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Character Withdrawls

I’d like to dedicate this post to my characters Adam Johnson and Mike Michaelson, two important people in my life that I have neglected for the past three months. I feel like a horrible person.

Getting back into my writing groove following my Study Abroad in France and the commencement of Fall Semester has been like pulling teeth. With an extra heavy schedule this go around, it’s been hard to find that time to write when sleep is so hard to come by. I realized that I’m going to have to fit writing into the cracks and break down the writing block that has accumulated over the past few months.

The past two weeks I’ve made some made some beat-around-the-bush attempts to get back into writing without actually doing any writing: reviewing notes, sculpting characters, that sort of thing. These things certainly have their merits–visualization and review are essential during the writing process. But I discovered I was missing the point.

The point of writing is to write.

I came to this realization as I began a new job last week. I went from having a manual labor at a dry cleaners to a receptionist job where I sit at a desk and get paid to staple things, unstaple things, organize things, answer the phone, and have free time. One night in particular, I was tired of battling through my homework and decided I was going to back through to read everything I had written in Disconnect thus far. I got bored of rereading the first chapter for the MILLIONTH time and skipped to the end of the most recent chapter I wrote.

What met my eyes was an exchange between Adam and Mike that I had completely forgotten about. It was one of the many arguments the two protagonists get into on a regular basis, and this one struck me as particularly funny due to the large amount of foam shot up one of Mike’s nostrils. All of the sudden I remembered how much I loved the dynamic of their relationship. I realized how much I missed Adam’s manipulation and Mike’s comedic retorts, and I needed to get back to writing soon.

Admittedly, I still haven’t done any serious writing since this event, but I’ve at least begun drafting conversations and situations between the two friends in my journal. Finding time in my schedule that still allows for sleep has been difficult, but I’m sure I can find room somewhere in my schedule. Mike and Adam are worth it.

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in On Writing

 

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Disconnect Excerpt 2

Just to give a little context to this excerpt, Adam and Mike are attending an end-of-finals party in Virtual Reality (or Virtual Conferencing, as I refer to it) for an exclusive club called the Elitists. This picks up right after they arrive at HotSpot, a popular social networking “site” on the Mainframe. –ACE

Mike plopped himself down and leaned to Adam. “Stop making goo-goo eyes at her.”

“What?”

“You’re drooling all over the table man.”

Adam tore his eyes from Vonya to glare at Mike. “You’re not funny.”

He held his hands up. “Just sayin’ you’re being really obvious about having the hots for Fynn’s girlfriend.”

“Shut up; you don’t know anything—”

An enormous sausage of a tentacle slammed into the table in front of Adam, nearly knocking over the whole table. He jolted and yelled, falling out of his chair. A large ruddy face peered at him from around his now vacated chair. One half of the face was encased in a network of wires and metal plating that whirred and blinked. “Haha whoopsie. Scared ya.”

“Watch it Arnold. You almost spilled my download.” The female avatar to Adam’s left scowled, clutching her glass and trying to steady the table at the same time.

“Oh, sorry. Hey anyway…brought you your faaavorite download A’dm. Right here for ya.” He jabbed at the table with the tip of his tentacle. The lone sucker on the end made a wet kissing sound as it attached and detached from the table. In his other hand, he gripped an empty glass tightly with all eight fingers and set it solidly on the table. Arnold released the glass, his eyes widening. The camera lenses creating his eye slid back and forth as he focused on the bottom of the glass. “Hey…where’d the Brin go?”

Regaining his feet, Adam straightened his jacket and tie, disgusted.

“Get lost Arnold. I’ll order my own drink.”

Arnold blinked, confused. He looked back down at the glass. “D’j’you drink all the Brin already?”

“No I didn’t, idiot. Why would I have a Brin when I could get a Page?” Heat rose in Adam’s chest. He turned to the rest of the avatars at the table. “Who let him get overloaded? He shouldn’t be overloaded.”

“Calm down man. He’s only trying to help—” Mike tried pulling Adam back into his chair. Adam ignored him.

“Why do we even keep him around?” He jerked his thumb at the blinking cyborg-octopus.

“For the same reason we keep you around—he’s a genius,” Fynn interjected. “Now get a hold on yourself and sit down. You too Arnold.”

Fynn steepled his fingers for a moment, waiting. Adam slowly sank into his chair, still fuming. As soon as Arnold made his way back to his own chair, Fynn spread his arms wide. “Now that’s settled we can get started. As you all are very well aware, we have reached the end of another testing cycle. Tomorrow you will all receive your scores, and for those graduating, the statistics that will carry you to graduate level and decide your career. As such, each one of these contains 1,000 credits to spend as you like.” Fynn put a thumb and forefinger together then drew them apart. A gold card embellished with purple and black lettering grew between his fingers, rotating in the air a moment before descending into Fynn’s open palm. He pinched the back of the card, pulling up and the card duplicated to fill the space. “Keep in mind they expire at the end of your V-Con session and that Commencement starts at 10.00 hours sharp for Graduates.”

