Tuesday, July 23, 2013

If You Support More Inclusiveness In Speculative Fiction...

Over the last few months, there has been a big kerfluffle in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror about inclusiveness. Most of that pertains to gender, but there has been some controversy about race/ethnicity as well.

Well, if you want to support inclusiveness in speculative fiction, I would like to recommend to you some of my independently-published short stories:

Ten Davids, Two Goliaths-Set in Lindsay Buroker's Fallen Empire science fiction universe, the lead character Geun Choi is a Korean Buddhist fighter pilot in the distant future. The other POV character Tamara Watson is a female fighter pilot who is recovering from drug addiction and is a practicing polytheist to boot. Five reviews, all pretty good.

Discovery and Flight-Also set in Buroker's Fallen Empire universe, this continues Choi and Watson's adventures in the rebellion's early days, and brings them into contact with Buroker's canonical characters.

Übermensch-This came from a "Southern superheroes" anthology my writing group attempted that didn't go anywhere. The protagonist is an irreligious half-Indian biomedical engineer who lives by the creed of Nietzsche and provides cybernetics services for Atlanta gangs in the vein of David Duchovny's character in the film Playing God. Superhero stories are pretty common--how about a supervillain story instead?

The Beast of the Bosporus-I started writing this story when I was in college after I realized that most of Lovecraft's fiction takes place in rural New England in the early 20th Century. I decided I was going to be a bit different and write a Lovecraftian horror tale set during the glory days of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. Although the protagonist Sokollu Mehmed Pasha is a white man (he was a Serb by birth), he is a Muslim and the setting is distinctly non-Western. One of my writing friends Matthew Stienberg gave it a very good review.

Illegal Alien-Protagonist Patrido Guzman is a Mexican who seeks a better life in the United States and employs the services of a coyote--an immigrant smuggler--to get him there. Guzman himself is mestizo (I don't really get into racial politics in the story--this is Word of God) and another major Mexican character is more distinctly Indian. And never is the word "illegal" used in a pejorative fashion. Stienberg reviewed it on Amazon and gave it high marks too.

I am the Wendigo-Although the Wendigo is a monster, I drop some hints that when he was a human being, he had at least some Native American ancestry. For starters, he knows that the Algonquin language is more properly called Abenaki.

Although I am a straight, white Protestant male (and therefore get a lot less crap from society than those who aren't), most of my independently-published short fiction has protagonists who are minorities, at least in my own country. Ironic, isn't it.

And I've already had a cover made for a second Andrew Patel story, "Needs Must." I will keep you posted.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Recipe to Save The GOP Part Three: Less Social Conservatism

Earlier this month, I'd written about how a distributist economic model could build a new Republican coalition and how the stalwart National Rifle Association and Boy Scouts of America could provide long-term demographic support for the GOP by encouraging (responsible) firearms enthusiasm in the young and inculcating them with patriotic values (this is not to say non-Republicans aren't patriotic, but the GOP tends to be friendlier to overt patriotism). Now it's time to risk stepping on yet another land mine, social conservatism.

For starters, religion in the United States is in decline. The mainline Protestant denominations have suffered the most, but evangelicals have taken hits too. Younger people in particular are quite often non-religious. The Southern Baptists, one of the strongest powers of the cultural right, are not doing too well at the moment. This New York Times article states evangelicalism is in trouble--and it's written by an evangelical, not a gloating devotee of the "New Atheists." One in five adults have no religion, with young people being increasingly non-religious. I remember seeing a local Baptist church was preaching a sermon on the Second Coming soon after Obama was elected (or re-elected, I can't remember which), which seems like an acknowledgement said church's cultural power was in decline. Stemming or reversing this decline is the responsibility of the churches--my concern here is the political implications.

For starters, this means banking on the Religious Right or the assumption religious people vote Republican (which in many cases isn't true, but that's a different issue) as an election-winner is, in the long run, a doomed strategy. This has several implications:

As far as concrete policy is concerned, the GOP should just lay off the homosexual issue in general. Five percent of the electorate was some form of non-straight in 2012 and that's just the tip of the iceberg. In a culture where shows like Modern Familyhttp://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=accotoquin-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002JVWQSWGleehttp://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=accotoquin-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B004D9FLJE, etc. are popular, harping about "the gay agenda" isn't going to help in the general election. I am not calling on anyone to endorse anything they feel is sinful--I'm simply saying don't make a political issue out of it. An exception can be made if it's something defensive in nature (i.e. opposition to people using public parks as hookup sites, which some people will claim is anti-gay), but as far as "starting it," no. Right now we as a country have so many other issues to deal with that culture-war stuff is a luxury.

