Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Titanic 2012 - The Launch of an infamous ShipWreck!

TITANIC 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic  is now officially up at the Kindle store shelves at Amazon.com/Kindle store  or simply do a search for  Titanic 2012 and it'll pop right up. Two great reviews are up on Kindle already and the book is selling briskly. For a look at an indepth review of our baby -- come see the baby!!!  At:  http://www.amazon.com/Titanic-2012-Curse-RMS-ebook/product-reviews/B0049U4CCE/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Way ahead of the year-long schedule I had set for myself, the book debut just this past Sunday, last day in Oct....just under the wire for Halloween.

I wish to thank each and everyone here who followed the evolution of the book - to see how I personally Cook a Book.

Thanks for your continued patience and frienship....but ain't that what it's all about?

Rob Walker

Saturday, October 16, 2010

writing as in art - can it be taught? I for one say yes!

The Writing Art - Can It be Taught?

As a kid in 4th Grade I knew I wanted to be a writer; never any doubt. On hearing Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Taken" at that impressionable age, and having been born in rural Corinth, MS., I also knew I was a "Rebel" as the other kids in a Chicago, IL school called me in large due to my accent and the fact I hadn't known my first name--only my middle name--when the teacher called us up for anything! At any rate, I knew early on that being a writer meant being different and having a love for storytelling. I also early on leaned that many of my teachers--most in fact--had a disdain for this art or feared teaching it and that I was pretty much on my own, that I'd have to be self-taught in this discipline. What I knew was that I needed Gramma's grammar badly--good grammar, that is, and that few to no teachers in my experience really knew how to convey the complexities of this 'dead zone' where no one wished to venture if they could instead turn us to doing paper machete projects (all through elementary especially). However, the basics I did pick up in 4th Grade are the same basics I teach in my 101, 102, and creative writng classes at the college level today -- same "stuff" people are resistant to. Ultimately, I teach "sound and sense" in that if it "sounds" rythmic and it makes "sense"--that is clear, use it and move on with your story. That has served me well, Sound and Sense.

The question still nags at us, however--can Creative, Crafty, Clever Writing be taught? I feel that ultimately it can be taught (depending on what one means by taught, of course!) On a recent kindle discussion group, we got into it with these cogent results thanks to the caliber of the people in the group. First the question was raised by a member, so I thank Carla Rene for bringing it up. Two responses I felt particularly good follow here:

Subject: Re: [Kindlefloor] Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

To: "Kindle Discussion Group"

Date: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 6:37 PM

Carla posed this question: I know some here are creative writing course instructors as well as English
teachers, but I'm involved in a heated discussion on another writing forum, and this brings up a great point: CAN you teach someone the basic skills and inherent ability to write a decent novel? Or short-story?

Anne replied with: I think there are aspects that can, and aspects that can't, be taught. Writing is kind of a trifecta of inspiration, talent and wordcraft. It doesn't matter how well you can lay out a plot or build a character if you don't have an idea for a plot or character. You can have the most wonderful ideas in the world, but it does no good if you can't tell a story. And you can have a great idea and a great story, but neither does you any good unless you have the mechanical skills to tell it coherently and readably.

Obviously the skills of writing -- spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure and so on -- can be taught. To a certain extent, storytelling can be taught in that you can talk about character building and consistency, plot structure, pacing and so on. Beyond that, however, it comes down to imagination and talent, and another vital ingredient: PRACTICE.

No amount of classroom teaching is going to create a really good writer. You can't teach talent and imagination. However, you CAN *encourage* and *exercise* and *polish* them. I think creative writing classes are excellent for that purpose. Kind of the pilates of the imagination.

Sue entered the fray with this: Anne, I totally agree with you. As a long time wannabe writer, I found that my talent (if you want to call it that) lay in expository writing (not what I would have wished for). I taught creative writing to 8th graders and high school freshmen for many years and those are the years that I value most highly. During my many years of teaching English to 8th and 9th graders, the California Board of Education tried something quite phenomenal: actually looking at the writing of our students to determine if we were making any progress! "The California Writing Project" pulled the best of the best for training and then invested heavily in training trainers who then worked with teachers at the school site level. I was a trainer and test reader for a few years and I have to say that it was the most exciting time of my teaching career. We actually were able to teach teachers to teach writing (rather than just assigning it). When we were being trained to read and score the student writing tests, papers were to be scored in a 1-5 range (5 being highest), we were told that when we came across a "5" we would know it - and we did. The "4s" were generally almost perfect in every way EXCEPT they didn't have that extra special undefinable "sparkle" that came right out and hit you between the eyes. Those "5" papers were very exciting to read.

I think that, as English teachers, we definitely can teach most kids to be 3s and the 4's, but no way could anyone teach that extra something that we found in those few wonderful pieces of writing that were 5s.. Unfortunately, even though we were showing great progress in teaching writing for several years there, another, easier to grade (and less costly) idea came along and "The California Writing Project" fell by the wayside, as has almost every other good new idea that has come along It was a sad time for those of us who valued good writing and believed that we could help to make it happen.

To which Rob-me, myself, and I added: I have worked at Jr. High and High School levels also, so I bemoan the fact that so many FINE writing programs at those levels instituted in the 70s and excellent results like the one Sue spoke of -- all across America in fact -- were shut down unceremoniously, or rather unceremoniously shut down due to first cuts always going to the arts--and writing is one of the arts with a somewhat scientific element called sentence structure, types, and grammar wherein you demonstrate skills but you also learn the art of active voice for fiction in particular--dramatic writing.

Sue is absolutely and sadly right on the money when it comes to ANYTHING proven to work for our students is the first thing to be tossed from our schools as a result of cost cutting and administrative jockeying, and teachers' unions concerns also place the most crucial concerns regarding actual classroom dynamics like teacher-student ratio so that real instruction can happen at the bottom of the list of ideals. Money always a key factor and there's no poetry in money nor money in poetry--not as there is in accounting and the sciences.

That said, as one who is self-taught in what is termed creative writing and a writer who happens to be capable of teaching, and a teacher who practices what he teaches daily, I can safely say that yes, a 'talented' young person can learn umpteen thousands of techniques from every published author who has ever put pen to paper. Talent is an iffy word, and imagination is like quicksilver and mercury often coming and going, and to be called talented, even genius, is at best an affectation. What creates most excellent writers is the steady practice of the trade, especially any sort of creatve work, be it the well-crafted essay/expository writing or story. The more one writes, the more one reads, the more one prospers as an author (not always monetarily but via the cache of learning). Talent if a dangerous term in my opinion along with the notion of the silver-tongue born into the head of the child as if prepared via lineage--although they may well have found an "artistic-right-brained genetic connect" as well as a left-brained science-oriented genetic connect" due to lineage. Hard to say. However, I do feel strongly that I have not wased 30+ years in teaching writing; that is, that a great deal of writing is teachable, and we can bring students to the brink of that "Sixth Sense" element that goes beyond the 5 senses and touches the reader in that spiritual zone we all aspire to.

Rob Walker
"Autographed" ebook ARC of Titanic 2012 available by contacting me direct at inkwalk@sbcglobal.net

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Are Cheap as Dirt eBook Prices Creating Devlaued Authors & Their Works?

Short Answer: NO....long answer is a debate between authors who have taken the http://www.dtp.amazon.com/ plunge and other authors who are sticking with what they've always known. Here is my take on the subject but before I say Publishers are Devaluing authors who are setting prices low on ebook platforms, let me say this: There is no integrity in this so-called business. Like any other job, when they target you for a raise or an upgrade, you get it and you are happy with The Company - whatever its name. When they target you as simply one of the work force as in "the stable" folks who they draw on to fill spaces with paper or books in this instance, you are pigeonholed as surely as when you could never, no matter what, get anything above a C from Mrs. C, your English teacher at H.G. Wells High Schooooool. The company, school, publisher always demands loyalty from you, the worker, but they offer zero loyalty to you in the end--Zero. That said and posited in your mind, know that the illusion that publishing is somehow above such behaviors and is a "gentlemen's game" -- well maybe in 1890 but I doubt that even then a publisher had anyone working for him that he could not cut loose.

Now know that I believe I hold the record for number of Series characters, and so have had a lot of my characters and storylines CUT.  So this is where I an coming from when speaking of loyalty to the job and the job display loyalty in return and such shocking things as integrity and the lack of it found anywhere in publishing.

So here goes:

Dee-Dee Doit says: I am not saying that the individual readers devalue the work of individual writers.
I am saying that the downward trend in pricing devalues our work in the marketplace at large and makes publishers see us as a lesser commodity.

Rob: I object to the word commodity but let us get to the point. Publishers already devalue our work as example: We do our own damn advertising and such groups online as MMA (Murder Must Advertise...Mystery (writers) MUST advertise, so by the behaviors of publishers - specifically the big six - giving no advertising budget to 99& of their 'stable' of authors devalues our work.

No support for midlist authors, no decent income, below living wage income devalues our work. When publishers persist in rewarding gimmick writing rather than quality writing, this devalues our work as when no dollars go to a lifetime professional author because those funds are budgeted to the latest Pamela Anderson's Dress for Success for Little Girls.... and they did it to Mark Twain before us...have since the printing press came into being. Devalued. Readers do not do this when they pay for a 2.99 ebook but publishers do?

Mark Sureshot: I think advances are the only thing—other than a huge inheritance—that makes it possible for a writer to work full time instead of having to struggle with a day job all their life, and ebooks offer no advance.

Rob --A hundred thousand dollar advance for four books = 25,000 a year...subsistence living unless you live in a cardboard box.  And since the publisher devalues you and your writing by the time you finish the book (giving it no support by the time 9 months to a year and a half rolls around (pub date) as they are busy with their latest PR campaign for a dead author like VC Andrews who has a greater budget than many thousands of live authors), this devalues your work. Your publisher is busy entertaining the idea of publishng OJ Simpson's "How I Would Have Done it Had I Done it" -- so too busy to be reading your novel...this devalues your work. Condescendingly telling an author that a Stephen King blockbuster creates a trickle down effect that rains down on all of the writers in the house (nonsense), this devalues you.

Ariana Selfassured: I’ve heard some writers say that it does not matter that major publishing houses like Random and Simon and Schuster and Penguin devalue your work if you are willing to sell it for 1.99 or 2.99.  But it does to me. I don not want the major houses thinking I sell my work cheap!
Rob: After thirty years of being a slave to the system controlled by a few hundred people called agents (the front guard), editors (the gatekeepers), and publishers (King of the fiefdom or thiefdom), I for one am enjoying the fact that technology has caught up to my childhood dreams of being my own damn publishing company in need of no King or Thiefdom. No longer an indentured servant, and the freedom from all the nonsense I have endured over these many years, I cannot tell you how wonderful it is.

There are many rivers to the ocean, but as to devlauing you and your books? The readers value your writing far, far more than does the typical publisher who is going to choose the Lady Gaga biography over your literary thriller or historical thriller any day. It is kind of like how everyone talks a big game of how teachers ought to be paid what they are worth but never are. Niether teaching for teaching's sake, the art of it, nor writing quality for quality's sake is rewarded, not in the main most certainly.

