Okay, I’m going to try something a little different today.
This morning, I finally got around to taking a bunch of electronic gear down to the depot, which I feel very virtuous about and pleased at the empty spaces that have opened up in my apartment.
One was a Brother Word Processor – a somewhat queer device like an electronic typewriter with an LCD screen and a 3.5″ floppy disk drive. The drive would only work with drives that had been formatted with some proprietary format that no other 3.5″ disk drive could ever make sense of. It served me well from when my parents got it in 1992 or ’93, (so that I could actually do homework instead of distracting myself with games on the family PC,) all through my York University years, until I finally bought my first full laptop computer, the Windows 98 Compaq. But I haven’t really used it since. Nine or ten years ago I found out that the printing attachment no longer worked even after I procured a fresh new ink ribbon, so the only way to get anything from the floppy is by reading it off the screen.
Before I got rid of the Brother, I had to search around the floppy disk still in the drive to see if I wanted to keep it. There were four files full of indexes of home VHS tapes, which I scanned through and typed quite a lot of search terms into the Alphasmart, to see if I can find some of those movies or TV shows online, or on DVD. (I also took my broken VHS player down to the dump.) There was a personal note from a friend that I think he’ll get a kick out of hearing about again.
And there was this passage from a ‘Star Patrol’ file that I must have written sometime between 1996 and 1998, as a sort of coda tacked on to the end of the really old chapter 1. It involves a flashback where my four intrepid space cadets share their darkest secrets, including Melissa Dempsey’s bombshell about living a lie.
I read this off the screen into the Voice Recorder app on my LG Eclypse android, and then converted the .3gp file to MP3 format. There’s a few places where I stumble, or where I’m deliberately correcting a typo from the original text. I hope you enjoy listening.
So, it’s the evening of November 29th. A little more than one day left for Nano-ers here in North America.
First off, I’d love to share this Wordle made from the 62,168 words that I’ve written so far. Wordles are word clouds that you can make out of a large sample of text – the more frequently a particular word is used in the sample, the larger the word is inside the graphic. I’m hoping to hit 65k at the Waffle-palooza write-in tomorrow evening!
And I’m happy to say that I’m still really having fun with this storyline, even though it wasn’t necessarily where I thought that Star Patrol would go. At this point, I’m unlikely to get out of Act 2 of ‘The Imperion Encounter’ during November, but that’s fine – it’s the second book in the series after all. And all kinds of really cool things are coming together.
We’ve got the human foil, Star Patrol Captain McBride, (named after a Nano ML that I met in San Francisco,) who dislikes the friendly aliens and distrusts humans who are friends with them or study their ways. And McBride was essential to actually getting my main characters where they needed to be – I had to throw him a very small idiot ball, but that’s okay for a foil character.
And then there’s the new romantic rival, Ensign Mason, (named for Fort Mason,) who’s another Star Patrol Academy graduate studying the aliens, and he likes Melissa. Brett and Melissa have been out on one date and they kissed, but she still hasn’t made a big dramatic choice or anything.
A lot of my characters are developing fairly well. Carla Jones is obviously the smart girl and is struggling a bit to do more than just be the source of helpful exposition whenever there’s something that needs to be explained. And Melissa Dempsey is opening up about her secretive past a little, and letting me flesh it out. All really fun stuff.
If you’re still short of 50k, then good writing to you. You can do it!
Hi everybody. Once again, I’m skipping forward by a few scenes, and sharing some more description involving my aliens.
They weren’t paying the humans much attention any more, now that Jody had given up on trying to teach them vocabulary. They had set up a table next to the cart, on an elaborate system of springs and shocks which seemed to be designed to keep it steady and cushioned from any kind of irregularity or even movement of the ground. and it was what was on the table that was the focus of all their attention now.
It was hard for Brett to describe what was on the table in the terms of a whole, although he could recognize most of the parts of it. At the center of the item was a crystal sphere – a crystal ball even, looking like the sort that a fortune teller stared into at carnival shows back on Earth. And the sphere was at the center of a series of concentric geometric shapes… yes, it was made up of the five platonic solids, each nested one within the other. “Good for the Greeks – those shapes are truly universal – not even aliens can come up with a sixth platonic solid in three dimensional space.”
