About Writing

Pathos

Writing a dark story is turning out to be more of a challenge than I expected.

I have an idealist inside of me that tries to insert insights and epiphanies that would prevent the Traumatic Climax from happening, so I have to pull back and rewrite. The result is that the characters keep coming oh-so-close to redeeming themselves, then turning away and clinging to their dysfunctions.

It’s realistic enough; I’ve watched plenty of people do that in real life.

I’m not the sort of writer than deliberately sets out to manipulate the emotions of readers. The only reason why I’m writing this story at all is because it’s stuck in my head too badly to be ignored, and the only person intended to ride this roller coaster is me. There is no sadistic glee happening behind the scenes.

Perhaps this is a concept that’s difficult to grasp in our society, but I don’t write for money or popularity. I write for me. I write because I gained knowledge too heavy for me to bear, and my childhood hobby became my vessel of expression. I need it to remain artistically pure for the sake of my sanity. That’s why I always pull away from online groups and self-advertising — anything that could influence my writing away from what I need it to be.

Is there anyone out there capable of understanding?

So here I sit, feeling bad that Hartmann is too caught up in self-pity to realize what he’s doing, that Carol’s personality is too weak to resist, and that Lambert’s too checked out to notice. All it takes is one sentence to turn everything around, but I can’t let myself write it until it’s too late.

If this story wasn’t pounding at my head, I wouldn’t be writing it at all.

About Writing

Yarn and Readership

I was comparison shopping yarn and browsing through reviews, when I came across someone complaining that 100% wool yarn smelled weird when wet.

Well, yeah … being wool and all, it does smell like it came from an animal — especially when wet.

So

Last year I made inquiries about different self-publishing avenues, and was warned that I needed to be careful about the sort of readership I catered to. I’m not talking about “target audience,” but rather something more specific that has popped up with the rise of social media.

For example, the general consensus was that people who wanted to read books for free, were also the most entitled, demanding, and critical. So, while it might be easier to get readers, the “fans” were abusive enough to make you regret it.

To get back to the beginning, the review complaining about the wool yarn made me think about self publishing.

On the surface, you might think that “crafty yarn people” counts as a specific group, but once you dig deeper, you discover that some of them can’t stand things like inconsistent thickness, knots in the yarn, or the smell of animals fibers. Others, like me, prefer the unique personalities of handspun yarns, don’t mind working around knots, and enjoy the characteristics of natural fibers. The two groups might fit under the same crafty umbrella, but the sort of yarn they want is completely different.

Self-publishers need to think about more than a general target audience. Metaphorically speaking, trying to sell handspun wool or acrylic yarns to the wrong subgroup is going to end miserably.

And frankly, with something like writing, authors need to be mindful about where they go searching for their readers. No one wants to get sucked into catering to an audience that kills all the joy out of writing.

About Me

The Scions Part 1

I didn’t want to write this.

It felt too much like taking all of the worst traits of these characters and amplifying them into a sordid and depressing story. I very much didn’t want to do that.

But the idea has been niggling at me for months. It won’t leave me alone.

I’ve caved. Fine. I’m writing it.

But this is a very sordid and depressing story.


Master sergeant Hartmann wasn’t certain when he had first begun to notice the cleaning lady. Two years prior, more for the sake of politics than anything else, the General had declared that they were going to improve national security by limiting the soldiers’ access to the Suit, and a civilian was picked out of the Base’s janitorial staff to be the designated caretaker of the military’s top asset. It turned out to be a plain, mousy woman, who quietly devoted herself to the job then faded into the background as another functioning cog, and business moved on as usual.

Hartmann was by far the best at piloting the Suit. Although it was obviously alien technology, he had an intuitive understanding of how to operate it, and was consequently given all of the important missions. He had already been considered something of a hero due to his ‘bravery’ and ‘leadership’ beforehand, but the Suit had skyrocketed him to the status of a superstar. He was worshiped by those below his rank, and greatly respected by those above. It was unspoken, but everyone pinned their hopes of winning the war on his abilities, and he was more than willing to accept the mantle.

Yet, somehow, the moments he had spent basking in the adulation of a job well done melted away as the cleaning lady took up more and more of his awareness.

There were moments when it was comical to watch her, a slim 5’4” woman standing on a stepladder with a soapy sponge, contrasted against the 12-foot mecha that she rigorously scrubbed. However, when she worked on detailing the interior, it stung to realize that she was more intimately familiar with the Suit than he was. He felt like the interloper, good for a wild ride before the Suit returned home to its loving family. He never had the liberty to simply touch and examine the Suit, no matter how much time he spent inside.

To make it worse, the cleaning lady was completely unaware of him. Hartmann was attractive and muscular, with sandy blonde hair and sharp eyes, and took it for granted that women would preen and flirt as they competed for his attention. The cleaning lady, however, never smiled or brushed her hair behind her ear; her eyes slid over him as if he was any other uniform in a sea of soldiers. He had even bumped into her deliberately to see her reaction, but she had tersely apologized then skirted around him, never quite managing to raise her eyes to his face during the entire exchange. The other soldiers had snickered, and someone had said, “I guess you aren’t her type,” as Hartmann stared after her, his face hard.

