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Author's notes - Book 2

I don't sport myself as a writer as much as I see myself as a wordsmith.  Writers, those people who use words as a form of art, can open the tap and words flow from them like they're puking rainbows!  The worse part about some of these people is how smug and insufferable they can get because they view themselves as "shmart" simply because they write.

Let's clear the air—just because someone wrote something that people think is "smart" or "brilliant" or "genius" does not necessarily mean that the person who wrote it is actually brilliant or a genius!  That is a form of distorted reasoning, attribute transposition or malresonant displacement. (i.e. a reach)  Sounds pretty fuckin' shmart hu?

If someone happens to have written something that is "smart" does not mean that the person who wrote it is smart per se.  It means that they had just enough to compile words in an orderly enough fashion to make you think of them as smart.

Given enough time and effort anyone can make only 50 words seem brilliant but Dr. Seuss already did "Green Eggs and Ham" so what the fuck?

Least we digress further let's get to the point...

When one hears "wordsmith" one visualizes some bloke banging away
at an anvil with a hammer and shit.  Okay, that is what most people would expect but when it comes to words I'm a sadistic bastard to be sure.  I look at adjectives and metaphors as things to be tortured into submission...folded and spindled and mutilated, oh my!

My admission, my conceit finishing the second book, is that I see myself less as a wordsmith and more as a literary Torquemada.

Me thinks we be finding me groove!

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VALVe Time:

It has taken a considerable amount of time to finish the second book so I'll apologise now.  The first book took 10 years because, frankly, I had no idea how to write a book!  I had to figure it out on the fly and, Holy Guacamole, did that suck!  I went to USC for screenwriting—not book writing!  The problem with books is not writing so that it is readable, the problem with books is writing so that people would want to read it and that's tough to do.  Also there is NO MOTHERFUCKING END to the editing process and you just have to pick a point and walk away...

Then, when you read it again because you have too—it's a series for crying out loud—you blink your eyes and go, "Holy crap!  Look at that!"   It's at just that very moment in your life that you realize the editing gods hate your guts!  Obviously, at that juncture, your personal muse was on a smoking break and that shite slipped past the critical eye.

pearls before swine was a huge problem because my son gave me a super cool plot device halfway through writing and I had to go back and retool it all.  The other problem was planning for the four follow on books to this one.  The word "aaaaaaarrrgh!" doesn't even come close to what I was experiancing putting this all together.  There are whole strings of explatives that I could share with you but I'll spare you for now.

I could say to myself job well done, but the reality is...it's just started.

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Point Break:

Planning for the next four books was a troubling task because who are you going to kill off and when?  I killed Angie in book 2 and it about killed me to do that.  Who I kill in book 3 is going to piss off some readers but they're the logical choice.  Then again to die in this universe brings more plot options to the character so it's not an end in itself.

diet of worms is a deep dive hint but do research on Jan Huss to better understand where we're going with this.  And, just so you know, it's not one that dies but three—and I get a frowny face thinking about it.

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Victoria Lap:

I really struggled with the Victoria Wilson (RAF Major-Queen of England) character.  Here was someone I was toying with back in the '90s when I was working on the screenplay and thought, "Hey, what if?" 

Originally it was a guy that gets befriended by Jacob, but this was more Maria's book so Victoria it became!  Women are much better characters to write about so it really worked here.  Women have more depth and are way more interesting because guys are simple:  fud, sex, and sleep. 

NOT sheep!  [Hum, wouldn't that make it all in one?]  anyway...

The only hang up about adding this character was that if Victoria did get involved it had to be plausable and NOT a plot device.  That is she can't be necessary for the fight or the outcome—but an interesting someone that could pop in now and then as a sounding board for Maria.

I think I nailed it but who am I to say?

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Boxxy Babee:

The antagonist, Boxter Hartcourt, is a bastard for sure but, to give you a heads up, we're gonna break all conventions with this guy.  When I think of him I see the [Sniper character from TeamFortress2] only a lot older.

When most scifi writers create a bad guy they tend to create the most ridiculously evil person they can think of and the results are usually so comically absurd that, instead of some knockoff of Darth Vader, they'll end up with a Jetsons version of Snidely Whiplash or a Boris Badenov.  I'll say this, and I'll duck after I say it, but the Sith in Star Wars are so cartoonishly-stupidly evil that I wonder what people see in them?  Evil  for the sake of evil makes no motivational sense.  In counterpoint Star Trek villains, id est:  Klingons, Romulins, Dominion, Kardashians, Borg are so laughably two-dimensional that it makes my face hurt.  I will give the Klingons a break because I do see them as a likable bunch.

