Writer Grab-ass 2: Electric Boogaloo

 Visual approximation of Tex Thompson.So, agency sibling, feline wrangler and all-around kickass human being Tex Thompson shot some questions my way in a new game of "Tag The Writer". (You need to check out Tex's blog. She has a great voice, a stellar wit and the book she's written will knock your stripey socks right the fuck off.)I know that you do not, in fact, mess with Tex(as), so I had no choice but to do as she bid me. The mission I've accepted? To tell you about my Work In Progress. Well, the thing is I can't tell you about that because it would be all spoilery and stuff. Currently I'm working on edits of Book 2 in the C# series, plotting (and soon to be drafting Book 3), a short story set in a completely different 'verse and a Super Secret Project that has no title. BUT! I can tell you about the book my agent and I are currently shopping around, Book 1 in the Etudes in C# series "Technical Difficulties"**.

What is your working title of your book? "Technical Difficulties", so named because this book focuses on Trickster gods and technomancers. If you've ever tried fixing a computer or dealing with chaotic gods, you know as well as I do that things don't go smoothly. Thus, my protagonist experiences ... Technical Difficulties.

Felicia DayWhere did the idea come from for the book? I thought it would be a lot of fun to play with a character named C. Sharp. At first, her name was "Candice", but I really hated the idea of her being called "Candy". And while I know every urban fantasy heroine these days is called "Cat" (or "Kat"), I went with Catherine. There are other reasons for this choice, but if I told you I'd have to stuff you in a box with rats and rutabagas. Or Lou Bega. *shudder* You don't want to know where he keeps that little bit of Monica.

Anyway, I wanted to play with a character with that name. I also wanted to explore other careers for urban fantasy heroes. We've got private investigators coming out of our ears. A mechanic here. A waitress there. Then there are specialized vigilantes or those who freelance their power set. Me? I wanted to take a 21st century working class geek. All hail the Code Monkey!

At the same time I was kicking around this idea of a game of poker among trickster deities. After doing a proof-of-concept piece (my short story Ante Up), I decided to flesh out that idea and it snowballed into a 5-book series from the point of view of one Catherine Sharp, your personal Ms. Fix-it when it comes to all things tech.

What genre does your book fall under? Urban Fantasy. However, the constant temptation from a snarky satyr named Marius could make an argument, I suppose, for Paranormal Romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, honey. I have whole files full of images that I use for casting my characters. Catherine would be played by Felicia Day. In a perfect world, I'd go back in time and kidnap Jason Carter from around 1997 for Marius, because that man's voice IS Marius. But, since I can't do that, I'd go with David Tennant. The long hair/goatee he sported in Fright Night? Hummina. Totally Marius. Supporting cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth and Zoe Saldana.

Just add horns and David Tennant is my Marius.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? When Catherine Sharp discovers that her soul is a bargaining chip in the poker game of the gods, she must turn the tricks back on the deities in order to win her freedom. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Agency. In fact, those interested in this title should contact my spectacular agent Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary. (Available while supplies last. Have your credit card ready. Please expect 6-8 weeks for delivery. May cause shin-splints, frizzy hair and a desire to shout YOUR MOM! at random passers-by.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Three weeks. (Of course, that was 14 months ago so factoring in inflation...carry the one...) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My book fits up there with American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore and WebMage by Kelly McCollough.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? At the root of it? A strong desire to see someone paint a picture of the Tricksters (Coyote, Anansi, Loki, Eris and Maui) playing poker. I want this picture (preferably on black velvet) hanging in my house. Make it so.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Catherine is a geeky, snarky, adept heroine coming into her strength. She's got her flaws and secrets--some of which she tries to keep from herself. As far as protagonists go, Cat is a sympathetic, multifaceted narrator with a great sense of self-deprecating humor. Her partner in crime, Marius, is a bitter satyr with a black-belt in seduction. He's got his own problems and debts to Eris to deal with, and if he can slither out of the trap he's been caught in for centuries, he will do it no matter who it hurts. Together they run around Las Vegas taking the best and worst that some of the stronger trickster gods can dish out while trying desperately not to kill one another. What's not to love? I have had a blast working on this book and its sequels/side-projects, and I really think that translates to an enjoyable ride for the reader.

So that about does it for this foray into obscurity  silliness. Seriously, go check out Tex Thompson's blog. She's awesometastic and you'll want to watch her. Good things are in her future. Also, the meme says I should tag 5 other authors to do the same. While I would love to see them do this for their own works, I'll just name drop some authors you REALLY need to check out.

Joe McCourt - Go bug him and tell him he needs a blog for his snark. Rebecca Blain - See? She's on top of this shit and has her own site! Danielle E. Bowers - I'm totally going to get a banned book before her. Janet Nye - Because she's a blast to tweet with. Kerry Schafer - Because her debut novel BETWEEN comes out next year!

Until next time, kids, just remember to keep your souls away from nefarious gods or satyrs.


