inverarity: (inverarity)

Doomsday Bunkers

When the world ends, an underground 1-bedroom apartment and a 10-year supply of beans will totally justify devoting your life to end-times paranoia.

So I am now working on a new OF novel. (No, sorry, no good news about my SF novel. One agent was interested but ultimately passed, so I think it's going in the trunk for now.) It's a post-apocalyptic. Old school. What can I say, first I wrote a Heinleinesque teen space adventure, now I am writing my own version of The Stand. Never let it be said my writing is guided by commercial viability or original ideas. :P

(No, not thinking of self-publishing at this time. If I was gonna just see how many self-published ebooks I could sell, I'd adopt a new pseudonym and write M/M were-dinosaur erotica.)

So, anyway, survival in the post-apocalypse. My new book gives me an excuse to indulge in wasting more time reading crazy people ranting on the Internetresearch.

Now and then I acquire temporary odd obsessions/fascinations. Right now it is with the whole "prepper" subculture (what used to be called "survivalists"). Currently they are predicting the imminent collapse of Western civilization, hyperinflation of the U.S. Dollar, Peak Oil, Obama herding people into FEMA camps, and various combinations of EMPs, superstorms, nuclear meltdowns, and roving cannibal hordes. Not necessarily in that order.

Of course these subcultures have been predicting imminent catastrophe since at least the 60s. And remember all that Golden Age science fiction about nuclear families emerging from their suburban bomb shelters after the atomic war to survey a shattered, post-apocalyptic America?

The fears of these survivalists are somewhat based on real threats. People were legitimately afraid of nuclear war in the 50s, though they had seriously optimistic notions about how survivable an actual global thermonuclear war would be. And watching the economy now, I cannot say that I think predictions of hyperinflation and/or a Great Depression-level collapse are absolutely, completely absurd. I would rate the worst-case scenarios as "unlikely," but it would be foolish to assume that the dollar is going to be as strong in 20 years as it is now.

That said, it's one thing to stock a little extra food and water and maybe even some hard currency just in case your city's grid goes down in a catastrophe, and another to seriously prepare for The End of the World As We Know It.

Doomsday Bunkers is a "reality show" that is not really that interesting — it's about a company that builds bunkers and storage pods for preppers. The interesting part is not their prefab steel shipping containers that they basically turn into 1-bedroom apartments and bury in a hole in the ground; it's all the scared white people (it's almost all scared white people) spending massive amounts of money on remote threats. I mean, one lady spent $150,000 on an underground bunker with NBC air filters because she lives 15 miles from a nuclear power plant and is worried about a meltdown. If you are that worried about a meltdown, wouldn't it be cheaper just to move away from the power plant?

Other preppers were these guys trying to put on an Alpha Wolf display (at least on camera), thinking that some gym muscles and a shaved head made them look hard, while they growled about how they are totally gonna Protect Their Families and shoot anyone who tries to Take Their Stuff, yo. Did they actually train with any of those expensive, high-end guns they were waving around? Did they think about long-term survival in a world where they and their family have to retreat to an underground shipping container because starving hordes of people who want to Take Their Stuff are ransacking their property?

If you are preparing for a serious TEOTWAKI event, then nothing less than self-sufficiency and/or a community of like-minded people all preparing for the same thing will suffice. If you are a suburbanite or even someone with a rural bunker, I cannot think of a more miserable existence than hiding in a can breathing reprocessed air for years. What's even the point? These are people terrified by death, plagued by irrational fears.

Aviva Drescher

This is what a prepper looks like.
Not always this rich, but almost always this white.

They would probably laugh at a Manhattanite "prepper" like Aviva Drescher:

“I bought body gear, really expensive body gear, like the kind used by the Army. I went online and researched gas masks. I bought a gas tent for my baby. I was so crazy that when I took my baby out, I would keep a gas mask in the stroller. I stocked up on Cipro,” she said. (Cipro is used to treat people exposed to anthrax.) “I bought a bunch of giant rafts to go down the East River. Though I know,” she sighed, “all the big shots will probably have private planes and helicopters.”

I mean, seriously, carrying around a gas mask just in case of a sudden nerve gas attack in Central Park? This is what we call "poor risk assessment." If you were to list all the possible threats to your baby, the probability of nerve gas is way, way, way lower than more mundane threats that would be mitigated by much more practical measures...

