Hey, everybody. It’s a beautiful day in my part of the world. I’m enjoying my peripheral view of the deciduous trees, awash in sunlight, while I incorporate into my manuscript feedback from one of my beta readers.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter on which I’m working. It wasn’t part of the feedback, but I can’t help but tinker every time I read through the book and I’m pleased with the results:

"Ada tried to cover her nose and mouth against the hot stench of rotting refuse and the lingering smell of Ray’s sewer bath, but she couldn’t. She kept her visor up because having it down trapped the noisome stink. There was no escape. Breathing through her mouth was no alternative to using her nose; the detritus was as palpable as it was rank. She retched and retched again, but managed to swallow down the hot bile that burned the back of her throat."

Pleasant, eh?

I’ve got two people who said they’re still reading and will have remarks for me, soon, and I still owe Cara Weston a copy as she volunteered to take a look at Disintegration. I’m hoping to at least add the inestimable Rich Cernese’s feedback before I send it. What’s halfway between beta and alpha? I like the term "gamma reader" but that’s (paradoxically) going backwards.

I recently finished beta-reading the first half of Cara’s She is the End. I look forward to getting the other half; it’s one of the books about which I’m most excited. You should check it out.

Hey, everybody. The beta read period is going very nicely; I’m getting great feedback and incorporating the changes.

As Tony Valdez, the author of Dax Harrison (check it out!), mentioned, Inkshares is going through a bit of a restructuring. There is a big backlog of books to be published. As a result, even if I rushed to deliver the final draft of Disintegration, we would still have a significant wait ahead of us. So I’ll be taking my time to make sure that final draft is phenomenal, all the while keeping tabs with the folks at Inkshares to know when is the right moment to submit my work.

I’ll keep you updated on the production schedule, as soon as it exists. For now, though, rest assured that the work continues. If you’d like to read the current draft, drop me a line and I’ll send it to you. If you like it, know that it will only improve and, please, spread the word. I want to get my book to a wider audience. Let’s sell some more copies!

Img 20161021 143353 S.E. Soldwedel · Author · added about 3 years ago
Nah. Not interested in blowing anyone up. Words are my weapons.
Fullsizeoutput 174 S.T. Ranscht · Author · added about 3 years ago
I like the mosaic, puzzle, 3-D look of the updated cover. It’s crisp and alive. Your restraint is more full of information and passion than most. Except for maybe Ted Kaczynski’s, so I’m glad you’re not moving to Montana. (You can hear me laughing, right?)
Img 20161021 143353 S.E. Soldwedel · Author · added about 3 years ago
Haha! Yup. :D
Ucxjlx5o Brian Guthrie · Author · added about 3 years ago
This is you exercising restraint? Lol

I updated the cover, today. Head over to my page and check it out.

I’ve been thinking lately about how to make Disintegration stand out from the glut of other science fiction on Inkshares, of which there’s a lot. The publisher is replete with sci-fi and fantasy titles.

Sci-fi has been a love of mine all my life, from the moment I discovered Star Trek: TOS via the cartoon (!!!) and worked my way back to the live action version. I was a child, but I knew it was cheesy ... but it was also endearing, idealistic and it piqued my imagination. What has always bugged me about sci-fi (in general) is that it is often sophomoric, childish, and sloppy, riddled with Deus ex Machinae, cardboard characters, cliches, and simplistic (even moronic) storylines. I could go on, but I’ve always been told that I should exercise some restraint. ;P

I understand that mainstream science fiction has little reason to present anything but the tried-and-true because it sells (I must say that I’m so glad Joss Whedon at least got to make one season of Firefly, but just think about how superlative and wonderful that show is and how it got ONE SEASON. Yes, we got the movie, too. But gems like Firefly and Serenity are outweighed a trillion-fold by dreck). People watch the dreck. I’ve watched it. Hell, sometimes, I even enjoy it ... but I’m avoiding Stark Trek Beyond because it looks insultingly simple (albeit visually beautiful). I like the flash and glitz, the bells and whistles ... my inner Philistine can be quite pleased with pap.