It has otten to that point for me (when a publisher apparently does not know what he/she has in hand because of the distractions of the gimmick books bound to make huge profits in the marketplace) that I have had it up to here and I ain't gonna take it anymore!!  OK but you may disagree and fine. To each his own but my personal "bestseller ever" appears to be the novel turned down by every agent, editor, and publisher in New York City and in fact anyone who looked at it who was in a position to purchase it but for inane remakrs on rejections like "Sorry but, etc...not right for us...been done...etc." -- Children of Salem is rubber-stamped REJECTED.

But...Same book... but Kindle readers have made their voices heard over what I feel is a novel that ought to have been valued but was not--along with my Cuba Blue and Dead On Writing and now Titanic 2012 (which by this time, I didn't bother as it was REJECTED once long ago when Cameron's movie came out). Now it's me and my partner not my publisher putting out quality books for readers who respond to quality NOT to pricing. Kindle readers and ebook readers in general are far smarter than NYC publishing tells us writers all the time..."Write to the 4th Grade level...No one would be interested in a heroine in Cuba in a series...no one wants to see another book about witches....or the supernatural...or a psychic detective..."  All to do with dictating what readers should be reading.

Sara Serenade: Holding a full time job added stress and frustration to my life. I am grateful I can write full time.

Rob: I personally as a professor gain so much for my writing from my students.  They inspire me every bit as I inspire them and so they grant me energy and do not steal my strength.  I would never quit my day job, not after what I have been through in Dead Tree Publication biz wherein you never know when they decide to cut you off at the knees. A good six or seven of my characters were cut off and I have had to find creaive ways to continue working and developing the characters I want to develop as in ressurecting Inspector Alastair Ransom of Chicago to become Constable Alastair Ransom aboard the Titanic...a character killed off not by me but by my publisher.

This does not even go to the money in the author's pocket.  I have in the past three years pocketed far, far more money from my ebooks (cheap as they are) than I have in paper and hardcover books. In fact, this year have made enough to move into another house. So you can keep your so-called integrity, your so-called loyalty, and your so-called "value" of publishing with those in control conglomerates.  I will take my small business and quietly sail down my river like Huck and Jim's Moon River.

Robert Walker
Come find me on Facebook where we really have fun!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When Did You Feel Finally Established as a Writer? HA!

WHEN Do You Know You've Arrived as an Author?

Quick & Dirty Answer: When Agents, Editors, Producers, and Saudi Kings are seeking you out.

But seriously.... Recently, this question was asked of me. I had to take a moment, sit, ponder before laughter erupted. When indeed does an author feel secure, feel he has arrived, feel that he has some financial security or that he can reasonably expect to feed a family?

Hell, look at me at sixty-one and I am still the grasshopper while all the ants have accumulated their wealth and wealthy lifestyles. Writing is without guarantees or benefits or retirement funds. It is why I still teach.

I could never be truly established especially as I've always gone against conventional so-called "wisdom" in a flawed and often failed business model or system. One I have my entire career railed against. If you fail to play the game of being pigeon-holed and fit snugly into the idea that you are a writer capable of only wriitng one book over and over again and remain in one category, branded by your very name, then you never reach the gold ring. But writing the same book over and over, being a man of "one book" repeated has never been an option for me, and I have paid dearly for it. Closest I came to being a franchise was my Instinct Series and even there I had to fight over and over with agent and editor that each book be a stand alone and unique in and of itself.

Never once had an argument with a reader when I went tangentially away from the modern serial killer ME FBI format of the chase to do historical novels, or to do something like Titanic 2012 with dual time periods, historical and science fiction and generational horror rolled into one. But looking back, my early Brain Stem which they turned into the lousy title Brain Watch, well it was police procedural paranormal fall in love with an OCD ghost that has taken over your body! Then dovetail with Disembodied, Aftershock, Abbadon....all disparate from one another despite paranormal, woo-woo, and horror elements, each was shockingly different and not easily categorized, and imminently Turn Downable or rejected....

As to getting a foothold in ebooks to the point of enjoying some actual income well above anything I ever saw from paper book publising, now that took about a year to get to where I am having a blast counting coup and counting books sold (or rather readers reading). When I first put the books up a year and three months ago, I had such weak sales that I decided it was all just another head banging against the wall exercise, but even if only making fifty bucks a month, then eighty, then suddenly 899. Well then I got to do a happy dance, and now, well now I groan and bitch if I make less than what I am worth just as I did in the old system. Still, it is like a retirement deal for me as I have NO damn retirement funds coming in because I was and remain pretty much an itinerent teacher....something like one of Colbert's itinerent farm workers.

So for me it took close, close onto a year for my advertising on FB, Twitter, anywhere online at NO costs to me and promo deals like contests on my blog to truly begin to see any results. But man-o-man, I never saw any results with sitting about hoping my paper publishers' efforts at PR or marketing would pay off because there were no efforts taken on behalf of my books from not one of my 8 or 9 different publishers over the past thirty years.

Nowadays, I do a better job at online free publicity gathering, PR, BSP, marketing efforts than my publishers ever did--as they were always rather busy with their Kings and Queens and Jovanovich knockoffs.

My publishers never got around to understanding what they had in hand, even when their editors did....but now I am responsible for all of it, and I love the freedom of it all. Ebooks rock and Kindle is King....in fact, Kindle can make a KING of anyone depending on the tastes of readers and what they say or fail to say. Sorry to say they do next to no Amazon reviews but hopefully more and more review outlets for ebooks will come about.

In the meantime, I will be putting up a fifth exclusive to Kinde Original full-length novel, again one too ambitious and too large for dead tree publishers, my Titanic 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic to be launched on or around Halloween. What a launch this promises to be.

Rob Walker

http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/ - Free opening chapters of Titanic 2012 and Children of Salem

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Titanic ReWrite Sampling

HERE is a great example of why ReWriting is Writing from the pages of the Final Draft of Titanic 2012, which I hope to launch now either the 25th or the 30th of Oct. Something like six months ahead of schedule, far from a year as planned back in February.

The parenthesis in the first draft paragraph are comments from early reader, Robert Farley Jr., whose remark prompted me to revisit this issue and make it clearer for the reader, to fully realize there was a problem to begin with but notice what I think is a great response – to ‘dialogue’ it out.

From Chapter 13:

Just outside her door, they again heard someone noisily stumbling down the corridor. After a moment, Kelly added, “Now this thing—yes, it is aboard Scorpio now, pretending to be human—aboard, among us! So I can’t trust anyone; if it knew all that I know, I’d be a target for assassination.” (consistency issue, she’s referred to it as disease carried by someone, now it’s become an “it” pretending to be human.)


Just outside her door, they again heard someone noisily stumbling down the corridor. After a moment, Kelly added, “Now this thing—yes, it is aboard Scorpio now, David.”

“This disease organism has somehow gotten aboard Scorpio?” his tone made skepticism roar. “Just how did it pull that off? Is it that damned sentient?”

“You don’t understand, it…it uses its hosts…humans. It—”

“Now it’s an it and not a microcosmic creature?”

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Root of All Great Character-Building

I must apologize for not getting back to the blog sooner; got busy on the total rewrite which I just finished yesterday....and Titanic 2012 has been pushed out to 540 pgs. and although I did a red-pencil reRead/reWrite from stem to stern, top to bottom, it only convinced me I have a lot more work to do.

Props are forgotten, threads are dropped, characters have gone off on their own....and all manner of problems remain. Fortunately, I knew there would be days like this when I am FINISHED but not HARDLY. I have some folks vetting the novel as we speak, and a big complaint is that the character of Ransom is given rather short shrift in his introduction. This is likely due to the fact I have a clear and concise idea of who Alastair Ransom is since I have penned three previous titles with the 1893 detective who is trying to defend his beloved Chicago against the onslaught of crime that comes along with The Chcago World's Fair (Columbian Exposition of 1893). But I oughta know better as folks reading Titanic may well know nothing of Inspector Alastair Ransom, now living under an assumed name and identity in Belfast as he has escaped a Chicago hanging for what he allegedly did to a priest--a bad thing happened on the way to the church.

At any rate, I know I have to re-introduce Alastair now as Wyland, the Belfast private eye in 1912 whose is drawn into a missing persons case which further draws him onto the ship Titanic, chasing an elusive killer, a killer like no other he has faced--a suprahuman creature that poses a threat to all mankind.

Alastair is hired by two young interns in Belfast, and the trio become close friends as a bond forms due to their fighting this common enemy. Meanwhile in 2012 other relationships are forming around David Buckland into whose hands falls a journal kept by one of the interns, a journal that tells a fantastic tale, one that explains why the unsinkable ship went down.

To make it all work one must get to the root of the characaters, to live with them, spend time with them, eat with them, brush teeth with them, frolic in the rain with them if you will. To craft fully-realized characters and/or just to undersand the lengths to which a dedicated and determined author will go--beyond such things as research--you need to read my blog at http://www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com/  or got to http://www.makeminemystery.blogspot.com/ --as there I have posted how this matical, mystical, psychical thing between me and my characters happens. It is a fascinating trip and you will meet there The Root Mon which culminated in a poem but one I used in Pure Insticnt, set in pre-Katrina New Orleans, and in the novel, too, The Root Mon and his store show up along with the poem posted on his store wall. A fascinating character who simply demanded I stop my life and Write Him UP from the depths of my subconscious.

I only know that I have my work cut out for me with regard to Titanic 2012 and it continues to occupy me to no end.  Having completed the big first rewrite, I know I must now soon start over at page one and do it all over again. This is not only hard inertia wise, it is difficult to get steam up to do back to back rewrites, but it is also hard because as they say in song -- "Once a story's been told, it can't help but get old" -- and our initial reaction to doing ANOTHER rewrite is disappointment.  BUT and this is a huge but!  But in the first rewrite it informs us of much of what needs now be done, and we come out of the trees and can see the forest a great deal clearer now. In the next rewrite, more and greater magical things are going to happen because dropped threads, missing props, and many more good things are going to come together far more like clockwork.

So in a sense, I MUST get excited about and look forward to reading, hearing, feeling the story again.  Play it again, Sam.  In doing so, all he subtle nuances and connective tissue will fall into play.

ReWriting is Writing is ReWriting. Some projects require more, some less, but it is an all important part of the process. Now for more on the fully-realized character, on flesing out character, on living with one's characters to the point of knowing what they will do before they do it....see my blog at make mine mystery or repeated at acme authors!  And thanks for hanging with me here!  Do leave a comment.  Do find me on facebook, too!

Rob Walker

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Update on Titanic Tome - RewritX is WritX

A quick and dirty update -- I have as said begun the reRead and reWrite on the pages for the Titanic Tome....and I have had to red pencil quite a bit; it is rare at this stage to come across a page that has no need of a single change. Happens but rarely. Most pages are looking like a road map. Lines and circles everywhere.

However, I have completed 120 pgs. that look good enough to allow folks to read, and so I have sent these pages off to one of my most valued readers. I have plans to send them off to others as well. If YOU who have been faithful from the start here at Dirty Deeds wish to read the first 120 pgs. of Titanic 2012 at no cost other than your letting me and others know how you liked the book so far, contact me directly at ink walk at sbc global dot net (put the letters together and call on me). I will send it as a download direct to you.
All I ask is that you tell folks about it. I am confidant you'll love it but even if you have bones to pick, would love to hear this too.

