The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide to Seattle

I’m excited to share the news. I’ve just completed a new project, and it is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Let me give you a rundown.

The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide Series.

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I met Stephen Lawson back in May at the International Space Development Conference. If you recall, he was the runner-up for the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award. A couple of months later, he reached out to me with an idea for a project. He came up with The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide, a series following a young man, Thursday Forrester, as he treks across a post-apocalyptic United States in search of a cure that will save his life.
Stephen’s idea was straightforward. He would introduce the character, the setting, and the stakes in his first installment of the series. As Thursday traveled, other authors would be in charge of moving Thursday through their own cities, progressing the plot, and moving him closer to his final destination. Stephen has a lot of author contacts and managed to recruit the following authors for the 1st series:
Episode 1- Louisville- Stephen Lawson
Episode 2- St. Louis- David VonAllmen
Episode 3- Utah’s Deserts- Dustin Steinacker
Episode 4- The Mojave Desert- Sean Hazlett
Episode 5- Los Angeles- Jake Marley
Episode 6- Seattle- Philip Kramer
That’s right, Seattle is the location of the cure to Thursday’s mysterious illness, and so I had the honor of wrapping up the series. It’s been a blast planning and coordinating with the other authors. We’ve had to communicate regularly to brainstorm and to avoid inconsistencies and plot holes. They are all award-winning authors and have written great stories. Click the links above to purchase their episodes.
Stephen also reached out to the award-winning illustrator Preston Stone for the original cover art and logo.

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Cover by Preston Stone. ©Stephen Lawson 2017. Click image to be directed to purchase page.

The Series Blurb.

They descended from the infinite void of space, annihilating cities and destroying the foundations of modern civilization. Black nanoswarms fed like a locust plague on anything with an electromagnetic signal, wreaking havoc on the lifeblood of human industry. Then, as quickly as they came, the invaders mysteriously died, leaving humanity with nothing but savagery, starvation, pestilence, and death in their wake. Spurred by a life-threatening illness, a young man named Thursday Forrester chronicles his harrowing journey through a land riven by violence and superstition.

Episode 6 Blurb.

When the alien invasion ended, humanity strove to mend their broken world… until they remembered how much they enjoyed war. In Seattle, rival clans fight over territory and resources. Resh, the headsman of the Five Clan, has the power to conquer the entire city, but he has other ideas. He runs. Outside the city, far from responsibility and the risk of assassination, Resh comes across an abandoned hospital. Inside, he finds a young man climbing into a wheelchair. Suffering from a mysterious illness, the traveler makes him a deal he can’t refuse. But Resh takes on more than he bargained for. To help the traveler find the cure he’s after, Resh must return to a city filled with scheming and betrayal, and confront an organization with a terrifying agenda.

Visit www.tpatg.com to learn more about the other episodes!

How to buy.

The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide is a six episode series. Episodes will be released on Kindle beginning November 1st, and every two weeks thereafter. Episode 6 of Series 1 — The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide to Seattle — will launch on January 10th, 2018. Pre-order here!

Location Scouting.

While I’ve seen quite a lot of Seattle in the past, mostly thanks to my brother, a captain in a local tour boat company, I needed to do more research before writing my episode. Here are a few of the pictures I’ve taken while scouting locations for the story:

 

I hope you enjoy reading the story and please don’t forget to purchase the other episodes in the series.

 

Writing Update-October

fall-in-seattleIt is Fall, a beautiful time of year in Seattle. All the leaves are changing color, and the days are either rainy, sunny, or a bit of both.  I wish I could blame the weather for the late writing update this month, but the truth is, I just forgot. I do have some fun blog posts planned, but you will have to wait till next week to see them.

My works-in-progress.

The thing I love most about this blog is that it allows me to research dozens of topics I would otherwise have no reason to research. In so doing, it has given me more ideas than I know what to do with. These ideas have found their way into my writing and into the outlines of several new works in progress.

In case you missed it in my last post, I am working on a new story called Grounded (working title). Quotidian is more dystopian than sci-fi, but Grounded is very sci-fi. You can read the blurb here. It will be set in the near future, just like Quotidian, but unlike Quotidian, it will be chock full of science and innovation. It has been fun learning all about orbital mechanics and buoyancy and speculating about what will change when gravity has been eliminated. I have even consulted with my uncle, who works for NASA. You will be hearing more about this project in the near future.

Editing.

Quotidian is coming along slowly. In my August update, I had planned to make it through several rounds of edits and several drafts by the end of the year, but I am still wading through the current draft. The hardest part it deciding what stays and what goes. If a subplot doesn’t contribute much to the overall story, character development, or setting, I eliminate it. Unfortunately, this means I have to comb through the draft and remove all mentions of it. The earlier the subplot is introduced, the more there is to eradicate as the story progresses.