On the abortion issue, this means attempting to outlaw abortion isn't going to work. See the recent failures of personhood legislation and the like. However, this does not mean pro-lifers need to abandon their efforts entirely--there are other ways to oppose abortion. For example, I wrote an earlier blog post on joint projects for pro-life and pro-choice people, such as making it impossible for rapists to try to claim custody rights over the resulting children (they often try to, if anything to blackmail their victims into dropping charges) and investing in scientific projects to make abortion obsolete. The latter is something that would only be effective in the long run, but the rape issue is something where more concrete action can be taken (see the work of activist Shauna Prewitt).

However, there is another way the Republican Party can reduce abortion without sci-fi techniques, by supporting more comprehensive sexual education in schools. These methods can include abstinence, and since it is the only 100% effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases, leaving it out would be irresponsible. However, many people (to say the least) aren't abstinent, and lack of knowledge on contraception could lead to more unintended pregnancies and thus the temptation to abort them. Discussing contraceptive methods on than abstinence does not equate to endorsing immoral behavior--one could make a poster with the effectiveness rates like abstinence 100%, condoms 85-90% (I can't remember the exact figure), and down you go. Abstinence-only sexual education has largely shown itself ineffective, with the most effective ones including information on contraceptive methods as a "backup."

The GOP should also cease being associated with, let alone actually pushing for, the teaching of intelligent design or full-blown young-earth creationism in schools. Not only has teaching a particular religion's origin story as scientific fact been found by the courts to violate the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, but the scientific problems with young-earth creationism are legion and as The Devil in Dover shows, intelligent design has its fair share of problems. This is something that has cost the GOP in the increasingly important Asian and East Indian voter demographic.

Finally, the GOP should support legalizing marijuana. For the record, I don't use any sort of drug (I don't even drink coffee or drink alcohol more than the occasional taste), but supporting a continued marijuana ban is bad for this country and bad for the Republican Party. Here's one article on why it's bad for the country. Here's another. Marijuana legalization is becoming increasingly popular among younger people and as the Baby Boomers die off, they will become increasingly important votes to win. A slight majority now supports legalizing marijuana. And should the GOP support legalizing weed, it might gain the party support among African-Americans due to the racial inequities of the Drug War.

Remember how the Republican Party used to regularly win California? With one exception, the Republicans won California from 1950 to 1988 and won several times before that. Ronald Reagan, so loved by Republicans, was governor there from 1967 to 1975. That's not going to happen if we are--or are perceived to be--a party of Southern social conservatives. A Republican Party that can win California is going to be far more competitive nationwide than one that cannot.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Recipe To Save The GOP Part Two: How Allies Can Help

In an earlier post, I suggested adopting a distributist economic model could improve the GOP's electoral chances in the long run.

Now it's time to describe how two major organizations that are or are perceived to be allies of the Republican Party can help. These groups are the National Rifle Association and the Boy Scouts of America, both of which are disdained by the cultural left.

For starters, the National Rifle Association doesn't just oppose efforts to pass gun control laws. It has the Eddie the Eagle program to teach kids firearm safety, as well as shooting-sports programs. I propose the NRA put more money and publicity into both programs, the former to reduce the accidental shootings that give anti-gun people heartrending anecdotes to sway people to their side and the latter to teach people ignorant of firearms that although they can be dangerous if misused, guns are not objects of superstitious dread that must be kept away from everybody. In particular, the NRA should fund shooting-sports programs at children's summer camps. In particular, smaller camps that need money might be more receptive.

Overall in this country, the rate of gun ownership is going down. I am not suggesting ownership of guns for the sake of having them. I am not a gun owner myself because I don't see the need to own one and thus don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars. However, the fewer gun owners there are, the easier it will be to politically marginalize and then one day crack down on them. Reversing this trend by encouraging (responsible) firearms enthusiasm among the young will help ensure the right to bear arms survives should those who don't currently own guns change their minds.

