Thursday, September 28, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below ~Fin~

Three big glasses of caffine-laden, passion fruit-infused iced tea, more than one trip to the restroom and repeated playings of my symphonic Pink Floyd and highlights from Wagner's Ring Cycle (without words) CDs resulted, ultimately, in the completion of "The Whale Below" last night around 2 a.m. Nearly four hours of work netted me a little over 1,000 words on paper, which I freely admit is an abyssmal rate of productivity. In my defense, however, I'd like to point out I wrote a good way down two blind alleys before having to backtrack and start over.

The important thing is that the beast is complete. Sure, it took close to two months when I'd planned for two weeks. Yeah, it clocks in at 7,500 words where I'd purposely set out to keep it under 5,000. And did I mention that it's a complete and utter mess? True. I introduce characters only to merge them with others at various points in the story. About 5,500 words in, I realize one supporting character is actually a fellow who already appeared in "Being an Account of the Final Voyage of La Riaza" (or rather, will appear once Interzone publishes that story) so some significant changes need to be made in order to bring him in line with established continuity.

I've got two days before Turkey City with which to shape this mongrel of a story into something more closely resembling a purebred. And after all is said and done, I'm going to have to go through again and do a major dialog polish. And there's no telling what flaws and failings the Turkey Citizens will bring to my attention. But again I say to you, the important thing is that the beast is complete. Hopefully, by this time next week I'll be posting once again about progress on Wetsilver.

Now Playing: Various 25 Classical Masterpieces

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below--the lost pages

Turns out I did not lose a paragraph or two due to Tuesday night's power outtage. It was more like a page or two, which is frustrating since I was pretty pleased with what I was writing. So last night was taken up with reconstructing what had been written before. Unfortunately, someone, somewhere, turned off the tap and the words weren't flowing. I rewrote the missing verbiage and even slogged on a bit beyond the point where I'd gotten before everything went black, but I feel I'm grasping for the right words, not quite evoking the mood and atmosphere (and--dare I say it?--drama) that came so easily the night before.
"See there? They're made to latch automatically whenever they close, so big waves or somesuch don't swamp the whale and drag her down with a belly full of seawater," Galindo said. He grabbed the latch handle and gave it a pull. It refused to budge. "Bastard's got some nasty internal pressure built up. Must be from the sun's heating."

"Rot gas, more likely," Ayala said, taking a swallow from his flask. "It's been dead the better part of a week. It's decomposing. What do you expect?"

"Huh," grunted Galindo, bracing himself against the drum and tugging on the handle again. "Stand clear. With that much pressure, when I do get this open, it's going to--"

The lid flung open with a sudden foomp, jerking the handle away and clanging against the side of the drum. A geyser of fog billowed out like whalespout. A sticky, stagnant stink settled in over them.

I expect to sharpen up all the soft spots when I do my inevitable second pass in a couple of weeks--provided I ever finish it in the first place. Wetsilver is calling to me more strongly these days, which is a good sign. Well, there's a long weekend coming up, so maybe that'll be what I need to get this thing knocked out.

Now Playing: The Andrews Sisters 50th Anniversary Collection

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Czech out them pipes

Betcha didn't know that there's a strong bagpipe tradition in the Czech Republic. The unique, bellows-blown pipes of the region (which overlaps some with Germany and Poland) are called Ceske Dudy or Bohemian Bock. Are those not the coolest names for pipes ever? Almost makes me want to learn to play 'em.


Wanna hear what they sound like? Of course you do.

And just in case you're wondering, yes, this is part of my writing research. Look for the Ceske Dudy to make an appearance in Wetsilver.

Now Playing: Istanpitta Chevrefoil

Interlude: The Whale Below late last night

Last night I buckled down. I said to myself, "Self, this story's taking too damn long. Quit farting around and get it finished already." So with the girls in bed and the dishes done, I jumped into the story with both feet. No checking out the blogs online for more commentary on the Ellison Hugo Awards fiasco. No checking email. Nothing but writing.

And lo and behold, a groove was gotten into. Some trouble spots upstream were identified and corrected. Characters were rearranged on the playing field. Then I charged headlong into furthering the plot. The whale was lifted. I knew I wouldn't finish it in that sitting, but I knew I'd get within shouting distance--and it wasn't even midnight yet. Folks, I tell ya, I was cooking with gas.

Then the power went out. Twelve o'clock, straight up. This whole side of the county, apparently. I had a few choice words for the power company, of course. Fortunately, years of journalism have instilled in me the habit of backing up regularly, so I figure I only lost a couple of paragraphs. But still, when I'm hitting the sweet spot and the words are flowing, disturbances in the Force are not what I want to be dealing with.

Now Playing: SixMileBidge Across the Water

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below--Monday

I worked a bit on this Sunday, but I was so tired that I managed less than half a page. The old neurons just wouldn't fire like they was supposed to. I returned to "The Whale Below" last night, though, and I fell into an easy rhythm. I had to stop for a couple of research points, but on the whole I'm happy with the quality of what I put down.
Capitan Valdez shook his head. "Magda, Magda, Magda. Where's your sense of adventure? Your sense of romance?"

Magda narrowed her eyes. "You watch your mouth. Capitan or no Capitan, I can cut you up for crab-bait just as easy as Chago."

"Curiosity, Magda. I mean curiosity."

"Yeah, only I don't got none of that. It's too much trouble. Say, I have an idea: Let's take what we got and not be here anymore."

