National Novel Writing Month Project

***NOTE TO READERS: Throughout the month of November, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Though in retrospect it would have been a great idea to at least announce my participation via this channel, I have been far too preoccupied with the actual project to think about much anything else.***

In speculative fiction, there’s always the “What if?” question. “What if an astronaut were stranded on Mars?” (The Martian) “What if a totalitarian government ruled England?” (Nineteen Eighty-four).

You get the idea. Speculative fiction is about applying those scenarios using your own ideas and, in the case of some, research and fact-checking to craft a unique story, inevitably with the purpose of conveying some sort of moral or theme.

In commemoration of reaching my 50,000-word NaNoWriMo goal well ahead of schedule, I thought I would sacrifice some time to divulge a little bit of information about this project, which thus far has been relatively hush hush.

My NaNoWriMo project, tentatively titled 99, attempts, on a stripped-down, basic level, to answer the question, “What if the wage gape in America grew so much that the middle class disappeared altogether?” As with most fiction, the goal is not to provide a rigid, one hundred percent realistic illustration of what would actually transpire, but to offer an imaginative (albeit dystopian) future in which this scenario is reality.

The project began with a nugget of an idea formed in mid-October (yes, a little over a month ago). Over the course of about half a month, new ideas swelled and gave birth to newer ideas, all circulating around the idea of immortality being discovered.

Yes, my novel did not start with a “What if?” question, at least not the one that drives the story at its core. My first question was, “What if the means to become immortal were discovered?” I almost immediately jumped to the conclusion that the wealthy would hoard the technology for themselves and sell it only to those who could afford its extravagant price. From there, the door opened to many more possibilities regarding just what kind of future would have to exist where something so repulsive could be the norm.

If it sounds political, well, it is. It’s difficult to deny these types of musings in today’s political climate, especially with the 2016 presidential election already in full campaign mode. As we see polar opposites vying for leadership of this country, I can’t help but reflect on how different things could turn out depending on which candidate is elected into office…and how much will stay the same.

In the end, I’ve crafted what I believe to be an interesting world in which businesses now run the country through lobbying. Okay, so that part’s not far-fetched, as it is essentially what’s occurring today. However, to avoid the “big business is bad” cliche that plagues so much of Hollywood, my intent with this project will be to stress how damaging extremes are, regardless of which ideology they belong to.

Without spoiling too much, this novel will present a future America where anti-corporate sentimentality paved the way for radical Socialist policies that ultimately had adverse effects on the economy and resulted in many corporations jumping ship from the US, only to return when America’s economy collapsed to take full advantage of the country’s vulnerability. In the end, as you will hopefully read, the nation was overrun by a combination of insane government regulation guided by the hand of corporate America—a truly horrifying prospect, if you really ponder it for a while.

Of course, this is all just the backdrop for the story, the world in which my characters (hopefully our characters before long) inhabit. I am overwhelmed by the interest many friends, family, and colleagues have taken in my project, which has been deeply transformative on my mental well-being. To that end, I have been asked quite a bit what this story is actually about, so allow me to provide a very concise summary.

Given the political climate described above, the middle class has collapsed thanks to corporate greed (now fueled by a dangerously intrusive government), and there are two distinct social classes: the insanely wealthy (CEOs, politicians, etc.) and the poor. The State has become so oppressive that most are too afraid to rebel in this world where nothing is free and everything has been privatized.

Among all this is the central character, an Apache two-spirit named Lozen (unabashedly named after the Apache heroine), who, like many protagonists, has a complicated but hidden past and ideals that conflict with her desire to rebel. When she becomes a symbol among the working class for liberating a group of citizens from an especially oppressive local government, she is swept up in an absurd plot to bring power back to the working class.

To avoid the typical “rebels fight against a tyrannical government” plot, there will be developments and twists that ultimately take the story in far different directions, but as this project is in the very early stages (I have neither finished the first draft nor the outline…I know, I know), much of the story is subject to change, and at this stage I don’t want to spoil too much.

Suffice it to say, writing this has had a profound impact on me for many reasons, not the least of which is the tremendous support I’ve received. I have set a goal to have my first draft done by the end of the year (one draft in two months—no small feat!), after which I will spend a month or two reworking the pieces that don’t fit together and conducting more research to keep my facts straight, followed by hopefully no more than a month or so of initial rewrites before putting this in the hands of others who can tear my manuscript to shreds and force me to go back to the drawing board.

I really cannot wait to share more of this project with all of you, and even now I am holding back from rambling on for another thousand words about some of the juicier details of this project. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this, and I assure you now that despite hitting my 50,000-word goal for the month, I will not stop or slow down.

Stay tuned for updates, which are as likely to be posted to social media as they are this blog (which is typically reserved for my half-assed poetry).

I encourage anyone not already connected with me via social media to follow me on Twitter, where I have been and will continue posting regular updates on my work.

The Beauty in All Things

There’s beauty in all things.

I remembered those words as I stared into the eyes of the woman at my feet, opulent jades bearing out a soul in its most desperate moment. She wasn’t the most comely woman by any means; her stringy hair and blanched skin did her no favors, though in truth her stark complexion could be attributed to fear. After all, who wasn’t afraid of death?

I found myself entranced by those eyes. No matter what flaws or imperfections could be found in this woman, there was no denying she wielded beauty. And I was to vanquish that beauty and bleed the life from those emeralds bearing into my spirit, revealing the sanguinary, murderous rotter I was.

But we all have our duties, to realm and king and country. Who am I to disrepute the crown? No, I could not. Not even for her. Tightening a gloved hand around the black hilt of my glistening sword—an executioner’s weapon—I poised to strike. She closed eyes tight, the last sheen of hope disappearing beneath lids of dismay as he bowed her head. I raised blade to sky, a marriage adulterated and profane, the sun’s light gleaming off steel . . . and faltered.

Stepping back, the sword fell from my hand as though too weighty and ponderous to hold. I dropped to my knees, as the woman was, tears wetting my cold, grey eyes. “Forgive me.” It was nothing more than a whisper, a quiescent plea borne of grief and guilt.

The lady was stronger than I. “In this realm of wickedness and villainy,” she said, placing a warm, angelic hand on my cheek, “we all do what we must.”

“And our characters are written by our actions. Mine is written with a blade, I fear.”

“But the blood that stains said blade is not on your hands.”

Would that were true! She was truly an angel, sent from the heavens to placate the hearts of curs like me. From this close I could smell her hair, a sweetness I had never known, nor would ever know. I touched the soft strands as though they were my own. Her eyes, at once despondent, irradiated hope yet again, and I smiled.

Grabbing her head, I pulled her in close. It would be a kiss for this woman, for that is what angels deserve. And as for the blade? She would receive that, too. A quick thrust, a twist of the knife, and I felt the air escape her lungs as she balked. Inquisitive eyes searched the dark recesses of mine—for truth, for understanding, for culpability? I could not say.

I slid the knife deeper into her stomach, lamenting the pain I saw wrenching her. So stunned she was, she could not even cry out . . . but I had offered her that final grain of hope, a quondam, fleeting moment of solace in a world embittered and tarnished.

There’s beauty in all things. And I had given her the most beautiful thing of all.