By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 1,555 - Long nights

Writing had a rough five days. I had an appointment Friday, and realized I didn't have a document created for it. It is a complex one. I started working on it Thursday afternoon, and finished about 8:00 AM Friday morning, then went to the appointment and other ones too. I got 30 minutes of sleep right at 8AM, and that was it.

I am still recovering.:-)

I did manage to sit down and write today. Two sentences. I am still very tired, but happy to be priming the pump and getting back into it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 1,450 - Sailing along

Our antagnosists are on the high seas and currently about one hundred nautical miles from their destination. They've been stopped by the Spainish guard for a drug inspection and are setting them at ease, letting them know they can inspect the yacht. At least, that's what they want them to think.

307 words.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 1,498 - Sunni or Shiite?

I hadn't given much thought to the question of whether Mahfoud was Sunni or Shia. Today I needed to address both a recruitment and a defection event, and it became relevant. It would be unusual for someone from a predominantly Sunni country to defect to a predominantly Shiite country, and vice versa. Also, since Mahfoud is seeking to cleanse Islam, it needs consistency.

I discovered that Morocco is predominantly Sunni. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram, along with the majority of Muslim countries such as Pakistan are also Sunni. Iran, half of Iraq, and Hezbollah are Shiite. In some countries they mix, but often the minority is persecuted just as minorities in any country often are.

Cleared another 285 words.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 1,495 - Justice

It's been several days since writing, due to early mornings and long nights with work and family as I settled our nephew in for the seven weeks he will be with us. 

Once again I dived into the mind of the antagonist Mahfoud in my WIP. He is in many ways understandable. The world is black and white to him, and he believes in justice and order. He lives a utilitarian lifestyle and takes joy on his faith and his efforts to further Islam and the cause of the Western Sahara.

With that comes a dispassionate, brutal sense of justice that is required in the Hadith and Koran, as well as the needs to keep order in the ranks. In Islam, Allah is not our Father in Heaven, and he proscribes unwavering justice and punishment so the community can have order.

Here is a quote from a response given by a Islamic web-administrator in response to a comment under the topic of Stealing at (emphasis added):

Let me clarify one very important thing, the thing which differentiates Islam from all other religions and ideologies: Allah does not allow this divergence of making the Creator as Father. This amounts to shirk, as Allah cannot be considered in same league as other mortal beings who are born and give birth to others. Therefore, the first objection is that please do not use the word ‘father’ for Allah, do not use attributes of mortal humans for Almighty Allah. And Allah knows best.
Now let us come to your concern about the punishment of hand amputation prescribed in Islam for stealing. Islam is a complete course of life, and it is not a religion which takes into account individual views, rather it is society oriented, though individual rituals etc. are also there up to some extent. Now, in order to maintain a fair, just and disciplined society, you have to have rules in place. But merely having rules won’t serve the purpose unless the rulings are executed also. When the rules are prepared keeping in view the well being and discipline of a society, and these rules when honestly executed, then the society becomes what it is ought to become. Then only justice prevails. Then only discipline comes into being.
You may start talking against the ruling of hand cutting for the thief, but just imagine if 1 or 2 such cases are done in public what message it gives to the entire society? Will anyone who sees a thief getting this punishment even dare in his/her entire life to rob or steal his fellows? Never. But if thieves are being let off with sweet words of consolation or some monetary penalties, they will know deep in their hearts that nothing is going to happen to them in future also and hence they would continue their thefts, and in fact, keep increasing the magnitude of their thefts. And this is what is happening nowadays in society. Organized and legalized thefts are taking place, because they know that they are not going to get any stiff punishment. 
Therefore, my dear friend, it is not a matter of whether one likes certain punishment or not, it is actually a matter of administration. You need certain strict laws to maintain discipline in society, otherwise everything goes out of control, as the things are nowadays in world. If someone does not like any divine law, it is his/her problem, and he/she shall be punished by Allah for rejecting His law.

What is interesting is that when reading this, there is a simple effeciency to it. Whereas some faiths tout mercy in punishments as helping increase brotherly love and thus reduce long term crime, some Islamic sects believe a peaceful and ordered community is more important. Islam is not about the individual. It is about the community.

And thus is the mindset I keep myself in when writing for Mahfoud. He isn't out to be a bad guy. He's a kind of hero. Where some see his actions as brutal and horrific, he sees justice and order, and that through his efforts he is a part of a whole, a part that seeks to further the growth and health of the true believers.

Which is why today he cut the hands off of a general stealing Polisario money and intimidating people to fund a drug habit. And then he cut the hands off of the mans family in front of him. ANd finally he was publicly beheaded. The hands were for stealing:

“And (as for) the male thief and the female thief, cut off (from the wrist joint) their hands as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.”
(Aayah No. 38, Surah Al-Ma’idah, Chapter No. 5, Holy Qur’an).

The execution was for treason, which in Islam is also considered a form of apostasy.