Although the NRA has opposed gun control legislation as a slippery-slope toward confiscation (see the SKS controversy in California and how registration preceded confiscation in Britain and Australia), there might be a third option. A member of my alternate history forum who works in the California legal system has proposed strict liability be implemented in regards to firearms. For example, if someone's gun is stolen and they don't report it to the police, if the gun is later used in a crime, they get into trouble. Anecdotally, he's seen guns left out on the seats of cars where criminals can easily break in and get them. There's some reckless endangerment right there, but I don't know if it's possible to, say, slap a ticket on the car for that.

Advocating stricter enforcement against straw buyers would be a good idea as well, since that's another way criminals get their guns. None of these things would affect law-abiding gun owners (or if they did, they would only affect the most stupidly negligent among them) and in fact could be covered by the credo "rights have responsibilities" or to paraphrase Spider-Man, "with great power comes great responsibility." The NRA advocating this policy could back-foot gun foes and win over the more moderate people who support things like universal background checks, keeping them from being seduced by pro-confiscation forces like this fellow who wrote an article for the New York Times.

Now for the Boy Scouts. This article here describes how the Boy Scouts are in decline and suggests ways to counteract that. One solution is to admit girls, as many foreign Scout organizations and the American Venture patrols already do. Based on the New York Times article, there are a lot of girls dissatisfied with the "girly" activities of the Girl Scouts who could provide a welcome increase to the organization. For anyone concerned about shenanigans ensuing, I'm not aware of Venture events turning into orgies and furthermore, there is a concept called "adult supervision." A greater outreach to the growing Hispanic community would be a good idea as well, especially since the article claims Hispanics view the Boy Scouts as "elite and unattainable." This article here says in many countries Hispanics come from Scouts are for rich people, but that's not an issue I'm aware of in the United States. The Hispanic community is a largely untapped "market" for the Boy Scouts and if we want avoid irrelevance and remain the pillar of American culture we have historically been, that's a big opportunity.

The Boy Scouts of America has recently voted to allow gay youth, although not gay Scoutmasters. Although my religion as I understand it teaches homosexual behavior is immoral, I support this. I'm not going to name names, but I do remember getting a gay vibe off one of my fellow troop members. For all the harping about the potential problems that could result from gay kids in Scouts, I'll point out that they're already there. Again, "adult supervision." Furthermore, by requiring Scouts inclined this way to lie to stay in the organization they may love, the Scouting movement until recently was setting a stumbling block before them.

Politics reflect culture. A strong Scouting movement will inculcate generic "American" values and patriotism in young people regardless of race, religion, creed, etc. Although many Scouts I knew were Democrats (Republicans do not have a monopoly on patriotism and American values), none I knew were stridently anti-American or ludicrously alienated from their own civilization in the way some of the more belligerent leftists are. One of the more prominent Democrats in my old Scout troop joined the military, something hippies or people who think the celebration of the Fourth of July is a slap in the face to Indians and blacks (a friend of a friend said this online, but I can't find his blog at the moment) generally don't do.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Recipe To Save The GOP Part One: Distributism

Much is being said about the poor long-term demographic prospects of the Republican Party. I've done some thinking about that and here are some ideas I've got to retool the GOP for the long run. I'll dedicate this post to economics and a later post to social issues.

Firstly, I've heard it said that millennials (my generation) will be voting against George W. Bush the rest of their lives due to the Great Recession and other issues. As the Boomers die off, real or perceived fealty to the big banks whose reckless financial practices helped cause the recession must be avoided.

But how to do this without betraying property rights, capitalism, etc? Well, here's a solution that people might not have thought about.

Distributism. And there are ways to implement it without an excessively activist state. Back when "too big to fail" was the mantra people who supported bailing out the banks and auto companies cited, someone else pointed out that too big to fail was also too big to exist. There was an opportunity there to avoid "too big to fail" in the future by requiring any entity accepting federal bailout funds to spin off parts of their operations into smaller companies. Although one ought to keep economies of scale in mind (that's a big flaw in the distributist economic model), many companies spin off on their own already. Obviously this opportunity has passed, but should there ever be a perceived need for another bailout (and there might), it should come with strings that ensure that "too big to fail" is no longer a problem. The GOP can also oppose corporate welfare like farm subsidies, which are used by agribusinesses to buy out smaller competitors. In this case, one can oppose "bigness" by simply being fiscal conservative rather than being particularly activist.

