Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Literary Murders

Despite having limited experience writing mysteries, I thought the proverbial “what-the-heck” to myself and decided to try writing some. My wife in particular likes mystery-style tales and I wrote this short-story for her. Set in the modern day San Francisco Bay Area, a female protagonist finds herself playing the part of a detective when her husband’s friend in the SFPD asks for her unique expertise in a very unusual case. Being a bookworm of epic, yet delightful, proportions, the heroine, Lily, and her husband accompany the police detective on an investigation regarding a series of murders in North Beach where several seemingly unconnected deaths possess one thing in common: each victim seems to be arranged in some sort of allusion to a piece of well known literature, i.e. classic American type books that are fairly famous.

In addition, I’ve tried to add a distinctive retro art-nouveau background to the setting, using architectural landmarks in the City (i.e. Telegraph Hill) as well as adding some Alphonse Mucha artwork to the main character’s repertoire of artistic taste. Essentially, during the plot as the bodies add up, Lily discerns several clues previously undiscovered by the local police as she begins a series of interviews with the tenants of the building where one of the victims lived. Gradually, the killer’s increasing use of literary references in the murders scattered throughout the city puts Lily on track to unraveling a seemingly random series of unfortunate occurrences.

Now, truthfully this is more a fun exercise than a determined push into writing professionally in this genre. However, mystery remains an essential element in any good piece of fiction, so I’m definitely hoping to learn from the experience of writing (and reading) more and more well written detective prose. My main influences in this story are a mix of Agatha Christie’s Poirot tales and some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. I’m hoping for some constructive feedback as well in the hopes of improving my rather inexperienced mystery-style authorship. If you would like a copy or simply enjoy fiction set in San Francisco, please let me know. Thanks.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Short-Story: “White Queen”

My newest short-story could also double as a continuum to my previously posted short-story, “Red Hero.” Essentially a sequel, or even potentially a second chapter, “White Queen” is set within the same sci-fi reality, but is told from a decidedly female perspective. Still utilizing my second-person, present tense format, I continue the tale from the perspective of a character who discovers the “hero” from the previous story and continues advancing the narrative from her own point-of-view.

Unlike the anarchistic, loaner character of the first story, the woman in this tale represents a much more hierarchical culture, one with better technology mixed with a sort of neo-Buddhist faith. Here I continue the same theme from my previous story, the essence of these sci-fi tales, which emphasizes the struggle to identify oneself in a world turned upside-down. The new “hero” in this chapter must decide for herself who and what she is to be, alternatively seeing herself in terms of her relationship to her mother and also her place among her own unique people.

In a quick blurb, the hero in this short-story is an aristocrat, a talented and diplomatic woman of wealth and means within a somewhat matriarchal society. She commands her own ship and crew, but also has her own personal bodyguard who has been part of her life ever since childhood. In some ways she is free to make her own decisions and do as she pleases, yet at the same time has enormous expectations laid upon her by her status in society. She is expected to command subordinates, obey the tenants of her religion, and ultimately put the welfare of her world before her own personal needs or desires. In some ways, hers is a preordained life of duty. Yet when she rescues this “red hero” from the clutches of a deadly demise she finds herself straying into the realm of this defeated rebel and the chaos that his own life seems to provoke around him. With the hero of this tale and her people, the “Whites,” technically neutral in the ending war between the Reds and the invaders from Venus and Terra, the Martian’s enemies still hunt ardently for the refugee Red. It is up to the “white queen” of this tale to determine whether to help this bedraggled man at risk to herself and others, or to leave him to almost certain death. Now she must nonetheless decide what she thinks both politic for her people and in keeping with the tenants for her own conscience.

