Tag Archives: Hope Blackwell

GREEK KEY is out, so let’s talk about Helen of Troy

27 Oct GREEKKEYcoversample

All Hope Blackwell wanted was a quiet Mediterranean vacation. Sun, sand, local cuisine…and tracking down Archimedes’ ghost to learn if he’s been tampering with the fabric of reality. But when you’re a psychic whose specialty is communicating with the dead, a trip to Greece means you’ll come face-to-face with legendary heroes.

And monsters.

As Hope and her friends explore the ruins of the ancient world, she soon learns she has attracted the attention of one of the most famous women in history. Helen of Troy is nothing like her stories, and she’s got a problem she thinks Hope can solve.

Hope isn’t too sure about that—if righting a 2,500-year-old wrong was that easy, wouldn’t Helen have found the time to do it herself?

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GREEK KEY sample up on Gumroad!

7 Oct

Greek Key goes live today–the first eleven chapters, at any rate. The cover is gorgeous.

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Attention Deficit Disorder and First-person Perspective

25 Aug
Nobody understands the sickle weasels.

Nobody understands the sickle weasels.

I’m cleaning up GREEK KEY and…well…

I’m worried about the voice in it, okay?

It’s told from first-person perspective, with Hope Blackwell as the narrator. Hope has severe attention deficit hyperacticity disorder. Keep in mind she’s not just bouncing from one topic to another, as she’s got the variant of ADHD with hyperfocus–when she’s locked on target, she will chase that target until it’s dead.

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Cultural property and ownership

9 Jun

I’m in fact-checking mode for GREEK KEY. This is a middle stage of my writing process, and I refer to it as fact-checking because that’s easier than calling it “Make sure you got this stuff right or certain people will crawl down your throat and lay clusters of Um-Actually Eggs in your abdomen.”

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I check nearly every detail that goes into a book, and I still get shit wrong. For example, in STATE MACHINE, when Pat finds the hidden room with the mildewed cocaine, I checked to make sure that cocaine can go bad. Yup! It’s an organic substance, and it will rot over time. But wait, there’s more. My copyeditor double-checked with Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline, and found that cocaine has strong antiseptic properties, so it’s not as likely to mildew unless it’s cut with something that dilutes these properties. Easily fixed with some minor edits…but.

A book is made of a lot of…buts.*

Currently, I’m fact-checking details of provenance for GREEK KEY. I’m fascinated by ideas of ownership regarding cultural property. I’ll point you to this short article, “Provenance Factors for Antiquities Acquisition” by Myren (2010), in which the author discusses the many different ways to perceive ownership of items whose creators are long since dust. I have a few problems with this article, especially the idea that moral claims to items which uphold and preserve cultural heritage are “farfetched” (p.9), but it’s an excellent overview of the issues that need to be addressed when antiquities are bought and sold.

Done reading it? What? No? Okay, let’s take this sourced line: “Recognizing that there are multiple views of cultural property is tantamount to identifying the stakeholders involved” (p.10).  Or, how you perceive an unique item with cultural value may reflect on how you think formal ownership of that item can and should be delegated.

From a writer’s perspective, this is freakin’ fascinating. It’s basically a tailor-made opportunity for insight into characters’ motivations.

Hypothetically speaking (*cough*cough*), let’s say Hope, Mike, and Speedy locate a new fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism that’s been in a private party’s possession for the last century. Speedy’s position on ownership is easy: if you can afford to pay the market value of the artifact, then hey! It’s yours. Mike’s position would be that we must strive to enrich the human experience, and that cultural artifacts should be accessible to the public.

Hope’s position is complicated. On the one hand, she needs to obey the law, because OACET. With that in mind, she’d follow the current legal standards used by regional and international organizations to designate the ownership of antiquities. On the other hand, “cultural artifacts” are something completely different to a woman who lives with ghosts. It’s really hard to get emotionally invested in items from the distant past when the dudes who made those items are your drinking buddies.

So I’ve got (more than) three characters with different views on how an item should be managed. I’ve got to get the details for each of these perspectives right, and it needs to be written in such a way that it’s not a teeth-grinding infodump. Fact-checking, whee!

Anyhow. That’s what I’m up to this morning. How are you?

*Quiet, you.

Juggling countries

16 May

A brief post on worldbuilding.

STATE MACHINE has been out for five days and is doing quite well (thank you for making this happen!). The post I put up on Monday had several good comments about the structure of the Rachel Peng novels, and questions about the upcoming Hope Blackwell novel. Lemme try and answer these in the time-honored fell swoop:

The webcomic

A GIRL AND HER FED should be considered the original source material. Thus far, the only thing I’ve abandoned is aligning the comic and novels to “real world” time, mostly because I’m a stupid-slow artist and the Rachel novels would take place back in 2007 or so. Nope, our world moves too fast for that continuity nonsense.

(…she sighed, wistfully remembering how she really enjoys that continuity nonsense…)

I’ve also placed one red herring in the comic. It’s in Chapter 8 if you want to start guessing, but that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Josh Glassman Novellas

Short pulp novellas, between 35k and 50k words. Wacky sex comedies featuring our favorite Pornomancer, and told as a retrospective fantasy to Mare. Josh has been married eight times, to seven different women (and Mare twice), and this is how he bedded and wedded each of them. Josh loves who he is and what he can do, and he revels in the collective. Josh and Mare know about the ghosts, so ghosts are permitted, but will only show up if it makes sense within a given story. THE RUSSIANS CAME KNOCKING is the only one out so far.

