A Writer Writes

If you’ve been following Twitter much in the last few days you’ve probably seen this article by Stephen Hunter saying that a writer has to write very day or quit now. It’s a great idea in theory, but what about the real world.

Full disclosure: When I wrote my first novel I wrote every day. For the next seven, I didn’t. The idea of building the habit of writing is important, but saying you have to write every day or you’re an utter failure who shouldn’t bother continuing is unrealistic.

After two months of not skipping a single day working on my most recent novel, I skipped a day last week. We had to spend the night in the emergency room because my partner was having breathing troubles. Spending the night with her was more important than writing every day.

I finished the book, still at the hospital, two days later.

You have to make allowances for life.

If you ask me, the only two things you have to do are you have to write, and you have to finish things. It can be a novel, an article, or even a blog post. What it is doesn’t matter. What matters is that you write it, write regularly, and you get things finished.

Expecting people to meet unrealistic goals is ridiculous.

Giant Robots are GO!

As of one o’clock this morning I finished the draft of Giant Robots of Tunguska, bringing it home at 53,839 words. I created the Scrivener document on the evening of February 20th, and finished it in the early morning of May 25th– so it took me three months and five days to write making it my fastest ever novel.

Now it’s planning the next one, editing book three, and looking at the other novels I have in the drafting stages.

 

 

 

 

Marvel Comics Intellectual Dishonesty

Captain America and the Falcon issue 171 was the first Marvel comic I ever read. Cap was my gateway into Marvel comics, and I’ve been a fan of the character ever since.

As most of you may know, Steve Rogers–the classic Captain America–is the central figure in Marvel Comics’ big event this year: Secret Empire. Boiled down to basics the story line features a world where Steve Rogers was always a Hydra Agent and the Allies used a Cosmic Cube to win the Second World War by rewriting history.

In the current story line Steve has reverted to his original Hydra loyalties and is working to bring about a fascist victory in today’s Marvel Universe–an attempt to put things back the way they should have been had the Allies not used the Cosmic Cube to win the war.

Throughout this event, Marvel has consistently argued that Steve Rogers is an agent of Hydra, but not a a Nazi. They say Hydra is not racist, but is an evil and fascist organization. At the same time, they’re using fascist imagery to tell a story that draws most of its power from the association of Hydra with Nazism. It’s Cap’s ultimate heel turn.

I have a HUGE problem with this. Marvel is essentially saying that people who weren’t racist actively worked toward a Nazi victory in World War Two. Marvel is saying that people who weren’t racist thought the New Deal was more of a deal-breaker than the Holocaust.

That doesn’t fly. You don’t get to say you’re not racist and actively work to expand the Holocaust.

While I wouldn’t have liked the idea, I think Marvel would have been more intellectually honest had they said Steve was a Nazi.  It would have been ugly, and I think indefensible in today’s social climate, but at least Marvel wouldn’t be out there sending the message that it’s not as bad if you only supported the Nazis but weren’t really one.

 

Pulling it All Together

As I write this I’m coming into the final stretch on Doc Vandal book 4, Giant Robots of Tunguska. Everyone’s in a bad situation, even the characters who don’t realize it, and it’s time to pull all the threads together.

Some writers plan everything out with a detailed outline so they know exactly what’s going to happen next: I’m not one of those writers. I have a rough outline and I know where I want all the pieces to end up. What I don’t know is exactly how they’re going to get there.

It’s also where I go back and look for any dangling plot threads I need to tie up. This would be a ton easier if I could just stick to my outline, but I can’t. The story I end up with is never exactly what I planned.

However, not knowing exactly where I’ll end up and how I’ll get there helps make the writing fun. It’s like reading the book to find out what happens, only much slower.

 

The Making of a Cover

After reading this Lit Hub post on cover design, I thought it would be interesting to share the the process involved in making the cover of the first Doc Vandal adventure, Against the Eldest Flame. The big thing was that I wanted a cover that really felt like it would have been perfectly at home on a newsstand in 1937. That meant no obvious CGI figures or backgrounds; the cover needed a painted look. I’ve put the journey behind the fold because there are a number of images here.

Continue reading “The Making of a Cover”

Why Doc Vandal isn’t Doc Savage

When you’re writing a character inspired by another, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of writing a copy instead of an homage. Yes, Doc Vandal is very clearly inspired by Doc Savage; he’s an almost superhuman super scientist who lives near the top of the tallest building in New York with a handful of aides and fellow adventurers. The key lies in how you differentiate the new character.

With Doc Vandal, it all started with one simple statement: Doc Savage lives in our world, Doc Vandal doesn’t. Doc Vandal’s world is deliberately more fantastic than Doc Savage’s. Doc Savage has an assistant named Monk Mayfair who is often described as apelike. Doc Vandal’s oldest associate is a silverback gorilla.

On it’s own though, a change like that is little more than filing off the serial numbers and maybe turning up the volume.

Use your inspirations as a foundation. They are the beginning, not the end. Doc Vandal fills the same role in his world as Doc Savage does in his, but the two characters got there in very different ways. What’s most important though is to find your own voice and tell your own stories.

Also, remember it’s been eighty years since the 1930’s. Doc Savage and his team were six white males, and that’s just not something that would work today. Not only does a modern audience expect a more diverse cast, but limiting your characters that way artificially limits your story space. A wider range of characters offers a wider range of story opportunities and any writer would be a fool not to take advantage of that.