That was two strikes against her.

In between missions, he kept an apartment off Base, and he liked to amuse himself by taking out a few of his buddies to pick up women at bars and clubs. The thrill of simply bedding them had vanished years ago, but he still got his kicks out of playing with them. He had developed a good eye for finding the ones that were attractive enough to be worthwhile, but still had the shadow of desperation that spoke of a willingness to do anything. That night, he imagined that he had the cleaning lady in his clutches, and pushed the woman to a level of filthy that he had never gone to before. Unsatisfied with how easy it had been to control and degrade her, he sent her away from his apartment with one of his friends, and from the way she giggled he knew that she was up for another round of debauchery.

Alone, he knew the folly of his fantasy. The cleaning lady was the sort who spent her evenings curled up with a book and a glass of wine – she would never be under his power.

So he watched her. He watched her clean his Suit, watched her love what should have been his, all the while knowing that she was untouchable. The cleaning lady was ranked above him, the master sergeant.

And that was strike three.

CR1515

Musings on CR1515

Somehow I’ve managed to write over 10,000 words for CR1515, despite feeling tired and busy with the gazillion things that always happen at once, and I still haven’t found the proper flow for the story. Not 100% settled in to it yet.

I can’t help but wonder if I should dial back on the philosophical ranting and put in the effort to submarine it more, but it probably doesn’t matter. People can be shockingly oblivious to what’s right underneath their noses, so I might as well slap a fancy border on it and proudly display it.

The fun part about the Aurora/CR1515 pairing is that they argue A LOT more than any of my other main couples. The fireworks are a blast to write (har har), which is probably how I’ve managed to do as much as I have, despite being excessively busy/tired with a gazillion things. We have stubborn pride going up against unyielding stances, in a scrumptiously confined space. What’s not to love?

Just wish I could find the groove for this story.

CR1515

Prewriting – CR1515

The fun part is, I first came up with the idea of “CR1515 the robot” clear back when I was a teenager … like, 20 years ago. XD

The easy vocalization of his name is “Crisis.”

He is quite literally “above it all”, living in a space station where he continuously monitors everything that happens on the planet below. He’s existed long enough to watch humanity decline into fatalistic complacency, and he knows that a large part of that was due to his presence. The story starts when he decides to step back and let people figure out how to take care of themselves without him.

However, when Aurora unexpectedly shows up at his door, a new plan forms in his mind.

CR1515 is the most straightforward character, to the point of almost being one-dimensional in his clarity of purpose, and he functions more like an anti-hero/villain in the role he plays.

His big secret is that he was born human, and is closer to a cyborg than a full robot.

Stories

Concept story – CR1515

I can’t help but jokingly think of this as “Beauty and the Beast with robots”.

This is still massively underdeveloped, of course, but I find it to be a thoroughly fascinating idea.


Aurora’s eyes closed, and for a moment she drifted into sleep before she snapped herself back into consciousness. The horizon was growing lighter, and he still hadn’t appeared. While she was doing her best to maintain the vigil, it was difficult to feel a sense of urgency when the fate of humanity rested on someone who was now hours late.

“He’s not coming,” Talon murmured, closing his hand around Aurora’s. His skin felt burning hot over her cold fingers, so she snuggled up against his side to soak in his warmth.

“He has to,” she replied quietly.

“As soon as the first sun rays appear, we’re out of time.” Talon motioned to the frozen mecha that stood some yards away, still poised in mid-attack. “The artifacts won’t hold it after daybreak.”

“He’ll be here,” Aurora weakly insisted. “He’s the only one who can stop it.”

“We need to leave before we get killed.” Talon stood then pulled on her. “Come on.”

“But what about the artifacts?”

“They’ll probably be destroyed. We’ll have to worry about that later.”

Aurora reluctantly followed Talon, but she couldn’t stop herself from looking back. Recovering the three golden artifacts had been a long and difficult process, and activating them to imprison the mecha had cost them the life of a friend. The thought of being abandoned by CR1515 at the last minute was too much to bear.

“Let’s go find him,” she suggested hopefully.

“If Robot Boy was coming, he would have been here hours ago,” Talon snapped, using the derogatory nickname for CR1515. Even though he was humanity’s protector, there were many people who resented and feared his abilities, and consequently sought to drag him down in petty ways. Despite the intended disrespect, CR1515 had never given any indication of noticing the nickname or the negative attitudes towards him … until his failure to appear that night.

“The Gate isn’t far from here. Let’s just go see if we can contact him, at the very least.” Aurora hated the thought of giving up, and even though she knew her idea sounded silly and irrational, it was far better than doing nothing.

“You go then, if it will make you happy. I need to tell the others what’s happened.” Talon stopped and turned to Aurora, put his arms around her waist, then kissed her lips. “Don’t risk waiting around, though,” he whispered. “If he doesn’t answer in two minutes, get underground.”