I’ve gotten some positive feedback from both of these tales and am now pursuing the idea of making them consecutive chapters in a longer narrative. I confess that I don’t know entirely where I’m going with this possible novel or novella, but I am thoroughly enjoying the experiment. So far I’ve written up several more additional chapters, keeping in tune with the same themes and narrative plotline. I’ve never written this extensively in the second-person before, but that is also partially what draws me to continue using this undervalued form of storytelling. For input or just simple curiosity on the progress of this and other subsequent chapters within this story, just drop me a line.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lunch at Facebook

I had lunch the other day at Facebook in Palo Alto, California with a friend, or as employees there call it “the Book” and it inevitably came up during our meal that I had as of yet not joined Facebook online. Well, my friend convinced me of the benefits of being able to keep in touch with business contacts, and another person also pointed out that it would dovetail nicely with my writing blog. So I’ve joined and added links connecting my blog and my Facebook account.

So on “Day 1” of opening what I envisioned would be my professional account I almost immediately find pictures of my college-age cousin playing beer pong and drinking up a storm at Chico with his friends. Ah…I say to myself somewhat initially bewildered…so this is the kind of stuff that ends up on Facebook.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. I’ve already managed to get into contact with friends I haven’t seen in years, and it’s actually a fairly easy way to keep in touch with people. I’m still not used to the oddity of having people I barely remember or haven’t seen in years suddenly sending a friend request, but maybe I’m just old fashioned for preferring face-to-face conversation. Either way, I suppose I’m getting used to it.

Facebook actually has quite a fascinating mission statement. They want to provide a central point where an individual online can tie all of their disparate emails, blogs, websites, etc. together within a single source. Unlike a search engine that the entire public utilizes, this would provide a much more personalized, individually tailored window into the web for each potential user. Essentially, I’m attempting to use this medium as so many others have, both as a means of keeping touch, but also a way to find new writers and foster more of that sense of an artistic community. I’m hopeful.

Needless to say, lunch at Facebook was delicious, much like the food I eat at Google.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Sci-Fi Short-Story: “Red Hero”

I’ve submitted my newly written sci-fi short-story “Red Hero” to a couple different writing contests so far, and am also currently spreading the manuscript amongst friends and fellow writers. Even though this tale fully stands on its own as a short-story, I have begun toying with the idea of expanding it out into a longer story as well. As of yet, I am attempting to gather a wide variety of feedback from friends and fellow writers in order to discern whether readers simply like the story as it is or if they would enjoy a richer continuation of my experimental foray into science fiction.

The synopsis is as follows:

A lone passenger sits adrift in a damaged spacecraft losing air. In the distant future, when humanity has settled multiple planets and moons throughout the solar system, a lone soldier from a defeated Martian colony flees during the last days of an interstellar war. Temporarily escaping his pursuers, but with no fuel and little oxygen left, he lands on a deserted asteroid. His chances of rescue are slim. In this science-fiction short-story elements of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and an Orwellian inspired future merge in the narrative of “Red Hero.”

A political as well as a science-fiction tale, “Red Hero” is written in a second-person limited perspective. This second-person perspective places the reader into the position of the “red hero,” a character whose name we never learn. In this bleak future, many familiar elements of Western society such as democracy and Christianity no longer exist. The main character flees from a lost cause, his Martian home world now conquered by religious zealots from Terra (the future Earth) and a massive totalitarian army from Venus. There are no aliens in this future, only humans that have culturally evolved on various planets and moons within the solar system. Some “Red” colonies like Mars are highly anarchistic and individualistic, in deep contrast to the more controlling totalitarian and fundamentalist societies of planets like Venus and Terra.

As the hero’s air supply begins to run low his thoughts and reality shuffle together. Half delirious, he grows uncertain of reality and illusion.

Ultimately, this is a story about contemplating what really matters in life with what little time we are given. After all, when time and circumstance strips all the facades away, what really makes us who and what we are? Don’t get me wrong, I like things like democracy and Christianity, and that is precisely I have removed them from this distant future. In essence, how do we as individuals define ourselves without the familiar institutions and cultural concepts to hang on to? What makes a person a good person or a bad person? What is right and what is wrong?

Enough of my jabber.

If you’re interested in reading my short, sci-fi story, “Red Hero,” don’t be shy. Please email or contact me directly and I’ll provide you with an electronic or hardcopy. Thank you.