But as amusing as the notion of a Real Housewife of NYC hobbling about in high heels and body armor may be, fundamentally Ms. Drescher's thinking is no more irrational than all the other scared white people who don't know what to do in the event that their environment comes to resemble... well, much of the world today. Where the police are not your friends and not going to show up to protect you, and walking outside without being shot at is not a given, nor is the ready availability of food. Go to any inner city and you'll find a large number of people who live like that today, in America. Survival skills are not necessarily hiding in a bunker with a horde of firearms or carrying gas masks in case of a Tom Clancy novel.

They aren't all crazy and irrational, though. It's easy to see how they get caught up in that mindset.

I have been reading Jim Rawles's SurvivalBlog, and it's a combination of hard, practical common sense and survival tips for when shit seriously hits the fan (and knowledge and skills that are useful to have even if it doesn't), and raving moonbat goldbugs, fundies, and gun nuts. These are people buying real estate in the "American Redoubt" (generally, Montana/Idaho/North Dakota and thereabouts) because they expect both coasts and all major cities to become Somalia. In fairness, Rawles himself is sane and reasonable, even if I disagree with some of his conclusions and most of his premises, but you can feel the fear and paranoia oozing from some of his letter-writers.

Randall Flagg

Grab yo' guns, fucker! It's time to start shootin' librulz!

There is also a subset of the survivalist subculture that isn't just fearfully preparing for society to collapse, but eagerly anticipating it. From those who want to literally burn it to the ground to those who won't do anything to immanentize the eschaton themselves but just can't wait until they can start shooting the Democratsstarving hordes, there's a very creepy and heavily-armed fringe waiting to come out of the woodwork.

I call these people "Flaggians." It's akin to that famous cocktail party game about going Nazi — when the end of the world comes, who would join up with Randall Flagg? I have my thoughts on how you can predict who will be a wolf, who will be a sheep, and who will be a sheepdog.

In the meantime, I am working on zombie-proofing my house, and on my novel.

[Poll #1952528]
inverarity: (inverarity)
So, guess what I got today? Yep, my first rejection! And a shiny, politely impersonal form rejection it was too.

So there ya go. I'm almost a real writer now!
inverarity: (Alexandra@13)
AQATWA is now up to 87,800 words. Which means it's now longer than the SF novel I am trying to sell. And I'm still in act one.

As for the SF novel - so far I have received no responses at all. Not even form rejections.

Which is no more than I'd expect after one week. I've heard of agents responding (yay or nay) within days, but most of them say to allow 6-8 weeks for a response, sometimes longer. And unfortunately, nowadays an increasing number of agents don't even send form rejection letters - "No response means no" as a default policy is becoming common.

This does make the idea of only querying a few at a time to see how effective your query letter is problematic, since it could be months before you get enough feedback to have any idea if it's your query letter that's failing. So I am querying a little more widely, though once I exhaust my current list, I will wait a while before I start gathering more names. Also, most agents' submissions guidelines instruct you to send the first few pages, sometimes the first few chapters, along with a query letter. So the general lack of feedback also means even if I do get a no, I won't have any way of knowing whether they never even got past the query letter, or if they did actually read the writing sample and hit the reject button at that point.

Please note, I'm not griping here, just spelling out the way things work. You can see writers complaining, ranting, wailing, and overthinking things on any writers' forum. But it does no good to whine about the way the industry works. If you can't stand it, self-publishing awaits.

I admit, though, I'll be glad to receive my first form rejection, just so I know that yes, someone did actually spend a few seconds reading what I sent. And it will be my first real, official rejection — a true badge of being a writer!

Would be much nicer to receive an offer, though. :)
inverarity: (Orion)
Eventually you just have to do it. The feedback from the last couple rounds of critiques has been consistently "This is good enough to be published but you should change this one or two things..." And you know, there will always be that one or two things. And every beta will find a new one or two things. Looking at how many full MS critiques I've gotten now, it's time to stop doing this in the misguided quest for a unanimous consensus that it's perfect in every way.

So, I have started submitting. I sent five queries for my SF novel tonight.

And immediately realized that in one of those five queries, I misspelled the agent's name!!!

