dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
It's a snow day, so that I thought that I'd have a bit of fun with Y-Wing lore. I've never much liked canon for the ship, so I'm going to have a bit of fun with it. I'd lake to make the Y-Wing analogous to the Mosquito fighter-bomber of WW2. The upgradability of the Y-Wing is analogous to the continuous upgrades that Merlin engine underwent during WW2, which maintained the Spitfire as a viable fighter through the entire war.

Where the Star Wars universe differs from WW2 is in its mature starship technology. Aircraft such as the A-10, the B-52, the F-15, and the MiG-21 have taught us that as long as a technology is useful, it will stick around.

----

The Y-Wing was designed and developed by Koensayr Manufacturing in the tense years before the Clone Wars. Aimed at smaller planetary markets, the vehicle was designed as an escort fighter, cheap to fly and cheap to maintain. The eventual production model proved overweight and underpowered. According to those early pilots, "it put the dog in dogfighter."

The Y-Wing would have gone down in history as a market failure if not for the Clone Wars. The sudden outbreak of war demanded fighters immediately, while procuring additional fighters required that manufacturing build more factories. In the face of this crisis, ground crews modified the existing Y-Wing fighters by removing weight and overcalibrated their engines. With those field changes, the humble Y-Wing's fortunes turned, quickly proving itself the best cheap starfighter in the galaxy.

The Y-Wing's saga didn't end there. Because these fighters were so easily modified, planets were able to retask these fighters into numerous roles, such as scouts, ground attack fighters, minesweepers, couriers, and torpedo boats. By the war's end, these fighters had become the predominant starfighter in the Outer Rim. General Dodona said, "They did everything that we asked of them and more."

With the rise of the Empire, the need for region defensive craft diminished. Planets that voluntarily accepted Imperial Garrisons were required to scrap their local fighter groups, and so the Y-Wing quickly disappeared from arsenals and resale lots.

With the rise of the Rebellion, salvaging those Y-Wing became mission #1. Their ease of repair and modification was exactly what the Rebellion needed. Aggressively recruiting veteran Y-Wing ground crews, General Dodona pushed the vehicle far beyond its original specifications, producing a strike fighter capable of matching matching the new Imperial TIEs. The resulting craft proved so capable and resilient that they led the Rebellion's attack on the Death Star. Late in the war, as better and more maneuverable craft arrived, the Y-Wing continued proving its worth, maintaining its place in the Rebel arsenal through the dogged innovations of its ground crews.

After the war, Y-Wing pilots often boasted, "The X-Wings got all the glory, but the Y-Wings did all the work."
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
My developmental editor had a few things to say about the current stack of books. As reported earlier, Book 1 had the lion's share of problems. Books 2 and 3 work far better, just getting a handful of issues each.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
My wife got through reading the first book of the news series, Maid of Shadows. She dinged so many issues that I wrote down an entire page worth of notes. That's alotta work, my friends, and I don't yet know how I'm going to resolve these. But I'm not solving a thing until I get finished writing a knock-down, drag-out, four letter word real-man story of real manliness.

Shadows

Mar. 2nd, 2017 01:34 pm
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Four books written, condensed into three, third revision of the series, and I finally figure out the shadows with a single throw-away changed to the manuscript.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I've wrapped up draft #2 on Maid of Memory. This one is hefty compared to many of my books, weighing in at 85k words (or about 320 pages). Next, I'm back onto Maid of Hope.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Ship Who Sang (1969) by Anne McCaffrey is a fixup SF novel of a ship containing a malformed human, otherwise called a "brain." The novel read quite archaically, resembling an SF novel from the 50's far more than the late 60's, containing stiff sentences paired with stiff dialog.

If you're looking for the far smoother McCaffrey from the 1970's, this isn't it.

As I read, I often found myself getting bored with each story, the weak plots overwhelming the otherwise dull and underdeveloped characters. Helen, the ship, aside from singing, frequently has no other personality traits worth speaking about.

The book itself is a veiled feminist work, where the ship is paired with a brawn, but the ship works through various brawns as she goes, much like a woman, freed through the sexual revolution, was now able to trade partners. Likewise, the brawns frequently have the character and flaws of bad husbands, especially those bad attitudes more frequent before women's liberation.

While I praise Anne's aims, the results fail more often than they work.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
By using first in free as a strategy, I brought in about $150 in sales last year on $120 in expenditures. That's a profit.

So far this year, even that meager gravy train is over. I've only see sales in $0.99 range.

Running ads via Amazon, I've saw increases in give-aways, but no increase in sales. Annoying.

At the end of last year, for some inexplicable reason, I kept selling book on the Nook. That ended solidly on Dec 31. $20. I won't complain, but I am annoyed.

