Monday, March 25, 2013

Stairway to Heaven and Doorway to Winter

I just wrote the first third of "Sanctuary", book 3 of Jezebel's Ladder. I tried to follow a piece of advice I read from Steven Brust. "Don't explain why the magic works; tell me how to use it." Science on this level feels like magic. The main character finds thousands of meter-high dominoes that are levitating, frozen in place by an effect called "quantum locking." This part is true; you can watch the TED demonstration. What I provide is a button the main character can push to "unlock" the domino. Whenever it's switched back on, it freezes wherever it was placed--the ultimate engineering Legos. Mercy eventually uses this effect to build a staircase down from the main saucer into the fog "above".  She transforms from an insecure engineer to a techno wizard with her own niche. With the push of a button in the control room, she can reset them all to the original memory location. The landing zone is dubbed "Zeppelin Point." In this way, the astronauts who follow can explore the interior of the 2km sphere they name Sanctuary that has its own biosphere--rivers, caves, trees, fish, bugs, and pheasants. Fifty people could live indefinitely in this Eden.

I tried to keep the tone of the Heinlein teen space books like "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "Tunnel in the Sky." The universe is filled with equal parts danger and wonder. After a space battle and chase, we establish the rules for travel below Einstein's rubber sheet. I just sent that act out for edit. Now I'm writing the fall.

In subspace, the sunlight goes out, and in the artificial winter night, one of the astronauts yields to their darker nature. (Sound track is music from a celebration they throw--Smooth Criminal performed by Alien Ant Farm.) A crime is committed, and Mercy has to determine what happened and who is responsible before the aliens will let them continue their journey. This section explores the landscape of the ship as well as the team. Everyone has something to hide, and several team members are disabled by disasters.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Point of View Sample

Three of my books lost ALL their category labels when I updated them for a January giveaway. Evidently Amazon had serious problems with this issue in December. Without categories, people couldn't find those books easily to buy them. Fortunately, Weston Kincade pointed the problem out and sales have already gone back up. I was pleasantly surprised to see the new feature sharing what people highlight and post to Facebook from their Kindles. Seeing what people value in my writing is a real encouragement.

As a work in progress, Sanctuary, the third book in the Jezebel series, has been all about Point of View. Each chapter is about six single-spaced pages, beginning with a paragraph or two about the person providing our lens. Each chapter in the first section is roughly another hour along the action-packed timeline around our landing on the alien artifact and is designed to show how the ripples from this event spread outward.

With so little time to show a 3D character, statements with my opinion aren't effective; rather, I have to paint a picture that people react to--what the character really feels when no one is watching (other than the reader). One scientist will begin his POV with an offensive joke, summing up his mental state and frustration. Another complains about how becoming an astronaut specialist has "ruined her life" by reducing the amount of time she can spend on her real job--giving us free rein to debate the issue and describe what's happened in that life. The lens colors everything I communicate to the reader, giving opportunity to praise or judge each actor.

Here is an example from a returning character from the last two Jezebel books, code named Bermuda Triangle. The main characters literally can't risk turning their backs on her. I wanted to convey the image of someone who watches the heroes like a snake watches a bird. To her, global tragedy is just another factor in the stock market ticker. I want my ex-roomie Ron to shout, "Look out, she's behind the door!"

Amanda Mori, wife of the billionaire electronic magnate, took her entourage of bodyguards and assistants to an obscure base in the Antarctic to visit her daughter. It would be her first visit to the peaceful dome habitat known as Ward 8. Her husband, disappointed by his only heir, refused to go along to such a remote and depressing place. She only considered going because, three days ago, Kaguya’s personal nurse had sent a photo of her patient smiling. After a year of near vegetation, the change might signal an improvement in the young woman’s condition. Amanda never left important missions to others. If anyone could snap Kaguya out of this page-induced isolation, it would be her mother.

The hardest part of the expedition wasn’t deicing the vertical takeoff craft, or dodging assassins. No, for Amanda it was deciding what to wear. Since her husband joined the board of Fortune Enterprises, there would be reporters at every airport along her route. She’d alienated several of the photographers in the past. Since her role in the company had shifted from bodyguard to ambassador, fashion was crucial. She started with basic New York City tights to accentuate her still-firm legs and butt. Deep snow required knee-high boots. Cold meant layers: blouse, sweater, and a thick coat that went down to her boots. Throw in a few accessories: a weighted scarf for blocking or choking, satellite uplink earrings, and a light-weight Baretta with an extra clip of explosive tips. Perfect. She had her makeup and hair done on the plane ride to match the outfit and look more motherly.