Outside of your garden-variety dictators and leftist-socialist advocates, it's corporations in the world today who are the true embodiment of evil.  Capitalism / free market is GOOD!  Corporatism is BAD and by its very nature is a form of totalitarianism.  I find it amazing to watch the kids today advocate socialism and big secular governments and fail to realize that it's those governments they admire who murdered over 100 million people in the 20th century: Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, Castro, and the list goes on.  These were not Sith—they were far worse.

My son at 15 gave me his own personal take on evil that is unique and chilling because of its inclusiveness so, fuck me runnin' let's share!

"In the simplest of terms evil is the fulfillment of one's
 special interests at the expense of others." - JCBaum

Gnaw on that for a spell and we'll pick this back up after the 6th book.

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Cirque de Solace:

Air combat is a bitch to write.  I had to brush up on it to the point where I had to go play the game War Thunder to gain a greater appreciation for it.  The eye openier is trying not to die in this fucking game!  So, here is a thankful shout out to Magz, Squire, and Orange

So, if any of you three read it—yes, I had to take some liberties.  The "reverse skid" does not exist in the Journal of Air Combat, but to save the reader the trouble of an explaination of what really happened we just took a short cut.  Not wanna do, but gotta do!

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Working Title:

Here is where I almost completely screwed the pooch like d'uh!  I was not thinking ahead when I finished the first book and stuck with the title of the screenplay.  My working title for book 2 (snake in the grass) kind of slithered into title status and when I was talking to a writing buddy she showed me that I was being like double-d'uh short-sighted! 

So now jacc in the box has become the title of the series and I just love the book subtitles for pearls before swine and diet of worms.  To clue you in, if you haven't figured it out yet, the chapter titles come from what a character says in that chapter, and going forward the book gets a key chapter as the book subtitle.  This is much-much better than what we had because the book subtitle can be more fun!

Just to let you know that there is a chapter I can't wait to write because I am dreading the idea of writing it.  So when you see caught in a mosh queued up as a book you know it's coming.  This is going to be an ultra-intense combat sequense that I'll be pulling my hair out while writing, but the problem is that I shave my head.  Where to pull from I wonder?  Ah, well, choices abound!

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Weapons Deux:

Aliens has the most iconic weapon in scifi being the famous "pulse rifle" with that wonderful muffled-chatter it makes.  I remember sitting in that theatre going, "Holy shit, it's a Tommy Gun!"  And when Ripley inevitably asked, "What does it fire?"  I about split a gut when they said it shoots a "10mm, caseless, armor-piercing, explosive tipped...(blah x3)"

That was also the smallest magazine to hold 99 rounds I have ever seen.  They needed a huge drum magazine but, the Tommy Gun 20 round box it was!  I lol'd even more.

Get it right!  Please*please*please*please*fucken' please get it right!  If not, them at least plausable, okay?  In the jacc in the box world, for the first book, I went out of my way to make sure that there was nothing in the real world to match the rail-gun rounds.  Since rail-gun tech is new at the small arms level, the rounds had to be small to begin with.  I wanted something less than 3mm and around 5mm, and in between for the bad guys so, 273 was my cub scout troop, 475 was my boy scout troop, and I have no idea where I got the 331 from but I didn't pull it out of my ass.  It's origin is lost to time.

Punching things up for the next war was necessary, because that's what happens in weapons development, and for the 2nd-GEN rail-gun small arms there is not a number combination in the world that doesn't have an associated caliber.  So, for the /k/tards out there I had to mimic the real life calibers the best I could and not sound totally stupid doing so. Didn't want to do that for the first book but I have no choice after that.

If it ever gets optioned, just to let you know, they will sound like some muffled supersonic shot.  More of an electrical report that will still be about 90 decibels.  Just like real life supersonic rounds fired through a run of the mill silencer...they're not silent.

I'll refrain from the nit picks here re silencers in movies because I'll hit caps-lock and shout obscenities.  'Nuf said.

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User Interface:

I spent a lot of time not talking about character interface with their tech.  It's the visual displays and controls used by characters to interface with their technology that kills the credibility of many works of scifi.  The set designers of my favorite scifi movie of all time, Alien, just couldn't give a shit in production.  Groundbreaking on so many levels it fails the acid test of time.  As difficult as it is for me to get past the kludgyness of the non-GUI computer displays, the control interfaces and that lamezoid crèche-closet for the "mother" computer I still manage to enjoy watching it.  In spite of the design failings Alien is proof that good characters, a solid plot and the ambulatory embodiment of an H.R.Giger nightmare can overcome the shittiest of production values.

