One Writer’s Year in Review

So, 2017 definitely had its ups and downs (like all times in life).

Rather than focus on general life stuff (got older, gained more weight than I could stave off with exercise, drank 200 gallons of coffee, suffered 500 hours of depression) I’m looking at the year the way Kai Ryssdal would.

My accomplishments for the year:

Blog posts (including this one): 63.

Short stories: 2 (Fur, Droplets of Regret)

Poems: 3

Words: Too many to count, honestly

Novels published: 1 (Tempest Road)

Novels worked on: 2 (Frozen at the Wheel, Destruction [Woman at War, book 2]

Books I’ve read: 21+ (Your Republic is Calling You, Artemis, The Secret Life of Bees, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, Old Yeller, My Sister’s Grave, Persepolis, Finding Zoe, Reputations, A Laird for Christmas, Born a Crime, A Long Way Gone, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Gone Girl, The Prince of Tides, The Illegal, The Short Drop, Long Way Down, Broken Pieces, All the Light We Cannot See, The Bridges of Madison County, maybe more…)

Sales: (And this is where Ryssdal would probably shake his head and say, “Give it up, man.”) Estimate 25-30 books

Reasons to give up writing: 2 (Not enough people see/read the books, not enough money in it)

Reasons to keep going (shaking my head all the way): Too many to count!

Justin Edison's three available books on a shelf

Justin Edison’s three available books on a shelf

Happy 2018, Everybody!

 

Weir’s Artemis a Fun Space Adventure

For a book that is not and could not be The Martian (the surprise hit of the last 15 years) Andy Weir’s Artemis is a fine stand-alone adventure in a new setting. It’s life, death, bad cuisine and worse decisions in 1/6 gravity.

His heroine is the brilliant but troubled Jazz Bashara, a welder’s daughter and almost-lifelong resident of the only city on the moon. She’s a foul-mouthed smuggler (delivery woman) who is fortunate to have numerous friends of every stripe–by the end of the book, she’ll need every one of them to survive.

Justin Edison's review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Through Bashara’s eyes, Weir presents a multicultural (if fractured and flawed) society in a bubble (5 domes, actually). Though her first-person ranting, and woe-is-me attitude and proclivities (booze, sex) occasionally get tiring, Weir still imbues her with a likeable, pragmatic approach to everything. She needs money, she knows how to get it (not by prostitution, thankfully).

Without giving too much away, Weir presents a how-to for all functional aspects of life on Earth’s gray, lifeless satellite. (Though Bashara doesn’t say it, she sure has to ‘science the shit out of’ a lot of things.) Who knew, for example, you could create ample amounts of oxygen from properly smelting aluminum and silicon from regolith (moon rock)? The book is part- fun romp through chemistry and physics, as well as part-market economics lesson. Life on the moon, of course, wouldn’t be possible without a fair amount of corruption–and the financial opportunities such an environment creates. Our narrator, a streetwise Saudi woman (by birth) is keenly aware of this.

In many ways, it’s a more relevant look at our own modern world (with all its flaws and limitations) than the one presented (peripherally) in his debut bestseller. Ironically, the greatest punishment faced by Bashara (besides death by misadventure) is banishment to Earth. Complicated and anything but easy-going, Artemis is the only home she has ever known.

We’ll just have to wait 50 years to see how prescient Weir is.

How the GOP Has Made Villainy Easier

Without warning, my friend Prubius launched into a lecture on the Mitasterites. “Well,” he started, “the short version is that they have so completely carved up their own planet and their own species. That caste system they have is one example. By the socioeconomic view, forty-three percent of Mitasterites now fall into the three strata below the slave line, and another thirty-one percent are stuck in the so-called Mighty Mid group. These people never eat tuna steak or travel off-planet. Our own soldiers live like princes by comparison. The caste system keeps people where they are. Everything serves industry, there.”

-from Endgame (Woman at War 1)

 

When I was crafting the backstory for Endgame–as the narrative takes place within the context of a war–I knew I needed texture and credibility for the ‘bad guys.’ The Mitasterites couldn’t just be cardboard cutouts to shoot at and run from. Even though they don’t much chance to show personality in Endgame (other than ruthless behavior, such as offering up 1,500 boys as sniper-fodder for propaganda) they still needed to be real enough to me.

These days, it’s very easy to look around and find a model for bad behavior: The GOP. Most everything they have done or opposed (under President Obama) has signaled a cold indifference to individual’s lives (those beneath a certain tax bracket, at least).

[I’m not so typically one-sided, to be honest. The GOP and conservatives used to represent ideals and views that made for healthy debate. Not anymore.]

The party may be on a regrettable road to fascism (yes, look at the latest tax-code revision, if you doubt it) and the leadership harbors a worrisome far-right view. (Bigotry, xenophobia and pandering to extremist views, to name a few.) They’ve made it easy. My fictional Mitasterites are just much farther down that road: Disregard for the majority of individuals–and the environment–in favor of a military-industrial complex which ultimately pursues wealth through aggression. For really, in the modern world, what is war? Nations may squabble over borders and ideological views. In a universe where a party has its own planet, border disputes and threat don’t really wash. So the government has to crank up the propaganda machine and conjure another set of excuses to conceal the truth: Somebody wants to make a lot of money. Human (or Mitasterite) cost is immaterial.