I ought to figure lots of things from this, but just about anything that I figure is based on poor information.

What I can say is that the covers aren't competitive enough, the blurbs aren't competitive enough, and the samples aren't competitive enough, not because I did a bad job improving them last year, but because those are the three things that matter most.

The good news is that I've already paid for my cover images out of last year's money. If I spend no money, I make a profit. Then again, if I don't spend more money, I create no more opportunity.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I finished the initial revision of Pabi, book 4, Maid of Hope. Phew. I now have a conclusion to that series. Now I have to go back and rewrite all of them to make sense and work and be readable, but in the meantime, I'm writing a positive bouncy story for my daughter. I need the break.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
This year, I completed the Swan Song series with The Phoenix and the Swan. Last month, I published the long delayed Double Jack. Most of the year, I worked on the Maid series, drafting four books in ten months. That's alotta words.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
My editor is halfway through the second edit of Double Jack. It's getting close.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Double Jack is an alternate history fantasy novel set in 1926 Baltimore. The lead character, Jack, is a wizard in hiding, drifting from job to job, keeping his head down. The last thing that he wants is trouble, but trouble seems to want him. When a gangster sets him up on a date that he can't refuse, Jack soon finds himself entangled in the web of his own past, while Theosophers, Atheists, Communists, and Catholics determine his future.

-------

In 1926, I was ready to jump the first train out of Baltimore. I’d done it before, never knowing when home couldn’t be home anymore. On a few occasions I hadn’t even packed my bag. I had to leave immediately or never leave at all.

Life was like trying to listen to the radio, which was new in those days, carefully tuning it so that the station came in clear, but every time I stepped away to sit and enjoy the program, static leaped into the channel, so that I was forever moving in a vain attempt to get the station clear, and it was that constant getting up that made me increasingly desperate to sit down, until I finally switched off the radio and collapsed into my chair. I may have been disgusted with the radio, but at least I was sitting. The only real difference was that in my life, I couldn't turn off that radio. I was always adjusting the dial but always hearing nothing.

At that time I worked the night shift at a warehouse. I was the night clerk, the person responsible for signing off on the paperwork and fixing the books. One night, my proverbial radio turned to static when somebody knocked on the shipping office door. That wasn’t unusual. I expected to see mobsters wanting a late pickup. Mob bosses like their champagne as much as the next lush, usually because they have some pretty girls to entertain. Instead of gangsters, two respectable seeming men came in, completely unlike the teamsters outside, meaning that they were either revenuers or missionaries. I had no reason to speak with either, but given the option, I would have preferred that they were revenuers.

Those two men were important and I would soon know them far better than I had the right to. They didn’t introduce themselves then, so I'll jump in and introduce them for you. The disheveled one who sat down next to my desk like a deadbeat uncle was Sloe Joe, a man who could make any well tailored suit look like a thrift store purchase. The other guy, who wore his clothes well, like a blue blood, was Fancy Charlie. He said nothing, as he almost always said nothing, standing by the shipping office door. He always kept his handkerchiefs well ironed, standing fashionably out of his pocket.

To this day, I don’t know their real names. They never told me those names nor wished to tell me. I tried asking once, but Joe just smiled and said, “Sloe Joe’s all you gotta know.” I might have pressed on the subject, but as I went by a fake name as well, dropping the subject seemed like the best move.

As I capped my pen, the red-faced Joe started bantering like an old friend. “Hey, bird, it’s a night out there. What a night. Rain and mist and all that. You know those really chilly days that just drive you nuts? This is one of them. For Christ’s sake, why don’t you have the heat on? What kind of cheapskate do you work for?”

The other thing about Joe was that he got you to answer truthfully, without thinking, because he just talked that way. That made him a killer card player.

“We’re out of coal,” I said, stating the facts. “The day shift forgot to order more.”

Joe showed his disgust. “You need a warm bowl of soup, bird,” he said, taking out a wad of bills. “On me. Really. Here, take a fiver. Skip down to that diner on King James Street. They’re open all night and they got a smokin’ dame who serves tables there. Order the franks and beans and you can’t go wrong.”

In translation, that was a respectable way of saying “get lost or else.” That also meant keeping the dockworkers quiet. Five dollars was a lot, but it wasn't what it used to be. Due to inflation, money was always worth less in those days. And as a rule, when offered a bribe, never take the first offer. “The boys here will wonder where I’m off to. I’ll need to buy them some cigarettes.”

Charlie nodded at that.

Joe smiled back. “Smart bird. Here’s a few more bucks. If the waitress says that she don't have no more cartons, don’t take no for an answer. The diner’s always got a few cartons behind the counter.” He tossed in one more dollar. “You gotta tip her, too.”