I am hoping to have the next one hundred or so pages done to readability--if I can use that term in such a way--ASAP.  The work is going fast and furious now, and while a lot needs repairing, it looks quite repairable.

Some writers say they absolutely HATE rewrites. Not me. It is where I get some of my best plot twists, character lines and development, setting fleshed out, all of it, not to mention fixing missed details like what happened to the sabre-toothed dog's fang or Ransom's cane?  Dropped it out of story, didja Mr. Walker?

Easy to make flub after flub in the rough draft; that is why we call it rough. Now is the time to smooth out the edges and work on flow, flow, flow. That forward dynamic of action and storyline.

Thanks for sticking with me! Let me know if you'd like to see those early chapters and I welcome your feedback and HELP as I know I need all the help I can get.

Rob Walker
Killer Instinct, Children of Salem, City for Ransom

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FINIS First Draft - Titanic 2012, Centenary

The Titanic book is finished and it is pretty large...Titanic in fact at 444 pgs. I am happy to report I made it in three and a half months to this plateau, that of reasonably good first draft that needs editing, rereading for flow and sense, sound and sense, I call it. But am feeling pretty good about its chances of being an extra fine draft.

I will know more once I have printed out a hard copy to go over it as now an editor. I must take off my writing hat and put a hold on the right side of my brain and turn on the left while donning the editor's cap and visor. Have to see the lines and read them aloud and feel them as an editor now. Cut out the unneeded and unwanted, the errant comma, punctuation problems, missteps, all of it. Got to make it CLEAN. At least as clean as i can make it....until I feel I can clean no more.

Now comes the fun part. Actually, I enjoy rewrites. A lot of author fight em but I feel you can stumble on your best plot twists, build stronger more fully realized characters, fatten up descripts, tighten up dialogue and for me it is like watching a film unfold as I edit. I hear the characters speak, and I smell the odors, and feel the texture of the story, and in this case two stories.

Yes it will be one hundred years since the launch and the death of Titanic in 2012 -- wherein I set my future scenes with David. It makes good sense to not go too far in the future and this way the hundred years takes on a symbolism in the story all its own.

Well I am tired and weary eyed and bleary eyed while typing this; thanks for hanging with me this far. The journey is far from over....but now I am thinking the book may well be done done far earlier than a year. Much depends on the reRead and reWrite. ReWriting is Writing in my book.

The new title I am toying with is TITANIC 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic and I kinda like that.

Again thanks for hanging with me....been a while since I posted as have zoomed from page three fifty to 444 and concentrating on the light at the end of the tunnel has kept me busy.

Rob Walker
stuff about ebook biz at Kris Tualla's blogspot...google it
stuff about marketiing before the book is even written is at http://www.1stturningpoints.com/
Free stuff at http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Titanic Curse Novel now at 350 pgs.

A milestone for a work in progress….

I started this blog and writing of Curse of the Titanic back in mid-February and in a few days it will be mid-May. I keep counting wrong the days but I figure that it has been approximately three months! I had hoped and semi-promised that the rough draft of the novel would be completed in three months, but this is AFTER the preparation in terms of research.

Yes even a “fantastic” tale, a retelling of history needs to be founded and grounded in facts….in this case the actual timeline of when and where the Titanic was built, when and where it left to and from on its trials and its ports of call, and on its fateful way to destruction in the Atlantic, its meeting with the 78 mile long ice flows like a meteor shower that Captain Smith plowed into at 21knots! Twenty four was the max the ship could get to and the fastest any ship on the high seas could go….

This is what got me questioning history in the first place, my reading…research. Research raises questions, and questions are wonderful catalysts for fiction. Whenever I see a standing mysery as in the case of what was going on in Smith’s mind to NOT stop for the night. He was the captain of Titanic, so he had the power to shut her down and stand down before this icy meteor shower ahead of him which he knew full well must be dangerous. No matter his bosses aboard, no matter the owners aboard, no matter the record they wished to break, he had the power as captain of the ship in maritime law to shut all systems down and wait it out. So why did he choose not to?

My novel will soon be completed in rough form and sent to first readers – and YOU could be a first reader if you care to be one, this novel answers in an imaginative, even fantastic way why Captain Edward Smith took action to bring Titanic down. What fears and concerns and anxiety must have been going through my rendition of the captain, not to mention the others in the cabal to bring Titanic down.

So now that I am close onto finishing, are you curious and impatient and wishing to read the book NOW in its current, admittedly terribly rough form? I am sending it out as a doc to any and all who simply cannot wait on the presumption YOU will tell me where I may have made a wrong turn, a slip up, a goof, a gaff, a startlingly stupid error….where I failed to go into enough detail….where I failed by going into too much detail…where I dropped the ball in the color of a character’s hair or eyes or condition of a character’s teeth for that matter.

Will you be among the first readers of Curse of the Titanic? If you are intrigued by the idea of “get Walker!” If you want to FIX the author, I welcome all the help I can get. After all, I was not born with a silver tongue or a silver spoon, and as I grew up in Chicago and went to public schools, I pretty much had to teach myself quite a bit about language, so truly I DO NEED ALL THE HELP I CAN GET…

So sign up now. Send me word either here via comment or direct to inkwalk at SBCglobal dot net where I live and where I can quickly, easily shoot you a copy of Curse of the Titanic once it has been completed on its FIRST go round. It will be cleaned up and I will be taking your comments seriously, and you can count on being added on the acknowledgement pages of the final product. Everyone should by now know that Curse is going direct to Kindle as a Kindle Original Title. I want it to be as error free as I can make it, so I welcome all input from yous guys…..


Robert W. Walker (Rob)

Comments and requests for the book welcome

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Commercial IDEA KILLER or NURTURER? Which Are You?

I sat across the table from my writer friend Joe Konrath and said, “I’m going to put a disease-spreading monster aboard the Titanic to explain why Captain Edward Smith sent his ship to a two and half mile down grave in the North Atlantic in1912.”

“Fantastic hair-brained notion, man! Do it!”

“Came of research, asking questions, most notably, ‘Why’d Smith, with six messages coming over the marvelous new invention of the wireless warning of ice ahead, go to bed with these notices in his pocket?’“

To answer the question, a seasoned novelist, knows which answers need be discarded as a bore and a snore such as when Konrath excuses Capt. Smith with, “Perhaps the poor man wasn’t feeling well, just had a bad day… wasn’t thinking straight.”

“—Or he was bribed to do so by the competitor Cunard Ship Line always sabotaging The White Star Line.”

“—Or since it was his last voyage, the poor man became depressed about retirement.”

Discarded all these ideas for putting a monster on board—the most outrageous and the most dramatic or commercial answer to the brainstorming session.

Below is a list of possible replies Joe might’ve made had he been an IDEA KILLER:

10. Get a Committee to look into it...

9. Gotta be kidding...

8. You're already overextended.

7. You'll never find time!

6. You can't REALLY mean that...

5. Who's gonna believe it?

4. It’s stupid, silly, foolish, illogical, slanderous.

3. Tried it before; it doesn't work.

2. 'They' will never buy it, man!

1. Ahhh…doesn't GRAB me.

No idea is born in perfection. Give an idea a home; give it a chance to grow. Live with it for awhile before you turn it out. What was once just an inkling of an idea for me is now over 80,000 words of 'novel retelling' of the Legend.

Robert W. Walker
author Children of Salem & 50 other titles

Monday, April 19, 2010

Titanic Ramblings - *novel at 275 pgs! or 71,175 wds

You're not gonig to believe this. I am having so much fun writing Curse of the Titanic that I can't waste to get back to it, and that's when you know you're on the right track. I suspect Elmore Leonard, Dean Koontz, Mary Shelley, Michael Crichton, Tess Gerritsen and well you name it would agree. If your having fun with it....keep doing it. That was the advice science fiction author of many years ago, Clifford Simac said to me word for word. Koontz once advised me to "slow down, son...you don't do your best work till you turn fifty anyway!"

Well I never did slow down but I do feel I am writing at my personal best these days.  My City for Ransom trilogy I felt was my best stuff...then I yanked out a manuscript that had been gathering dust and rewrote it for like the fortieth time...my magnum opus -- Children of Salem...felt it was my best work to date.  Now am working on this novel with its Titanic breadth and feel it is my best work to date....

I guess I need to believe that with each book I am improving and doing my best work, wouldn't you say?  Frankly, I think every author at whatever level he or she is working in terms of skill and experience is working at his level best. This is why, as an editor, I can always find something good to say about any manuscript (well almost).

Did you know I have a tendency to ramble? I also like to use my own work as examples here and in my Dead On Writing book from Wordclay and Kindle, paper and ebook respectively. Critics--well two reviewers who read and put the book to use loved it beyond words, while a third reviewers detested it beyond words. It is all subjective but if the guy didn't like it then why not just return it for the 1.99 it sells for; why harp on what he thinks is wrong with the book? In some demented way it seems a lot of amateur reviewers get a real kick out of kicking an author, a psychological feeling of superiority. And he thinks I like the sound of my own voice (well I had better to create a voice, a consistent voice for each of novel one writes.

In point of fact VOICE is the single most definitive element that defines one's style; we soak up stylve via the authorial voice.  Bear with me, as we write and rewrite we aim for more and more CONSITENCY of VOICE. We want a voice that does not break with the bond established, a subtle bond between the narrative flow and the reader's ear.  I like to think what I am searching for in a narrative voice for a given novel is the authorial voice...the authentic voice for this story. Authentication of sound of the bell you want the story to ring. It has a lot to do with the noise maker you choose--or if you will, the character of your narrator.  For instance imagine big James Mitchener relating a dark Noir tale; switch over now to a Fess Parker (Davey Crockett) telling a story, change gears and imagine a tale told by a one-eyed Troll. What will be the center line or consistent level of each speaker's voice? Once a young writer discovers this truth, she can excel and indeed fly.

I swear it is the chief secret of all secrets writers don't know how to keep secret and shouldn't. I began writing in the voice of Mark Twain, a little novel I shaped via research and imitation of Twain entitled Daniel & The Wrongway Railroad. I did another YA years later, Gideon & The Siege of Vicksburg for which I had to find another voice.  I chose the voice of historian Shelby Foote but at the time did not know it (seeped in subtlely). So whaat VOICE are you fishing around for?

Now about Curse of the Titanic, I am extremely excited as it is going along quite smoothly; I have both stories rolling well, and the Past Story is in one consistent voice, and the Future Story is in another voice but both are consisted for the authorial control both exhibit. I think that is what I mean...but that is part of it too....finding the right authorial even stentorian voice for the story you wish to tell. The range is endless but as with all writing how do you know what you want until you SEE what you write...then reread, then rewrite, then more reading it over again and rewriting further (more) and extending your command over the voice and your flexibility with this too oft described nebulous matter.

It's not so mysterious as some make it out to be, not really. But it is hugely important and all else hinges on it. You find the voice and you can plug into it anytime anywhere with ease like falling into an alpha state.

Ransom's story in 1912 is told in my most compelling voice with an intent toward finding mystery, intrigue, cliffhanger endings--all told in a controlled manner and taking as much advantage of the speech of the times as I can, remembering that Dialogue Lines belong not to the narrator but to the characters.  Dave Buckland's 2020 story is told in the most compelling voice with an intent toward mystery, intrigue, cliffhanger endings (or ditto) -- all told in a separate but equal controlled manner while taking advantage of speech patterns of today and tomorrow, remembering that Dialogue Lines belong to the characters, not the narrator.

