A tentative report of a possible, maybe, kind of, breakthrough (perhaps)….?

I don’t want to be premature about this.

I don’t want to jump the gun.

But it is just possible– just within the realm of possibility– that I have (thank God) scored a breakthrough with Princess of Fire.

I previously made a deal with myself to make sure that I wrote at least 500 words a day on PoF before I succumbed to other temptations, such as World of Tanks. I must now tell the truth– in the last few weeks that deal has been honored at least as much in the breach as in the observance. There were days I couldn’t drag myself to my writing. I was more focused on Horse Tamer than Princess of Fire, and altogether too fixated on my personal victory rate in World of Tanks. My lack of overall progress is evident when you consider it took me two months to go from 84,000 words to 91,000.

But then…I wrote a section that served as a piece of connective tissue between two previously written segments– and then it occurred to me that I should move a certain event forward– and then other previously written sections began to fall into place, like blessedly self-organizing puzzle pieces, until suddenly I had connected thirty single-spaced pages into a single, reasonable coherent narrative, which has brought me to the point where I have actually begun writing the missing middle of the novel, the piece that has eluded me for seven months. Along with moving that critical plot point, I think I finally, finally figured out a structure on which to hang that middle– a day-by-day breakdown of the action which hopefully will build tension to the breaking point at the right moment. In retrospect it seems obvious, but I am a very slow person in many ways.

As a result, my production appears to be taking off; in about three days I’ve gone from 91,000 words to over 94,000. And the writing is suddenly fun again, which it hasn’t been in a long while.

Having said all that, I need to exercise some caution. First off, what I’m producing is typical first draft material, with plenty of details that will need to be ironed out later. I haven’t resolved every remaining plot issue, either. But I seem to once again be able to do something I have not been able to in seven months– write a passage, accept that it is imperfect, and move on. It’s not only liberating, it’s much closer to my normal writing process. After months of chasing my tail– or, to use a word I first learned from John Scalzi, ‘flailure’– I suddenly feel as if I am on track once more.

I have grown too cautious to issue any predictions of time-frames for a complete first draft (never mind publication), but my confidence that I will, eventually, finish this novel is seeping back.

More bulletins to follow….

WARNING!!– Incoming Grumpy Old Man Rant!! — STAR WARS!!

So, there is a rumor that a teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode 7 will be attached to The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies when it premieres on December 17th. Considering that I will be ardently boycotting THBOTFA, I am unlikely to see the trailer for Episode 7 until it hits the internet– and I may avoid it, even then.

It is safe to say that I am not anticipating Episode 7 with any sense of joy. True enough, the franchise has been taken from George Lucas’ dead hands and given fresh impetus– but as a part of the Disney (ugh) corporate machine, which seems to have an instinct to trivialize everything it touches, and then, placed in the hands of J.J. Abrams for execution (no pun intended. Well, maybe….).

Let me be clear about my feelings re: Mr. Abrams– he is a quite competent film director and producer. His two Star Trek reboot films have been technically more than competent. They do not have the embarrassment/silliness factor that afflicts the Star Wars prequels (Episodes 1, 2, and 3). He at least takes his material seriously.

But…I don’t think much of his story-telling chops. The two ST films were, in my opinion, unnecessary in the first instance, and untidy story junk-piles in the second, especially Star Trek Into Darkness, with its head-scratching revision of Khan Noonien Singh. Both left me dissatisfied and wanting more, or, better yet, a time-machine, in which I would go back in time and fix the whole business from the start.

I will admit that part of the problem is my distaste for Abrams as the creator of both Alias and Lost, shows which started out incredibly strong, and then withered under the weight of reboots (Alias) and muddled, unresolved plot-lines (Lost) (to be fair, I am aware that Abrams’ involvement with Lost was intermittent, and the collective sins of the production were committed by a number of people). To put it succinctly, I don’t trust Abrams to create a story-line for Episode 7 that I will find enjoyable or even comprehensible.

An online cartoon from some years back around the debut of Revenge of the Sith still pretty much sums up my feelings–

http://pvponline.com/comic/2005/05/10/tue-may-10/

Admittedly, this is all probably more than a little unfair, since Episode 7 is more than a year away. Abrams may yet pull a Wookie out of the storm-trooper helmet. I don’t expect him to, though, based on his past track record. More likely it will be an Ewok….

I will also admit that this rant is more-or-less just an old fart grieving the apparent inability of Hollywood in general, and probably Disney in particular, to deliver the kind of wonder and excitement I knew when I saw the first Star Wars. I will probably never again feel the kind of joyous punch-to-the-gut I felt the first time I saw that Star Destroyer pass over my head, chasing Princess Leia’s ship. That scene is so iconic now that those who didn’t see the film in first release in 1977 can probably never grasp just how stunning it was– how much, in short, this was something that had never been seen before, and how much it was a watershed in film history (both for good and bad). Perhaps it is unfair to hold up any subsequent film to comparison with that kind of culture-changing event.

But, then, I am not noted for being a very fair person. For me, the Star Wars franchise is dead, and neither Disney marketing pixie dust nor Abrams’ problematic story-telling skills are going to revive it. Requiescat in pace….

Meanwhile, if there are no earth-shaking movies on the horizon, there is at least the prospect of something good. And, by golly, guess whose fingerprints are on it….

The fix we’re in….

WARNING!– Political post! You have thirty seconds to reach minimum safe distance!

I wasn’t originally going to post about the mid-term election. There didn’t seem to be much to say about it others hadn’t already said, and I didn’t want to assign the election more weight than it deserves– mid-term elections in this country tend to skew toward the base (aka the committed, or, depending on your point of view, the whack-jobs), and the incumbent party usually takes a beating. It’s painful to watch know-nothings crowing about their “electoral mandate”, but this sort thing of thing usually passes, and the wheel comes around again.

Then I read this piece by Nicholas Kristoff, who seems to crystallize the larger issue we’re facing in the US. Democracy is ailing in this country, ailing badly, and the mechanism of government is jammed with partisan game playing. Kristoff contrasts people in other countries, such as China and Ukraine, who have fought and died for democracy, with us, the inheritors of a democratic tradition, who are failing, and it is a painful contrast.

At one point in the last years of the Roman Republic one of Julius Caesar’s political opponents refused to take the auguries required to conduct a certain piece of business, not because the gods were angry, but because doing so would have allowed Caesar to look productive and useful to the state. In ancient Rome you didn’t twitch a political eyebrow without checking the auspices (from which we get the term ‘auspicious’), and thus Caesar’s opponents were able to manipulate the machinery of government to stymie him.

If this sounds familiar, it should– it’s exactly where we are in this country, at this moment. And that is a thought that should scare everyone, because the Roman Republic lost the consensus it needed to maintain itself, dissolved in civil war and then devolved into an imperial monarchy. If that is probably not the exact path the US will follow (actually, I’m afraid it could turn out worse), it should be self-evident that if the political class is more interested in frustrating its opponents than in actual governance, the whole country is bound to suffer.

I have another book on my short list to read, Chris Matthew’s Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. Having lived through the ’80’s, and remembering the partisan sniping of the time, it is sobering to see someone looking back on the relationship betwween President Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House, as an example of politics that worked. It’s a measure of how bad things have actually gotten.

Perhaps we all need to remember that partisan differences do not inevitably mean all-out ideological warfare, with no prisoners taken and the ‘victors’ inheriting only ruins. Because that’s where we’re headed, folks.