Shoot me now

Anyway, I will probably send a few more this week, then wait and see what happens. I have a fairly long list of agents to submit to, and the usual advice is to submit to 6-10 at a time and see how many bites you get. If you get no requests for partial or full manuscripts, your query ain't working and it's time to go back to the drawing board.
inverarity: (Orion)
Okay, I have figured out why I have shut down every time I try to open my OF manuscript and begin revising.

The voices in my head (yeah, yeah, shut up) have a conversation that goes something like this:

"This is fine as it is. If it needs revision, it's just tweaks here and there. The critters who said it needs major rewrites don't know what they're talking about."

"You're the Bad Author in my head who is afflicted with Golden Word Syndrome. Someone tells you you suck and instead of taking it seriously, you say, 'Nuh-uh!!!' Just like all those other special snowflakes you make fun of."

"Okay, so let's start rewriting. I could (owwww!) just delete this whole chapter and do something else here. Or maybe we should start the book at Part Two and cut the entirety of Part One."

"Part One may be mostly set-up, but there are important pieces there that establish things that otherwise will come out of left field later in the book."

"Figure out a way to put them elsewhere."

"Also, a lot of critters said they really liked this part."

"So cut the unnecessary parts and leave the good parts."

"But what if I am actually cutting parts that are good and listening to the wrong opinions about the parts that need cutting? I could be making it worse by listening to too many opinions! And if I rewrite the whole thing, I'll have to just go through the same cycle again - how do I know I won't get the same contradictory feedback? I am just pushing words around and making no progress, dammit!"

"So start submitting."

"But... but... some of the critiques made sense!"

"So revise first."


"Why are you writing LJ posts about writing instead of writing?"

"Fuck you."
inverarity: (Alexandra Quick)
Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above now has a banner!

Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above

Banner by the very generous and talented JCCollier, who is the author of one of my favorite fan fiction stories, Marissa and the Wizards. JCCollier also made the banners for AQATLB and AQATDR.

Writing progress

AQATWA is going... slowly. I am up to 46,000 words. And I'm on chapter ten, and the plot hasn't really begun yet. Oh, there is foreshadowing and some encounters that will Mean Things later, but mostly I am cataloging a whole bunch of Pritchards while I try to figure out all the usual things I am trying to figure out when I am not yet even in the middle of a book. Now and then I have a burst of inspiration — "Aha! That's where that MacGuffin will come from!" — but mostly I have a bunch of... conversations, and Alexandra is being more introspective than in previous books.

As for the OF novel, I have been punting on it. I am pretty sure I need to rewrite the first part. I may have to rewrite the whole thing, and I don't want to. And I can't work on it and AQATWA at the same time. Well, I can, and will pretty soon since I joined a private crit circle, but basically no real progress so far.

Filing the serial numbers off, redux

So, another person has asked me why I don't publish the Alexandra Quick series, and while I've talked about this before, let me teal deer about it some more below the cut.

Answering that question I get asked a lot. )

(And for those of you who follow my Saturday Book Discussions, I intend to make "published fan fiction" the topic of tomorrow's post, as well.)
inverarity: (raven)
So, Sandy is coming this way. I have been less than impressed by my friendly neighborhood power company in past storm events. I expect to be without power for a few days, though it will be nice to be disappointed. I'm stocked up on food, water, flashlights, and enough sharp and ballistic objects for TEOTWAWKI. Though that was preparation for the zombie apocalypse, not some piddly little hurricane.

But, I wrote almost 5,000 words of AQATWA on Saturday, and about 5,000 words today! I'm writin' like a boss! Like it's NaNoWriMo or something.

Unfortunately, this has immediately resulted in the usual realization that it all sucks and will have to be rewritten but, ya know.

So anyway, I have finished a prologue and two chapters, and the current word count is about 12,000 words. And no, I'm not going to average 5000 words/day every weekend.

Meanwhile, I'm having major doubts about my SF novel and am almost ready to trunk it before I even try querying it. Bleh.
inverarity: (Orion)
So I did.

Final word count: 99,742 words. Hah! I did it in under 100K. Two goals accomplished!

No, really, this ending is crap. It's going to need to be heavily rewritten. But I have a finished rough (rough) draft. So that's something.
inverarity: (Orion)
So as I work my way through a rereading of Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle (Chapter 8 is coming, but jeez, it's over 12,000 words!), I am still working on my SF novel.