When I wrote my first novel it was carefully controlled in another manner, point of view--ONE single point of view -- Daniel's. This is a lot easier to control than multiple POV but I worked up to multiple through single. Today I challenge myself with duo stories going on at once and my challenge is to make the reader want to get back to whichever story he is not in at the moment! I personally never want to write the same book twice, not even in a series, so I find ways to challenge myself and my writing fingers.

It is true -- Curse of the Titanic is at page 275 and that means just over 71,000 words, which is super. I am bearing down on 300 pages. Most of my books come in at or around 400 but this one is moving so fast toward a conclusion in both parallel stories that I think I will be ending it somewhere around 350 pgs. Besides if I am to make my goal of a good, solid rough draft by mid-May, I want to bring it to an end as well. But I don't want to rush it or make it feel rushed or abruptly ended. If I do that some critic or reviewer will nail me for it. If need by the deadline will be extended before the book is rushed. Stay tuned. I am soon going to be asking certain people interested to READ and comment and edit if they like--fix me! Let me know if you'd be interested in being among the first to put eyes on the Titanic...or rather the Curse of the Titanic - a novel that asks the question if Michael Crichton were aboard the Titanic what then?

Hope to see you on Facebook, Twitter, and around the net
Till next time--

Saturday, April 10, 2010

20,000 Words and a Monster = Contract?

56,290 words at 225 pgs. is where Curse of the Titanic presently sits, and what with my goal of achieving a worthwhile rough draft of the entire ship-less-than-shape manuscript within 3 months of beginning....after losing 75 pgs., I kinda backed off that...freaked out a bit. But it looks like things have taken a new turn and the book is flowing well, and while I still need approximately 20,000 more pages at very least, I do believe I can make the three month goal thing happen. Even though self imposed, a deadline is a deadline, and an elephant never forgets....

I began the blog and the book simultaneously in mid-February, so mid-May would be three months, and since soon my classes will be no more as college classes let out soon, I will have more full days to work on the MS.  Once an editor challenged me when I called her up and insisted she tell me why she turned down a "perfectly good mystery" I had sent her. She had bought two books before from me and I felt this one I was calling Darkness Falls was much better than the previous titles. She fired back at me, "It's a mystery, and we are up to our eyeballs in mysteries."

Then what do you need, I replied. She said horror...Stephen King stuff...looking for the next Stephen King *everyone expected him to one day kill himself on that Harley he drove from Maine to New York to see his publisher.

"And one more reason I had to turn it down," Jane added, "it's 60,000 words, and we are now doing 80,000 word novels."

"Well all right," I said, getting somewhere, "you give me a contract, and I will give you a monster and 20,000 more words and turn it into a King-a-thon!"

She hesitated only a second and said, "Deal. You've got it. I need it in three months."

Since it was already written to 60,000, I had no doubt I could finish it in plenty of time. Point of the story is never say no to an editor and learn to beat deadlines, even self imposed ones. Sad to say that in today's climate, there are damn few editors who can singlehandledly offer you a deal over the phone as Jane did for Dorchester in those days. Today almost every such decision is made by committee, and what is it they say about committee decisions? A camel is a horse created by committee.

But back to Titanic, yes it is flowing well now, cruising in fact. There are some items I have to do a bit more research on, seek out and destroy the X marks the spots moments in the story where I placed in a capital X for a fact I will need to run down like precise numbers. This method allows me to stay on target and in the story mindset, right brain alpha wave moment and save the left brain stuff for another time.

I would like to say something about the rhythm of the rewrite; by this, I mean it is useful and healthy to go back and back again in a parobala fashion, going back to page one and starting your rewrite all over again even though not finished and facing a deadline.  Why? Because of loose ends and missing items and details like the tooth taken from the beast by one of the miners in early scenes, and minor dies and we never see who gets the saber tooth in his pocket ever again because Professor Walker forgot about the damn thing!  But not on rewrite as it strikes me between the eyes I must have it crop up in both the later autopsy scene and in the future story as well!  It is a clue to the past on the one hand, and a clue to the monster and the disease it carries on the other.

With so much going on, such a complex canvasse of characters at play and on stage and so much going on such details as a tooth taken as a trophy can easily be forgotten and later overlooked but NOT on careful rewrite. So I have restored the item to its previous importance now. Worth the rewrite just to catch this one oversight.

I trust everyone is OK with my title selection, but if you are up for a Title Fight, let us have at it. I love a good natured fight and if you can defend a title better than I can defend my choice then bring it on as they say.

Rewrite is great for tighteing and making dialogue work better too, and if you do not read aloud anything else during your rewrite (I do much of it aloud in my head), you really should read dialogue aloud to make it sound like speech.  Be sure to also have each character speak differently than all others, and work on each having his own world view (often subtle and part of the pistache of building the character).  See my Psych 101 for Authors and Their Characters posted at http://www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com/  or at the writers corner at http://www.speakwithoutinterruption.com/

And don't be shy - leave me word on comments here!

Rob Walker

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Progress on Titanic title & Title Decision on the title fights

Sorry it has taken me a while to get back with a decision on the title for the Tiantic book, but life has a way of getting in the way of writing and blogging and such.... However, I have not been idle as now the book has been pushed along to over 210 pages and up around 45,000 words!  So since the book was begun in mid-Feb and I have till mid-May to complete the rough draft in the promised 3 months...I believe I still have a chance at making that self-torturous deadline.  Maybe. 

As a book builds, for me it builds momentum, a thing some of us authors refer to as a "forward moving dynamo" but in this case running two stories concurrently, I need TWO forward moving dynamos...and each time the past story begins to snore, I have to do something to wake it up or shake it up! And same with the future story!

At any rate, I am enjoying both stories equally so far, and I feel good about how each is falling into place (both stories) and how each plays into the other; the ebb and flow of each story being told with chapters alternating (an early decision for form, shape similar to Fried Green Tomatoes). This choice on shape has created a distinct flavor that as it grows inspires me to greater challenges still. It is working well for the novel thus far and a cool kind of rhythmn -- a rock and roll, if you will, is the result. I am happy with the way it is going, which is always a good thing! Hate it when a story doesn't begin to tell itself.

Now time for the title selection.  First let us list again the titles as they came in and then below that the selection and winner. Those rejected were rejected for a variety of reasons, sound and sense, covering the thrust of the book or failing to, pointing away from the point, too oblique, etc. but THANKS a million for your suggestions one and all.  Here are those marked off the list:

Ransom Aboard

Ship for Ransom (Ship of Fools is already taken)

Titanic for Ransom

Death for Ransom

Hull Hell

Blown Ballist (sorry my friend, but I think this is funny)

Sea of Corpses

--from which I extrapolated - Sea of Shoes (just kiddin' of course)

--from which I extrapolated - Sea of Sacrifice and Sea of Ice

Raising the Dead

Dead at Sea


--from which I extrapolated GhostShip

Pestilence Aboard (need an exterminator?)

Pestilence Passage

Pestilence Passenger

Pestilence Watch

Plauge Watch

*special suggestion - do as Prince does, no title, a Symbol only

Violins Played, Death Danced

--Deah Dances to Violins maybe?

-- Violins & Violence

Splinters of Fate

--Shards of Fate maybe?

Curse to Forever

Curse of the Titanic

Karmic Voyage (after all J.P. Morgan was aboard)

Escape Titanic

YES, the only title without a strike-through is CURSE of THE TITANIC
which I feel covers both the 'horror' aspect of the tale and the Titanic aspect, covering both time periods in a sense, past and future.  Somewhat like Curse of the Bambino, it seems most commercial and covers all the bases in four words. I liked many of the suggestions offered, but I did not feel they illuminated enough of what the story means to convey.  I actually loved Escape Titanic and Shards of Fate for instance, but as some book pros have informed me many times over, it might just be too confusing or oblique.

Now the winner is a bit of a problem as it is all in the family what with this being my 33 year old son's suggestion, and Stephen does all my covers, and he really feels that this cover could kick butt in terms of fonts & graphics, and the kid doess wonders with graphics. So I gotta go with Curse of the Titanic, but hey, I intend to run another contest - one in which I intend to give away a copy of DEAD ON -- Promise.  I feel ambivalent about how this worked out, but honestly, I think it is the best of the best titles for this novel.  If you agree or even if you disagree or are upset with me, do let me hear about it, so I can offer some sort of restitution for all the time and energy you put into the contest.  Honestly, it was not RIGGED; it just fell out this way.

Rob Walker
catch my Psych 101 for Writers and Their Characters at the Writer's Corner at http://www.speakwithoutinterruption.com/  Pavlov's Dog is alive and well there!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Movin' On @150pgs/Contest Ongoin' Too/VOTE

Hello all -- has been much smoother sailing but I know I need to go back and do a lot of rewriting yet even so; when I do not wish to stop in mid scene because I cannot recall a person, place, or thing....as in the complete name of a character (hey, it happens) or the detail I need, a certain number say of lifeboats aboard or number of survivors, and I don't want to stop the flow of creative jucies coming through, I insert a big, fat capital X. Later, I clean up my X's when I am in editing mode; this savs a lot of grief and time. I can put a Titanic Timeline beside me or on the screen and go seek out the Xs via Replace and boom-boom-boom shoot them down like ducks in a row. I like to catch these up every ten or so chapters, and yeah, I am into Chapter Ten now! Feeling pretty good about that. Next installment remind me to write about breaks...scene shifts, how to set them up.

To date, I've continued with the order of one chapter Past, one chapter Future as the present in the story is 2020. It is a challenge to make each story as enticing as the other, and as I have said, I love to challenge myself to reach further, and this is certainly dragging it out of me.

There is another bit of business I'd like to share with you all, and that is under the heading or umbrella of X.... see, forgot but I know where I left that info., so I will go look it up and be right back.

Meanwhile here is the complete list of suggested BETTER titles than MINE for this novel; as you recall, I was using the wokring title PlagueShip Titanic and was never married to it, so I set up this contest to name that book. At this point, I may begin to ask folks to VOTE on the best title here in this list and so have something more than my mere subjectivity in making a choice. A kind of poll to help me out. Here are the titles so far (still have a few days of March left should you wish to leave a comment with your suggestion on the title and win a copy of Dead On and ack. page mention in the Titanic tome).

List is here:

Ransom Aboard
Ship for Ransom (Ship of Fools is already taken)
Titanic for Ransom
Death for Ransom
Hull Hell
Blown Ballist (sorry my friend, but I think this is funny)
Sea of Corpses
 --from which I extrapolated - Sea of Shoes (just kiddin' of course)
 --from which I extrapolated - Sea of Sacrifice and Sea of Ice
Raising the Dead
Dead at Sea
 --from which I extrapolated GhostShip
Pestilence Aboard (need an exterminator?)
Pestilence Passage
Pestilence Passenger
Pestilence Watch
Plauge Watch
*special suggestion - do as Prince does, no title, a Symbol only
Violins Played, Death Danced
 --Deah Dances to Violins maybe?
 -- Violins & Violence
Splinters of Fate
 --Shards of Fate maybe?
Curse to Forever
 --Curse of the Titanic
Karmic Voyage (after all J.P. Morgan was aboard)
Escape Titanic

I know how I am leaning, but I promised to keep the contest open until end of March so there may be more titles to come. Do not worry about my extrapolation titles for if I were to decide on a title extrapolated from one suggested, the winner is same with all the rewards! As his/her title was the catalyst for the idea.