While this draws a lot of parallels from the vast armies of WWII (the buildup, the extreme nationalism, the inevitability) it also allows for plenty of internal fighting. Naturally, not everyone just gets in line with evil intentions. So heroine June Vereeth’s surprise new boss in Destruction is an admiral who has defected from the Mitasterite ranks. Tohk-Mahsda, a middle-aged woman, is utterly furious with her home-world and the government which has taken over. She’s not alone, of course.

It isn’t difficult to imagine her anger, her feelings of betrayal. How would a government–or political party–choose to sell the lie that they want more than serfdom for three-quarters of the population? When the desires of wealthy oligarchs outweigh the needs of the overwhelming majority, and institutions of scientific fact and free press and environmental stewardship are trampled and disregarded?

If the Mitasterites (or those WWII armies) are at the far-right end of the spectrum, what’s uphill and sliding down toward them?

Justin Edison's Destruction, second in the Woman at War series, will be out in 2018.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Calling Readers: My Newsletter

Hello, Dear Reader:

With much fanfare (or, at least, a couple drum taps) I have launched a newsletter and I’d love for you to sign up!

Red pen and coffee mug with Edison's draft work.

Why do I need a newsletter? Because, according to several successful authors, this is a great way to reach readers and find more. So I’m game.

Why should you sign up for a newsletter? This way, I can send quick updates on my work, plus offer you some goodies that you may otherwise miss. (I am not above bribery, of course!) So, it will be worth your time, and it only takes two minutes!

Note: This will not be spam! I have no intention of flooding anyone’s inbox with digital junk. Our time is more precious than that. Instead, this will be 1-2 updates per month on what I’m working on, and maybe some food for thought.

 

Please sign up here, and I look forward to connecting with you!

 

-Justin

The Prince of Endless, pt. 5

Elsewhere, on a forest path toward seaside ruins, MAHKYEL, the Prince’s scoundrel uncle rides with two guards and his weakling aspiring sorcerer cousin BOORYEL. Both are Eastern (Asian) and are dressed well from royal ties and ride with confidence. Booryel sneezes as they approach the ruins.

When they dismount, they are met by the chief kidnapper, HEDDAHNTON. He is a very fit man in warrior’s armor and has the look of a successful mercenary. Some of his thugs and captured women mill about the ruins, now a makeshift base.

Mahkyel approaches Heddahnton with caution. “Well done, Heddahnton. I trust the little rat is safe?”

“He is, Your Highness.”

Mahkyel wags a finger at him. “Not yet. There will be a time when others call me king, but I expect no such respect from a mercenary.”

Heddahnton leers. “Guilty. Like all men of deeds, I respect sword and coin.”

“Understood,” Mahkyel says, strolling through the camp. “A bonus. Booryel?”

The weakling cousin strolls up, pulling an amethyst necklace from a robe pocket. He holds it out for Heddahnton.

“Did you charm this?”

“Nay,” Booryel says, disappointed. “Simple stones from the queen’s closet. No magical potential.”

“Nonetheless,” Heddahnton says, snapping a finger. A thug comes up and looks at his boss. Warily, he takes the necklace in his gloved hand.

Mahkyel smiles. “I’m the kind of liar you can trust, Heddahnton. There’s more riches to come.”

“What about your giant?” Booryel asks.

“Charmu?” Heddahnton wears a satisfied expression. “Like me, he does his job. My men fulfill his craving for mares.” He looks at Booryel. “And what of your craving for magic? If I remove your hand, could you regrow a new one?”

Booryel swallows hard, taking a step back. “I…uh…”

Heddahnton laughs as Mahkyel intercedes, annoyed. “Save your charms for the ladies, High Warrior.” He takes Booryel by the sleeve and they head for their mounts.

Blurry hand holding knife over stone floor

Nearby, there are cliffs above the sea. Several individual jail cells have been built into the cliffs, 50 feet above a rocky beach. Most of the cells are occupied only by skeletons in rags.

In one, along with an ancient skeleton, sits THE PRINCE OF ENDLESS. He is an Eastern (Asian) boy of ten dressed in simple if regal pajamas. Sitting on the rock floor, he is adjusting a dirty wool blanket around him to keep warm. At the bars are two buckets. One is dirty (for bathroom use) and the other contains stale bread. Sea breeze ruffles his hair, and he’s trying not to cry.

The ground shakes, accompanied by heavy splashing sounds, and dust falls from the rock ceiling. Beyond his cell door, slowly and malevolently, appears CHARMU.

Charmu is a 60-foot giant in simple clothes and with a braided beard. He peers into the cell, sneering. The prince scoots back, fearful.

“Prince,” Charmu scoffs. “Mighty prince.” He turns to go.

 

to be continued…

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