**EDITED 16 September, 2013: This book has a new name! Henceforth it shall be called WILD CARD.

Cotton Candy With A Door

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a friend of mine once referred to my brain as "Cotton Candy With A Door". Never have been quite sure if this is a compliment or not. I prefer to think of it more as a place of whimsy, color and filled with childlike wonder and a door to Anywhere. Then again, he may have been saying that inside my mind is all sugary fluff devoid of any nutritional value.

Anyway, the other day said mind was filled with too many ideas and not enough time to siphon it off. I made a comment on my Facebook about this and the old conversation began... "if only I could just plug in a USB drive to my brain and download it all there and it would all show up fully formed in the Word document." That idea makes me wonder... if that was possible, would a computer program be able to take the amorphous chaos, thoughts, colors, sensations, emotions and words in my head, smack them all together with ones and zeroes and produce something that did justice to the raw germ inside my head? What would it look like? How would a machine realize the way my brain thinks?

I tried to think this out a bit... if I could actually plug a thumb drive into my head and download one of my stories, how would the computer translate it? Would there be words or pictures? I've heard that some people think in words when they write...that in their mind they see the letters building words to tell their story on a blank piece of paper.

That's not me. I think in a full on cinematic experience with Dolby Surround Sound. Settings might be lush with detail while others might be generic. My characters range from specific, already cast with a particular actor or actress in mind while others are more vague. They have voices that I hear as if they're over my shoulder.

Marius, for example. He's got the same voice as an actor from Babylon 5. Physically he resembles him, but really Marius looks like Marius. So, if we were trying to download Marius out of a rough draft, I can't help but think we'd see a movie of sorts. A set of scenes that haven't gone through post-production yet. Some things still have green screen behind them and piss poor audio. Maybe we've got animated story boards with audio files at the bottom.

Maybe it wouldn't be much different than the way I've tried to organize my chaos on the computer. I've got a file folder for the series. In that I've got a folder for each book, another for companion pieces, a folder for "casting" where I keep pictures that just capture a character. The casting folder also has maps and locations that I'm using for various scenes (because I'm a stickler for detail and if I say we're going to a specific hotel, I want to describe the rooms there as they are in reality). On my iTunes I've made a playlist of songs that would be on the soundtrack, audio interviews with people who have voices similar to the characters and songs that are just evocative. (If you really want to know, my C# playlist includes a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse and Daft Punk.) Then there's the stuff that's written. Outlines, scene sketches, novels, short stories. Words and words and words. All of these things are reins to try to keep the chaos of my thoughts under control.

And that's what we do as artists, isn't it? Musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, dancers...we're all trying to do something insane and difficult. We're trying to take the immaterial in our minds and express it in a way that does those thoughts justice. We're trying to sculpt ether into reality for others to see what we see, how we see. I try to tell you a story not just in words, but with every sensation so you can experience it the way I do. And I know you won't. Because your mind works differently. Your Marius and my Marius may look nothing alike. Hell, I know there are some books that I've read where the character's voice makes me think something entirely different than the author has described.

But we try, we fools. We try to spin our dreams and songs and stories into thread and embroider this life with some physical representation. We want you to see.

As often as I joke that it would be nice to download this book and just skip to the editing, I don't think a computer program could do that. Besides, organic creation...writing from start to finish and digging into the fertile brain-soil...that's magical. So, I put the thumb drive aside and close Word for a while. I take a pen, a notebook and stride into the fluff of cotton candy. Then I open the door.

What do you see?

Freedom Fries

So back in the 90s there was this television show called Bablyon 5. Over the 5 year story arc the Earth Alliance goes from your standard Sci-Fi-Peaceful-Explorer to a fascist police state. And quickly. First, the president is assassinated and the murder is pinned on aliens. The new president, along with friends in powerful places, begins the propaganda machine through ISN (CNN essentially). President Clark also creates the Ministry of Peace--an organization to monitor and protect the citizens of Earth Alliances from domestic threats. A sub-group called Nightwatch puts citizens on guard against one another. "If you see something, tell someone" is the rule of it. Anything that speaks out against the President or his decisions is seen as treason. Dissidents are arrested and punished. Media blackout occurs. ISN can only report what is screened by the President's colleagues. When members of Earth Alliance break away to stand up against Clark, EA forces are sent in. War breaks out as citizens protest for their freedoms until finally Clark calls martial law.

Watching that plot unfold is pretty scary. To see a government quickly turn on its people for power under the guise that it's "in their best interests"? It's enough to make you glad we don't live in that sci-fi world. But if you look around at 2011 you see it? It's not science fiction anymore.

let's talk.... Right now in America things are getting...dicey? Weird? Scary? Our economy is bad and we all know it. The media spew out figures and opinions and doctored "facts" to perpetuate fear. Everything from job security to tainted meat to terrorist threats: it's all fear-mongering. Fear keeps you in your chair. Pass the popcorn.

Things are bad.

Various groups are trying to do something about it. The Occupy movement is one such group. They see what's wrong and regardless of your personal opinion they are doing what they think is best for people as a whole. They want the bought Congress gone. They want to steer us away from the oncoming cataclysm. They are people trying to staunch the flow of our country bleeding out.