Now I recall the craft issue I wanted to take up:  Notice how I did not talk about doing an outline but rather leapt into Chapter One from the get-go.  Know why? Go to the head of the class. I do not myself write up an outline or keep character cards, or do any of the prelim suff save research and note-taking. Not a good idea for everyone.

I will briefly discuss why I choose not to do an outline and why it is fine for some, not for others to do outlines. Much of it has to do with how we are wired differntly and the level of experience with organizing a novel. If it makes you comfy to do an outline and keep cards, etc., by all means go forth in this manner; I respect anyone who can put a novel together in any manner he or she can.  For me it gets old fast such prelim steps to writing, and for many people it kills spontaneity and again for me once a story has been told, even in outline, it can't help but get old for its author. But beware. Know thyself. If you have put together outlines and character cue cards and gone that whole nine yards only to never get the novel written, then this is not a good method or practice!

Use the practices and methods that appeal to your creative side, and remember a novel is not a spread sheet. I build it scene by scene and while I have a general notion in my head of where I am gong and where I want to end up, I like NOT to know what's coming next from page to page, scene to scene. I prefer an organic mehod or approach, allowing Chapter Two to have evolved in a natural progression from Chatper One and so on.  Of course it is Writing Without a Net....and of course you will write yourself into a corner here and there, but writing oneself out of said corners is part of the challenge and excitement of writing for me...and I emphasize for this author. There are  many mystery writers who write the last chapter first and write TO it.

I have never done this and it sounds like a logical way to work, but for now I do not know exactly how things will turn out in PlagueShip Titanic except that I know the Titanic will go down in the one story of the retelling of Titanic in 1912, and that someone will wina and someone will lose in the futuristic story in 2020 but at the moment I don't know if good or evil will prevail or if the creature is someone we trust in the early chapters.

Thanks so much everyone who has submitted titles. Earlier posts have gathered in titles as well. I have gathered them all together and if you wish to VOTE on a particular title or suggest additonal titles to bolster your chances, do so via comments here as it helps me keep them in order. Hope no ones done got their feelings hurt with my jocular remarks but that's just who I am. Nothing bad intended.

Thanks again and I hope you're finding the journal interesting. Can I  finish this book by Feb. 2011?  I mean polished and ready for an editor?  I have hopes that I have not fallen too far behind this goal.

Professor Rob

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Contest to Name my Next Book ongoing/Hit page 100

Want to remind everyone that a free hardcover edition of Dead On is yours, signed...signed by moi....for a mere comment left here on a better title than mine, PlagueShip Titanic, my working title which I am not so happy with....Also the winner gets his or her name IN the novel on the acknowledgment page for Naming the Novel. That's a double win!  Competiton is so sparse anyone might win at this point!  Keep those comments coming in; contest rules - there are none!  It is that easy!  Contest continues throughout March and if nothing better comes through the door it may be extended but hoping NOT.

Now as to progress on the novel; I have recreated the lost pages from memory, and while not word for word, I have the scenes back and intact. Happy camper but it still took a chunk of time to rewrite from my head!  So I am out a couple of weeks and due to the slow start am behind a month so must annoounce now that I am not going to make the first deadline of a rough draft in three months.Darn it's going to take four at least. I am so pleased however with the way it is going that I forgive myself.

It is not unusual to have rocky road problems at the outset of getting a novel underway, getting those first scenes--establising people, places, and issues or themes down on paper; it is why we call it a rough draft. The real work comes in rewriting these opening scenes until every pore in your body is shouting YES, that's wha I'm talking about! Hitting page one hundred has that effect on me.  Getting to that first hundred in writing a novel tells me the book can and will get done.

I was right to interweave the Past story chapteers with the Present story chapters sooner as it helps to compel the pace along for each separate storyline. First time around, I had two chapters opening with the Past story followed by two chapters of the Future story (or modern day tale). But giving it further thought, I deicded to tighten and cliffhang each storyline better by alternating chapter one then two, followed by three then four.  Past, Present, Past, Present - like that.  It has a much faster pace as a result and hopefully, the new balance will appeal to readers. I think it will; hope so.

This got me thinking along with the fact I began writing new scenes before recreating the lost ones from memory; got me thinking how most novels are written NOT in this manner. First you have the two storylines coinciding right alongside one another, and most importantly, I began writing scenes out of timeline as they do in shooting movies. I found this a challenge. I know I want that scene but have not written the previous one yet. Tricky and I know I will have to go back and read from the beginnnng up to this point to be sure I have not flubbed a lot of things that could be flubbed working out of chrnonological order. I hope my characters will all support me and be sports about how erratic the writiing is going so far, but I have every confidence in them. 

I am happy so far with the characterizations and the plot; I work hard to make plot and character involved with one another. Like most of my books before this, I am dhallenging myself to do somethiing fresh and new as I am not interested in doing the same book over and over, using same formula, even in series work. I want my characters to grow, change, react as well as act. I am so happy too to be working again with Inspedtor Alastair Ransom despite his fall from grace and using an AKA and hiding out from certain authorities.

A gtreat deal  more dialouge has been added, and pages are building, but there is a great deal more to go. Best get back at it. Any questions, suggestions, comments please add a suggestion on the title. To get ideas for the title think Titanic...doom and gloom, a plague aboard, karma,  Meanwhile, I will keep working on the worldview and mindset of each of the characters.

Thanks and happy writing - latest Kindle titles are Killer Instinct and Aftershock!

135 ebooks with my name on the covers have sold this month at the Kindle bookstore. If you are one who has purchased, please consider doing a review of the book on Amazon.com; you would have my undying gratification (for what that's worth!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Simmering a Book in a Year w/setbacks & backdrops & Dialoguing It

We're not going to allow a few setbacks to cripple us; we must talk to ourselves...keep up positive feedback to that portion of the artistic mind that says we are frauds and that any day now, somone is going to call us out for our fradulent behavior.  Yes, I get this nag in my head just like you do, and I have written over fifty novels, a goodly number of which have pleased people out in the world. Even so, I am bombarded often with nagging questions such as "Who do you think you are anyway?  Are you that arrogant that you presuppose anyone or someone out there will want to read anything you have to say?"  I have to fight back such negatives of course.

Then such is compounded by foolishness as in LOSING 75 pages of polished work (as I polish a scene before I go much further along).  I got tired of trying to recoup the pages from my PC and opened an earlier rough version, and so started from page one on rewriting AGAIN...polishing once more the apple. I typically nowadays use this process -- reread up to where I am, write the next scenes, say one to three, maybe another chapter or two, and then I go back and rewrite and polish. As a younger upstart, I just rammed through and raced to the end to get the whole manuscript out of my head at once and then put it aside for a time and then begin rewriting this stack of papers, as I would print it out. But more and more, over the years, I began this parobala approach - two chapters, go back, rewrite to four, go back, rewrite to six, go back, etc.  It works for me these days. The bad news is I am behind time-wise and page number-wise at pg. 50 rather than 75 and am still facing dredging up twenty five pages from my memory bnaks.  That is my next job.

However, the setback has had a silver lining or two.  In forcing me to rewrite and polish again, I located a better center of gravity for each of the various settiing both the Past story and the Present story require. While the ship Titanic itself with its splendor will be the main, primary setting, requiring a great deal of reseach and thought, there are also several minor sets from staterooms to mine shafts and shipyards; same in the case of the Present story, while research salvage ship Scorpio is the primary set, a number of other sets come into play like the busy galley, the cramped quarters for the dive team, the submersible later, and the pancaked in on itself interior of Titanic in 2020.  So I was reminded that even minor sets require that there be an intimate interplay between them and the characters who stand out before these backdrops and that the research and backdrops cannot be allowed to overwhelm the characters and the human story out front and center stage.

But even more of a gift or Phoenix from the foul error and stench of flames!  OK, sorry for the drama....but out of the loss of pages, I was also reminded in having to go back to page one and rewrite from there how very important that I steal as many "lines" as I possibly can from the 'omniscient' voice of the narrator and put those lines into the mouths of characters or into the minds of charcters as thoughts, or smells, or tastes, or touch.  To in effect stop the lazy writing of letting the narrator do all the heavy lifting and turn it over to your characters. Let them do their own walking, their own thinking, their own talking and sniffing and kissing and caressing.  Rather than have a narrator tell the reader that David caressed the iron derek, his eyes filling with a sense of admiration at the power of this ship, SHOW David doing the caressing and have David speak his mind by putting another character on deck beside him.

BESTest way for me to illustrate what I call "Dialoguing It" (it being narrative prose/snore time) below find the initial writing so filled with narrative followed by the self-same scene but "Dialogued" instead.  Showin' rather than Tellin' if you will.  As you read each scene, notice how once you get to dialoguing and showing, more characters come into play, more action occurs, more character is revealed, and the story is moved along with a great deal more visual components and use of the five senses.  Here are the two sample examples from PlaugeShip Titanic:

THE REWRITE using Dialoguing It:

Buckland and the five other divers, including Dr. Irvin, reported to the tough-minded, former naval captain, Lou Swigart, head of the team on Scorpio. It’d been Swigart who had hand-picked David from hundreds of applicants for this mission. David had been told early on by Lou, some fifteen years his senior, that there would be no headline grabbing crap as he put it then. Lou didn’t mind repeating it for the group now where they sat in a cramped operations room.

“Nothing in the way of news or reports is going out to the press about this mission to Titanic; that means nothing about you either—no interviews, no phone calls—nothing. Consider it top secret. Got it”

Lou, a big man, filled the space where he stood beside a lectern. “Nothing said that isn’t cleared by the Woods Hole Institute PR machine. I put it to you now…simple and direct: There’ll be no freaking headline-grabbing cowboys here" He paused, taking them all in. "Not on my dive team!” He’d warmed to it, pacing now, adding, “It’s a purely scientific and salvage operation this…this expedition, ladies, gents…and so to the scientists go the spoils—whatever’s dredged out of the belly of the wreck down there. But make no bones about it, the entire structure is unstable, and what we’re proposing…well it could easily—easily turn into a suicide mission. You need to know that going in, and if any one of you decides this morning it is time to back out, your replacement is waiting in the wings to be flown out by chopper once we’re at sea, understood?”

“I do…completely, sir,” Buckland replied, feeling certain that Lou was talking about him the entire time thanks to the press that he and National Geographic had gotten on the botched salvage operation in the Sea of Japan. Despite Buckland’s opinion to not air the program, the producers had overruled him and other divers who felt as David did that it should not air on network TV, given the dire turn it had taken, costing Wilcox—who figured heavily in the program—his life.

“You don’t go into this thinking you have something to prove, people,” continued Swigart, ignoring Buckland. “This is now, and it’s hardly the Sea of Japan. Trust me, these are great depths we’ll be working at, beyond anything anyone has ever accomplished before—the real reason I suspect you’re all here, willingly…” He let this sink in before adding,“And this series of dives will prove the new technology right or wrong.”

“In other words,” said Will Bowman, grinning, “live or die.”

