Well, I've crossed 1,000 posts here and it's time to take the traditional landmark post. Honestly, after reading everyone else's life histories, I found myself slightly unimpressed with my own history. I've never been abused or suffered great tragedies, my folks were great, and I'm still working hard to make the big break. So, not a lot to report.
So, I'm going to do something a bit different. Here's a random excerpt from my first novel (still trying to sell it), called Deacon's Beacon . Hope you like, sorry for any typos.
quote: "So how's it going so far, boss?" Pendergrass asked as he came into the team leader's suite. The carpenter remained standing, choosing to lean against the doorframe rather than taking the chair in front of Deacon's desk. The man's left arm was still in a sling from the injuries he had suffered during the first encounter with the natives. Deacon leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his eyes while answering. "About as well as could be expected, Mike, about as well as could be expected." "Anything good so far?" the carpenter asked. "I don't have a lot to say, myself, except that I'm behind you in whatever you decide." "Thanks," Deacon said as he leaned forward, resting his elbows to either side of a pad of paper. Copious notes were scrawled across the open page, as well as those of the pages before it. "Everything's been good so far and I think we've got something coming together." "Boss, meaning no disrespect here, but I kind of get the feeling that you already had your plan worked out." "To a certain degree," the older man said. "So why go through with speaking to everyone individually?" Pendergrass asked. "You could have just laid it out there. You know everyone's going to go along with whatever it is." "Probably so, but there's more to it than that. We're in this situation together and if we're going to make it out of here in one piece, we've all got to be on the same page," Deacon said, prompting a slow nod from the man. "And there's no guarantee that I had the best plan going in to this." "So why not just hold a meeting and let us hash it out together?" "Because if you get 19 people together, someone's not going to get heard. And I honestly don't want to miss anything that might be the lynchpin here. And I want everyone to have their say. I think that's important right now, not just for the ideas, but so that everyone knows that we're in this together. " Pendergrass looked at his wristwatch. "And you've been at it for seven hours straight now. What have you got? Any interesting ideas so far?" "Well, so far, Sal's had the best idea. I've been figuring that somehow, if we're going to stay here, we've got to have some insurance, some kind of cease fire. I want to make peace with the natives here, but I don't want that to be an opening. I don't want a chance that what we choose to do will lull us into some false sense of security should it work." "And how are we going to do that?" Pendergrass asked. "Well, we can't just walk out there and parley with the natives," Deacon explained. "They'd jump whoever was sent and then we'd be back at square one; or at least that's what I figure. So, in effect, we're going to try and bribe them." Pendergrass shot the older man a quizzical look, folded his arms and waited for the rest of it. "Look, they raided the Chinese camp and took everything that wasn't nailed down," Deacon explained as Pendergrass nodded his agreement. "Whatever their initial motivation for the attack was, they left with an armload of loot." "Quite a few armloads," Pendergrass interjected. "Right! So, our reasoning is that we can make some sort of gesture to them, a gift. We know that either greed or practicality is at work with these folks, so we'd better make the most of it." "If memory serves me right, Rome made a practice of paying off the barbarians. It only worked for a while, though," Pendergrass said. "The barbarians eventually came crashing through the gates when they figured out there was more inside of them than they were getting for protection money." "Yeah, that's true, but if it works for a while, that's all we'll need it for," Deacon replied, leaning forward to rest his arms on the desk. "I'm kind of expecting them to come back asking for more after that first gift. I'm hoping that will give us some way of sitting down to talk. If we can get them to communicate with us, we may be able to get our foot in the door and settle this thing for the time being." "If they think like humans do, at least," Pendergrass said. "It sounds like you're expecting them to act like we would if we were in their situation. Deke, I just don't know whether that's a good idea. We can't assume that just because they look humanoid that their thought processes are going to be similar to ours. And even then, who's to say that when they come back asking for more, that it's not going to be a full-on raid?" "Well, all I've got to work with here is human psychology," Deacon replied, using the same argument he'd used in each of the meetings before on that day. "If they decide to push us, at least we're going to be forewarned. If they grab the gear and then decide to make the raid, it's going to take them a day or two to make up their minds about it. If that buys us a day or two, then those are days we're going to need. "The Company didn't give us a textbook on Alien Psychology 101," Deacon continued. "What we do know is that these natives are tool-users, that they eat and drink. They've got some obvious desires for material items and little technology of their own. We're looking at a Neolithic culture here at best, and they're going to want things that they can't make for themselves." "I've been wondering about that, too, Boss," Pendergrass responded. "Something's just not right about this." "Go on," Deacon said, leading the carpenter to voice his opinion. Three or four times already that day he'd heard other team members bring up their own thoughts on this matter. "Okay, so when the Chinese were wiped out, the natives came in and took everything, or almost