Friday Flashback: Logan’s Run

In the future, you will voluntarily die on your thirtieth birthday. It will be awesome. Unless it’s not. Then you flee for someplace called Sanctuary. Michael York is Logan 5, a Sandman who goes after “runners” who do flee. Only Logan decides he doesn’t want to die on his thirtieth birthday and thinks the “rebirth” concept is a hoax.

I remember seeing the scene where Logan discovers the ruins of the US Senate chamber. Peter Ustinov, playing the oldest person Logan has ever seen, points to a row of presidential portraits and informs Logan that none of these men ever told a lie. The nearest portrait is Richard Nixon’s.


The Long Awaited Running Post

Runner on ground with trainer

Bishop Loughlin Games – Armory – Track & Field CC Y 2.0 2013

I haven’t posted here in a while about running. That’s because I stopped in October when my knee buckled painfully several times in one week. It occurred to me that maybe I overtrained not just for last year’s Autumn Blast (formerly Loveland) Half Marathon, but probably the Flying Pig as well. Until I injured a rib, I had been training for a full marathon. One knee developed a chronic but manageable problem. It may need surgery someday, but it survived two 20+ mile workouts. It’s the other knee, and it’s a problem standing sometimes.

Not only do I use a standup desk at work, but we have a meeting called a scrum, where software developers talk about what they are working on and what they need for the day. During standup and sometimes when my desk is elevated, my right knee gets rather shaky. Not sure which knee needs looked at first, but sooner or later, both of them will require some sort of medical intervention.

But not right now. What kept me from resuming running last fall was property damage at a house I own east of the city. It took nearly a month to clean that house. (Yeah, you say “Ew!” I had to actually do the cleaning, call the exterminator, shovel about $10K out of my retirement to pay for a rehab job.) Once I had carpenters and carpet guys start work, I was able to run again. Right?

I walked. But it’s so cold and dark! Actually, that’s a BS excuse. We’ve had exactly one snow event and one stretch of days with single-digit weather. All in all, winter in Cincinnati lasted about 10 days. As I type this (about an hour ago), it’s 54 degrees outside with a high of 69 predicted. Last week was Valentine’s Day. I have not worn a jacket to work all week. I will cop to letting the holidays get the better of me. I did not workout over Thanksgiving, partly because I traveled. But Christmas? Christmas was a hermit affair this year. I binged watched movies on streaming before taking the step-offspring to see Rogue One. I drank nog. I slept in. I did not get off my ass other than to go out for almost three days. December 26 was spent watching Season 4 of The Wire. Why do you think I didn’t get any running or even walking in?

But January came, and that forced me to think about whether I would run another half marathon this year. I decided I would skip the Flying Pig (despite living next to a hill perfect for training for the brutal Gilbert Avenue leg) and go for the Autumn Slam again. Or is it the Loveland Half Marathon? The web site’s sketchy about 2017. To do that, I’ve had to power walk. I do that indoors when it rains. (Don’t judge me!) and outdoors when I can. For all of January and most of February, walking and power walking has been my workout. I just started running again last week. I have to brace both knees now, but at least I’m getting a couple of miles in each week. March will prove crucial. I will need to start running two miles three times a week. And I’m going to have to tackle that hill as something more than a pleasant evening walk.

Either I will run a half marathon again this year, or my running days are over.

Post-Novel Blues

Billy Crystal typing in Throw Mamma from the Train

Orion Pictures

I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years about what to do when a novel is finished. A couple writers have related to me how they actually got sick once a book was finished. Not having that obligation to work on it everyday upsets their equilibrium, and that manifests as a cold or stomach ailment. Or it could just be timing if they work on a schedule. The point is the end of a project makes them feel blah.

More common are the psychological effects. Usually, a new writer who has never done a novel is just relieved and walks around with the manuscript saying over and over, “My baby! My baby!” Cute. Guess what. Your audience wants an encore, and that audience may be tiny. So you’ll have to grow it with more books. But for those of us who have written for years, it usually means a feeling of being lost. You’ve just spent months with these characters in this setting, and now they’re all gone, not to be revisited until the next project. Most writers don’t even know what that is. In trad circles, it may even be dependent on their publishers. “Lucy kicked some real ass in this one. Now give her a Christian Grey-type boyfriend.”