With a flick to the rear of the stack, the cards zipped to each avatar surrounding the table. Adam snatched his out of the air, pulling his suit sleeve up in a swift movement and placed the card on the underside of his wrist. He watched the card liquefy and sink into his skin. A faint tingle spread through his forearm as the credits loaded onto his signature; he heard the sound of children yelling “Hooray!” and a bright purple “+1,000 C” exploded off his wrist in bubble letters, spraying the table with confetti. Adam’s hands shook, fingers aching as he pulled down his sleeve.

A chat notification appeared on his screen; Adam smiled as he read it.

Vonya: Meet you in Sector 12 at 22.00. Come alone 🙂 21.20.00 hrs.

Before he could reply, Mike slapped Adam on the back, almost knocking his forehead into the table. “Come on Adam; let’s catch a round of Code Bender in that arcade over there.”

“Don’t touch me.” Adam growled.

“Lighten up already.”

Adam took a deep breath and followed Mike out of the privacy bubble into the chaos of the club, formulating a plan to lose him.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Writing Excerpts

 

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Disconnect Excerpt 1

Name: Adam Johnson

Age: 17

Height: 5’ 8”

Current location: UNKNOWN

Last Status Update: 3 Months ago

 

Rex tapped his teeth with a holo pen. This whole thing was a mess. Several power stations shut down, throwing half the population into panic. Entire communities locked down to prevent panic from spreading—

A small beep issued from the ExPC dash and a small microphone icon flashed and faded in the corner of the wide screen. Rex swiveled his chair to the right, placing two fingers in front of his ear. The icon solidified, indicating a successful link. Rex cleared his throat:

“State your business.”

“We have him, sir.”

“Good. Is he cloistered?”

“Yes sir.”

“Let’s get this over with.”

The communication link disconnected. Rex massaged his forehead above his bushy eyebrows. Even with a more than recognizable signature Johnson had proved untraceable.

Blast; he hated hackers.

 

***

BAM!

The noise echoed through the room.

“Come on, let us out!”

“It’s useless Mike. They can’t hear you.”

“This is all your fault Adam!”

“Calm down. Everything will be fine. It’s all according to plan—”

According to plan? Adam, I have no connectivity!”

Adam closed his eyes and leaned his head against the cold wall. He resisted the urge to run his hands through his sandy hair. It fell down to his ears. Turning out around the edges. Too long. An itch pricked the top of his ear and he rubbed his shoulder against it. He couldn’t remember his las hair cut; as soon as The Operation was underway, he couldn’t risk his signature showing up in the Frame and stopped going. The binders holding his wrists bit his skin. He tried to relax.

BAM!

“Mike! Cut that out!”

Mike answered by throwing his broad shoulder into the wall a third time and howling. He slid to the floor. Suppressed sobs reverberated from the walls of the cloister.

Adam breathed deeply, trying to control the suffocating grip of his own anxiety. After living almost 18 years constantly connected to the Frame, it was disconcerting not to feel the omnipresent tremor that came with it.

Out of habit, Adam pulled up the Frame Access Menu on his InPC. The white login screen filled his vision and a small green cursor blinked in the dialog box asking for his signature. An animated icon demonstrated the correct way to swipe his signature across his wrist tablet.

He flexed his right hand. The tendons slid the flexible slice of silicon beneath his skin along the curve of the binders. A distant impulse to ‘tap the Frame’ tugged his mind.

The Mainframe. The government’s base for the entire society. Adam’s brows drew together. He glared at the twisted crest faded into the background of the login screen.

The government penetrated all aspects of life, but no one was awake enough to realize it. Everyone plugged in and tube-fed information. Torrents of information through enormous webs and networks; the useless, the pertinent, the frivolous—shoved down throats of open, willing mouths. And all of it censored. Controlled. Regulated. Nothing came through the Frame without the small official seal signed into its code. Adam minimized the window. The government was hiding something, and he was going to find out what.

Adam blinked the remainder of white from his vision left by the blaring screenlight. The grey walls of the cloister seemed even more foreboding and rose high, ascending into what looked like a black eternity. Across the room, Mike’s silent form huddled on the ground, unmoving. Adam sighed, wondering how much longer they would be cloistered. He dug his heels into the slick floor, using the wall as leverage to stand.

“Mike.”

Silence.