everything." Deacon nodded and Pendergrass continued. "That makes sense. Everything there, whether they understood it or not, would be treasure to them. Apparently they don't have any taboos about using things left behind by the dead. Now, from what Jerry told me earlier, the ones you encountered last night were carrying firearms and apparently using flashlights. They probably picked up on how to use the guns from seeing the Chinese use them in the battle. The flashlights they could figure out from simply experimenting with them, they aren't exactly complicated." "Right, the flashlight Xiong was carrying just twisted on and off," Deacon replied. "I figure that's the standard issue, so any others they scavenged were probably the same." "No problem there, but let's look back at the firearms," the carpenter continued, as he switched sides of the door frame. "Okay, so let's say they picked up on how to use them while they were raiding the Chinese camp. I'm sure shots were fired and they saw how they worked. But look at the rifles themselves. Xiong's gun has an integral ammunition chamber, not a clip or cylinder. Once the cartridges are loaded into the gun, you can't see them and to reload the gun, you have to know to unscrew the ammo tube and load in the rounds." "I think you're going down the wrong branch off the right path, Mike," Deacon said. "If they had long enough to experiment, they could have come across how to reload the rifles on their own. They could have also seen one of the Chinese folks reloading their weapons during the fight. It's not the fact that they know how to use the weapons that I'm thinking is so unusual. It's the fact that they can use them well." "Okay, go on," Pendergrass said. "Look at how a primitive would view a firearm when they saw someone trained in its use fire it in battle. The weapon is shouldered, pointed in the right direction, there's a loud noise and the target falls over dead or wounded. Boom, it's magic. If you pick up a gun, you should be able to get the same results if you follow along -- point, shoot and something falls over. That's not what we've seen so far, though, is it?" "What do you mean?" "It's a question of marksmanship," Deacon explained. "Anyone could pick up a firearm and quickly figure out that you only need to pull the trigger to fire it. But there's a big difference between just pointing it in the right direction and being able to direct accurate fire. Look, they obviously took shots at the gyrocopter. That was a fast-moving, high target and they hit it. Sure, we don't know how many were firing at it, but they still got three hits on the vehicle, according to Scott. There might have been more, I don't think he had much time to take an inventory. What it boils down to is that they use the weapons like they had received some instruction. They knew how to lead their shots at the 'copter. I just can't believe that it was luck alone. "Next, take a look at our situation here. We're basically standing around out in the middle of a big field. They could just be winging shots at the base camp from the treeline, but they're not." "We're out of range from the nearest cover. Makes sense to me; they don't want to expose themselves," Pendergrass said. He paused for a moment, then a look of recognition came across his face. "And they've seen us use guns as well. They also know that we've got a maximum range at which we could fire back and they're not setting foot within it." "And what's the difference between our camp site and the Chinese one?" Deacon asked. "The Chinese were close to the forest, actually, more in a clearing of the forest rather than being on the open plains," Pendergrass said. "Tactically, I'd say they figured they could make the rush at the Chinese base camp and not be under the guns for as long as they would if they made an attack on us." "We also didn't see any sign of fencing around the Chinese compound," Deacon offered. "Right, so the Chinese camp was a gamble they were willing to take, while we're not." "Apparently so, as long as we stay in the confines of the base. They've hit us when we've ventured into the forest," Deacon said. "These folks might be primitive, but they aren't stupid. And that's what I'm going to be betting on. If we give them some things that would make life easier on them and give them freely, they might rationalize that we'd make better trading partners than enemies." "Okay, but what about their use of technology, what do you think of that, boss?" Pendergrass asked. "Come back here tonight at around midnight," Deacon answered. "A few of us are going to have a skull session on just that subject and see what we can come up with. You and a couple of others are the only ones who've mentioned that so far, so we're going to see what we can figure out. Do me a favor, though, and don't mention this to anyone else. Right now, this is just speculation and we've got too many worried folks here to be throwing a new monkey wrench into the works for them." "Sure thing, not a problem, chief," Pendergrass said. "By the way," Deacon said as the carpenter turned to leave the room, "come up with a short list of tools that you could spare for the peace offering. Make sure they're purely muscle-powered and that none of them could be used as weapons." "I'll do what I can, Deke. See you later this evening."
Yep, I'm happy with the work I did on this and I've just been having a bear of a time getting my foot in the publishing door.
I've worked for 12 years in newspapers and magazines, but I've always worked with the goal of becoming an author. Now, well, honestly, I'm getting discouraged.
The problem is, I just can't seem to get over the last hump. I haven't been able to pick up a reputable agent yet and after Baen Books didn't even bother with a rejection letter, I'm losing hope and steam.
Basically, I'm stuck and looking at a lifelong dream in one hand and the mortgage payments in the other hand. Wish I could make the jump, but I'm at my wits end. And for some reason, all the Writer's Digest stuff just doesn't seem to work.