I proposed this as a solution to the GOP's demographic woes on my alternate history Internet forum and someone suggested that without a commitment to help people on the bottom end of the economic totem pole, this is just "Libertarianism lite" and would be "hollow" rather than true distributism. If we want to go with conservative ideas on hands-up, not hand-outs, education and infrastructure are two ways to deal with it.

For starters, the cost of attending college has risen drastically over the last few decades, with a big jump recently fueled by state-level budget cuts brought on by the recession. It was once possible to make enough money doing summer jobs to pay for college, but this is increasingly more difficult now. And good educational systems breed economic success--Silicon Valley exists in a large degree due to the University System of California's presence in the area, while a strong university system propelled California's historic prosperity. Meanwhile, according to a U.S. Congressman I saw speak once, foreign companies don't bring jobs to America because of lack of worker skills, not overly high wages. Improving the technical college system will bring blue-collar type jobs back to America, providing prospects for the majority of people who don't go to college.

As a reporter for The Griffin Daily News, I observed that in order to attract businesses, the local government agreed to refurbish a rail line. Many of the local VIPs were in favor of the TSPLOST to improve infrastructure as well. Working as a journalist later on the North Side, I saw a lot of this as well. Infrastructure is already to a large degree a government responsibility, so a stronger focus on infrastructure would not be expanding the scope of government. And if infrastructure is good for business, that means jobs for people and thus less need for handouts. There is a fine line between this sort of thing and the corporate welfare I've decried above, so one must be careful.

Adopting a distributist economic model, which is based on Catholic teachings, could help the GOP appeal to the growing (largely Catholic) Hispanic demographic, which also tends to favor a larger government. It will also appeal to the Occupy types and Tea Partiers opposed to things like bailouts. An emphasis on small business could appeal to immigrant small business owners that in some places pretty much are the bourgeoisie and who are in danger of being turned off by perceived nativism in the GOP. Finally, since it's a Christian ideology, many in the Religious Right might be open to it, especially younger evangelicals concerned about "social justice" or supporters of Mike Huckabee, who was more interventionist on economic issues and more overtly concerned about the poor than many of his Republican peers. A campaign to revamp America's failing infrastructure would, so long as the improvement program exists, generate more blue-collar jobs and hopefully bring those works over to the Republican fold. It will also benefit companies that might oppose a distributist "anti-bigness" program by providing them government contracts. Spending more money on education will hopefully mitigate the opposition to the GOP among the well-educated, something Rick Santorum hasn't been helpful with.

Furthermore, this is something squarely in line with Republican tradition. Teddy Roosevelt was not a fan of the monopolistic trusts of his era, which were prone to engaging in legitimate abuses.

Although I imagine people might think I'm suggesting selling out Republican principles to buy votes of various demographics, none of these ideas are anti-conservative. Many of them, like opposition to corporate welfare, align with traditional fiscal conservative principles, while improving existing infrastructure simply means the government is taking responsibility for something that has historically been its responsibility.

Obviously all these things will have to be paid for. The only idea I've got to pay for them at the federal level (as opposed to local stuff like not handing out property tax exemptions too readily) off the top of my head are cuts in farm subsidies and other sorts of corporate welfare and in defense, which are coming anyway as the public turns away from an active foreign policy as a result of the Iraq and Afghan Wars. I'll write more on this later.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: Island 731 (SPOILERS)

Yesterday, I got hold of a copy of Island 731 from my local library and read it in a single day. Now it's time to review it. The gist of the story is that some researchers studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch come across a seemingly-abandoned island that had been used as a secret laboratory for Japan's infamous Unit 731. The island, as I just implied, isn't actually abandoned...

(image courtesy of Robinson's website)

The Good

The first part of the novel is fast and entertaining. A WWII prologue featuring a survivor of the Battle of Midway captured and experimented on by the Japanese quickly grabs the reader's attention and establishes what kind of novel this will be even though we don't get to the "mysterious island" until significantly later in the book. That's something I'm hoping to do with my own novel The Thing In The Woods, which features a monster in the prologue that isn't seen again until Chapter Five. Many of the early chapters end with cliffhangers (an attack by a great white shark, the discovery of a mass grave) that further speed the plot.

Although the reader is led to suspect one character is a traitor partway through the novel, it turns out it's both true and not true. I liked how Robinson pulled that off.

There's some foreshadowing that something with a turtle shell that's human-sized is going to be very resistant to bullets when the protagonist uses an adult sea turtle as a personal shield against an attacking great white. Yes, that looks and sounds extraordinarily goofy, but it was entertaining to see on the page.