Typically writers fall into one of two categories: underwriters and overwriters. I think I am an overwriter, but not to the extreme. As I am editing, my word count is shrinking, but not by much. I think I outlined it well enough that there isn’t a whole lot of extraneous exposition or excessive subplots.

I usually write my entire story as one Word document. It is easier to keep track of the drafts that way verses having a Word document for each chapter. I regularly make new versions of the same document with a new save date to ensure, if I lose one copy or make a significant change, I can return to a previous version if necessary. This has resulted in a huge file of documents over the years. I love graphs, so I plotted the word count for each of my document versions over time to get an idea of my writing pace and speed:

quotidian-word-count

Word count for Quotidian

The book started relatively high in word count, but this was mainly due to all the notes, outlines, and about a chapter or so of actual story. It was pretty slow to get started because I was finishing Book 2 of the Abyssian. I didn’t start making headway on Quotidian until the end of 2014. Of course, this didn’t last long. I had to graduate. The next several months were spent writing my dissertation and graduating. I started my postdoc about a week after my last day in grad school, and that week was spent packing my bags, leaving Alabama behind, and traveling across the country to Seattle. Once in Seattle, the setting for Quotidian, I felt much more inspired. During the day, I was in lab, but afterwards I would find a quiet place in some nearby café or bar and write, nearly every day, until I completed Quotidian. Now I am in the editing phase, and I am really missing the daily writing. I have since started Grounded, but juggling both is making editing and writing progress pretty slowly.

Thankfully, I get quite a lot of editing and feedback from members of Critique Circle. On this website, I post chapters to my private queue, and my queue members read and critique it. I only have 16 chapters posted so far, but will be putting all of them up by the end of the year. In addition to finding me some alpha readers, CC was able to generate some pretty cool stats for my posted chapters:

readabilityadjectivesnounspronounsadverbsverbsprepositionsdeterminersdistinct-wordsdirect-speech

The readability stats indicate what grade level the reader needs to have in order to understand each chapter. Mine is pretty standard for a book targeting a broad audience, I think. The other stats give me assurance that my writing style isn’t dramatically changing throughout the story, and they show me where I am heavy on description or dialogue. I highly recommend CC to other aspiring writers. When I get into some other editing software, I will be sure to post my reviews and recommendations.

As a side note, I was thinking about starting up a scientific consultant service to cater to writers’ specific story needs. I would probably do this service for free, unless demand rises rapidly. So if you are having trouble figuring out the science involved in your story’s unique context, or if you simply want someone to help you brainstorm, please feel free to contact me. I will likely not be an expert in the topic you need help with, but I do enjoy researching new things.

I am also happy to take suggestions for future blog posts. Any topic related to improving the accuracy and believability of science in science fiction is preferred.

That’s all for today. Back to writing… and editing, I guess.

Wired to write

write

They say that everyone has a story inside them, waiting to be told. As writers, the stories don’t wait patiently; they struggle and fight, driving us to distraction and sleepless nights until we put that pen to paper. But why must we tell stories at all? Where does this urge come from?

We are wired to think in terms of stories. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, and each one is connected to thousands of others, and each of those quadrillion synapses can be stimulated in many ways and to different degrees. Everything you think, hear, smell, see, and touch, activates more and more connections, culminating in an experience, which is a story in and of itself. Each time you activate a connection, you strengthen it in a processed called long-term potentiation. As we go about our lives, these stories are quite literally shaping our brains.

I think dreams are evidence of this hard-wiring. While we still don’t know why we have dreams, most believe it to be the random impulses of the brain as it performs its routine functions of memory storage, processing, etc. These physiological processes create impulses which flickers through the brain, tracing the most tangible connections. The fact that this results in a dream that takes the shape of a story, however random, illustrates just how integral stories are to our thinking. The same could be said for stream of consciousness writing.

Fascinatingly, we can transfer our own brains’ activity (memories, thoughts, and emotions) to the brains of others. When people read stories, their minds light up as if they had personally lived through the experience. This remarkable ability to learn and to communicate that knowledge to others has ensured the very survival of our species. It has allowed us to sympathize with others, to avoid danger, and to coordinate with each other. From a caveman doodling on cave walls to the slightly-more-coherent caveman writing this post, our survival and success has depended on our ability to communicate. This is not unique to humans. Every organism that exists today has developed the ability to pass along information in one form or another, as small molecules, proteins, DNA, chemical-electrical impulses, sounds, etc.

Given the complexity of the brain and the innumerable ways it can interact with our unique and diverse environments, there are an infinite number of stories to be told. We don’t have one story inside us, we have many. So write! The survival of the human race depends on it.

 

Stories activate our minds

Dreams

Science of story-telling