Islam does, by the way, take into account mercy and repentance. The degree of this depends on the sect, but can lessen a punishment in some instances. This is in part because Islam teaches that when one commits theft or sexual sins or other things, he or she is not a believer when committing said act. Thus, mercy may be granted when one becomes a true believer. There is however no atonement from a savior in Islam, and thus justice in some form must still be met.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 1,491 - Guardia Civil, Geography Problems

I did not get to write Friday through Sunday. I prepared for and picked my 14 year old nephew up Friday night, and have been getting him settled over the weekend. He will be staying with us for most of the summer and learning about life in bigger cities.

Today I wrote 230 words. In this instance, it wasn't for lack of narrative. I know exactly where this scene is going and how it will play out. The caveat is that I needed some more local information about illicit activities in the area and how policing is handled. Thus I spent a large amount of my time researching La Palma's cocaine smuggling problems and the history of the Spanish Guardia Civil, who enforces a great deal of the drug related laws in the area. Interesting factoid: The Canary Islands, of which La Palma is a part of, is the gateway for cocaine smugglers from South America to Europe. The population in most island is so small and generally cared for though that drug use among the actual populace is minor.

Also, I found out that the cataclysmic event in the story won't be able to strongly affect the intended cities in Morocco, thus affecting some of the backstory of the primary antagonist. I spent some time thinking about how to resolve it. I think I have it. It will take some reworking, but I'll worry about that in the edits. It's not a big enough deal for me to go back now. I'll adjust moving forward.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 1,487 - Dialogue and another Chapter

Simple post today. My son did not wake up, and I was able to focus on a particularly difficult part of dialogue. If I haven't said it before, back and forth dialogue is the area f writing I feel least comfortable in. I am by nature a verbose and descriptive writer. A creator. Making dialogue feel spontaneous and natural is a skill set I am working on. I feel I did well today.

Another 434 words written. Finished another chapter. My antagonists story is moving along.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 1,486 - Morning Breaks

See what I did there? A pun, a play on words! Yeah, I'm that guy.

As the morning broke today, my son woke up early. Again. And so after two interuptions, I decided we would go down for breakfast. In the middle of ym sprint. Over an hour later, I made it back and finished.

I got in 388 words. This seems to be about my average for now. I did read through about a third of chapter 2 of the Koran, which proved infinitely useful for fleshing out the chapter I was writing at that moment. I also found out the Moroccan currency is called a dirham, and one dirham is worth about ten cents. Not exactly great for the Moroccans.

I immerse myself further into Morocco politics, faith, and business, I find my antagonists world is likewise gaining more depth. Worth the effort.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day 1,485 - Moving to Mornings

Writing in bed, in the dark, next to my wife, with the screen turned down to extremes (using a special program) to not keep her awake, was not ideal. It was great in that the need to let her fall asleep first prompted me to begin writing again. Not so great in that I usually didn't start writing until near midnight, or later.

And so yesterday I made the move to the mornings. I now wake up an hour earlier (6:00 AM) to allow myself time before everyone else is awake. It's a different feel, but I don't feel like I am falling asleep. I do shower beforehand to help with that.

Of course, when I tried this yesterday, my five year old decided that was the morning he would randomly wake up an hour early. I managed to get in less than ten minutes of writing.

Today went better. I got a solid 30 minutes in. I find I am struggling slightly in writing my protagonists point of view, as it is so foreign. I have to put myself in the mindset of an older male, one who is battle scarred, oppressed, a killer, a leader, an Arab, a man with contempt for anyone who didn't think like he does, a radical. I have to stop and correct his mental dialogue and even some actions, as they are not in character. I eventually get my mind there, it is just not as easy as my MC.

A few things that are helping me:

1) I am listening to a lot of Islamic recitation on Spotify, It;s making my music recommendations go nutty, but worth it. It helps transport me to a different place and culture.

2) Reading the Koran. Not my first time, but a little a day helps bring possible mindsets to the forefront. The Koran is a major part of Mahfoud's life, and I need to be familiar with his sacred scripture to be familiar with him. Yes, there are a myriad amounts of Islamic sub-sects and interpretations. Fortunately, I already know the mindset of Mahfoud and know how he reads and interprets divine writings personally.

Got in about 350 words today. I might have time to write more later. A benefit of morning writing.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day 1,482 - Robots and Story POV

I didn't update yesterday, because I didn't write.

I spent from morning until evening yesterday with my wife and son at the DARPA Robotics Challenge 2015. I won't go into it right now, beyond saying it was amazing, and I saw more robots than I've ever seen in my life, as well as amazing people. A great experience, and one that I am sure will inform future novels.

I've decided, at least for now, to focus on my antagonists story. I had been writing the two (previously three) interweaving stories chronologically. Doing so has had its benefits for building out the framework, yet now that I am diving deep into the characters, I find they cannot be dropped for a time because it's a new chapter. They want to be heard!

So I will write the antagonists story until I come up dry. Then, the protagonists story. Any other POV's that are minor can be tossed in as needed. At the end, I'll trace their timelines, weaving them together into the final narrative.