Mike.” Adam walked across the room and nudged him with his foot.

Silence.

Adam swallowed. He knelt beside Mike, leaning over him so he could read the vitality display on the back of his bodysuit.

The display glowed dimly in the half light of the cloister. A jagged line blipblipbliped across the screen, indicating an increased heart rate. His breathing came in quick, sharp breaths, back jerking with each intake. The pulsing light trailing down the micro-coils that lined Mike’s bodysuit trembled and his white-knuckled fists shook in the binders holding his arms behind him. Adam shifted his weight to his heels. He should have realized Mike would be feeling the effects of disconnection.

Adam sighed, rolling his sore shoulders. Nothing he could do but wait until the stress knocked Mike out. Closing his eyes, he began to wonder if all the trouble they’d been through over the past few months was worth the price they were paying. He stopped. Don’t forget why you’re here, he reminded himself. Don’t forget everything you’ve sacrificed this far. There’s no turning back. You have to finish this.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Writing Excerpts

 

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Research Can Be Fun!

For most people, the word “research” is a swear word. Those who have written research papers (or any kind of academic paper for that matter) know how painful research can be. But I am here to tell you that as my title states, research can be fun!

One of the things I have been really focusing on over the past couple weeks with my writing is doing research on things that would help enhance the worlds I’m building and make them more real. I’m the type of person who loves to read things that have that faint touch of reality; I try to write that way as well. But in return, that means I need to do a lot of research on those things I don’t know about. I probably haven’t won you over yet, but bear with me.

The fun part of research comes in when you are looking up things you are actually interested in, for example, your book. My story temporarily called Disconnect takes place in a futuristic society completely integrated with computers. They are so essential to their function in daily life that the computers themselves are implanted in everyone’s brains and their social life/human interaction take place entirely in virtual reality. Now, because I am dealing with a society of this nature and I’m no computer geek, I have to make sure I’m getting my research done.

For example, on the Internet I’ve created (called the Mainframe) everything takes on a physical representation. Websites show up as businesses with advertisements and buildings that people can interact with. Because computers and computer viruses, worms, spyware, and malware are synonymous I have to do research on them to figure out their functions so I can give them the appropriate physical representation when my characters run into them throughout the story. It’s been really interesting to go through and read about all the different types of viruses a computer can contract like Trojans, ILOVEYOU viruses, and other things. Quite honestly, it’s made me a little paranoid.

I’ve also been experimenting with the interaction that my characters have with this internet I created. I realized it is so large and expanding so fast that there is no way these characters would be able to find their favorite “sites”. I needed to put an address to each place on the Mainframe, soI spent one of my daily writing sessions researching the Domain Name System, how it works, what makes a domain and a subdomain and all that jazz. At the end of the session I ended up with a URL system that directly parallels our own, is different, and allows the characters to find the places they like to frequent.

Additionally, I’m dealing a little bit with hacking because my main character is a genius computer hacker. One of my good friends knows a lot about hacking, and I’ve sat down and talked to him about all the different types of hacking one can do, the way they work, and the weaknesses and strengths of each method. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’d like to learn some tricks myself to get the feel of what hacking feels like, so to speak.

As an example not related to Disconnect,  for my novel Legend I am dealing with a lot of sword fighting, battle styles, armor, weapons and an extensive amount of geography, all of which I have only a limited knowledge on. The research for this book has been admittedly more fun than for Disconnect because it forces me to get out there and experience things. I’ve another friend who is big into weapons and fighting styles, and he’s offered to give me lessons on how to use different knives and bows. It’s been so interesting to go look at the different weapon types and to learn about their different functions so that I can create my own weapons system for Legend.

See, the idea here is that you write about something that really interests you, otherwise you wouldn’t write it, right? The fun in research comes when you want to do it and genuinely desire to know more about whatever it is you’re researching. Research helps give you credibility to your readers, because they’ll believe that you actually know what you are talking about, and the great thing is you do!

Please keep in mind to make sure you are doing the right kind of research. It’s really hard to filter out the stuff that will help you and the stuff that just gets in the way. It’s like those annoying story problems in math class; you have to filter out the useless junk. There is a plethora of databases you can go to–libraries, bookstores, neighbors, friends–but really you don’t need to consult them all. Thoreau put it quite nicely when he said “It is necessary to find out exactly what books to read on a given subject. Though there may be a thousand books written upon it, it is only important to read three or four; they will contain all that is essential, and a few pages will show which they are.” The same goes for outside resources. You only need to know enough to be able to sound like you know what you are doing.

Alrighty I sure hope this helps all of you out there! My apologies for my extended silence, but good news! Disconnect is a few pages longer!

Happy writing!

ACE

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in On Writing

 

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