The Rachel Peng Novels

Full-length novels, between 110k and 120k words. Mystery-thriller format, with a central crime that sets off the action and must be solved over the course of the book. Over the seven books in the series, Rachel Peng takes down Richard Hanlon, the villain who tortured and manipulated the 500 young kids who would grow up to become OACET. These novels take place in the five-year break between Parts 1 and 2 of the comic. Hints of ghosts here and there, but no koalas whatsoever!  DIGITAL DIVIDE, MAKER SPACE, and STATE MACHINE are the three books in the series that have been published.

The Hope Blackwell Novels

There might just be one of these? I need to see how it performs before I commit to another series. I’m expecting GREEK KEY to come in around 80k to 90k words. Yes, Speedy will definitely be in this/these. The ghosts will be there, too. Not sure how to categorize this book…the draft is reading like Percy Jackson forgot his Adderall and decided to put on a modern-day reenactment of the ODYSSEY, but it’s only half-done and might take a Turn. Due out near Halloween.

Audiobooks//Kickstarter

(…screaming sounds forever…) Now that STATE MACHINE is done, getting the audio edits done on the books is my new full-time job. Again. Whee.

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Hopefully this gives some general non-spoilery answers to any questions you might have had about the different overlapping series. Now, I’m gonna fall down for, like, six days and maybe twitch a little when Brown pokes me in the eye to check if I’m still alive.

 

Excerpt: Introducing Speedy

24 Sep

I’m roughing out the structure of a Hope Blackwell novel. The Rachel Peng series will have neither ghosts nor koalas; this Hope Blackwell novel will have both. Here’s Speedy’s introduction. As always, this is a draft and will be fine-tuned for phrasing and punctuation if I decide to take it through publication.

For readers of the novels who aren’t also readers of the comic, I’ll also note that Hope has ADD and swears like a sailor on fire.

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There was too much sun when I woke up.

The curtains are open, my subconscious informed the rest of me. You closed them when you went to bed, and Sparky wouldn’t have opened them, not when you went to sleep at dawn…

My body didn’t want to be awake, and it told my subconscious to shut up and deal with it. The cunning application of pillow to eyeballs would solve this problem. The pillow didn’t even have to be moved. No, I could just turn over, and—

My subconscious had me up and rolling into a zenpo kaiten before I could drop back into sleep. I was halfway across the bedroom before the crowbar crashed into the exact spot on the pillow where my head had been.

Let me tell you about sugar.

My high school history teacher used to say that sugar was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. I checked his dates and he was off by a few decades, but sugar plus coffee did hit Great Britain right around the time that steam engines finally got their act together. Imagine that for a second: the British and stimulants, together at last!

Shit got done.

Now, let me tell you about koalas.

Cute? Yes. Cuddly? Definitely. Stupider than rocks? Fuck yes. They have some of the least-developed brains in the mammalian kingdom. Their brains are so tiny that they’re basically bobbing around in the koala’s skull. When a koala does manage to process a thought, it’s almost always focused on one of three basic drives. They eat, sleep, and procreate, and they do this with the literal single-mindedness of a brain capable of holding one thought at a time.

They are fairly durable, though. If you were a mad scientist who wanted to poke at a blank slate of a brain and see if you could enhance intelligence, you couldn’t pick a better test subject than a koala.

Except, around your third koala, you’d realize that the animal’s metabolism is causing problems. The creatures only eat eucalyptus, and when they’re not eating or fucking, they’re asleep. So you start to tinker with the koala genome so they can live on a variety of plants, and don’t need to sleep twenty-two hours a day.

At Koala No. 4, you decide to see if you can also get them to metabolize grains. Fresh vegetation is hard to find, but every supermarket has a cereal aisle.

By Koala No. 17, you’ve gotten the process nailed down. Brains, guts, everything works. You start to test the limits on what can be done to a koala’s brain. Under the right conditions, can a koala become as intelligent as a dog? A monkey? A great ape?

These experiments go great. So great, you run into communication problem. It’s harder to test the intelligence of animals that can’t vocalize or mimic sign language. You decide to tinker with their vocal cords.

Finally, you get to Koala No. 26. This one’s a total dud. Every single modification went right—better than on any previous test subject, really!—but the animal is a lump of stupid squeaking fur. You decide to euthanize and start from scratch.

Except Koala No. 26 beats you to it. The little bugger has been playing dumb all along. You’re proud of him, probably, in the instant before he shoots you between the eyes with your own gun.

Young Koala No. 26 then spent a rough couple of days running scared in suburban Missouri before he was captured. And escaped. And captured, and escaped, and captured, and escaped, and captured… and finally, a certain government agency got news of this “speedy devil” that could find a way out of any cage. They took him away to one of those subterranean buildings that form the stuff of nightmares, and performed unspeakable tests to discover he had about 200 IQ points more than the average Harvard graduate.

Koala No. 26 sat in a cage and broke codes for years. Sparky rescued him. This… um. Yeah. This probably wasn’t the best decision Sparky’s ever made. It’s not like he could release this koala into the wild, or even put him in a zoo. For a while, he made sure the koala had his own apartment. These days, the koala lives with us.

I love the little fucker, I do, but let’s face facts. If the entire Industrial Revolution was the outcome of moderately caffeinated cultural sugar high, a superintelligent animal with three all-encompassing drives and regular access to Cap’n Crunch becomes its own force of nature.

And he is an asshole.