I really liked the concept of making Unit 731 the villains. Although the Japanese war crimes against Westerners like the Bataan Death March are well-known, the Japanese crimes against the Chinese are significantly less so outside of Asia. Considering how the Chinese were Japan's more numerous victims, that's a travesty. Given how there were Japanese holdouts in the Pacific active as late as the 1970s, the idea that a bunch of Japanese mad scientists might still be operating in secret is not totally implausible.

The Bad

Unfortunately, things fall apart once we actually learn what's going on. Although perhaps Robinson was trying to make a point about how the U.S. was willing to use Unit 731's expertise after the war rather than punish them for their crimes, it would have been much more interesting if the villains were Unit 731 scientists (or their descendants) who had remained in isolation, preying on shipwreck survivors, refugees, etc. for experiment material (and presumably comfort women, given how they'd be predominately male) and maintaining (and advancing) their technology through, say, the more nationalistic elements of the Yakuza, rather than American renegades who'd taken over the project.

Some things come off as extremely derivative from other media. One of the horrors of the island is, instead of a Human Centipede, something resembling a Human Rubix Cube made up of much of the island's previous research staff. How the villain managed to overpower over a dozen people and graft them together into this horrid thing is never explained. Although it's useful for a couple disturbing moments--at the center of the mass are the villain's parents, hidden away so he'll never had to look at them, and when all of them regained consciousness the ball nearly tore itself apart--it seems rather impractical on top of being unoriginal. Also, one of the most dangerous creatures on the island are something resembling a face-hugger from the Aliens universe created by merging spiders, turtles, and I think monkeys (the tail) that reproduce within minutes by seeding other creatures.

And how the villain controls the remaining researchers and some of his scientific creations through surgically implanted bombs and has managed to condition the creatures of the island (all of them) to respond to radio pulses and certain sounds to the point he can use them as his own private army strike me as extremely impractical. Although this is helpful in making some of the villains (somewhat) sympathetic, surely Robinson could have come up with more practical ways. Although controlling people via personal explosives has been done before, the concept is rather goofy.

There are some typos--at one point, for example, "steel" is rendered "steal." And that's not the only one. One would think given how it was published in hardcover, more effort would have gone into editing it.

The Verdict

Well-done beginning all but ruined by a bad ending. 5 out of 10. Lots of wasted potential here. I'm tempted to write a "how I would have done it" version, but coming up with a title that's as cool was this one would be difficult and writing it so soon after this is just asking for a lawsuit. This could have been awesome, but it wasn't.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Writing Advice: How To Cut Words

Over the last few days, I went through Battle for the Wastelands, cutting words in anticipation of #PitchMas. The manuscript began at 104,000 words (well, 103,946 or something like that, but I'm fairly certain one rounds when one pitches) and I've gotten it down to 100,375 words, which as far as publishers are concerned I can call it 100,000 words. Given how intricately I've plotted this out, I would much rather cut a few words per page and hope they add up rather than make macro cuts of scenes and characters.

So based on my work on Battle, here're some tips on how to do just that:

*Avoid the word "that." Oftentimes it's not needed. In particular "that" and a verb. Instead make it a gerund. Frex, instead of "a box that contained bones," say "a box containing bones."

*Cut the phrase "of them." Instead of saying "the two of them did this" or "the three of them did that," just say "the two did this" or "the three did that." Sometimes "of them" is necessary, but I cut a lot of words purging it.

*In tight third person, saying the POV character "knew" something is redundant. The portion of the story is being told from their perspective, so everything the reader reads they know. There were some situations where it was stylistically appropriate to leave that in, but I still cut some words there.

*Don't present the same information twice, even if realistically this would happen. The reader has already seen it once and that's what really matters. The second time, have something like, "So-and-so told her about such-and-such." The reader will know what you're talking about. This was a much bigger problem in The Cybele Incident, but it did crop up in a much earlier draft of Battle for the Wastelands and I found a bit of it at the end of the current draft of Battle.

*Cut speech tags. If you're describing somebody doing something and then have speech, it means that person is talking. Something like this:

Erin glared at him. "Don't condescend to me!"

Instead of

"Don't condescend to me!" Erin said angrily OR "Don't condescend to me!" Erin spat.