Where Alien is the exception Avatar is the daily offal puked out by the Hollywood grist mill.  The two films are polar opposites in every respect, and even though Avatar is eye-popping candy (they got the tech right) the plot makes it a steaming dog turd of heavy-handed "hate the man" preachiness.  Outside of the plot where they fucked up the most was in the biology of the Na'vi...

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Alien Biology:

Here is where neither Alien or Avatar get it right, but lets first ask these things about the Alien xenomorph...  Why molecular acid for blood when it makes for a poor solvent in tissue development?  If it's stomach acid they can spit it as a weapon, sure, but the whole body?  Why a silicate tissue structure?  Acid blood and silicate based tissue does not make it compatible with our biology.  That said humans, not exactly nutritious to them, should be able to walk feely about the xenomorphs with impunity.  Maybe even start a xeno petting zoo?  And, Ridley, to nit-pick for just a spell you really did screw up Prometheus.  The connection to Alien was a weak 'Oh shit, we gotta cram this in!'  Pick a story how 'bout?

Now on Avatar I have to give the film makers kudos for the fantastical biology of Pandora.  My hats off!   I can pick nits the size of a bus on this one (e.g. six limbs on a low gravity environment makes no sense) but I can let them slide because of the consistancy and continuity of design between species.  It was all stitched together in one nice-neat, complete package with the Na'vi dangling like a participle.

Just like everything else why not four arms?  Why not four eyes?  Why not two neural connecters out the back of their heads?  WHY IN THE FUCK DO THEY HAVE HAIR?  Ever hear of the Fibonacci Sequense?   It has an impact and here's an example:  You can have two or three fingers, you can have five or even eight for what it's worth, but four or six fingers are anomolies and NOT adaptations.  Hair and this sore thumb are the two things I can't seem to let go of.  Yes, it's somewhat childish of me to harp on these things but if you want me to believe and enjoy then get it right!  As for the tits...well, that's okay!  The Na'vi may not be mammals but there is no reason they have to be excluded from nursing, and if you want Jake to have the hots for Neytiri then tits clearly simplify the effort. I just so happen to be a leg-man but, as a mammal, I find that tits are nice to have around.

In the jacc in the box world I was not going to do the alien thing until the fifth book but, considering it would look like a last minute plot device, I'm introducing them in the second book.  The problem in developing an alien species is trying to conceive of a biology, home planet and a back story.  What we ended up doing with them is a far cry from our original vision.  A dear friend twisted my arm to watch Galaxy Quest and I about had a shit hemorrhage when I saw the octo-squid like Thermians!

Well now, scratch that idea, but while taking a much deaper dive into this, and realizing that the building blocks of life are going to be pretty much universal throughout the universe, then the challenge ended up being how NOT to make them too much like us.  Compelled to rethink this has resulted in a more plausable-contemporary bipedal option.

I'm not going to go off here on the why that is, but let's just say that all the elements that fell in place for us to become a technological species will be a universal theme.  Lobsters, like dolphins and lamas, will not be able to build a Saturn-V and fly to the moon.  No matter how intelligent or determined they can be as a collective it will never happen!

I have always believed that sticking rubber and paint on an actor was a cheap-ass way of making an alien and mitigating production costs, and that real technological aliens we encounter will be oddly or grotesquely different from us, but now that I've given it A LOT of thought I've come to the conclusion that the opposite may end up being the truth.  On these encounters I believe our expectations will not be met and it will be the simularities between us that we will find most shocking. 

With those thoughts in mind spawned the Nefer Key.

The Xhemal was a logical reach.  Many birds have incredible intelligence so what if one came about with rudamentary tools but no real chance of technological development?  A complex social structure and language but no real chance to go beyond stone tools?  Native Americans were still in the stone age when Europe came and up-fucked their world.  They didn't have a chance in hell to actually "develop" with what was available in this hemisphere.  Not to say their shit was idealically tranquil in their backward ways because many were bags of shit like those European invaders, and in spite of the tree-huggy liberal narrative many here were fucking asshats because mixed in with the good were murderers, rapists and cannibals for shame.  Asshole is as asshole does—applies equally to all and ignorance and backwardness is no fucking excuse.

For humans it's technological development that spawns enlightenment and NOT the other way around.  For the Xhemal, well, when your body itself is built like an up-gunned APC then civility is kinda forced on ya whether you like it or not.

 
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