Hello from San Francisco! I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you about the NOWD tomorrow.
I had a bit of a hard time picking six sentences that I liked for tonight. This is after Brett asks Melissa if she can put him in touch with a particular medic back up on the main ship:
“Nurse Practicioner Lyon is busy trying to save all of our lives from the Kane syndrome, Ensign Walker,” Exec reminded him. “You were there when we heard about this interdisciplinary committee that she is serving on. Surely there are other biology and anatomy specialists on the ship that you could consult with.”
How could he explain to a woman like the Exec that he trusted Natalie, and that they understood each other as colleagues? Then something else occured to him. “Wouldn’t every specialist be working on curing the Hyperspace sickness, in their own way?”
So, I’ve been working on my new book for just about two weeks now – and I have to say, it’s going pretty great. Having a lot of fun, discovering more about the Star Patrol universe than I thought I would considering all the years that I’ve lived with Brett Walker and Melissa Dempsey in the back of my head – but there are some things that you just don’t discover until you’re walking the walk.
My current word count is 36,534 at the moment. I’m hoping to get a few hundred more done this evening before I go to bed.
Some of the cool stuff about my book so far:
The mysterious character of Exec, the second-in-command of the ship, opened up and I found out more about her at the most unexpected times – though maybe I should have expected them. For instance, the Captain gives her a little pep talk on an open comm line about how he thinks that she’s the right woman for this mission – and since he’s her superior, he can speak to her in a familiar fashion, as the ensigns and even lieutenants under her can’t.
Even though I hardly plotted out any of the high fantasy sequence, it came out pretty well in true Nano fashion – not quite ‘whenever anything gets too boring have somebody burst through the window with a sword in his hand’ but close. 🙂
The stuff after the end of my original outline, though, which is the stuff I’ve been working on since Saturday, though, is possibly the most fun – after we’ve had first contact with the aliens and are trying to figure out the getting-to-know-you stage of human-Breian relations.
One of the coolest bits of this is that I know all of this weird stuff about Breian history and the Archon’s discipline of knowledge that my human characters don’t, yet – but I’ve also absorbed this intuitive sense of how to play out the secrets that I wouldn’t have had a clue about back in 1998. There’ll be time.
And I really like the little bits and snatches of Jody Quinton and Gary Peterson’s budding romance… so much so, in fact, that I’m almost wishing that they could be the main characters, instead of Brett and Melissa and all of their angst. Oh well…
How’s your nano going? Have you ever taken an opportunity to go back and work with an idea from many years ago and see how much you’ve learned as a writer since then?
This six is from later in the same scene as last week, after Brett’s spent a while observing the alien natives while Jody tries to communicate with them.
One of the natives suddenly spoke up with a rather long and enthusiastic speech, but he was facing one of his fellows, not Jody, and both of them broke out into renewed activity while the third stood near the cart and watched the new people. Jody let out a sigh that seemed to deflate her inside, leaving a very tired and very sick young woman standing before them.
“What’s wrong, Jody?” Colin asked, in a way that might have been encouraging if the question wasn’t so pitifully obvious.
“There’s not engaging with us in terms of real communication,” Melissa put in. She wasn’t a languages expert like Jody, but from her communications studies she must have picked up some of the theory. “The key to translating an unknown language isn’t just getting vocabulary – it’s getting context.”
Hello everybody. Word count for Nanowrimo at this point, (Saturday night,) is 13,482, but right now I’m going to rewind back to the very first ones from last Tuesday morning, November the 1st. To be clear, since I’m rebelling, this is a continuation from the Star Patrol blogisodes and not really the opening scene of the book.
They emerged from the shuttle airlock, and Brett looked over at Jody to see how she was doing in the high-oxygen atmosphere of the planet. It actually seemed to perk her up a little bit, though that might just be Jody trying to reassure everybody that she was all right and could get the job done.
Then he noticed the aliens.