Didn't write as much today. 362 words. Something is better than nothing, and I got a lead on a new chapter, so it's a win.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Day 1,480 - PTSD and Gender

As I've dived deeper and more frequently into my WIP, my mind starts thinking of it more often throughout the day. Where is the story going? What questions and dilemmas are arising inside of it naturally? What themes?

Probably the biggest one I have been pondering is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is a quite a bit of it in the story, as it centers around a group of people all dealing with the effects of combat and military service in civilian life. PTSD is manifested in countless little ways in life, and each person struggles with different aspects of it.

While in the shower (where the deep thoughts of the universe come to all), one perspective I realized I was missing was that of a woman. In fact, so far my story basely mentioned women. It's not intentional, it's just because the setting has been, by nature, a kind of "good ole boys" club.

But women dealing with PTSD have unique challenges and less support. I came across this quote from a 2013 news article:

"Of the approximately 280,000 females who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 12 years, 152 have died and at least 800 have been wounded."

That seems like a lot, and it is. Yet compared to men, it's far smaller. And this creates a problem. The support groups, like combat troops, are filled predominantly with men. And when a male gets home, other men are there to share in the pain and lift them up with somewhat familiar activities that work well with the American male psyche. But women... who do they turn to? Will the the stay at home mom, working professional, or nails, hair, and clubs groupie get it? Yes, some sympathy will be expressed, but the difference between the American ideals of a "fairer sex" and a combat woman who has seen lives taken and taken them herself are vast.

And so this brings me to a possible major revision to my WIP.

At the end of my first draft, I'm going to read through it with one major question in mind: Can this story work if the MC is a combat veteran women, not a man? What would I need to change?

I hope this novel is a major commercial success. It's certainly being written with that in mind. Would it hurt or benefit sales? Do I even care? I like the idea of the change. If I write it first as a male, it will help reduce subconscious attempts to soften her. She would be just as strong a protagonist as her counterparts. Not "women strong" or "women power". Just "strong" and "powerful".

I like women role models that break the mold and make people think. Perhaps this one can.

We shall see.

Also, wrote for 25 minutes and did 413 words.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Day 1,479 - Backstory and Timelines

One of the interesting aspects of writing The Militia is that I am writing in roughly the same time in which we exist. Current events shape it, and the characters exist within it. Any passing of time in the real world before completion can lead to a need to revise backstories of main characters as well as key scenes.

For example, when I start writing, Al-Qaeda was much more powerful. ISIS didn't even exist. The Arab Spring was still young, and bin-Laden had only died a few months prior. The Arab world has changed significantly since then, as had the world at large. Further, some characters now needed to be older, which affects how some parts play out.

Timing, you see, is important. My story, even outside of external influences, needed help with timing. I realized over the last few days that the MC has a longer backstory and setup. The early chapters about the antagonist were interspersed, but were months or even years ahead in time. It was throwing things off. I was saying "here's Mahfoud!" and he's on the scene, ready to go.

So tonight, I fixed it. Not completely, I had to stop writing so I could get sleep. But significantly. He now has a great backstory. He is *slightly* more sympathetic.And the timing is now fixed.

Made it through 593 words. Another record since being back. If I keep the pace as is, I would complete the first draft within four or five months. I hope to beat that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 1,478 - A New Chapter

Sprinting went well. Starter at 12:08 PM, intending to go half an hour. Made it 50 minutes instead.

I really struggled the first twenty minutes. The action and placement of people was off in the active shooter scene I was working on. People couldn't get to where they needed to in a logical way.

I took a moment and imagined the entire scene again. I pictured it from the side, the top, from the shooter's perspective, and from the MC's point of view. And then I got it. Everything snapped into place.

Wrote 559 words and, more importantly, finished a chapter! It is my first fully original chapter completed since returning to writing. A scene that didn't even exist in writing until the story restructure a few days ago.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 1,476 - Action!

I had two opportunities to write today. One mid-afternoon, where I saw down and reviewed my questions from last night. After coming up with different possibility and imagining how each would move the story forward, I settled on one in particular.

Tonight, I was able to start my 30 minute sprint at 11:00 PM instead of 12:00 AM. A big difference in mental clarity. I jumped into it with the new direction and... it wasn't quite working. Five minutes of writing, another five figuring out why, and then I had it. It was too generic. I needed to make it more human, and less mass mayhem. Changed the venue, added a Senator and a teenage girl, and I knew I had it right.

With everything in place, you'd think it would be smooth sailing. A minute into the revision, and it was feeling dull and lifeless. There was an active shooter, which is about as far from dull and lifeless as one can get. The problem? I was writing in a kind of present tense that was impersonal. It was telling or relating the events, but there was no actual action. No dialogue, no real pace. It was like reading a police report.

With info of what was off in hand, I was able to quickly adjust, and ended up with 427 words. 77 more than the last writing sprint a few days ago, and better quality. I am one happy writer!

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