I personally need to keep original words flowing. There’s a new novella (Compact Universe #0) called No Marigolds in the Promised Land that I’m arranging right now. I say arranging because it’s going to appear in the newsletter (You know. That spam email I haven’t sent out in weeks), then either here or on this site’s replacement. It’s getting posted as it’s being written, which means it will need to be beta’d on the fly. I’m setting up a group of volunteers to help with that. (Email me if you wanna get you some o’ dat.) But I can’t start it until all the pieces are in place.

So what does the idle novelist/novellan (Is that what you call a writer of novellas?) do in the meantime? Previously, I wrote a “autobiography” of a fictional rock star Jennette Marie Powell and I jokingly called “Himself.” However, his adventures, which started as an infant at the end of WWII, caught up with the present day, at which point I stopped. That monster, written in snatches over about five years or so, checked in at almost 350,000 words. Himself is a wordy SOB. And he still whispers in my ear. I wish he’d stop. Anyway, I started another one, based on a character from Himself’s book. This one is a female bass player who started out as a punk rocker during CBGB’s heyday. I should probably title it “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” because it really sucks. But it keeps me writing original words until I can come up with something that might pay. I also work on a space opera series you will never read. It’s for me and me alone, not publishable, but keeps me in an SF frame of mind. At some point, probably next week, I’ll have to get started on Marigolds.

But I never stop writing. My goal is to be too busy to stop. Until then, consider the fake bios and the rip-off of Star Trek the equivalent of practicing when the band’s not playing.

Writing To Music

ear buds

Ah! Weird Al helps me write those bloody murder scenes!
(juanibb via Creative Commons)

This topic gets kicked around a lot, even here. But writers have differing views on writing to music. For instance, it’s Saturday morning, and I’ve got Brian Wilson’s solo version of “Good Vibrations” on as I write this line. (Hmm… Need something more cheery. Maybe Nine Inch Nails “Hurt”? Or the Johnny Cash version?) There are several schools of thought on this. Some writers, like Stephen King, blare loud music to drown out the rest of the planet. They need that wall of sound as a barrier to distraction. In some ways, I’m like that, but it sometimes backfires. After all, I was once Northeast Ohio’s premier air guitarist, and sometimes, the imaginary bands in my head demand that I get up and act out their stage show. Thankfully, I live alone and usually keep the blinds shut. Saves me a lot of awkward explanations. But normally, it’s a way to keep the noise of home out of my writing space.

Others tend to write with music to set the mood of a scene they want to write. It’s another formula I’ve written. A crime novel I wrote featured a detective whose best friend was murdered. He knew someone close to the killer and also knew the guy owned a classic muscle car he loved more than life itself. Calmly, serenely, my PI protag drove to a Home Depot, purchased a 20-pound sledgehammer, and, to put him in a soothing frame of mind, blared Metallica as he drove over to the guy’s house to smash the hell out of his pride and joy. I had “Fuel” and “King Nothing” on a loop while I wrote that. I plan to write climactic scenes in Storming Amargosa to Wagner. Why? I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Girl with knife

I said I need it quiet.

And then there are those who can’t have any noise. No classical to soothe the mind. No heavy metal or gangsta rap to drown out the world. No Megadeth or Rachmaninoff to evoke images of combat and doom. Nope. Shut the door. Tell the kids to shut up and play Call of Duty. Tell hubby or wife to be scarce. I. Am. WRITING!!!! (Usually, the writer is bathed in glowing light and takes on the appearance of the Cryptkeeper without the dark humor. It’s usually best to turn around and walk away if you witness this.) For me, this would last about five minutes before I call up Dave Grohl and Lee Ving shouting “Your Wife Is Calling” at volumes that surprisingly have not summoned the Reading, Ohio Police yet. Why? I have two neighbors upstairs, both with children. Small children. Who sound like elephants when they cross the floor. Normally, this does not bother me. I turn up the TV. The kids are thunderous and screaming at hours I’m normally too busy humaning to notice much. But when I’m writing? Yeah, wall of sound. And Reading, Ohio, has two major rail lines and a rail spur running near or through it, along with another spur running through neighboring Deer Park. At night, the sounds of train horns are quite relaxing. (Except that one time when I was treated to six trains all coming through at the same time at 3:30 in the morning.) While I’m writing?

