The Next Big Thing

As passive-aggressive memes go, this one’s actually somewhat interesting.

Whether or not some of them know it, writers like to talk about themselves. More or less everyone does, but we get paid for it, though not always well. And it can be downright annoying at times.

Once upon a time, I was paid to listen to people talk about their fictional creations. Not because I was an editor (that’s a different kind of pain), but because I was the Great Dungeonmaster in the Sky, the semi-mythical being who could make all your dreams come true at a roleplaying convention with arbitrary decisions that would make others pound their heads in frustration.

Sure, you can have a +9 weapon. What possible harm could it do at 1st level?

Mind you, I used this power exactly once in four years, and the impact was minor, localized, and did more good than harm. But it didn’t stop people from asking, or telling me about their characters.

So about the Next Big Thing. Apparently, I’m supposed to tell you about mine. Or more specifically, the ones I’m working on. I’ve been “tagged” by a person who will remain nameless, to answer 10 questions about myself and my current fiction project(s). I am then instructed to pass on this joy to the shrinking circle of folks I know who have not yet been similarly infected.

But that’s not my way. I’m tagging everyone. It may seem petty, but I think anyone who has a blog or web space has a story to tell, not just those people I know who happen to be professional writers.

Ideas are the best kind of nouns. With no measurable dimensions, they have weight, feel, and momentum. They have a time and place. If you are reading these words, and yours equate to “now,” they just might be the Next Big Thing.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

On my hard drive, books get codenames, whether or not they have an actual title. So HEPHAESTUS (standing in for Hephaestus Outbound).

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Believe it or not, mowing my lawn. I often meditate while doing simple tasks like yardwork, clearing my mind and letting images come at me as they may. It’s a kind of waking dream, and this time they formed a vignette about soldiers fighting a generational war against a technologically superior foe. I had moments of personal bravery, sacrifice, and thrilling heroism in the face of insurmountable odds.

And by soldiers, I mean ants. I got to thinking what the ants really know about the FOOT, or the GREAT REAPING ENGINE. Which led me to wonder what the grass itself feels about mowing, or the dandelions, or any number of plant species affected by our obsessive North American need to regulate our environment. The idea of the insects manipulating the lawn to fight back was a good one for me, and then I wondered what would we do if the trees got pissed off enough to stop doing their jobs, namely making oxygen for our lazy, non-photosynthetic asses.

I think about scary stuff sometimes. Mainly so you don’t have to.

And then I thought about what it would feel like if the bugs were the ones mowing OUR lawns, and would they even realize we were here.

You’re welcome.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Once upon a time it was space opera, and then I realized I was actually writing military fiction. Not having served myself, this is somewhat of a problem, so I’ve attempted a blend of the two.

But I don’t write happy, and I rarely write heroes. I write about people, and people have problems.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Not many people can pull off emoting in a space arachnoid suit, so I’m not quite there yet. I try not to describe my character’s faces when I can avoid it, just their general body types and personalities. I let the reader decide how their new fictional friends look and sound. I know what everyone feels like, and there are no actors currently working that fit the bills for my cast.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Soldiers on an experimental ship launch a desperate mission to take the fight to their enemy across the universe.

If it hadn’t already been done, I’d use

Baa Baa Black Sheep in the Stars.

6. Will your book be self-published, or represented by an agency?

I’ve mentioned before my great fondness for being paid. Depending on the reception the book gets from first readers and hypothetical agents, I’m willing to explore any publishing options leading to that goal.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

This is a bit of a loaded question, but I’ll tackle it in the spirit intended. Were I to count the time spent on this book, as of today it would be 54 days and 80000 words. Were I a slave to calendars, I’d have to start from the initial lawn mowing, the time the idea spent in my brown notebook, the furious first NaNoWriMo push, setting it aside, picking it back up again for a re-write the next fall, setting it aside, and the many months of “meh” that followed while I whinged about not having a strong hook into Act III, when I was totally wearing ruby writing slippers the whole time.

So either two months, or 3 1/2 years. Your call. I feel I’m about two weeks away from finishing, but I’ve felt that way for the last several years.

8. What other books would you compare the story to within your genre?

There’s an emotional current inside me as I write that ideally should carry over the readers’ book/brain barrier. I want you to feel things as you explore my book(s), not think about how other books make you feel. And while I can tell you what books give me that satisfaction, they may not resonate the same way for you.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My protagonist(s). They wake me up at night, telling me what’s going on, what I’ve done wrong bringing them to the page, and they won’t. Shut. UP!

But I’ll show them. Oh yes, I will…Muah-ah-AH!

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest.

I believe in strong characters with stories to tell, the kind of stories that live inside you and that you are afraid to tell even your closest friends. I want to make you laugh at, cry for, and love the villain, just long enough for them to stay true to themselves and save the day.

Basically, I believe in Harvey Dent and most of my characters have that moment, whether they want it or not.

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