The wounds aren't wars--although they are symptoms. The wounds are with words and ideas.

There are two bills up for passage right now that directly effect every American (foreign and domestic). The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) essentially trashes the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution that grants US citizens the right to due process. Your Miranda rights? That whole "innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers" thing? That's what the Sixth Amendment ensures for every American citizen. The police and government cannot detain indefinitely for no reason and suspicion isn't a reason. You must be charged to be held. The NDAA says that *anyone* including US citizens can be held in military custody indefinitely without charge or trial if they are suspected of terrorism. The Act also states that this will continue until the threat of terrorism is gone.

President Obama has said he would veto this bill if it came to his desk. Well, as of last night, he's changed his mind. The House passed the bill by a staggering margin and the Senate will vote later this week. It could be signed into law as soon as Wednesday.

UPDATE: As of 12/15/11, the NDAA passed the Senate (86-13). The President is expected to sign it into law quickly. Ironically, the vote comes on the day that celebrates the Bill of Rights. Funny, no?

The other bill on the table is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This bill gives more control to the government, law enforcement and copyright holders to restrict the traffic of pirated property. On the surface, that's not a bad idea. Digging deeper into the bill, however, we find that it allows for some pretty serious things. First off, it can go against *any* website foreign or domestic. Secondly, if a website is served with a court order to pull content, the companies that do business with that site (eg. Google, PayPal, etc) will *also* be served with notice to suspend that business indefinitely. The domino effect this can and will cause is catastrophic to Internet freedom.

Both of these bills are Republican creations. Both of them tighten the hold the government has on its people. For a party that fights regulation and touts their stance as "anti-Big-Government" they certainly are building a reservoir of power.

Look, I know some of you might be thinking, "But Jamie,  you're not a terrorist or an internet pirate so you're safe."

It's true: I'm not a terrorist nor do I pirate copyrighted material. However, the crux of the matter is that these bills set a precedent that the government can define "terrorism" and "piracy" as they wish then turn those rules against its citizens.

Do you remember how this spring the people of Egypt and Tunisia rose up against their governments? Remember that a lot of their messages were on Twitter and other social media sites? The Arab Spring has flourished because of the Internet and countries like Yemen, Syria and Libya are rising up to take control back from dictatorial regimes. It's still going on. Countries are still erupting with protests against the seated governments because they don't work for their people. This is page one on most magazines and newspapers around the world, but here Time magazine leads with "How Anxiety is Good For You".

The US has a problem. It's people are discontent with the power structure. Eyes are opening that we have a bought Congress, that something is incredibly wrong and it's not people who are openly gay serving in the military. Our government is broken and corrupt. Our system is breaking down from the inside and some people--regardless of party affiliation--seem to be hellbent on speeding it along to cataclysm. It's like they want the "world to end" in 2012 just to be right.

Look at the revolutions of history, the ones going on right now in the Middle East, and the ones going on right here. The people in power are scared because they see possibility. They see that what happened in Egypt could happen here, too. So, let's invent an executive power to censor the Internet so the protesters can't communicate so widely. Let's redefine terrorism and use that on our own people who disagree with the status quo. Those people could be called terrorists and hauled off to prisons like Gitmo without charge or trial and kept there. For thinking differently.

It could happen and it's terrifying.

Terrifying. Terror.

If these bills pass, the American principles of freedom will have vanished to be replaced with fear and intolerance. All in the name of "national security". We must protect ourselves from terrorists, right? Such a blanket term. Your rights come second to fighting that threat. That's what our government is telling us. Fuck, look at the TSA. Your Fourth Amendment rights are already in question with the scanning machines there.

This is how a democracy crumbles. This is how fascism rises to power.

If these bills pass, it will be the culmination of Osama bin Laden's far-reaching goal to dismantle the American way of life. If we lose our freedoms to our own government, the terrorists have won.


I need to unplug. My eyes are darting around all the time for the next text or update...even when I'm not at the computer. My brain won't slow down but continues to whir along like a processor. I can't focus on any one thing for longer than a few minutes. I wake up with headaches that won't go away. Daily. I know part of this is due to an imbalance with some medications I'm on. Most of it, though, is that I've been tethered to this machine in various stages of writing, drafting and editing for months. I need to step back. I need to turn off the damn computer.

This comes at a decent time, too. My kiddo will be home for winter break starting next week....which means little writing will get done. Book 2 is still project numero uno...but right now, I need to tend to my brain.

I will be on social media sporadically, but I don't know about blogging right now. My mind flutters from topic to topic like a hummingbird in a garden. Politics, the way the NDAA bill reminds me of seasons 3 and 4 of Babylon 5, my book series, a desire for new body art, missing my sister...  I don't want to have my blog turn into a downer.

So it's best for us if we just make like Ross and Rachel and take a break.

Feel free to email or shoot me a Tweet.

Be excellent to each other.