That was a ridiculous pile of greenbacks just to get dinner, even with inflation. I could feed everyone for a week on that. These nobodies wanted me out the door and I couldn't say no to that kind of money.

“How long should I be gone?” I asked, having no desire to see these men again. As I already had my coat on, I stood, putting on my cheeriest disposition.

Joe inspected me head to toe as I buttoned up.

“Hey, you’re a classy looking guy,” Joe observed. “What’s a guy like you doing down here? You must not be married. Do you have a girl?”

Joe knew the answer by seeing my reaction.

“I got this sister,” Joe offered. “She likes classy guys. How about I set you two up?”
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I may not have dealt with racism very much in Double Jack, but I do deal with sexism.

By sexism, I mean organized and systematized discrimination based on gender. In this era, a woman's gender almost entirely defined her, especially at the upper levels of society. Women were not just believe to be poor voters, they were scientifically shown to be incapable. Men simple could not let this happen because it was dangerous. In the end, determined women won suffrage, but not without considerable agitation and illegal conduct.

Our lead character, Jack, isn't a terrible person or a woman hater, but he does have the cultural beliefs of his time. To him, it utterly inconceivable that a woman could be a wizard because woman is incapable of proper the proper dispassion required of the discipline. This not an opinion to him, but a fact.

And like all people with fixed beliefs, Jack does his best to maintain them. That's just what people do. When faced with a bevy of capable women, he naturally concludes that each one is an outlier.

Of course, our hero changes his mind as he progresses, but his change of mind changes no one else's mind. He may become enlightened, but the world does not. And even if he does become enlightened on one point, will Jack become enlightened on all others? Can his mind ever be fully freed from all the bindings created by his culture? I don't think so, and that's what make an interesting character.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
As I wrote Double Jack, I could not ignore racism in the 1920's. To ignore racism was to create too much of a fantasy, while to feature racism was to change the fundamental nature of the work.

To given you an idea of racism in the 1920's, Birth of a Nation premiered in 1915 and went on to sell a zillion tickets. Not only was there racism in this day and age, it was overt and unabashed. These were the days when racial purity mattered. These were the days when boxing colluded to keep out black boxers and Negros were fully excluded from baseball. Racism was the legal framework of the United States.

In Double Jack, I chose to apply racism as invisible to my main character. He saw Negros, interacted with them, accepted them in their station, and never once questioned whether any of it was right. He never once saw the rules as wrong. You, as a reader, I hope, see and recognize the racism for what it is. You may not know what their story is, but you know there's a story there.

Even the word that I use for Black Americans is the word of the age. Negro.

I avoided 'nigger'. It was period, but I never ran into a place where the word found appropriate expression. My grandfather used the word all the time. "That's what they're called!" he complained when he learned that people didn't like the word. My personal belief is that Sloe Joe should have used that word carelessly. It wasn't a cruel word to him, it was just a fact. But for us, it's not a fact, it's a cruel word. I think that Jack accepted it as a cruel word as well, so when he wrote down his memoir, he excised it from Joe's vocabulary. Joe wasn't cruel, but he was a product of his age.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I've been working on Double Jack for a while. I wrote my first draft back in 2012-2013, after completing work on "Between Earth and Heaven." For several years, I had designs on writing a first person, noir style fantasy novel set in the 1920s, but at the time knew that I wasn't a good enough writer.

Getting Double Jack to work took a lot of time and energy. After writing it, I set it down. Sometime later, I would pick it up, throw out most of the chapters, then completely rewrite. The next draft, I would keep a few chapters, but throw out the rest. I went down many blind alleys, slowly learning what made this book tick, what made the genre tick, and discovering in every draft that I didn't yet understand the rules of the work.

I hadn't written in first person this extensively before. I had written a short story here and there, but not an entire novel. So before I even began, I had to get that voice right. I didn't want Jack's memoir to feel like a hardboiled detective, so I couldn't even begin until I could get a different voice in my head.

What does a fantasy novel set in the 1920's even look like? In truth, we know, because we have fantasy stories from back then. As we don't need any more of those, I didn't think that I actually wanted to write something like that. I certainly didn't want to write something like Lovecraft. What I wanted was something that felt more like F. Scott Fitzerald, so taking a few years, I casually read most of his books. Whatever I produced, I wanted it solid enough to stand alongside a Fitzgerald novel without shame. At the same time, I didn't want it to actually be a Fitzgeral novel. What I wanted was for it to feel like it came from the same time period. I wanted it to feel like the sort of fantasy novel that one of Fitzgerald's literary contemporaries might produce.