Basically, I can't help but take it seriously, this is my career, but sometimes the grind of nothing happening just makes one want to chuck it.
About the story, this section was taken from the 11th chapter and it tops out at around 86,000 words, a small novel, but a length that most publishers say they are looking for. The title, Deacon's Beacon, probably does harken back a wee bit to spending part of my youth in Winston-Salem, NC, home of the WFU Demon Deacons. Truthfully, though, the character just popped out with the name and Beacon refers to how lost the exploration team is and their cries of distress and warning to the rest of the human race.
I wanted my first science fiction novel to be where the genre really starts: the story of exploration and first contact. I wanted a solid footing to begin with and to hopefully rise from.
Sadly, I think I'm just sitting on the launch pad in a clapped together, ramshackle rocket made of plywood recycled from a childhood treehouse.
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Wow. Good luck with that, Soapy, not that you'll need it. And I feel you when it comes to a normal life.. I had a hard time dredging up a life story, too, and when I did, it ended up being mostly another person's story.... ^^;; You have your dreams, and that's a life story in itself. ^__^ Once again, good luck, and thanks.
Posts: 4812 | Registered: Apr 2003
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I'm with pooka! You can't make us wait another 1000 posts for the next installment!!!
Anyway, congrats on 1000, Sopwith! I enjoy your posts, and playing mafia with you.
Best of luck on getting published. Rejection letters are a badge of pride. Save them -- you'll be able to say, "It was rejected X times before Publisher Y had the brains to publish it!"
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I sooo want to read the rest of it! You just have to get it published so I can read it! I'll write an email to Baen Books telling them they're idiots if you like.
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Nahhh, Jim Baen is still a pretty smart guy, but I probably got lost in the slush pile. A month after I sent my manuscript in, they opened themselves to electronic submissions. I can only imagine that flooded the place.
Of course, they didn't respond to either of my letters that said, "Hey, did you receive this and could you go ahead and send the rejection letter???"
Posts: 2848 | Registered: Feb 2003
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quote:Well, I've crossed 1,000 posts here and it's time to take the traditional landmark post. Honestly, after reading everyone else's life histories, I found myself slightly unimpressed with my own history. I've never been abused or suffered great tragedies, my folks were great, and I'm still working hard to make the big break. So, not a lot to report.
I don't think I need to point this out to you, because it looks like you figured it out for yourself, but great tragedies are not necessary for a landmark post. All that is necessary is opening up and sharing yourself (if you want to). There have been quite a few beautiful landmark posts that chronicled positive life stories . . . in fact, there have been quite a few of those lately. The dark, tragedy-filled posts are just one sub-genre of the landmark posts, and I think the tradition would die under its own weight if that were the only kind of landmark post anybody ever wrote. A landmark post is a chance for us to know a friend better . . . with your real life friends, this might include them sharing their pain with you, but it often doesn't. Who wants to be surrounded exclusively with hard-luck stories?
Speaking of stories, I enjoyed yours. (The only comment I would make, not that you asked , is that you seem to be working hard to avoid repetitive use of "he" and also repetitive use of the same "handle" for a person, which leaves you referring to the same person two or three different ways in the same paragraph. Reading this, I had no idea how many people were in the scene. Granted, someone who read the scene in context might see it more clearly. Take that for whatever it's worth, given that I haven't succeeded in publishing any fiction either.
Cor and I have both completed novels as well, and we have both failed to find a publisher for them. I share your pain. I think Cor's novel is very publishable, and it just takes someone with the wisdom to see it. In the case of my own first (completed) novel, I look at it now as more of a learning experience . . . my second novel (in progress) will be MUCH better for the experience. So if it never gets published, it will still have been worth writing. Have you begun your next novel yet? I know it can be hard to start thinking about the next one, because it feels like giving up on the first one, but if it's in the mail, you're not really doing anything with it anyway . . . .
Anyway, good luck, thank you or sharing, and I'm glad you're here!
Well, the second novel is closing in on the point of no return, that spot where you've written enough that the momentum pulls you through the tough days. It's a completely different direction, though, which has been fun.
Honestly, starting a new book doesn't make me feel in the least like I'm giving up on the other one. I've been paying the bills for a dozen years as a writer, so this is just what I do. Kinda like making donuts or fixing cars, you go in and do your job the best you can and enjoy every minute of it.
And there's always another bearclaw or jelly-filled to be made, or another Ford with a squeaky fan belt. Finish one and move on to the next. (Inspiration is never a problem... working up perspiration is where I fail now and then.)
It's just getting over that hitch from writer to author. I've been paying my dues for a while now and I'd just like to see my club membership and Dr. Midnight decoder ring come in the mail.
(Honestly, I'm doing it all for that danged Decoder ring...)
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