The room erupted in a quiet chorus of murmurs.

“I need the bread, Lou,” said Buckland. “Not here to prove anything to anyone.”

NOW here is the same scene BEFORE Dialoguing It -- wherein the narrator gets all the lines:

Buckland reported to the tough-minded, former naval captain, Lou Swigart, head of the dive team overall on Scorpio. It’d been Swigart who had hand-picked David from hundreds of applicants for this mission. David had been told by Lou, some fifteen years his senior, that there would be no headlines going out about this mission to Titanic that were not cleared by the Woods Hole Institute PR machine. That there would be no headline-grabbing cowboys here. “Not by my dive team!” he had shouted. “It’s a purely scientific and salvage operation this…this expedition, Dave, and to the scientists go the spoils—whatever’s dredged out of the belly of that beast down there. But make no bones about it, the entire structure is unstable and what we’re proposing…well it could easily—easily turn into a suicide mission, you understand?”

“I do…completely.”

“You don’t go into this thinking you have something to prove, Dave. This is now, and it’s hardly the Sea of Japan.”

“I need the bread, Lou. I signed on for the hundred thou.”

The rewrite using more Show and less Tell will be longer, more fleshed out, understandably so.  True I changed the scene from one of a private meeting between David and Lou, but in rethinking the scene it demanded that Lou meet and say these things to all his divers at once at this tine as they ar about to set sail for the shipwreck.

That's what thinking in terms of dialoguing the moment, allowing characters to state things and feel things as opposed to getting it from a faceless narrator does--makes the scene!  Makes it work because the author has put far more effort into it. I am floored when I see bestselling novels chockfull of Telling, a lazy man's method and quite often it is a dyed-in-the-wool professional tired of his job same as you might have a burned out teacher tired of the job and ought to step off, reflect, seek out something else to do and not cause the suffering of others as in students or readers as the case may be. How often do readers, not sure why or how but they know Author X has lost that flare s/he had in the early books in a series but gone in the later books?  This is the problem--allowing the Telling, Narratives to stand whether than doing the back-breaking work of fleshing them out and allowing the play to go forward without the chorus in the corner (or the Wizard behind the curtain coming on stage) and Blatantly Telling us what to think.  It is a lazy man's method, a lazy author at work--and all of us are given over to it as our brains just want to take the path of least resistance, which is TELL the story.  Show the story, now that takes pick and shovel.

Thanks for dropping in and hanging with me as I write PlagueShip.  I have gathered in a number of alternative titles and the contest continues until end of March.  Get your suggetion in by simply commenting here.

Rob Walker
PS - my highly acclaimed Instinct titles are going up as Kindle books this month beginning with Dr. Jessica Coran's first FBI ME case - Killer Instinct.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Time And Time Again Time Wins, Writer Loses...But!

Again my week was so filled with everything and anything pulling me away from the writing of Plagueship Titanic that I got next to nothing done.  In fact as it is the book is sitting with this inertia-inspired grin on its face staring back at me.  Ever have that happen?  If so, you may want to get thee to an asylum.  But books do have a way of smirking at you, talking back even, as when characters and scenes won't do what you want them to, or simply go in another direction.

This business of Cooking up a Book is no piece of cake; no one said it'd be easy, and I promised the blemishes with the smooth skin, now didn't I?  Scheduling time to write can come back to bite you, especially if you have kids in the home and you are working a job.  Fatigue and time and inertia all conspire against you, and when you down the evening meal with every expectation that a bit of food will energize you to do some evening work....well no, it rather puts you in a frame of mind to relax instead with the evenng news and a favorite TV lineup.

I write best in the AM frankly but when a deadline is looming, I write all hours of the day.  The motivation of someone is wating on your finished product is a great help to keep you on schedule but you do not often have the luxury of knowing there is an agent or editor "anxious" to see your product.  That is definitely the case with a cross-genre novel like PlagueShip as it can not be pigonholed as a suspense, a mystery, an historical thriller, science fiction, or a horror novel -- as it is all of the above with a romance thrown in for spice.

Thus this weekend I again am making time -- key word there is MAKING it, creating time for writing.  I have done it in the past and can do it now. A magician's trick.  You make time for those things you deem important and just plain in need of DOING.  Doing is the trick and without it there is no production, no "rushes"  for the day that you can go over and rewrite.  Cannot rewrie what ye do not write.

That said I did get two suggestions for titles to replace Plagueship Titanic as I am not married to said working title and there is a Contest going on for best alternative title.  The two I have so far are neck and neck on the interest scale but I expect more to come in as contestants have until the end of March to come up with a gripping title that encompasses in capsule form the nature of the novel.  To ENTER your suggestion for a better title it might help to see the suggestions already made....then again it might paralyze you.  At this point, I will await more suggestions and list these next week on the 6th Installment to give you a chance to enter fresh and without any preconcieved idea that "I could never top that!"  Do lealve your suggestion for the title to win an ackknowledgment in the book and an autographed copy of DEAD ON in your mailbox by going to the comment box below and leaving word.

I intend once again to get at least twenty-five pages done this weekend to make up for my shoddy laziness of the week. Weekends, holidays, Spring Breaks, Summertime, Christmas, New Years--these are writing days where I often use time to devote to my writing.  If and when I become independently wealthy with too much time on my hands, I will likely not use time as wisely and will get even LESS done in terms of crafting novels. I have found that students with less time do better work than those who have twice the time. A strange paradox that time thing.

Going to keep this short so I will sign off now and get to work on PlagueShip. Meanwhile do vistit Amazon.com to see a great review of my ebook Kindle Original - Children of Salem.  And to learn just how wonderful Kindle ebooks have been to some Indie Authors like myself check out Joe Konrath's blog as it is amazing.

Thanks for coming by
And do leave any questions, comments, advice etec, you like

Rob Walker

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Writer is Always Writing & CONTEST for Signed Walker Title

A few remarks before I get to the Contest to Win a signed copy of DEAD ON (Five Star Books).

I have had one of those weeks that has not allowed me to get back to my manuscript; life in general can keep you so busy as to pull you from your plans, goals, tasks, schedules.  I want to write some pages on the novel I am COOKING currently even if it is a few pages or even one page, but this week I had to grade essay exams along with my normal schedule and this took all my time. This and the usual stuff.  So I am still on page 55 and that's not good; that means no forward progress on PlagueShip Titanic.  That disturbs me and bothers me and makes me mad at myself and my lifestyle.  I managed to do some other things like talk to friends on facebook, sent out a few tweets, wrote three other blogs other than THIS ONE....as I guested on http://www.suspenseyourdisbelief.blogspot.com/ and wrote for http://www.makeminemysery.blogspot.com/ where I am the new guy on the block blog.  And then there is my normal Friday blog at http://www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com/

Howeveer, when a writer misses scheduled time, he makes it up.  This weekend, I intend to do just that.  Meantime let it be known that a writer, even when not writing is writing.  What that means is that you are a writer 24/7.  You are thinking about the story, about where it has been, its opening, its UP to this Point, its characters; in fact, you are thinking as if from the point of view of your main character.  You are thiniking about plot points and even reconsidering that opening. 

I am seriously re-thinking how I organized those first four chapters.  I set it up as opening in the past and starting with the shipyard where Titanic and the creature that slips aboard are first introduced to one another, with the horrible death of the miner who discovers the terror in the deep alongside the iron ore mined for the ship builders....and after the two chapters in the past then I opened the modern day story set in 2012 with Buckland, my main point of view character in the present story.  The good news is that the past story will be shaped around my City for Ransom point of view character, the great and wonderful Inspector Alastair Ransom.  I was delighted to realize that finally I could get Ransom on board the Titanic and that he will be exactly where I always wanted him to end the Ransom series -- aboard the Titanic.  When HarperCollins, my publisher for City for Ransom told me after City of the Absent and Shadows in White City that they would not be continuing the seires, I was crestfallen as I had wanted to take Ransom from 1893 to 1914. Horray....I get my way after all.

And next revelation is more a question than a revelation that this book is perfect for Ransom to be revived; this question is SHOULD I begin at another beginning....should I open with the futuristic opening set in 2012?  In fact, should I move it up even futher to say 2020?  But the bigger question is should the novel open in the future or the past?  Many readers, I believe, would be more likely to be excited by those first pages of the Now story as opposed to the Then story.  I know the novel wants both stories and each story, past and present have to be equally important and given equal time....maybe with more given to the Now Story perhaps but pretty equal amount of time spent in both time zones for this to work.

But the big question and would like your input folks is Do I do better starting with the Future/Now Story or should I leave well enough alone.  I think I will give this a lot of thought.  So is that not part of the writing process?  Thinking, thinking, thinking like researching and reading?  Some authors say this is not writing, but I am not so sure.

Now there is the question of the title.  I have racked my limited resources, my brain, for a title and while I am not entirely happy with PlagueShip Titanic, it is the best I could come up with; however, you may come up with an ALTERNATIVE Title, and if you can come up with one that is the BEST Alternative Title in my estimation then I will sign a copy of DEAD ON and send it to you post haste.  Here are the rules...There are no rules.  Anyone can send in a title idea.  By now you know the premise of the book and if not, check the badck posts on Cooking Up a Novel in a year.  By the end of March, I will make a decision on the best alternative title and announce it here.  I am blogging here once a week, typically each Saturday.  The title just needs to sum up the story perfectly.  I hope you can better me on a title suggestions.

That's it for today's post.  Thanks for coming by and all your support.  Not easy being cursed with the need to write, so I appreciate your being here to cheer me on.  Can I make the rough draft in three months?  Not sure....Can I finish the novel in a year?  Sure...why not!  I got time....

Rob Walker

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dead On - Installment 3: Cookin' up a Book!

Joy and time for a mini celebration as I have surpassed page fifty of the novel.  It is important, actually, for an author to celebrate each and every small victory -- as in the opening scene, the first chapter, chapter two.....Now mind you, depending on how you celebrate, this can get you tipsy or bloated, so watch out about rewards but by the same token, you need to mentally reward yourself and pat yourself on the back--as hard as that may be for someone of my girth, but you get my meaning.

Each increment in the forward moving of your story along is a milestone; you think consciously of the whole job ahead of you and it can paralyze you before you're even underway.  Great philosophers, theologians, even Mark Twain all implore you to take a huge task on in manageabl chunks and that is what scenes in a play are for and separate Acts or Chapters.  I find great fault with the push to nowadays call a paragraph a chapter, believe you me.  In fact, however, I did not always know precisely the way to organize my scenes and chapters until I began to read as a writer to seek out how other authors laid out their scenes and chapters, and I discovered in Wm. Hallahan's creepy, wonderful The Search for Joseph Tulley a champion of how to set scenes within chapters and do it well.  Hallahan's scenes are numbered - yes, 1, 2, 3 and sometimes 4 scenes before the curtain closes on a chapter.  I don't feel the need to actually number my scnes as he did in this novel, but I got so much from seeing him do it, and I got into the habit of writing scenes within acts or chapters.

