All posts by Elizabeth Bent

Incubating stories

I’ve had dreams and insights hit me hard and fast in the past few weeks, especially yesterday and today. I need to sort through all the story notes I have made for my different books, notably Diamond, and determine what characters will be in it and what they will do.

One idea that I like in Diamond is that the main character goes into an underworld under cover, taking on a different identity in order to flush out rapists who attacked her. I’m turning this one over in my mind quite a lot, and I like it. In order to make the book fit into one novel (or screenplay), I have to be judicious about what details I include, and I think I will focus mainly on the main character’s journey from being vulnerable and victimized to being stronger, wiser, and ultimately triumphant over her enemies. In Diamond the main character is divinely inspired by kick-ass and smart goddesses, and they guide her through her process of transformation.

I’m also working on several other book ideas, but I feel once I have finished with Infinity (I may add extra scenes) I’ll get going on Diamond.

Eight books

Hello, readers!

I’ve been ill for a while and have had many interesting dreams- so many so that I’ve come up with a fountain of concepts for both science research (I am currently seeking funds to do something which could be amazing- shhhhh) and fiction writing. I’ve tallied up the ideas I have and there are eight books in total. I can’t describe all of them (and I don’t want to) but I have registered most of the ideas with the WGA West registry already, and while most are still in concept phase, I’m excited about every one of them.  I have a full draft of two books finished- I had worked on them previously; both need updating now, and I have a partial draft of a third.

The most problematic book will be one set in the Star Wars universe- I think I have only a cursory knowledge of that universe and so I really can’t write it by myself. It has to be in that universe because of who the main character is. So I’ve started taking steps to figure out how to learn more or perhaps find a writing partner for that one.

I’m still reeling from four solid months of unusual thoughts and ideas wafting through my bipolar mind, and so while I’ve started to focus on one of the story ideas, I literally have not been able to do very much at all on any of these eight books in the past little while. I also have been working hard at trying to find information I can use in my science project fundraising efforts, so I am not completely incapacitated, just busy.

My next goal is to plot out several of the story ideas I have in my mind while they are still fairly fresh (I have done this already with Diamond, though I need to change some of the details), and then evaluate which of the story ideas I have in mind will be most likely to land me an agent and editor. The two books I’ve written so far might be candidates, though both need updating as I have had ideas since they were written to make them more interesting. Infinity did not take me very long to write- I followed an outline I had made for the most part and it worked out pretty well. I suspect none of the books I have in mind will take very long to revise or write as long as I can stay healthy and focused.

New story idea

Hello, readers! I have been just besieged with a ton of great ideas for stories and elements of stories, and I’ve compiled a sketch outline of what I think is a really great one that I’m calling Diamond. I will describe it later, but I’m really excited about it.

I don’t have time to write much more as I am trying to finish work for my laboratory in Guelph, but I’m very proud of Diamond and can’t wait to get started on it. I had originally thought to call the story Hypnagogia, but I think while that name is appropriate, there’s one scene where the main character screams that she is “unbreakable”, which makes me think, hey, why not call it Diamond. To be clear, I actually didn’t steal this from Luke Cage, it’s something I actually remember.

I’ve also got a character named Liz Diamond (Agent Diamond) who shows up in comical short stories I’ve written, but those are not my best work. Different characters entirely.

I need to do some additional research for this one, so it may take a while, but I suspect it will go pretty quickly- it uses a lot of elements from my own dreams and life.

An unusual love story liberally sprinkled with assassination attempts and bizarre floral arrangements

Hello, readers! My 60,000 word novel Infinity is finished and I’ve been revising madly- it is in very good shape. I’m currently drafting a pitch and 1-2 page synopsis for it so I can submit it to a particular agent. I find that my revisions are best when I put down my manuscript for a week or so between revisions, so the process of revision is taking some time, but I am not in any particular hurry.  I want to do the best job possible! I’ve been tossing pitches for Infinity around in my head. I think my current favorite pitch is that Infinity tells the story of how mental illness intersects with time travel and quantum entanglement, resulting in an unusual love story liberally sprinkled with assassination attempts and bizarre floral arrangements.

In other news, I’ve got five other novel ideas circulating in my head. I’ve jotted notes for all of them and I’m going to spend some time in between revisions of Infinity working on plotting them, and on writing a third draft of Anagama, which as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve replotted and now have greater confidence in as a result. I also have submitted a hypothesis paper for my crowdsourced science project from 2014, so I am hoping it is looked on favorably and revisions/resubmission won’t take me too much time.

Here is hoping that July and August are productive months for me. I’ve had some difficulty with my bipolar disorder presenting itself in rapid cycling form, which I am hoping to overcome by watching my sleep, food intake, and exercise. Wish me luck!