They had evidently arrived in some sort of cart drawn by a single three-legged animal, but the cart wasn’t moving anymore and had possibly been ‘parked’ by extending rods down to the ground so that it would remain stable. There were three aliens, and as far as Brett could tell they each had three legs and three arms, with four tentacle-fingers on each hand. He filed this away for whatever insight it might help him build into their way of thinking.
“That’s alright,” Exec told him. “Are any of us feeling the worse for the extra oxygen in the air? Remember the symptoms that Peterson listed.”
“With respect, sir,” Jody replied. “I don’t recall you and Ensign Peterson discussing symptoms for hyperoxia, just treatment.”
“No?” Exec turned to Archer, who nodded a slow confirmation. “My mistake. As well as I can remember, you’ll want to be watching out for tunnel vision, ringing in your ears, nausea, severe anxiety, dizziness, or a frequent cough.”
Jody froze in her tracks. “Sir, then it might be hard for me to determine if I’m suffering from hyperoxia in time to receive treatment. I was already experiencing several of those symptoms before we landed. I ascribed them to Kane syndrome – the hyperspace sickness.”
Exec considered this. “Then you should probably go back inside the yacht, just as a precaution.”
“But what about when you find the natives? I can’t do my job if I can’t talk to them.”
“There’s the intercom,” Archer suggested. “Or we could bring them inside through the airlock.”
“I’m not a xenobiologist, but I think it’s a bad idea to bring a native of this planet into a lower-oxygen environment than they’re accustomed to,” I said.
The airlock was quite cramped with the Exec, Colin Archer, Jody and I crammed inside, but I was glad enough that nobody was being left out – especially because I didn’t want to be the one waiting behind – even if Melissa was staying back in the shuttle for now.
Lieutenant Archer hit one of the control buttons on the wall. There was a hissing sound and I felt a noticeable pressure building in my ears. After a moment, Archer turned to Exec and actually saluted, which in the tight quarters made that he was step closer to Jody, to avoid putting his elbow through the wall. “External pressure has equalized, sir. I do not see any need to equalize atmospheric composition with the outside.”
“By no means, Lieutenant. Let’s take a look outside.”
So Archer opened up the external door, and I could feel the planet’s breeze blowing in, smelling exotic but fresh. I wasn’t quite sure if I could really feel the increased oxygen content, or if I was imagining that part.
The sun was at a high angle from behind the shuttle, so that the shadow stretched for about a meter and a half in front of the door. The sun was just a trace bluer than the sun of Earth was, and I wondered if that spectral difference was what made the sky seem slightly greenish and the shadows a kind of a muddy brown.
“I think that we’ve been noticed,” Archer said, pointing out the door. “If I’m right, he’s making tracks for the center of the base.”
“The space habitats could be regressing too,” Archer argued back. “That’s why they don’t communicate with each other or… or use spaceships. Except for that one Walker saw.”
I did my best to ignore the bickering and started scanning for something more useful on the planet, like where would be a good place to land.
“I’m picking up a lot of useful data,” I admitted once there was a lull in the conversation about the space habitats and personnel shuttles. “The sensors on this ship are really good, and we’re getting close to the planet. I see a fair bit of wilderness of all biomes, climates, and terrains… plenty of cultivated land and small settlements, but only a few gatherings that could be described as – well, even as small towns, really.”
“That figures,” Jody grumbled. “Planet of the hick farmers. It’s of a piece with everything else we’ve found in this double-damned solar system.” There was a pause. “Sorry, Brett, but I think – just a suspicion, mind you, that my pain meds might be wearing off.”
“Probably right, but I can’t spare the time to recheck you just now,” Gary told her. “And we’re going to be coming in for a landing pretty soon, which will probably increase the stress on your system. Umm, Melissa, do you think that you could possibly…”
“I’ll check on Ensign Quinton,” Exec snapped. “I might not have ever taken the time for a formal field medic certification, but I’ve had to pitch in for a doctor under desperate circumstances before, and I saw what you were doing earlier, pilot Peterson. It’s not exactly rocket science.”