Major time shifts...point of view shfts, major shifts of the set (setting/location) make for great Chapter Ends and New Chapter Begins.  Take that to heart and hopefully you will not fall under the spell of writing one paragraph so-called chapters.  Now that said, some mechanical problems and pains in the patootie I had to deal with on continuing PlagueShip Titanic once I got off the beam and completed the opening chapters.  The proliferation of characters in any novel.  How do you first remember all the names and ticks and distinguishing features of so many people running about and mucking about in your story?  For one, I go to the bottom of the manuscript and keep a list of the complete names and possibly a title or a word or two about said characters -- but not a full-blown "chasracter card" or profile.  I don't outline as you see but allow the book to unfold, and I allow the characters to unfold or reveal themselves too as the story's forward dynamo propels them.

I have indeed learned soooooo much from reading as a writer; if you read with the mindset to learn from those who have come before you, and Hallahan is just ahead of me, but the masters of the novel form, and the masters of intrigue and atmosphere, you can't go wrong.  Just about every How-To ends with a chapter on Reading Like a Writer.  That said how could a personality like mine NOT learn the episodic novel from a careful reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and not see its flaws, particularly its flawd ending and not learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly of this American classic?  Or for that matter Catcher in the Rye.

So now the book currently being cooked up you must know has to acknowldge a huge learning curve by its author. Each book I write, too, teaches me more about the myriad choices we make as authors and where to put the emphasis, where to hit a sour note, where to do a counter-balance, where to let a bit of experimentation stand, etc.  In the "monster onf the Titanic" novel, I am doing something called framing; I am framing the modern day tale with the historical one.  A good example of this is Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg, wherein the past story informs the present story.  In my Titanic tale, what happened in 1913 an 14 and particularly the night she sank forms a framework for the story in the near future, 2012, which in turn relies on the past story for credibility. 

Who could possibly believe that there is a horrendous disease-carrying bevy of pods or seedlike eggs waiting to be harvested by a monster parading as a man or woman intent on bringing them up from the depths of the shipwreck if the stage is not set some hundred years before on the seagoing Titanic?  Meshing two storylines, in a sense two novels, into as seamless a single novel as one can make it is helped along by the notion of using the historical story as a frame that wraps about the current story.  If not a frame then a series of venetian blinds...back, forward, back, forward.  It is an ambitious undertakiing but a novel is always an ambitious undertaking, and a good, fearless writer always loves a challenge and to challenge his/her readers as Flagg did with her novel.  If you have not read her book but have seen the film, you know what I am talking about.

When last I posted, I left you with a past chapter, opening with the historical framwork.  This could change by time the book is rewritten and polished; I could begin with the current day story and I just might, but for the time being, I will stay with the chronolgy as is.  Last time I placed up an opening chapter and spoke of openings.  In a sense, doing two timelines like this, there are two openings, each introducing a separate set of characters.  It is imperative that you keep your number of chiefs to a minimum--three and four is getting high.  You can bring on walk-on characters, even throwaway characters set up to die in a scene or chapter, and you want to keep a list of character names, but keep asking yourself Whose Story Is it Anyway? 

Zero in on a single character (or two if you are inserting a romance) and keep going back to that point of view.  A single scene or a chapter can be devoted to only ONE character.  In chapter one of the historical tale, the point of view character died, so the next point of view character takes precedence.  Eventually it will be taken over by the main POV character in the past story and happily, I am reviving Inspector Alastair Ransom to do the detective work in 1914 as he has retired from the Chicago PD and is living an aka life as a private detective in Belfast Northern Ireland.  Reviving Alastair Ransom as Alastair Crowley in hiding from a murder trial back in Chicago was a delightful surprise to even me.  He was the Sherlock of City for Ransom, Shadows in White City, and City of the Absent.

For the future tale, the Now Story, the chief POV character is young, virile David Buckland and he shares the stage with love interest Kelly Irvin (as my friend and fellow Five Star/Cengage author won a prize to become a character in my next novel, so here it is!).  She has pulled a major role in the story.  Now this blog has gotten long in the tooth, so I will finish here.  I will place up a chapter from the NOW story below for those who want to see how the current story opens and compare and contrast it to the opening of the Past  story.  Note that with the current story I begin in the mind of the main POV character, and while it is a free-wheeling multiple viewpoint novel, it is David's story and he will be the fulcrum.  Whether you have time or not to read Chapter Three or not, do leave any questions or comments you'd care to and I will get back to you here. 

Chapter Three - First chapter of the Futuristic story framed by the historical tale:

June 10, 2012, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

The screeching seagulls overhead seemed quite out of their minds with the unusual early AM activity surrounding the bizarre-looking research vessel in its slip at the harbor. Human activity. Human excitement. It must mean food scraps for them. What else might it portend, wondered David Buckland, feeling a bit like Ishmael of Moby Dick fame, readying for the voyage with the mad Ahab.

The research vessel, Scorpio IV—four times the size of anything else docked here in Woods Hole—was jam packed with superstructure that supported two enormous cranes, affording seagulls all manner of handy places to perch; in fact, the birds patiently awaited any opportunity for scraps and fish heads to eat. The primary purpose of the two super cranes was hardly for the birds, but rather for lifting tons of weight from the depths of the ocean and positioning heavy objects onto the deck. In a matter of weeks, the computer operated, hydraulic cranes would be picking clean the combined treasures of the untapped, mysterious interior sections of a ninety eight year old shipwreck named Titanic.

David Buckland took notice of it all—thankful the seagulls weren’t a flock of albatrosses. He gave a flash thought to his reading of The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, imagining he would undoubtedly run into an ancient sailor or two on this trip—old timers with short fuses and little patience for the young and foolish who got men killed at sea as quickly as scratching an itch. And what with Buckland coming off a failed mission, if the old timers aboard Scorpio knew his history, they’d be wary of him the entire way out and back.

Buckland came aboard without fanfare and no one to greet him. Everyone on the pier and aboard were busily at work. It was obvious orders were to ship out within the hour.

At the center of Scorpio, Buckland found the ‘oil well’ over which the largest derrick supported a myriad of equipment strung with cable as thick as hemp on a Cutty Sark. Essentially a high-tech outfitted drill ship, Scorpio’s primary drilling derrick stood amidships. But rather than use a traditional drill pipe, Scorpio’s gleaming derricks supported her enormous cables—hundred pound CryoCable to be exact. It could withstand the most frigid conditions on Earth, including the bottom of the North Atlantic or to be exact two miles below the surface.

Buckland, carrying his gear, now ran a strong hand along the huge derrick steel. With her electronically controlled pulleys, Scorpio could hoist anything imaginable, even a Titanic-sized bulkhead if need be. David imagined that if the Titanic were in one piece as was the case in a Clive Cussler novel years before Ballard’s discovery of the ripped apart, pancaked-in-on-itself ship, Buckland had no doubt that Scorpio could “Raise the Titanic.”

However, their mission was not to raise her so much as raid her as in the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Some news accounts used the term ‘rape’ her, but Buckland didn’t see it that way in the least. It was well known that Titanic took down many treasures with her—far more than dishware—and the belief held that even the sealed hold that carried a treasure-trove of vintage automobiles would be perfectly preserved at the depths where Titanic resided. Even a sandwich in a Stover’s lunchbox at that depth would be preserved and edible. So what of the stash of mailbags crossing the Atlantic in 1914? A trove of letters and papers alone. So what of all the jewels and watches and rings stowed in the safes aboard, not to mention fixtures and shipboard items that had survived all these years—museum pieces for the world’s showcases?

It was just a matter of using modern means to salvage the treasures awaiting them from what remained inside the various safes aboard, the staterooms, the various extras on the walls, the mailbags, the silverware, the cargo holds. Yes it was all extremely controversial, and Buckland had had to walk through a sizeable crowd of protestors noisier than the seagulls to get aboard, but history would eventually prove the mission the right thing to do. The other side spoke of Titanic as Dr. Robert Ballard had when he’d last left Titanic’s ruins decades ago now—as a last resting place, a sanctified ground, a place not to be disturbed, a place nothing should be removed from. Robert Serling’s Ghosts of the Titanic prevailed in the minds of many, but for Buckland and other scientists such concerns amounted to superstitious claptrap and bad reading to boot.

“Make no mistake about it,” said a white-bearded stout fellow confronting Buckland now, jabbing at the derrick with his pipe, “this monster can hoist up an entire Sherman tank from below if you give the order, Dr. Buckland.”

“Capable of a quarter million pounds of lift,” David replied, smiling. “May sound like science fiction but there you have it.”

“Indeed, young man…indeed.”

“Your voice sounds somewhat familiar. You’re Dr. Alandale, aren’t you, sir?

“Aye—first mate, science officer. We talked on the radio. Captain’ll see you soon ’nough. Busy with a bloody press conference.”

“Good to meet you, sir.”

“And welcome aboard to you.” Dimitri Alandale, half Greek, half Scotsman was in his mid-sixties—a tall, gaunt man, who looked the picture of a graying oceanographer and seaman.

The two seamen, young and old, stood in silent admiration of the machinery before them, understanding its power, and that its express purpose was to lower and lift a massive platform on which thousands of pounds of sensing devices, search and salvage equipment, rested—equipment made readily available two miles below the surface to intrepid diving teams made up of men and a woman whose experiences uniquely qualified them. Buckland would be among the divers using the new underwater breathing apparatus that allowed divers to explore the vast interiors of the sleeping giant below the Atlantic.

He and his entire team had passed extensive tests utilizing the new technology that amounted to breathing oxygenated liquid into their lungs and essentially returning to a fish-like state in that their lungs would be filled with liquid, but liquid from which they could sustain life. It was a technology developed by the US Navy, and Buckland had been among the first test subjects. It essentially involved a moment of death before coming out on the other side, unless a diver panicked, in which case, there was no other side. Having the liquid pumped from the lungs after mission accomplished was no picnic either, but breathing from lungs filled with liquid equalized the pressure and allowed a man to dive as never before.

In any event, there was no room for error.

“I can hardly imagine being able to withstand temperatures of minus 1,700 degrees,” muttered Alandale in Buckland’s ear. The man’s large-faced, wide grin was infectious, and now Buckland placed his looks; Alandale had the bearing and appearance of the actor Max Van Sidow in his later years.

“Our dive suits are made of the same material as the CryoCable here,” David replied, giving a mock-squeeze to the huge cable. Buckland had imagined this trip and the dives ahead of them many times over; he’d imagined the giant platform at the bottom of the sea chockfull with treasures that would find their way to public museums across the globe. Treasures dredged up by human hands from Titanic’s secret interiors.

Sure I’m in it for the money, but I’m here for the adrenalin rush, too, he thought, being honest with himself.

The press called them fortune hunters, mercenaries, but there was more to it than money—far more. Buckland turned at the shouting of orders from below. From where he stood alongside Alandale, he could see that half the people milling about the pier and the research vessel were reporters, and the last time Buckland had spoken to a reporter was on his return from Japan where he’d been branded a hero for saving lives. No one said much about Wilcox. Hell, Wilcox had saved his life so that he could himself go on to save others. But Wilcox had died in the tragedy—and so far as David Buckland was concerned, he’d failed his best friend when Terry most needed him.

Buckland’s Oakley dark glasses lightened when the sun slipped behind a cloud, relieving the scene of the blinding June day. He wore a sailor’s Navy Pea coat and matching toque, looking like any crewmember as he’d hoped to get through the reporters without notice, and it’d worked. He just wanted to blend in at this point; he could be himself at sea and was seldom at ease any longer when not at sea.