There are certain things that I didn't want. I didn't want steampunk or dieselpunk. I have no ill will towards either genre, but I felt that this memoir, this mildly noir style recollection, would go astray with if I made it one of those two genres. However, my research and a few insights revealed to me that, beyond all comedy, that the 1920's were already post-steampunk. In real life, humanity had actually produced the Victorian steampunk society, and now it was busily producing a real dieselpunk society, with radios, airships, plastics. The old steam society was literally being superceded by new fashions, trends, and vocabulary. The even amazing more truth was that the 1920s were an age of science fiction, so I didn't need to invent anything at all. I wanted the novel to feel like that, leaving one age to enter another.

One point where I wavered was whether the novel would take place in the United States or a fantasy world that looked and felt remarkably like the United States, just like most fantasy worlds feel medieval. Although I leaned very strongly to making this world entirely artificial, setting it in the US gave my readers a geography, and gave me access to all our existing history, maps, culture, and politics. By making the world familiar, I didn't have to explain vast swaths of backstory. Because I was already familiar with Baltimore, I set the novel in that city. Because of how history progressed a little differently, it's not quite the Baltimore of our own past, but it has enough in common so that you know it's the same place.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Last night's story was Equestria Girls mixed with Doctor Who.

The Sirens summoned the Daleks from the future to get their revenge. Long story short, the Daleks were to sing against the Equestria Girl. DesignGirl provided the songs, with "exterminate" inserted into all the appropriate locations, even if that didn't scan.

I did make a few songs, with the one below working the best. Does this work or what?

If I had a hammer
I'd exterminate in the morning
I'd exterminate in the evening
All over this land

I'd exterminate justice
I'd exterminate freedom
I'd exterminate love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
We've had some fun story cycles this year with our daughter, so I thought that I would write down what the subject were. If we were real fanfaction writers, fans would stagger at our output, and also stagger at the collateral damage to their favorite fandoms.

Note that certain creative changes were strongly suggested by the listening audience, resulting in stories that almost entirely didn't represent their origin.

Fineas and Pherb - Dr. Dufunschmirtz and his daughter and his 14 children, and his plan of the moment.

Star Wars - Reverse gender Star Wars. These eventually evolved into Star Wars High School, where Prince Luke was constantly chased by Muffy Tarkin, president of the Prince Luke fan club, and her hijinks to make Luke marry her (and so become a princess). Jajar Binks often proved the most valuable backup character. (He was always good for a cheap laugh.)

Equestria Girl - Camping Challenges. The new video (Camp Everfree) isn't even out yet, and I'm already telling stories about it. The girls have seemingly impossible camping challenges, such as camping in lava fields, camping in Time Square, or inserting themselves into movies.

Jenny told other stories. (This had been happening for years. My daughter demands different stories from each of us.)

Final Fantasy X/X-2 - The family comedy of Wakka and Lulu and their four children and their four elemental cats.

Middle Earth - Middle High. In these comedy stories, the characters of Lord of the Rings are now in high school at Middle High, with a running rivalry with the neighboring school, Uruk High. Aragorn is captain of the rugby team, Boromir is the captain of the football team, and Arwen is captain of the cheerleading squad. The hobbits are all freshmen.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
A few reviewers have been thrown by the brutality shown in All the Saints Are Dead. They are dismayed at how dragons tend to eat their riders, and how riders are promoted whenever somebody above them dies. I think that this is telling, and it tells me that I've succeeded.

The dragons in Astrea are based on jet fighters (an military craft in general). If you are familiar with these craft, you'll understand just how hazardous they are. It's not unusual for a ground tech on a carrier to get sucked into the air intake of a jet and literally disintegrated. It's not unusual at all for a jet (or other air vehicle) to go down, killing its pilot and anyone else on board. That's reality. That's the reality that I used to create verisimilitude in the Swan Song series.

As for promotions, that's also military. Especially in war, you were promoted through survival, and nobody asked your permission. That's why you have a chain of command. If the chain becomes broken, everyone knows who is supposed to step in. This sort of promotion by mortality was especially true in WW2 with the Army Air Corps. The losses were such that death meant promotion.

How is it that we can accept such brutality in real life, but in fantasy, such things become abhorrent? Holding up a mirror to reality shows us too closely what we truly are. We don't need to imagine a distopian fantasy world as we already live in one.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
This is a third design for Double Jack. I continue with the art deco motif, delving this time into color. Art deco loved color. While I love the overall effect, especially the swirly magic circle, this just doesn't scream 1920's fantasy enough to earn its place over cover #2.

Double Jack 3.png
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The new cover for A Crown of Silver Stars.

Astrea 3 Cover 4.jpg
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