But it’s not enough.

I am tired of Good vs. Evil. I am tired of the monolithic Bad Guy. And the Good Guys taking him (very rarely her, though I did love Alice Kreig’s Borg Queen) down. I want moral ambiguity. I want Good People who do Bad Things and vice versa. I want stories that take place in the gray area. I am not a child anymore. The world is a fucked up place and people do fucked up things. I like seeing the faults, foibles and weaknesses of the "hero." I like it when Heroes Die and Villains Live ... because, at least in these fictions, who is really a hero? Who is really a villain? It’s a matter of perspective. We’re directed whom to like. For whom to root. We excuse the questionable things done by the protagonists because we’re invested in these characters and their goals as consumers, first, and because, second, they are often analogues or avatars of the reader (I, a white man, am so fucking tired of white male heroes). I don’t need heroes who look like me. Many men with my complexion have done some pretty vile things, writ very large. Most people who committed atrocities in human history believed they were right and good and morally justified. They think they are heroic. They are not my heroes.

Yet, consider that every villain is the hero of his own story.

That is what I think of every time I write my character Arak Matar, in Disintegration. He is a Bad Guy, sure, by most moral measurements, but he is paving the ole Road to Hell with aplomb because his intentions are quite good. He wants to save the Earth. The planet itself. His solution: get rid of those pesky, short-sighted, vile, capricious human idiots who have been raping Her for centuries.

Darek Marseh is a grandfatherly, kind, calm figure who could probably be considered a sociopath because he has zero concern for anything but the bigger picture. People are not special. They may be useful, but they are just grist for the mill ... yet there is zero malice in what he does. His only passion is realizing his vision of what should be. Everything else is banal, including human and corren life. Except, unlike Matar, he doesn’t want to eliminate all the humans. He just wants to route them, utterly, subjugate them, weed them of the undesirables ... and begin restoring the planet to its former, beautiful natural glory.

The ostensible Good Guys in Disintegration, the Allied Nations are, in fact, a conglomerate of military dictatorships wherein civilians have very few, if any real freedoms, and only those who live in a military-run city live anyhow close to "well" ... most everyone else fights for survival in savage badlands where animal law is the only law. Those in power don’t care about those who are not. These powerful leaders piss and moan and cry and complain when the Confederation attacks their sovereign lands and, perhaps, kills their citizens ... but these casualties are Allied citizens to whom the Allied leaders wouldn’t give the steam from their piss. (Thank you, Frank McCourt, for that one.)

The Confederation, run by Marseh and Matar, are the prototypical Bad Guys, yet their citizens live better and richer, safer, freer lives than those in the Allied Nations.

My point is that nothing is tidy. I abhor tidiness.

I don’t want stories to be rambling, incoherent messes, but neither do I want them to be neat little things that feel forced and shoehorned to go a certain way. While I appreciate some "pure" entertainments (I watched some Winnie the Pooh the other day and it was great: "I’m just a little, black raincloud / hovering under the honey tree ..."), I also like entertainments that show the grit and shit and filth of a horrible reality. When someone wades through the sewer, I want to (not literally, mind) smell the stink upon them in the narrative.

I want the stakes to seem real. I want "noble" and "vaunted" "heroes" to be laid low, to have to do questionable things and to either be really messed up by those choices or be made to account for them, somehow. I want "evil" baddies to have depth and dimension and to seem like real people, not flat tropes, not mere foils for the "champion" to vanquish so to seem valiant. What did Grendel ever do to Beowulf, really? Isn’t Perseus a villain? When you break into someone’s home and they attack you, whether they have hair of snakes and can turn men to stone or not, who is truly in the wrong? If you broke into some lady’s house and cut off her head, you’d probably get in trouble.

Disintegration has many of the trappings of tradition sci-fi, but it also has significant character development and a stark realism to it that I don’t often find in genre fiction. (I am a big fan of The Expanse and I look forward to reading the books upon which the show is based ... however, even admitting that:) I don’t think I’m blustering to say that you’ve never read anything quite like Disintegration.