I suspect I've passed the halfway point in the story, which would bring this one in at right around 5,000 words. I know, that's a pathetic production rate, even by my slow-writing standards. I can't explain it. But I'm really, really hoping to get the story wrapped up by this weekend. Then I can let it sit for a few weeks before a quick polish prior to Turkey City. And, of course, that means I'll be returning to Wetsilver before long as well.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes Why Do Birds Sing?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below--Wednesday

I managed a good bit of writing last night. Tuesday's rewrite helped a great deal in getting me going on this one. It's starting to turn into the fun romp I'd hoped. On the other hand, I'm starting to see some of the plot creep worm its way back into the piece. It's still leaner than I normally write, but my gray matter is seeing different elements of the story and saying to me, "Yeah, we want short. But logically wouldn't it serve the story better if...?" Example: Last night First Mate Magda and Capitan Valdez were supposed to watch a particular event unfold from the pilothouse of La Aspiva Feroz. But then I realized 1) that isolated the reader from the drama, and B) the logical thing would be for Valdez to send Magda to precipitate said drama. So what was originally intended to be recounted in a few lines at most grew into several pages. It's still tight, but there's a lot more there than I'd originally planned. Here's the aftermath, which I particularly like:
"Looks like the wreck'll float well enough. I've reassigned that grapple crew to salvage," she announced, coming down the stair. "And I'm about to have to kill that Chago, Capitan. Cut him up into little pieces and feed him to the crabs."

Capitan Valdez didn't turn from the open windscreen. He leaned out, looking over the kelper whale carcass below. "Not sure if I can spare the body, Magda. Is it necessary?"

"That sonofabitch been thinking impure thoughts 'bout me. I let a man get away with that once before. Ain't making the same mistake twice."

Capitan Valdez nodded thoughtfully. "Well, use your best judgement. But try not to spook the rest of the crew."

I realized this exchange would take place somewhere in the story as I was writing page 1. I just didn't know the context or the circumstances. Now I do. And Magda is shaping up to be a great character. Pity poor Chago--his death will be neither happy nor heroic.

Now Playing: The Smithereens 11

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below

I had a number of different things to deal with last night--some of writerly import, some not--but I was happy to eventually turn my attention to "The Whale Below" roundabout midnight, since I hadn't touched it for close to a week. I'd given it a bit of back-of-the-mind thought during Armadillocon, and was pretty clear on elements I wanted to change and rework. I've learned my lesson, to some degree, after leaving all those errors creep into Wetsilver unchallenged. So I dove into "The Whale Below" with gusto, changing the viewpoint character (major course correction, that one) and adding small, telling details throughout while cutting large swaths of description that bog things down. I really, really want to keep this story lean and tight, as my natural inclination as a writer is a more sprawling, kudzu-style prose. Here's a sample of last night's labors:
The grapples lashed out in rapid-fire cadence. The great barbed prongs
speared the smaller airships, easily piercing the outer envelopes to find
solid purchase within the superstructure. The cables tightened. The
grappling teams winched their prey to La Aspiva. Timbers groaned as the
whalers bellied up against La Aspiva's hull. Matchlocks hot and rapiers
drawn, the five boarding parties--three men each--slid across on tethers hooked
to the cables.

"I'm not hearing any killing. Why am I not hearing any killing?" demanded
Capitan Valdez. "There's always some heroes amongst the fishchasers. They
always complicate what should otherwise be a simple--"

"Mateo's signalling from the pilot house of his whaler," Magda said, leaning
forward against the glass windscreen for a better view. She frowned. "He's
shouting something." She unlatched the screen and pushed it open.

"--deserted," Mateo called out. "The whole damn ship's empty."

When all the cuts are subtracted and new stuff added, total wordcount only went up by about a page or so. Not a lot of progress, but the story's got much stronger legs now. Fingers are crossed that it will come in at under 5,000 words, I'll finish it up before long, and it will dazzle those steely-eyed vultures when I take it to Turkey City next month.

Now Playing: Robert Plant Now and Zen

Friday, August 04, 2006

Interlude: The Whale Below

In between my bouts of slackitude, I occasionally get stuff done. Last night I started a new story, working title of "The Whale Below." I already see a bunch of things I want to rework, but this gives you a taste of this particular adventure's flavor:
The buitre dropped below the scattered cloud deck, a silver dart with black lightning bolts emblazoned upon its bow. Props spinning furiously from the four nacelles boxing the stern, La Aspiva Feroz swept down upon the whaling fleet with the sun at its stern. Measuring 445 lethal feet bow-to-stern, the buitre dwarfed the smaller airships by a nearly four-to-one margin.

Capitan Baldomero Valdez sat on the edge of his seat, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together with nervous energy. His eyes, almost as dark as his beard, flicked from crewman to crewman in the pilot house. "Tactical situation, if you will, Magda," he asked in a voice as soft as nails. "What does our prey look like today?"

"Five whalers. All chasers. And all anchored to a kelper whale. A big one, too, from the looks of it," Magda answered, one hand holding a spyglass to her eye, the other gripping the elevator wheel. Her shoulders were almost as square as her jaw, and her red hair was chopped short into a curly knot atop her head. She lowered her spyglass and frowned. "I don't see a barge."

"Fortunate for us. Six less bodies to worry about. SeƱor Tavares, inform grapple station one to hold themselves in reserve in the event one of those chasers tries a breakaway."

"The Whale Below" is set in the same reality as the story I recently sold to Interzone, the over-titled "Being an Account of the Final Voyage of La Riaza: A Circumstance in Eight Parts." The kelper whales made a cameo in that one, and I wanted to do something where their weird ecology was a little bit more front-and-center. I'm hoping to have it finished before Armadillocon next week, and I'm also hoping this one clocks in at under 5K words rather than the 8-10K most of my stories from the past couple of years have. By this time next week, we should have a pretty good idea on both of those counts.

And when I put this one to bed, it's back to Wetsilver. Yay!

Now Playing: Joanne Shenandoah and Lawrence Laughing Orenda