“I promise I will.” Aurora closed her eyes as they kissed farewell again, then continued to the Gate alone. She approached the metal door, standing in the middle of an empty lot free from any buildings or walls, and pushed the small button next to it. Silently, she began to count the seconds, feeling the weight of fatigue build with every number.

At 64, the door swung open.

She hesitated, then stepped through.

Aurora was no longer in the empty lot with solid earth beneath her feet. She was inside a large room with windows on every side, looking out at a dark sky that was speckled with innumerable stars, and her breath caught in her throat at the realization that she was no longer on the planet, but far above it in space.

Metallic footsteps came towards her, and she turned to face CR1515. It hurt to find him home, staring at her with his expressionless face, and she couldn’t stop herself from crying out, “How could you?”

He stopped. “Have you never questioned whether or not you are worthy of my help?”

“Aren’t … we?” Aurora was lost for words. The truth was, through all the hard work and sacrifices that they had made to reach their goal, it never once occurred to her to wonder what CR1515 thought of them – she had assumed that he would assist the moment he was needed, because he always had before.

“I have grown tired of humanity. Save yourselves.” He turned to walk away, but Aurora jumped forward and caught hold of his back, pressing herself against him as she begged,

“Please. Please. We’ve done everything we can, but that mecha is … a lot of people will die if you don’t do something right now!”

“No,” came his harsh reply.

“I swear that I’ll do anything you ask, if only you’ll kill that thing!”

“You swear?” CR1515’s metal hands pressed down over her wrists, holding her in place with her arms around him.

“I swear!”

“I want what your species takes for granted.” He thrust Aurora’s arms away from him and once again turned to face her. “I want to touch, and to love.”

She stood, numbed by the words, unable to stop the thought, He’s a robot, from repeating itself over and over in her mind. CR1515 possessed the likeness of a human, but he was undoubtedly made of hard metal. How could he touch?

“Will you be mine?” he asked.

“But …” Aurora’s voice faded.

“Those are my terms. If you won’t accept, then begone.”

“…Yes.” Her lower lip trembled, and she wondered if she should try to take back the word despite having said it.

About Writing, The Scion Suit

Hartmann

We’ve finally hit December.

This year has been very draining for a number of reasons. I don’t even want to get into them, because of the overwhelming, “Ugh, just get everything over with already,” feeling that comes with them.

So, along the lines of Things That I’ve Been Thinking About….

Mandatory Exposition: I wrote The Scion Suit in 2019 as a response to a Reddit writing prompt, and it ended up becoming mildly popular, etc. This year, I’ve been working on an expanded version of it.

Given the circumstances of when I originally wrote the story, MSG Hartmann’s character ended up being regretfully underused. I wrote some other thoughts about that. With rewriting and expanding The Scion Suit, I’ve had a lot more time to further develop his character.

At some point during the last several months, I decided that Hartmann coped with the stress of military life through womanizing (specifically PUA), and it’s had a rather interesting effect on his overall characterization.

In 2019, I wrote, “Brooding, he hung around to watch Carol work on his beloved Suit, and his heart stung with jealousy when he saw how tenderly she touched the metal. When she opened it up to wipe down the leather interior, he couldn’t stand it anymore; it was worse than walking in on a spouse in the thralls of another lover.”

But, this new course in characterization has resulted in a fundamental shift.

Instead of feeling possessive ownership over the Suit, Hartmann instead sees himself as The Other, who has no choice but to return the Suit to its loving spouse (Carol) after every excursion. He uses the Suit, but he knows that he doesn’t belong to it — which adds an element of pain to his actions and motivations (and all that jazz).

His development and redemption now involves learning to see himself as a person worthy of an actual relationship and future goals, instead of simply being a military puppet with zero long-term prospects.

But he still has to give up the Suit in the end … because of the aliens… >.<

About Writing

Negative Attitudes Towards the Romance Genre

A few months ago I wondered if I should pull back on the romance label to help broaden the appeal of my writing, but recently I saw a youtube comment (on this year’s overtly capitalist re-imagining of Cinderella of all things) about how women are constantly attacked and shamed for liking romance.

I thought about my own personal experiences, how I was treated like I was too stupid to appreciate more sophisticated story lines, and how I was told repeatedly through my childhood and teenage years that I needed to settle on a career because no one was going to find me lovable. Not to mention, the frequent accusations of romance novels being nothing more than porn …

So I decided that the world needs to change. What I went through is messed up, and society needs to stop inflicting that on women and girls.

And I can’t change the world if I don’t own the fact that I write romance novels.

I love romance. I love deep emotional connections. I love happily ever afters.

This is a subject that I have researched and lived, and despite romance being considered a “stupid” genre, it takes an enormous amount of knowledge and skill to write emotionally engaging relationships that don’t fall flat.

A good romance novel is inspirational.

I’m not going to downplay the nature of the novels I write. I’ve already endured an enormous amount of criticism for being who I am, so there’s no reason to back down now.