His wide shoulders, height, and good looks usually tagged him as some sort of Billy Budd, but this particular Budd held three diplomas and two doctorates. His long, sandy blond hair curled up from below the hat. As always, he maintained his regimen of exercise to keep in peak athletic shape. A former Navy Seal, he routinely involved himself in various triathlons across the country and overseas.

Buckland’s attention was now drawn to a figure pushing through the crowd, a young woman who offered a reporter a sharp reply to what was likely a question about her mercenary tendencies with regard to Titanic. Buckland guessed who she might be, and he thought her stunning, and from her catlike reaction to the reporter, she didn’t take anything sitting down. He noticed how she took in the crowd, eyes darting in all directions as if searching for someone she’d hoped to meet on the pier, someone other than reporters.

Looking over her shoulder like me these days, he wondered, unable to take his eyes from her. He watched her go about in a circle, taking her time on the pier, still searching it seemed and suddenly she was looking up at the ship and straight at David. He blinked and pretended to look away, leaning into the railing, hair lifting in the breeze. But he soon looked back. Had she found who she was looking for? Was she in search of the so-called hero, David Buckland? If so, perhaps there was an upside to the hero business after all. She was gorgeous and obviously in wonderful health.

Her gaze is still on me, he told himself when he again focused on her whereabouts.

He gave her a firm nod to acknowledge their mutual stare, and he instantly regretted it. This ain’t no Woods Hole bar scene, man!” he admonished himself. She had most likely seen his photo in the newspapers or on CNN if not National Geographic. A groupie not, I suppose.

She tugged at a small bag on wheels trailing behind her, her honey-brown hair lifting in the sea breeze. Dressed in jeans and a safari blouse, the returning sun bathed her in light as she made her way up the gangplank. Tall, he thought, fair-skinned, and as she approached, he saw that her eyes matched the color of her hair. Carries herself with a distinct elegance, pride, he surmised.

But Dr. Kelly Irvin, one of his co-divers—stepped up to him and Dr. Alandale, showering Alandale with how she had read everything he had ever written, and how she felt in awe in the presence of such genius, meanwhile entirely ignoring Buckland as if he were a fixture—treating him like one of the crew. But isn’t that my act? My intention? he asked himself.

She introduced herself to Alandale and then asked where the private quarters for the dive team might be found, “So I might stow my gear?”

Alandale gave directions, and she rushed off with the older man pretty much on her arm as he guided her to a door that would take her down and into the ship. At the hatch, she insisted that Alandale escort her below decks. She disappeared without a word to Buckland. Maybe he was wrong in his assumptions about her, but she came off as rather cold to the ‘hired help’.

Buckland reported to the tough-minded, former naval captain, Lou Swigart, head of the dive team overall on Scorpio. It’d been Swigart who had hand-picked David from hundreds of applicants for this mission. David had been told by Lou, some fifteen years his senior, that there would be no headlines going out about this mission to Titanic that were not cleared by the Woods Hole Institute PR machine. That there would be no headline-grabbing cowboys here. “Not by my dive team!” he had shouted. “It’s a purely scientific and salvage operation this…this expedition, Dave, and to the scientists go the spoils—whatever’s dredged out of the belly of that beast down there. But make no bones about it, the entire structure is unstable, and what we’re proposing…well it could easily—easily turn into a suicide mission, you understand?”

“I do…completely.”

“You don’t go into this thinking you have something to prove, Dave. This is now, and it’s hardly the Sea of Japan.”

“I need the bread, Lou. I signed on for the hundred thou.” This was the going rate for a suicide dive; the money had been put up by a private donor working through the institute. Said donor had managed to override decades of objections from those who supported the belief that Titanic should not be disturbed any more than it already had been by various nations around the world—none of whom had the technology that Scorpio was now equipped with.

“I saw the spread National Geo did on you, Dave,” Lou had continued. “Made quite a splash. Just be damned sure we have no g’damn accidents here, and that the wreck you and your friends worked in the Sea of Japan is in the past and out of your system.”

Dave gave a thought to his best friend whose body had never been recovered, at eternal rest inside the hull of a World War II Japanese submarine; quite the expensive coffin. How many eulogies had he given to Terry Wilcox? “Lou, I swear to you it’s behind me,” he wanted to believe it as firmly as he’d said it.

“Good…good. Can’t have you down there with any damn ghosts, emotional baggage—all that shit.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Have to be focused like a laser. No place for idle thoughts.”

Swigart was right of course, and right to call him on it a final time today. “I won’t let you down, Lou. Promise.”

“All I ask, and thanks for dropping in. Get your gear stowed and ready yourself for the voyage out to Titanic, Dave.”

“Aye, Captain of Divers.”

It was the unspoken stuff that seeped in like water through rock to make its way into Buckland’s mind, however, that now descended on him as he entered the cramped quarters below decks. The narrow passageways, the shoulder-to-shoulder sized bunk space and single locker, it all looked like that damned sub in the waters near Japan. It made him wonder about where precisely Terry Wilcox’s skeletal remains had become trapped, but he quickly rushed from that path of thought, knowing he could not go down that road again if he wished to remain sane.

As a balm, he rushed instead to thinking of the thoroughfares inside the Titanic where he would be diving in the near future. From all he had ever read of the ship, it was spacious—outlandishly so, at least before it sank. Now to be sure, ceilings in particular would be crushing and walls and bulkheads tight indeed, but he imagined it would be more spacious than a WWII vintage sub.

Buckland and other divers had been working with the Navy for a year after their initial recruitment, but oddly enough, they had been trained at different locations and had not worked as a team. It was part of the overall strategy, according to Swigart; from his understanding the ‘bosses’ wanted it that way, believing that too much familiarity among team members in such a high-stress situation guaranteed slip ups, that a dive team too closely aligned by fidelity, friendship, and loyalty were less likely to follow protocol in a negative event or accident. In essence, that was what had happened to Buckland’s buddy in Japan. Perhaps it would not have happened had absolute protocol had been followed, but then again who knew for sure? Certainly not the commission put together to study the mishap, whose thousand page report made for sleep-inducing prose. They had admonished Buckland for failing to follow protocol when things went south yet praised him for saving the others, all but Terry Wilcox.

David stared into the small mirror on his compartment wall and told himself, “You can do this.” He had worked on it to the exclusion of everything else in his life. Lou Swigart had made himself clear. “A good dive team is a tool, Buckland—another arm for the scientists to utilize. No one under my command is going to be some hot dog. First sign of such shit, and you’re on a chopper outta here.”

A noise outside his door and Buckland swung it open on its whining hinges to find Dr. Irvin stooped over and picking up a spilled fanny pack she’d dropped; she’d spilled all manner of feminine items, and among the debris two pill bottles. “Hello, Dr. Buckland,” she said from her kneeling position, hardly able to turn and twist in the narrow passageway. “I heard there was breakfast in the galley,” she continued as she replaced everything in her pack.

“Breakfast? Sounds good. You are?”

“On your dive squad, but I think you’ve surmised that. Dr. Kelly Irvin.” She extended her hand to shake.

He balled his fist and they bumped knuckles instead. “Oh yes, read your file.”

“I should hope so. Join me for ham and eggs?”

“I’ve just begun unpacking, but…what the hell, sure.”

“Thought we oughta get to know one another to some degree. This notion we should have absolutely no concern for one another—to act like, I dunno, cyborgs on the job—I just don’t fully agree with. Do you?”

“To be perfectly honest, it’s probably a good policy—to be honest.”

“I suppose so.” Still she frowned.

“Up to a point, you mean? They haven’t been able to completely brainwash the idea into your head, eh?” He closed his cabin door and gestured for her to lead the way.

She moved along the tight corridor and spoke over her shoulder. “Well, you of all people, Dr. Buckland, you can’t completely agree with the notion, can you? That to be efficient in our jobs we have to give up being human?”

“Well it is 2012, you know, and any ahhh…human foul up could bring on the collapse of the entire world according to ancient Mayan beliefs and that fellow Nostradamus.”

This got a laugh out of her that reverberated up and down the corridor, and he reacted with a smile. “There…there it is, a human moment between us. Frankly, I don’t think even Lou Swigart can enforce what they’re talking about to begin with, but that’s just me.”

She nodded. “There is that little thing called trust; kinda necessary and absolutely human.”

“So how do you like ‘sucking it?’” he asked, using the crude Navy term for the new use of L-C02.

“Liquid O? It’s miraculous once you get there, but getting there, no matter how many times I do it, I’m sure it’s my last breath. How ’bout you?”

“It sucks! But miraculous, yes, it is. Makes me feel like Aquaman!” It was not entirely a lie. But each time he used the square-pac of L-C02 where heavy oxygen tanks had always previously rested, he thought of Wilcox and how this new technology—had they had it in Japan—would have saved Wilcox’s life to be sure. He’d be alive today only if. Instead, Terry suffocated in his suit as his air ran out, and David had been unable to get to him in time on the return down after getting Peterson and DeVries out and up. Although David had risked his own life doing a second dive too soon, leaving him with the bends, it simply had not been enough. Time itself killed Terry.

Nowadays, with L-C02, the bends were no longer a worry during a dive. No matter how fast one descended or ascended. The new lightweight tanks and what they carried did indeed return a man to his origins once the ‘death grip’ was reached and surpressed and gotten past. With the liquid air as it was called, your mask filled with liquid that covered mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. You were literally ‘drowned’ inside your Cryosuit, your every pore and orifice in the “pour” house, taking in the liquid oxygen.

Many a rat and monkey had been killed in an effort to get the formula right. Once perfected, years of tests went into it, and now, for a man or a woman, you knew you would come out on the other side with your eyes opening, your heart beating, your brain functioning, and your skin crawling but feeling! Alive, and soon your eyes cleared, brain fog gone, heart rate finding its rhythm. And that horrible feeling that you were being turned inside out like some sort of garment, finally gone, replaced by a sense of power that reflected the idea of normalcy. The huge surprise too was the freedom—absolute freedom in the salt sea.

If David expected an intimate moment at breakfast with the lovely Dr. Irvin, he was immediately disappointed when she opened the galley entryway. There they found some dozen or so members of the crew, a number of the scientists, and a cook, a ship’s dog that looked a mix of lab and shepherd, and a galley boy who looked from his day’s old beard to be perhaps eighteen. Rather than doing introductions at this time, everyone just cheered in a group welcoming of the two newcomers.

All but one cheered. At the far end of the tight galley room, a sullen fellow kept his own counsel, eyes on his food, fork pushed scrambled eggs around on his plate. A big man with huge hands, this fellow had looked up at David and Kelly for the briefest moment, averting his eyes which to David appeared silver grey with the intensity of lightning. He wondered if it could be Jacob Mendenhall, another member of his dive squad.

If so, Mendenhall might simply be taking to heart the planned protocol to have as little contact as possible with fellow members of the dive squad one was assigned to. It would explain his seeming rudeness. David noticed that Kelly also seemed disturbed by the silver-eyed fellow the other end of the table.

“Sit, eat!” said the cook like a captain giving orders.

Chapter Two continued on in the Past Story....and Chapter Four continues on in the Modern Story.  Do leave any questions and/or comments here on the Cookin Up a Book Show and I will answer same here and remark on same here.

Rob Walker