Reviving a 2015 manuscript

Hello, readers! While I work on revisions and polishing of my now-completed manuscript Infinity (close to 60,000 words), I unearthed a manuscript called Anagama that I finished in 2015. It was difficult to write, and there were many problems with it, not the least of which that I had started it in 1998 and had been working on it and putting it away periodically in all the time since. I forced myself to finish it, but the results were disappointing. So I put it aside to think about what to do with it.

I finally know- it hurts to do this, as I’ll be discarding many passages that I rather like, but I completely revised the plot, changed most of the characters, and am changing the main focus of the story. In past incarnations, Anagama had as a big focus the nature of a vampire-like main character and his special abilities. I think this was a mistake. I had invented, in 2014, a female scientist character who is a secret hero, and her story is much more interesting. I started to want to tell it in 2014 when I invented her, but bent most of the book into the frame I had devised for it when I was much younger and not as good of a writer- so the story really, really didn’t work. By tearing up much of the manuscript (everything but the first three chapters, actually) and starting again, I now can make the story into what it should have been.

Another big focus of the new manuscript idea is that it focuses not just peripherally, but centrally on the idea of trying to quantify what is human. People do this all the time. We come up with all sorts of criteria for categorizing animals and human beings. During the time between when I finished Anagama in 2015 and yesterday, when I picked up the manuscript again, I realized that there is interesting literature discussing concepts of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of race (spoiler: there isn’t, it’s a social construct, though I am sure some may disagree). In Anagama, I hope to discuss this along with the larger question of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of human being that can safely exclude sentient beings that don’t meet the criteria. The story focuses on mutant humans, infected with retroviruses that literally alter their genomes to the point where they are no longer classified as human: chimpanzees and humans, for example, share 98.8% of their genomes, but no one classifies a chimpanzee as a human being. So in discussing the question of whether it is ethical to deny mutant humans the basic rights given to human beings, this question of chimpanzees vs. humans also comes up.

The question of animal rights is a tricky one, not least because humans enjoy eating animals, wearing their skins, and using their labor. I was a vegetarian for 14 years because I struggled with the idea that it was all right to eat animal flesh; I stopped mostly for financial reasons (I was living in a place where vegetables were more expensive than meat), but now would struggle to be able to eat a lot of vegetarian/vegan food since so much of it contains gluten, which I cannot digest, or is very expensive. So there is a grey area for me: I couldn’t bring myself to eat a primate or wear its skin, and I am deeply disturbed by research that involves primates. But I am less bothered if the animal is a cow- is that hypocrisy, or do I simply judge how an animal is treated based on its apparent sentience or intelligence? Is this ethically sound? We don’t eat or skin humans born without much intelligence, or born without brain stems.

So there is much to be pondered in the question of what it means to be an animal that is human, specifically, and how you can distinguish human animals from nonhuman animals, as well as the question of whether this distinction justifies differential treatment.

I promise, despite these forays into philosophy, that Anagama will still be an entertaining yarn, with daring escapes, car chases, psychic phenomena, and lots of intrigue.

Have a nice day!

 

 

Nearly done first draft!

Hello, readers! I am nearly finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I’m very happy. It’s roughly 60,000 words, though I suspect it will become slightly longer as I revise and add in a few scenes I’ve thought of recently that should probably go in.

I hope to write the concluding chapter today, and then start revising later this week.

Have a great day!

On time

I’m about halfway through my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I find myself at a point now where I have to have the main character explain some concepts about time to other characters.

The plot of this novel relies heavily on the idea of time travel- both of information and of people and objects- and while this is currently thought to be impossible with existing technology and known laws of physics, I’ve not yet given up hope that I can come up with a halfway plausible-sounding explanation for it.

The easiest solution, as has been pointed out to me many times, is just to fake something using existing science fiction tropes, but I actually want to entertain physicists and other scientists as well as people with no real specialized knowledge of science. I know it’s easy to just say “oh, future technology” or “well, it just works like this, okay?” and be done with it and get on with writing. But that wasn’t a very satisfying solution for me.

Now, of course, I’m no physicist and I can’t come up with elaborate proofs or even really comprehend a lot of what real physicists talk about. I am currently a bit over halfway through Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn, which discusses theories of time, and it is tough going for me since I keep getting sidetracked. However, I am pleased that some dreams I’ve had about how time travel might work mesh with a few of the more recent things I’ve read about in Lee’s book. It will, of course, likely be gibberish (I probably am misunderstanding a lot of the concepts put forth in the book, particularly as they may only be presented in simplified form). But it is my pseudoscientific gibberish, thank you, and I hope it inspires others to really study how time works.

