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.
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.
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”
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.
It’s launch day. Air Pirates of Krakatoa is now live in the Kindle store. It’s been a long slog, over two years since I finished the first draft, but it’s available now.
This was the one that really determined the direction of the series; so much so that I went back and revised Against the Eldest Flame so that it fit better with the sequel. Characters found their own voices and their world opened up.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
When you think about it, the entertainment scene was very different during the 1930’s. No television, No Internet, no portable media players. In a world like that it’s not surprising that people turned to reading, and the pulps were there to catch their attention.
Big, floppy, and brightly colored, the pulps were designed to draw the eye. Behind the lurid cover, each monthly issue (most were monthly magazines) contained about two hundred pages of story on cheap paper with black and white illustrations. You could find pulps on any subject; from romance, to westerns, crime, and even star-spanning adventure.
For many, they took the place that would later be occupied by everything from TV to paperbacks. At only ten cents apiece, they offered good value for money, and were a great way to escape the Depression.
While they remained popular throughout the thirties, the war really proved their death knell. On the one hand, paper became more expensive, forcing the pulps to shrink in size. On the other, the post-war era led to an explosion in paperback publishing and the newly designed mass-market paperback took much of the readership that hadn’t been lost to new forms of entertainment like television.
Only one of the 1930’s pulps survives today, Analog Magazine, originally known as Astounding, has been publishing science fiction since 1930, although it has now dropped to bi-monthly frequency as of 2017. It has also changed sizes again, so as to fit on the same presses as the current publisher’s word search and other puzzle books.
Zeppelins weren’t the only example of huge flying machines. Norman Bel Geddes’ Airliner No.4 is a perfect example of pulp technology. With a 528 foot wingspan, this giant flying wing was designed to carry passengers across the country in the lap of luxury. Although it was never built, all the evidence indicates that this twenty-engine behemoth would have actually flown.
Even though the design was heavier than air, the design had so much empty space that for all practical purposes the interior was air.
It didn’t just carry passengers; its nine decks provided room for over 150 crew, many of whom would have been equally at home in a spa or private gym. Unfortunately, no one ever came up with the money to build it.
That’s the beauty of pulp technology: Nobody could say they were afraid to think big.
Naturally, one was built in Doc’s world; but that’s a story for another day.