Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day 5 check-in

 It's been raining all night and is still raining, and I've slept badly, troubled by peculiar dreams (one involved adopting a crocodile who then ate all the neighbourhood cats ... my subconscious is a disturbing place sometimes). Unable to sleep, I thought I should make some use of the time before I head off to work - so here I am, checking in re my Month of All the Words.

Today is day 5 of NaNoWriMo, and I'm tracking OK as far as stats go - I'm staying just a whisker in front of the goal word count each day, and I have a little over 7,000 words down that I think are not entirely rubbish.

However, the easiest stretch, both in terms of writing (I like beginnings, less good with middles) and available time, is behind me. I haven't been working from 1-4 November, but I have two full days of work ahead of me now, followed by a busy weekend, a fully booked week with work next week, and then a weekend away. Maintaining the daily writing target is going to be a challenge for me, especially as I'm sleeping poorly and not in the pink of health. Still, no-one ever said NaNo was meant to be easy - that doesn't make it not worth trying.

The novel is evolving into a strange kind of science fiction / mystery thriller / lyrical hybrid - a hot mess of unsaleable genre-smushing, in other words - but I'm satisfied that it is following a true path at the moment, rather than a dead end. I have a clear picture in my mind of what the next two scenes need to do, and a broad idea of where the story goes from there. If I'm going to lose my way, I'd reckon it'll happen around the 20,000 word mark, but I'm hoping the momentum of the exercise will carry me safely over that dreaded slump point.

Writing in verse is liberating for me and I am very happy with my decision to tell this story in a verse novel rather than a "straight" novel. I am more at home as a poet than as a prose writer, and I think it's important to go where the energy is. This story's strangeness can be nicely counterpointed through the allusiveness that verse allows, and I think the vehicle is right.

The story is set about 75-100 years in the future, and I am amusing myself by throwing in occasional present-day cultural references that might resonate (although I'm avoiding doing too much of this). My central premise is a world with massive climate problems, but where the movement of people has become normalised and national borders are much more porous than now, and generally accepted to be so. Communication technology is seamless and advanced, but there are still no flying cars (d'oh!) Gene tech has advanced too, and gene tinkering means that most people who don't die of climate-induced disaster or by human violence can reasonably look for 120 years of life.

Certain mutations have been enhanced with genetic engineering, and there is a body of people - the Mind-to-Mind cabal - who have the ability to perform microsurgery on the minds of others using only their own mental energy and capacity. This isn't quite mind-reading or telepathy - they can't communicate in speech-like thoughts to each other, nor can they strip-mine the thoughts of most others - but it is somewhat like very targeted telekinesis. This skill is obviously very useful in several contexts, from the repair of both brain injury and mental illness to the intervention into the minds of violent threatening individuals to render them harmless.

Of course it isn't simple and it is feared and resisted by many, but that's the general gist of it.

Here's a small sample of the story so far - this is part of a scene where my protagonist, Ket, is being questioned by two law enforcement officers with very different agendas about the opening incident in the story, where she managed to disable a gunman holding up a corner store by getting inside his mind.


I don’t need a second invitation – I slide into her frontal lobe, soft as a kitten’s paw;
if she hadn’t lowered the shield, she’d never know I was there.
(I heal complex psychic wounds for a job. Doing no harm is my bread and butter.)
She’s laid it out neatly, in the mental equivalent of flashing neon; a trainee Minder,
one with half my range and sensitivity, couldn’t miss it.
Major Crimes is opposed to Mind-to-Mind, it says, in bold lettering. Not exactly lettering,
but the analogy is close enough.
The Commander of Major Crimes in the Apac region cabal has a score to settle.
We’re not sure what it is, but he’s looking for a wedge. He’s decided you may be it.
Tread carefully, now. Give them no reason. You are needed, free.
I glance at her sharply.
We in Security Response have need of a Minder with your abilities. I will do what I can.
It is your onus, though, to give them no purchase for their calumny.

I say, Well, Officer Obela, I went into the store around 8:45am or so. I wouldn’t want to say *precisely*, you understand – I had no reason to particularly note the time, and I didn’t do so.
He scribes carefully, his arm tucked under itself crabwise in the manner of thwarted lefties.
For what purpose did you enter the store? says Pham. I recognise the lead and seize it;
if I am to emerge unscathed from this, I will need Pham’s help.
I smile ingratiatingly. I had need of feminine hygiene products, I say brightly, judging
(by the appreciative smile ghosting on Pham’s face, correctly)
that Obela is traditional enough to be discomfited at mention of both my bleeding womb
and that I have one, at all.
Tamponas, you know, I say, twisting the knife. The little micro-tubing, for vaginal use …?
Obela nods quickly, his face flushed.
It feels a little unfair, given the rest of what I saw in his straightforward mind –
a man via transition, he himself knows what it is to bleed, a memory surgery has not erased.
I shrug off the instinct to relieve his uncertainty. I need him off-balance
I need him unsure, if I am to be sure of a free walk from this room.

This is post 5 in NaBloPoMo. 5 down, 25 to go!

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