Wednesday, January 25, 2012

High Tech Space Wars

I couldn't decide whether this belonged in my writing blog or over in my more politically-oriented blog, Mad Maxisms. But, since this is basically two book reviews in one, it's here.

Over the holidays I read a pair of books, Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III and its partner, CounterSpace: The Next Hours of World War III. These are works of fiction, but will scare you silly if you pay attention to the story as depicted.

The authors are not novelists. They don't pretend to be. They are editors and writers of factual material. What they tried to do in these two books is make you think about what might happen if the world gets any more dangerous.

The essence of both books is a cyberattack on the United States from a rogue nation, but not sponsored by that nation. Turns out a drug cartel leader with more money than he knows what to do with builds a device that blinds many US satellites. GPS, communications, spy satellites are all turned off. Other attacks follow, including one nation setting off a nuke in near outer space. Makes a mess out of everything electronic for too long.

If you've read anything in the papers lately about Iran rattling its sabers in the Straits of Hormuz, you'll see these books could happen. Might not be Iran. Could be North Korea. Or Russia. Or China. Or a guy with more money than he knows what to do with. We could be one step away from the 19th century, as the writers postulate.

"Ripped from the headlines" is such a Law and Order cliche. In this case, it works. The books are uneven in the way the story is told. It's not really shown, as all of us who try to write fiction have beaten into us. I wanted more dialogue. At first this put me off, until the story itself took off. I only put the first book down to pick up the second.

These are worth reading if you are at all concerned with what could happen. I'm glad I invested time in them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

26 Simple, Silly Letters

How hard is it to take the 26 letters that we use in the English language and turn them into intelligent communication? Pretty hard, it seems.

I read several books over the holidays. Only one, Jo Nesbo's The Snowman, lived up to the book review hype. Well written, well translated, well told, the story hung together until almost, but not quite, the very end. In the last couple of chapters, the killer told us all about his motives and actions. I'd rather the police had really solved the crime, but that disappointment won't stop me from reading more by Nesbo.

Now, a woman of leisure with my retirement on Dec. 30, I told my husband that I planned to lie around on my chaise, eat bonbons, and read trashy novels. Terry reminded me I hate bonbons and don't have a chaise. Hmm. Guess I'd better try an alternative. Can I translate those 26 letters into words and words into a story people want to read? I think so.

Not to seem too scattered as a writer, I have a couple of projects well under way. I've been working on the first of a series featuring Mad Max Davies, a grandmother who comes out of child-rearing retirement to raise her two grandchildren and solve crimes at the same time. The manuscript, which I've edited to death, is in my agent's hands. Let's hope she likes it.

In the meantime, I'm refining the draft of the second Mad Max book. The shitty first draft is complete, but it needs a lot of Mr. Clean, Pledge and elbow grease to turn it into something my agent might like.

To counteract looming winter doldrums, I decided to play around at writing a serial killer book. Last year, I asked my Facebook friends if they had ideas on how to kill people without getting caught. Boy, did my friends know how to kill people! I created a private FB group and invited nine "midwives" to weigh in on several different points. Recently, we discussed the killer's physical features and occupation. The occupation discussion surfaced ways of drifting through society without making a ripple. Again, my friend's are really sick puppies.

I set out a series of writing resolutions for 2012.

1. Deliver the best manuscript of Max 1 I can write to my agent.
2. Polish, polish, polish Max 2.
3. Compete in three writing contests.
4. Continue with the serial killer book.

And live a peaceful, creative life. Without a salary, I threatened my husband with a diet of ramen noodles. He suggested I had lost my mind, as well as giving up my salary. He may be right.

Until one of us is proven right, I vow to continue turning 26 letters into words and stories that make sense.