Hey! Norfolk Southern! I’m tryin’ to concentrate here! Shuttle your billions of dollars of commerse some other time! (Preferably not on two trunk lines in both directions with two on the spurs at 3:30 AM.) Or I can just crank up Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust.” Somehow, Dave Gilmour searching for a dirty woman is not as distracting at the CSX freight cutting through Reading on its way to the steelworks in the next county.

Lately, I personally have found music while outlining works. I’m planning out what to write at a later date, and the mood music while scaffolding that scene does wonders. JT gets his revenge for Lizzy’s death? Van Halen’s “Humans Being.” The Compact or Tishla’s allies or even an impatient Gelt Realm coming to set things right on Amargosa? Hey, what did soldiers play in Vietnam? What would scare the hell out of the invaders? How about the aforementioned Wagner and Rachmaninoff?

And as I wrap this up, I think I found the perfect song for the end credits.

(OK, the video helped.)

Friday Flashback: Futureworld

The sequel to the original Westworld, this time in “the future.” Peter Fonda and Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom, Blythe Danner, find themselves battling a new batch of androids, these with a desire to escape and take over the world. Season 2 of the current HBO Westworld series?

Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd

Those whacky Stuarts. When the Tudor line died out with Elizabeth I, Scotland’s James VI succeeded Good Queen Bess as James I of England. And what a sharp contrast he was from the “Virgin Queen.” For starters, he was a big fan of “the divine right of kings” as opposed to Elizabeth’s largely collaborative rule. Thus Peter Ackroyd continues his history of England with Rebellion, which recounts how the Stuarts managed to squander four and a half decades of goodwill built up by Elizabeth in favor of autocratic rule. It would result in England being a republic for 11 years and the overthrow of two kings.

Ackroyd makes clear the religion of England proved to be the undoing of the Stuarts. James I, already having ruled Scotland with the Presbyterians holding sway, was the most tolerant of the Stuart kings, James I the most defiant. Yet the Church of England, other reformed branches of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism (or “popery!” the common epithet) really proved to be a mask for the real battle. Under Elizabeth I, Parliament enjoyed a freer hand in ruling the country than it had under her sister Mary or father, Henry VIII. Ackroyd, however, reveals how Parliament became the Stuarts’ nemesis and even the architects of their first and second downfall.

But Ackroyd also gives us a portrait of Oliver Cromwell, the lord protector who almost became king in his own right. He rejected the crown stating that he was a military leader and not a sovereign. Ackroyd shows him treated like one in all but name. However, in this narrative, his son Richard is almost a non-entity, and it’s hardly surprising when Charles II returns from exile and strolls onto the throne, asserting, like his grandfather, the divine right of kings. Of all the Stuarts, Charles II is the most successful prior to his nieces’ reigns after the Glorious Revolution. He is an unabashed autocrat and philanderer and gleefully indulges in Restoration drama and music, which is some of the bawdiest in English history prior to the twentieth century. (Some of it would make Patsy and Edina blush.) The people loved him through most of his reign, and a movement to put his bastard son Lord Monmouth on the throne as successor resulted.

Instead, England was treated to Charles I’s other son, James II. Not only was James a stubborn, unlikeable man, but he committed the cardinal sin of converting to “popery” in an age when England wanted nothing to do with the Pope.

Ackroyd stops at the “Glorious Revolution,” when James’s Protestant daughter Mary II is elevated to queen alongside her husband (and first cousin) William III, prince in the nearby republic of The Netherlands. It is under William and Mary and Mary’s sister Anne that England and Scotland become modern parliamentary monarchies and merge into Great Britain. He doesn’t cover that part because the age of the Stuarts and Cromwell are some of the most unstable years in English history.

It’s a wonder the country made it into the 18th century intact. Even the American colonies at this early stage were ready to bolt.

Killing Jim

George Stark from The Dark Half

Time for you to go, buddy. Ya ain’t paid yer rent. (Orion)

Yesterday morning, I got up, swallowed a bunch of drugs too boring to mention here, stretched a bit…

And proceeded to kill Jim Winter. It took ten minutes. I deleted the “As Jim Winter” page on this site. Logged into my host and deleted the new web site for my crime fiction. Then I proceeded to turn off all the Winter books on Amazon and elsewhere. Pretty easy.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to make a break. Jim’s blog still exists and probably needs to be deleted, but there are WordPress issues I have to address for that. So the question that’s burning in your minds (all two of you) is “Why?”

