were bickering about cutting down carbon emissions and inventing practical fusion power, he was funding a Manhattan Project to create a virtual life raft to ride out the storm.”

“But why in hell would, what did you call us… the RefuVs… be willing to sign up for that kind of painful and degrading servitude?”

"With the epidemics, social breakdowns, mass starvation and plummeting life expectancy, people would agree to just about anything to get into one of our biopods."

“Plus no one in the history of the world has ever read a Terms of Service agreement, right?” 

“They never learn,” he said shaking his head.” Anyway, once people sign up and are encased in the biopods, we’re in complete control. We wipe their memory and they wake up clueless and powerless. The avatar they inhabit is the sponsoring shareholder’s property, so that luscious body of yours,” he said, licking his scaly lips, “is mine. One word from me and they'll send you back into Mad Max meatspace. So be smart, uncollar me, and I’ll have the techs reinitiate your memory wipe. When the Earth is back in service, your contract will be over and you’ll be free to make a new life for yourself. Your time in New Eden will seem just like a bad dream.”

I guess I don’t handle hubris very well. Although I swear to god I just meant to give him a shove, my hand punched right through his chest. He sizzled for a few seconds before disintegrating into pixelated goo with a loud pop. Very cool.

Now what? First things first, I needed some clothes. Given the IQ exhibited by my former captor, I guessed the command UI wasn’t designed for geniuses. “Go clothing,” I said. A clothing menu instantly appeared. I had to hand it to those fascist human trafficking motherfuckers, their technology rocked. Their fashion sense for women though, was way heavy on kink and black leather. Oh well. When in Rome…

More or less fully attired, I realized it was time to get out of Oz. Hmm. What would Dorothy do? I clicked my five inch stiletto heels together and said, “Go home.” Swoosh! The world cut to black and a BBC-quality voice announced, “Teleporting home.”

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