The best blog from the best author you've never heard of. Assorted thoughts ranging from comic books to politics. Sometimes I even talk about writing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Teaser: News From the Future

Once upon a time it was the end of history. The Soviet Union was gone, and speculation not long after pegged us as the next major power to decline. China would ascend by virtue of economy; they wouldn’t even need a military because they could just buy us out. But as we worried and fretted about the Chinese economy, an artificially controlled construct so tied to our own debt that it never possessed the power it projected and eventually collapsed under its own weight, we ignored the continued growth of ultranationalist leadership in Russia. Now we begin again with American and Russian hegemony and opposition. History doesn’t end. But it does repeat itself.
                                —excerpt from a lecture by Dr. Karin Brown, former assistant secretary
                                    of state

REPORTER: Jason Allen, the first person tried under the Information Security Act passed last year, took the stand yesterday. When asked how he justified his actions in the face of the new law, Allen had this to say:
ALLEN: A free society can’t stay free if anything can be labeled a “secret” and classified. I’m just researching information for my clients. They want the truth. I find it for them.
REPORTER: Opponents of the law and supporters of Jason Allen immediately took to the net demanding the government free him and other “searchers of truth.”
                                —partial transcript from Net Nine News Morning Notes

MADISON: This is nothing more than an admission of utter failure on the part of the federal government. The notes that have come out from this so-called “corporate committee” meeting show an American president—who has spent his entire administration decrying big business—at the mercy of a massive corporate handout. And there’s nothing he can do about it. We’re out of money and on an unsustainable path, but a large group of corporations are going to write a check and bail out this government. The amazing thing is that this may turn things around. It won’t solve our problems overnight, but it gives the government time to right the ship. This is unprecedented, though. How much power do the companies get out of this and how many strings are attached?
                                —partial transcript from NewStream Mad in the Morning

REPORTER: It’s been six months since the biological terrorist attack here in Boston, and the once bustling city is being reduced to a ghost town. After the virus released in the city left tens of thousands of Bostonians dead and tens of thousands more in hospitals, many residents have chosen to leave the city behind. No new cases have been reported in the last month, and despite CDC officials’ assurances that this particular strain, modified in labs before being released, presents with a very short window of contagion—and that city quarantine measures effectively halted transmission soon after the virus’s release—most citizens are unwilling to risk any further chance of exposure. Many neighborhoods already feel abandoned, and Boston officials fear that, with a steadily shrinking citizenry and work force coupled with reduced tax revenue, the city will begin slipping into disrepair. For Net Nine News, I’m Kristopher Wallis.
                                —partial transcript from Net Nine News Prime Time

LINCOLN: This has been coming for over a year, Bill. The unions have protested. Local agencies have protested. Average citizens have protested. But starting next week, every police department in the country is going to be integrated into Homeland Security. And I’m frankly surprised it took so long after the local response debacles in New Orleans and Boston and San Francisco. The reaction from the political parties has been downright schizophrenic. Activists normally clamoring for more direct government intervention are decrying the death of Federalism and unionization while typical champions of small government are applauding this as a move that will keep ordinary Americans safe.
                                —partial transcript from Today with Bill Kennedy

WILSON: Everyone knew the US would get involved sooner or later. But this Treaty of the Atlantic? No one saw this coming. It’s unclear what the European public’s reaction will be, but they’ve had years to get their economic house in order and now their dysfunction threatens our renewed prosperity.
HAYES: Hang on; I want to get the whole panel’s response, so let’s take a look at that treaty and see what it can accomplish. It commits huge financial aid to the Eurozone and several former members. It creates a complicated series of incentives for American corporations that set up offices and conduct business in these countries. It allows the Euro to remain intact in the countries still using it. And it requires comprehensive—and what will be in the case of some signatories—drastic changes in how these countries conduct their national finances. There’s more, but that’s the economic crux. So, will it work?
WILSON: I think so, Jim. It’s a very serious solution to a very serious problem. Naysayers will be screaming about economic imperialism in no time. But the truth is that the Europeans have been falling further into the red for years, and weren’t willing to spend less to fix it. Any more delay or half measures on our part would have destabilized more than just their continent’s economy. They needed help, and this treaty floats them a hell of a loan for just that reason.
                                                —partial transcript from Jim Hayes’s Special Report

TAYLOR: The White House announced the deployment of support personnel to a number of countries in Asia along the Russian border. Then three different American companies announced the expansion of corporate security to their interests in those same countries. Now none of us here are stupid. This is a deliberate response to evidence and rumors that the Russian government is inciting and supporting European continentalist unrest. The worst thing about all of this is that our attempt to stabilize our allies’ governments and economies has become part of a larger conflict with Russia. And rather than Russia getting the blame, European troublemakers will probably use this to support their claim that we only helped them in order to wage a proxy war in the first place.
                                —partial transcript from Political Panel on Net Nine News