I’m happy to report that I’m largely over the month-long period of odd dreams and an inability to generally function, and I’m back to writing. I am working on both a scientific article dealing with a hypothesis I formed while researching my cancer project, and on Infinity. I’ve also had a few fairly sinister dreams where James Comey was following me around on campus with a bunch of FBI agents, and I had no idea it was him because he looked like one of my coworkers. This has given me the germ of an idea for a story involving spies and spycraft, a more serious one than the silly shorts I write about Agent Diamond and Charming Guy. This spy story is put on the burgeoning pile of ideas I have for things I want to write after I’m finished with Infinity.

Have a great day!

Hypnagogic dreaming

Hello, readers! I’ve had an interesting bout with odd dreams lately, spurring yet another round of story ideas. This one has to do with all sorts of divine entities, usually female- different goddesses and female religious figures. I have bandied about the title Hypnagogia before, for various story ideas, and I think this time I finally have the right story for that title. The definition of hypnagogia, according to Wikipedia, is “the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep: the hypnagogic state of consciousness, during the onset of sleep.” This completely describes the kind of dreaming I’ve done for a few days now, in which most of the day is spent asleep or half-asleep, but dreaming continuously.

I have to nail down the details of the story, but I figure there will be fertility and love goddesses (and saucy passages), a goddess of destruction, and goddesses of vengeance as well as figures of mercy and healing. This story will be pretty exciting- there may be some crime bits, or action/adventure bits, though how to incorporate those is going to be tricky (I don’t want to name actual people or actual events, even if only in a work of fiction). I have to think about what to include in order to get all the goddesses enough exposure. I will probably have to make up some stuff, maybe about crime and how federal agencies work, drawing in part on dreams and in part on actual events or facts.

And of course, a lot of my dreams for the past year or so involve time and warping spacetime, so I figure there is going to be some of that as well. Science fiction! I am not entirely sure what genre this story is going to be in- I suspect it will have strong romantic features, but also fits into a lot of other categories as well. Science fiction/fantasy romantic crime thriller? Knowing me there will be comic bits as well, but first I have to take this idea from a bunch of confusing dream images into an actual plot.

So lots of different kinds of stuff going on in this story. I am going to try to put it up for sale on Smashwords if I can find an appropriate cover, and for this one it’s possible there may be a screenplay. I have often wanted to write a screenplay, and while I have been putting it off forever, I have a friend now in film school who might be able to give me tips.

Work on Infinity is ongoing, of course, but as with all my works-in-progress it has been stalled due to all these dreams.

Have a great day!

 

Astrobiology

Hello, readers! Been away from writing for a little while, but the recent find that Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be “hospitable to life” is not only exciting in its own right, but has made me think back to what I know about the science of astrobiology.

Most science fiction shows feature aliens that are large, complex life forms, like xenomorphs or Vulcans. However, the reality is that most of the life on other planets is likely to consist of single-celled or filamentous organisms, analogous to bacterial forms of life in extreme environments on Earth. The kind of life to be found on Enceladus is likely to consist of chemolithotrophic food webs consisting mostly of bacteria, nestled close to the hypothesized deep sea vents on that icy moon. Analogous food webs lie deep in Earth’s oceans, where “hot smoker” geothermal vents spew warmth and the minerals that power these food webs, which exist independently of light from the Sun. There are more complicated and large organisms deep below the surface of Earth’s oceans, like large tube worms and several forms of invertebrates, but most of the life around these geothermal vents consists of bacteria that can gain energy for living from transforming the minerals released by the vents. From what I recall, the food webs around these vents depend on the cyclical transformations of these minerals between their different forms, and it’s all conducted by bacteria. The tube worms, for example, have large digestive organs consisting of sacs of bacteria powered by minerals. It’s fascinating.

I may dig up new research on these vents and write a short story about what people may find on Enceladus once they send robots beneath its icy surface.

In other news, I am still about halfway through my SF novel Infinity, and I plan to work on it again starting tomorrow (today and much of last week I spent dealing with bipolar dreams, which come and go- they usually leave me with all sorts of ideas for stories, and this time around has been no exception).

Have a great day!

Baby steps

Hello, readers! My progress on my most recent novel was sidelined by about eight days of severe illness, but at least I have a bunch of really interesting ideas to use to fuel future fiction, so it wasn’t an entire waste of time. I’m more or less back to normal now, and since my taxes are done, I figure I’ll be getting back into writing fiction starting tomorrow.

My cat, as I type this. has decided to walk across the keyboard:

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I really wish, sometimes, that I weren’t bipolar, but quite honestly I have no idea how to be anything or anyone different. I actually want to start working on my novel right away, but because I know I can’t disrupt my circadian rhythm too much, it is just going to have to wait.

Have a great night!