For 15 years, I tried to break into traditional publishing as Jim Winter, first writing PI fiction, then a romp called Road Rules, then an massive police story called Holland BayHolland Bay is why I continued after abandoning Jim the first time to write science fiction as TS Hottle. Holland Bay is also why I pulled the plug yesterday.

Holland Bay was begun in 2007, so long ago that, until this week, I sweated how to finesse a scene where a character uses a payphone because I have not seen an actual functioning payphone in about five years. (I’ve been informed they still exist in New York’s Penn Station.) It’s not a conventional story. The POV shifts would give George RR Martin whiplash. It’s been edited once, rewritten at the request of an agent who pulled out at the last minute, and frankly has been revised and rewritten so many times over the years that any further revision will literally kill the story.

And that’s what the proofreader said I needed to do.

Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.I had it. Currently on my plate, I have major revisions for Tishla and another unpublished novella, Quantonesia, to finish. I need to outline Amargosa 3. At some point, I have to dig out Amargosa 2. And I have to actually, yanno, market this universe I spun up. I no longer have time to work on a novel that’s never been released, and one I no longer have the motivation to work on. I also don’t have the energy or time or head space to devote to a pseudonym and a body of work that has earned me precisely $0 in the last six months. I’m tired, and Jim is sitting in the man cave in my head drinking all the beer and binge-watching PornHub and not paying his rent. So like Kim Jong-Un, it’s time for him to go. Unlike Kim, no tactical nukes required.

And really, for the last two years, I’ve felt like Jim Winter was an obligation thrust on me rather than something I wanted to do. There are the usual self-publishing maxims tossed at me.

“Well, just leave it out there to make money for you!” It makes no money for me.

“All you need is a newsletter.” I haven’t even done the TS Hottle newsletter in about two months. When the hell am I going to do one for a neglected pen name.

“But traditional publishing takes so much of your money away!” Nobody said I was going trad. I’m not. But I have only so much time and head space to devote to what I write, and that is the issue here.

Jim Winter has probably cost me two marriages because I kept devoting time to that name and the work it graces instead of two women who needed more of my attention. There were other issues, of course, some mine, some theirs, but if I wasn’t busy trying to write something everyone trying to help me wanted to morph into something it wasn’t, a lot of the problems that led to my becoming single once more (and theirs as well) could have been addressed and fought through. It’s distracted from several jobs, including my current one, which has been the most fulfilling of my career. It sucks up time I need to be down and recharge.

RIP Jim WinterSo I’m just focusing on TS Hottle, my real name, and work I want to do, that I don’t have to explain or make something it’s not. I’ve bluntly told a couple people who said they didn’t like it to go read something else. (Usually, I make a recommendation. Hey, if you slogged through my work, and I got a cup of coffee from your hard-earned cash…)

Besides, only a tiny fraction of writers ever make it. I’ll be satisfied if it pays off the mortgage. It won’t do that unless I focus on the here and now. Killing off Jim Winter let’s me do that.

Changes To The Compact Universe

The Compact UniverseWith Tishla and Amargosa: Second Wave delayed, I’ve started to think about how to better market the series. Oh, I already plan to attend two or three cons this year and do Facebook ads. But the series itself is structured wrong. A small press owner pointed this out to me.

For starters, the old The First One’s Free is apparently still available as a paperback. Unfortunately, that one has “The Magic Root” and “The Marylinists” bound up into one story. So already, there are two Compact Universe #1 offerings.

And then, with The Amargosa Trilogy being sold as a separate series – they are part of The Compact Universe, but not all Compact Universe books are part of The Amargosa Trilogy – we have an anthology called Before Amargosa. Wait. It’s called “Amargosa” but it’s not part of The Amargosa Trilogy? WTF? And it has Gimme Shelter in it? But isn’t that Compact Universe #2? And where’s #3?

So Before Amargosa is going away. But not “The Magic Root” or “The Marilynists.” I am going to go with my original plan and release them as separate books. They’ll be ebook-only books, but it will make more sense for there to be a Compact Universe #1 and #2.

Also, there will be a Compact Universe #0. I don’t know if Amazon, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital will allow that, but it’s happening anyway. No Marigolds in the Promised Land will be released here (or on its successor site) and via the newsletter. Eventually, it will be released as a full-blown book, but for now, it will be a serial.