This example doesn't result in a net word loss, but when I applied this policy to Battle, I was able to cut words. This isn't to say speech tags aren't necessary, especially if there are more than two people present, but a lot of times they can be cut if what's going on in the scene gives context clues as to who is speaking.

I hope these suggestions prove useful to you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sicilian Empire? Venetian Constantinople? Super Bulgaria? Check out "Basilicus Sicilia"

Here's another alternate-historical treat for you, my loyal readers. It's called "Basilicus Sicilia."

In our history, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was one of the most fascinating characters. He was born and grew up in Sicily, the cosmopolitan heart of the Mediterranean. He spoke six languages and was a major patron of the arts and sciences. He became Holy Roman Emperor and ruled over Germany and much of Italy and was often at loggerheads with the Papacy, which excommunicated him repeatedly and at one point even claimed he was the Antichrist. He had a reputation as a religious skeptic (the truth of that is rather dubious given how the people writing about him were churchmen who had a political beef with him), but waged Crusades all the same.

In this timeline, Frederick's attempt to become Holy Roman Emperor is defeated by Otto IV, but he remains in power in Sicily and southern Italy. Still the genius he was in our history, he renounces his bid to be Emperor in exchange for Sicilian independence and large ransoms for the prisoners he's taken and instead begins a campaign of conquest in North Africa. A Catholic empire ruling over a large Muslim population is a tricky thing, but Frederick's upbringing in very diverse Sicily proves very helpful here. He takes direct control of parts of the Holy Land while Crusading and forces his nobles into submission, establishing himself as Europe's first absolute monarch. His successors continue his work, establishing a very interesting Mediterranean empire.

"Butterflies" from this event include:

*Bulgaria becomes a powerful Balkan state, causing the collapse of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. The Venetians end up with possession of the city itself, creating the position of "Junior Doge" to govern it.

*The Byzantine successor state of Trebizond reconciles with the Nestorian heresy common among the Christian Mongols and becomes a friend of the Ilkhanate. As a result, they are the first Christian state to use cannon.

*The Angevin Empire (England, much of Ireland, and much of France) remains intact rather than the infamous King John losing most of its continental possessions to the King of France. We still have something resembling the Magna Carta in this timeline, fortunately.

So if you're interested in another medieval Mediterranean might-have-been, check this out.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June Writing Contest Results

My writing contest with Nick, Lauren Patrick, and Sean Korsgaard continues. This past month hasn't been particularly productive. I've only written 5,056 words (give or take some new words written during the editing process I didn't track well), which puts me ahead of Lauren (who had RL obligations) but dramatically behind Nick (who totally stomped everybody with 25,000).

Although I spent a lot of the month revising Battle for the Wastelands for the coming #Pitchmas novel-pitching sessions, excuses buy no yams. Looking at my spreadsheet, I didn't do any writing at all for over half the days in the month and most of those days weren't spent marking up the Battle manuscript or working for my freelance clients. I need to get in the habit of writing every day, even if it's only a little. My writer friends James R. Tuck and Delilah S. Dawson are productivity masters (creating first drafts in only a few months, with far more responsibilities than I have) and I would do well to emulate them.

So here's what I did accomplish:

*Battle for the Wastelands manuscript is now fully marked and I've edited the first three chapters. The goal is to get to 100,000 words or less to make it more salable. I did get a nibble from a small press during a previous pitching session that ultimately lead to a rejection, but I did get some useful feedback. The same with an agent rejection that arrived during the same timeframe. I'm optimistic for #Pitchmas. :)

*I've written close to 2,000 words for the sixth Wastelands novel, tentatively entitled Consolidation. Much of this was scenes I've previously written and filed away for later, including villain Falki Grendelsson brooding on the state of race relations in his truncated empire and Catalina Merrill cowing a would-be rapist with a revolver, but a lot of it is new material pertaining to how my development of Catalina's character.

*Written a good bit of material (approximately 3,000 words) for The Thing In The Woods, including much of the fifth chapter where the monster shows up again for the first time since the prologue and a scene taking place in the town library that brings in the American Civil War. I will be bringing the first four chapters before my Lawrenceville group this coming Sunday and the prologue (which the Lawrenceville people have already critiqued) before my Kennesaw group Saturday. All this critiquing and rewriting slows the process down and jeopardizes my plan to have the first draft finished by the time grad school starts in August, but the more finished and polished the early chapters are, the less continuity editing I'll need to do later.

So here's to a better, more productive July.