Hey, everybody! I sent out the Disintegration manuscript to my beta readers last night. I’m excited to receive their feedback. It feels great to move one step closer to publication.

I’ll send along Chapter Three later today. If you’ve been reading the chapters as I send them, do send me a DM and let me know what you think.

In other news, I’ve entered the current Geek and Sundry Fantasy Contest with my story Lambda Scorpii. It ties into Disintegration but, due to its setting and its characters, it fits nicely into the fantasy genre if you consider Arthur C. Clarke’s position on magic.

Please check out Lambda Scorpii, follow it, pre-order it, recommend it! We did amazingly in the last contest, with Disintegration, and we started three weeks late. This time, we’re starting at the beginning. With your help, we can win this one.


P.S. It’s always good to correctly spell the title of your own book ... :-/

If you’re still getting my mail, you’ll have noticed I sent you Chapter Two, today, and Chapter One a few days ago. As the hand-off to my beta readers looms, I’d like to emerge from the writing cocoon in which I’ve been for seemingly ever.

J-F. Dubeau imparted advice to me about how to succeed at this racket and I need to follow it. If you look at how he’s doing, you have to agree he’s onto something. He’s the author of The Life Engineered and A God in the Shed, the latter of which may become a television series or movie! How he finds the time to do his podcast, his writing, and any and everything else in his life is astounding to me, and really admirable. He’s a tough act to follow, but also proof of how winning a contest and being backed by a syndicate can really catapult a title, on Inkshares. Getting exposure and the endorsement of other authors, or the CEO, or Nerdist / Sword and Laser / Geek and Sundry ... that’ll definitely build momentum.

In tangential news, just for the heck of it, I decided to look for an article anyone may have written about emphatic punctuation. I couldn’t find anything. (I guess I may need to do it myself).

Sue Ranscht, one of the authors of the amazing YA book Enhanced, was an early champion of my book, Disintegration and, in her reading of my manuscript, she brought up my use of double question marks and other joint punctuation (consider this article about unconventional punctuation, not all of which I love, but some of which could be useful).

I like using "??" when someone is especially confused. I don’t think a single question mark drives it home as clearly. As well, I think "?!" really conveys the "Are you @#$%ing kidding me?!" behind certain questions, while "!?" indicates panicked incredulity "What the @#$% is that!?" ... I think an interrobang is a bad idea because the mark itself doesn’t *visually* indicate (yes, the name does) which comes first and (as the name says), if it is "?!," what about "!?"?! ( :P ) I haven’t employed any "?!?!" but I’m not against it ... but, man, just imagine how piqued that person would have to be.

How do you feel about singular punctuation marks? I think they’re woefully inadequate at expressing a wide range of emotion. I think reading comic books is how I came to appreciate more emphatic punctuation. Those "surprise lines" that shot from a character’s head were handy, too, but that tactic doesn’t quite work in prose. :D

I’ve been writing since 6 a.m. I’m looking forward to delivering the manuscript to my five beta readers in just a few days. It feels good to be moving with some real momentum.

I know you get a lot of email, Inkshares-related and otherwise, and it’s probably difficult to keep track of the myriad projects you’ve followed, especially one like mine where the updates are seldom but ... if you can muster some of that attention for which there are a million different stimuli vying, and give some of it here ... it would be an immense help for you to spread the word that Disintegration is ... ahem ... coming together ( :P ) nicely and that it’s worth ordering.

We’ve been hovering just over 400 orders for a while. It’d be really welcome to break that mark and start making progress again. If you’ve ordered already, please take your belief in my book and encourage at least one other person to order a copy for themselves.

If you haven’t ordered, send me a Direct Message and let me know what else you need to be enticed.

All right, now it’s time for a nice, big, second breakfast (ham, eggs and cheese on tortillas with arugula and hot sauce, a cup of tea, some yogurt ... I wish I had some toast and cherry preserves, but I don’t) and then ... more writing!

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