REPORTER: Jason Patrick Wilkes, on trial for intoxication manslaughter after an accident while vacationing in Spain three months ago, was found not guilty yesterday. This case, the first to take advantage of the Treaty of the Atlantic’s judicial supremacy clause that requires American citizens be tried on American soil for crimes committed in Europe, has strained the goodwill borne out of the recent financial stability created in Europe. The first organized treaty opposition group, Europe for Europeans or E4E as they’re known on the net, has staged near constant protests and vigils in the Spanish city of Barcelona where the accident took place. Officials from the EU, Spain, and the United States are dismissing Europe for Europeans as a fringe movement that will fade in time.
                                —partial transcript from Net Nine News Morning Notes

President Kincaid has made it fun and fashionable to call corporate security forces “unregulated armies” and “dangerous mercenaries.” But the truth of it is, these companies can employ and outfit men at a fraction of what the federal government can. Our treasury is not a bottomless well, and even if it were, the president has shown reluctance to do what is necessary to make ready an army that can defend all our interests abroad. We can employ these private forces to do what we need them to and for less than it would cost us to do it on our own. Trained with the highest standards and following strict rules of conduct and engagement, the notion that corporations are running amuck like terrorists or pirates is nothing more than a fantasy perpetuated by the president and his party, and I think they should be ashamed of themselves.
                                —excerpt from Senator John Baines’s speech at “Baines for Business” 

MASTERS: “Megacorp” is a term coined in science fiction. It gets people’s attention, sure. The same way people borrowed “Big Brother” from George Orwell every time they thought government invaded their privacy. My company holds no illegal monopolies. We don’t have our own private military. Our buildings don’t house soldiers or weapons or private doctors. Our employees are ordinary men and women in the computer industry. We pay our taxes. We give to charities. We’re not out to take over the world.
—partial transcript from Jameson Masters’s interview on Net Nine News’ This Week With…

This morning we celebrated the third anniversary of our partnership with the European people in successfully returning a sense of economic calm to their countries, our country, and the world at large. This evening we mourn those killed in a terrible crime committed by a European protest group unwilling to air grievances and seek solutions within our just democratic framework. I’ve extended my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and directed our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to cooperate in every way possible with French authorities to find and apprehend the perpetrators. I promise you that this isolated incident does not represent the larger European view, and we will not allow such violence to disrupt our prosperity or our friendship.
                                —excerpt from statement by US President Mariah Cooper

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Was I Thinking?

I should probably talk a little about the book release (both in practical terms and my response to finally seeing my name on a book cover), but I wanted to stay with the process of creating the book and story for a bit more, talking about a scene that remained ill-conceived through every draft—right up until the line edit.

Extraordinarily minor spoilers to follow.

In its original conception (and the first full length manuscript I wrote years ago), Nathan Beck wasn’t a character of significance through the whole story. He was an antagonist in the early chapters who dropped away as soon as the action left Chicago. Writing the manuscript that became the finished book, I decided that I liked the dynamic of Nathan pursuing the action independently.

The first hurdle to clear was what role Nathan Beck fulfills in the story. That took care of itself in short order; as the character spearheading the chase of Aaron Collins, it made sense for Nathan to uncover Aaron’s secret. So in my head a scene took shape where Nathan explained his theory and why he had it; this scene always took place, for better or worse, with Nathan talking to the novel equivalent of a bit part—a character we’d never seen before and never would again.

As the book developed, though, I disliked Nathan’s solitude while he pursued Aaron; there was no one for Nathan to play off of. Enter Jake Green. Jake hadn’t existed in any version of this story at any point, and in that way is unique among the characters. Everyone else of consequence had always existed in some. Ultimately Jake’s inclusion opened the window a little wider into Nathan’s character; his presence also made the book’s climax easier to achieve.

So that’s the setup. Now we have the opening scene of chapter 19, and in the original (and almost every subsequent) draft, Nathan is explaining his theory to a disposable character while Jake is—I kid you not—sleeping. I’ve introduced a new character halfway through the book, we hardly know him, he’s going to be with us through the end…and he’s sleeping in his second appearance. But in my head I’d always seen this scene one way, and that’s how I wrote it. With Jake as a never-conceived late addition, I didn’t know what to do with him. So I ignored him.

I don’t know what the trigger was, but as I read through the manuscript one last time before the line edit, the Jake Green more or less slapped me upside the head and said, “Hey stupid—Nathan should be explaining all this to me. I’m a close friend, drafted into this dubious adventure I don’t understand…and the readers have almost no idea who I am.”

And of course Jake was completely correct. I rewrote the scene (astonishingly with a word count that deviated by only two or three). I’m still amazed that I held to the original scene through so many drafts.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Teaser: Character Number 5

The agent...

"Nathan Beck disliked puzzles. Not so much because solving them was difficult or bothersome. But rather because a puzzle unsolved was…untidy, and untidy was a characteristic not welcome in Nathan’s life—not anymore. Somewhat to his annoyance, though, Nathan found himself bothered now because what he was looking at wasn’t much of a puzzle at all. What he saw was very obvious—very tidy."

The Loyalty of Pawns available in paperback on Amazon; coming soon to Kindle:

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