You know how I am always going on about how I have plot holes I am trying to figure out a way around? I have now written almost 79,000 words of my novel, and I'm nearing the climax. And my writing has been at a crawl for the last few weeks, because I am trying to sort out all the plot complications and a smooth resolution to everything, and I am... just... &**%#@!!.... stuck! Like, I know there is a way out of this. I always figure out a way, even if it means going back to do a bit of rewriting.

But I am unhappy when my fan fiction has a bit of a hand-wavey feel to it, and fan fiction readers are pretty forgiving. I'm not saying I care less about the quality of my fan fiction than I do about this novel, but it has to be something that will pass the less lenient standards of agents, publishers, and Amazon book reviewers, ya know? So I have to be convinced that it's solid, even before I'd think about sending it out for critique.

And I am really good at seeing plot holes. Sometimes plot holes that other people say don't exist.

So, today, instead of flicking back and forth between an open document (that sits there mocking me because I haven't done much more than rearrange a few sentences) and the ever-luring endless abyss of the Internet (I seriously need to figure out a way to discipline myself to write on a computer with no Internet access), I did something I rarely do except at the beginning stage of my writing projects, and sat down to try outlining the rest of the book.

There are basically two kinds of writers: outliners and improvisers (or "seat-of-the-pantsers"). Outliners are good at working out the details of their plot before they even start writing. Some work up a very, very thorough outline that details every last character and plot twist before they even start writing. I once saw Vernor Vinge's outline for A Fire Upon the Deep and was in awe — it looked like source code for an operating system. Others are a bit looser, and use the outline just as a framework, to be freely changed and added to or ignored.

Stephen King, on the other hand, is notoriously a seat-of-the-pantser. He begins with an idea, and then just starts typing, and by his own admission, halfway through the book he usually still has no idea how it will end. (One might argue that this shows in his endings.)

I am a bit of a hybrid. I find outlines useful to get started, but then I mostly ignore them. But I have often found that when I am stuck, sitting down to outline again helps me a great deal. So why don't I do it more often? I don't know! Probably the same reason I can't unplug my router while writing so that I don't keep getting distracted by the !@%*&#$^%! Internet.

So anyway, I think I have kinda sorta worked out the end of my book, though I know it will undergo changes and improvisations and "Oh shit, wait a minute, I forgot about..."

I really, really want to bring this one to completion. Not just so I can start on AQATWA (yeah, yeah) but because it will be the first time I've finished something (theoretically) publishable. And I can go on to the next stage, which is revising, then getting mean, nasty brutal critiques from other writers, and then trying to query and all that, and maybe getting all my silly delusions about being publishable shattered. 'Cause like I've said before, it's one thing to know you're better than most fan fiction writers and think maybe you're good enough be published, and another to actually prove it.

I am also periodically assailed by other doubts besides just those concerning my writing ability. My book is nothing like what's currently hot in the SF or YA market. It will probably be labeled as YA even though I haven't explicitly written it as a YA novel. I don't know if there is a market for it. So I'm already jumping past "Everyone I submit it to rejects it" and wondering if I'll just trunk it or shrug and put it up on Smashwords and Amazon, figuring that even if self-publishing is the last refuge of the unpublishable, at least a few people might read it. I mean, let's be real, I have no expectations that I will make money with this book. Even if it gets published by a major publisher, the odds of it being a bestseller are teeny-teeny-tiny-infinitesimal. Now, being published by a real publisher would mean I'll make some money, but definitely not quit-your-day-job money. So it really is about love of writing and wanting to be read.

(Although, y'know, money would be nice...)

I have set a firm upper bound of 100K words for the first draft. This isn't fan fiction where you can just say "Oh, 240K words? No problem, people will mostly read it serially anyway." A debut novel (especially a YA debut novel) cannot get away with being over 100K words unless your prose drips rainbows and Krugerrands. 100K words is long for YA. So I'm assuming my first draft will have to be pared down, which means an absolute maximum of 100K words as a starting point is a must.

Anyway, must... buckle... down and get this MF finished.

Yeah, writing this post was yet another way to distract myself.


inverarity: (Default)

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