And the site? This site has worked for two years, but it’s time to make it more useful for potential readers. It’s time to go being using a canned theme and make this about the books instead of the blog. It needs to put this series front and center.

Will the blog continue? I don’t know yet. I do know it will have to change. Everything does.

The Worlds Of The Compact

WarpedBuy NowLike any good space opera series, the setting in The Compact Universe and The Amargosa Trilogy spans multiple worlds, most of them Earthlike. Earth is one, obviously, as is Mars. In an unintentional parallel to The Expanse, the two don’t like each other much. But while I, like dozens of other space opera writers, have used the UN as Earth’s government, I also created a Mars that has become as bloated and hypocritical as any large powerful nation on Earth today. Mars is known as The Citizens’ Republic of Mars, implying a socialist, though not quite communist, or maybe I should say “socialist.” The workers’ paradise doesn’t like it when you interfere with their ability to turn a profit for the proletariat. Hence, one colony going silent doesn’t concern The Compact while the loss of Mars’s own Amargosa arouses the wrath of the dome-dwellers.

But there are others. In a still-unreleased novella, five planets are referred to as “The Big Five,” of which Earth and Mars are two. These are the wealthiest and most powerful worlds in The Compact.

Tian – Chinese for “heaven,” this near twin of Earth (which a moon the size of Mercury) is where JT Austin had planned to flee in Gimme Shelter. It is humanity’s most populous planet and referred to as its “real” capital. (The capital is actually Quantonesia, a city on an artificial island in the middle of Hong Kong Harbor.) Tian is part of a system that nearly mirrors that of our own sun, with an extra planet whipping around inside where Mercury’s orbit would be. The planets all (except Tian) have Greek names to mirror those of Sol’s, four of which are actually Earthlike. Tian is the fourth planet, and Demeter, an icy world, occupies space where Ceres orbits in our own system, is also Earthlike. Tian is the wealthiest world of The Compact and the site of most of the Navy’s installations.

The Caliphate – Created for a couple of unpublished short stories, one of which I wrote to flesh out Davra (as an adult), originally, I wrote this world as an Islamic Republic without the medieval tendencies. In reality, it’s more like Malaysia or Turkey (minus Turkey’s propensity for coups every twenty years or so.) Wealthy and highly developed, their prosperity makes them highly tolerant. One of the paradoxes of a world whose religion forbids alcohol is that its wines are highly prized.

Etrusca – What I refer to in notes as “Disney” planets, where the founders tried to model their new world after some Earth culture they pine for. In this case, Etrusca is named for the forerunners of the Roman Empire, and their institutions and city names reflect a deep love of Roman history. Of course, being in The Compact means no true emperor, no blood sports, and that whole slavery thing was never really permitted. Etrusca does not appear in novellas or novels so far, but Austin and Burke save an Etruscan colony from invasion.

There are other worlds mentioned.

Thule – a mysterious world that sits above the galactic plane. It seems to be a haven for long-lived rejuvenated humans. Okada first appears here in Warped.

Bromdar – If Coruscant from Star Wars and the LA of Blade Runner ever got drunk and had a love child, it would be Bromdar. Almost completely paved over and built upon, it features cities named for large industrial firms from the present day. Austin visits the city of Krupp in Broken Skies.

Deseret – A Mormon world whose colony, Goshen, caused the civil conflict known as the Polygamy Wars. It was actually a rebellion against Deseret, which condones polygamy but takes a rather dim view of forced polygamy and the taking of very young brides. Lucius Kray refers to the rebels as “Jeffsians” after radical polygamist Warren Jeffs, currently serving time in a Federal prison for practices not too dissimilar to the radicals.

Metis – Named for the original goddess of wisdom, Metis is also the parent world of the ill-fated Gilead, which becomes Hanar under Tishla’s leadership. Metis tends toward matriarchy as most of its authority figures are female. They speak with a lilt that could be described as Celtic. One character, a Homeworld Security agent, sounds almost like a cross between Bob Marley and an angry Irish nun.

Friday Flashback: At Earth’s Core

American International rips off Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth about a year before Star Wars came out. Actually, it’s based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. It stars Peter Cushing, B-movie stalwart Doug McLure, and up-and-coming B-movie queen Caroline Munroe.