Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape on Sleepwalkers, Chapter 9

I was probably just as relieved as you were when Shara when came back to life. After all, I built my original fantasy around her. She's a completely different person in this version of the story, but that doesn't make her any less important to me. I hated killing her. I just felt like I had to do it.

Here's how the decision came about.

Almost exactly a year ago, Callidus and his wife came to visit me. I hadn't yet begun to write Sleepwalkers, but I was pretty far along in the brainstorming. My main dilemma, at that point, was figuring out what to do with Shara. I knew that Paul would be wracked by guilt because he'd imprinted her, and that when Shara Awoke she'd forgive him; but it couldn't be that easy. Callidus was the first to realize Shara had to feel guilt of her own. Justice is her driving force, and she's done some horribly unjust things (not least to Wizard). Now she'll have a chance to try and make them right.

I probably already knew, when I met Callidus in person, that Shara would guess Paul was Awake; but I didn't know how she would confront him. That came much later. I bounced a lot of ideas off Callidus via email, and gradually I homed in on the idea of her testing Paul's loyalty by making him kill her. It was such a shocking idea, and such an impossible thing for him to do if he were Awake, that I knew it would work perfectly. I just had to figure out how to revive Shara afterwards. I toyed with the idea of faking her death; but in the end I decided, just as she and Hawthorne did, that the test wouldn't prove anything unless it demonstrably killed her (BTW, this is a good place to clarify that Shara didn't expect to be revived). But since she had to come back to life afterwards, that let out a gory death. Thus I settled on a lethal injection. Paul's test of the ingredients proved to him, and to my readers, that it really worked. But then (You see what a complicated thought process this was?) I had to figure out how Shara could be revived after the lethal injection. The magic ingredient in the saline is what the fine folks over on io9 call "handwavium."

So anyway, Shara's alive, Awake, and in a better position than anyone else to bring down Hawthorne. That's not to say she'll succeed, or whether anyone else will come along for the attempt. But at least you get to see the real Shara again after a long, dark stretch with her evil twin.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape: Sleepwalkers, Chapter 8

A lot of people are reading the "Sleepwalkers" chapters on my blog and commenting on them below the posts; but just as many start over at the EMCSA and then follow the links to the "Peeks." I'm saying this up front because readers who came here from the EMCSA really should check out the comment section below the Chapter 8 post. You'll find some great notes and ideas about what happened in Chapter 8 and about what might happen next. For the sake of those commenters, I'll try not to repeat myself too much in this Peek.

First, of course everyone knew Paul and Shara would have some kind of confrontation. But anticipating that and wondering how it would play out is part of the excitement with this kind of story. Yes, of course it was painful; but you probably guessed that too, even if you didn't realize Shara would sacrifice her life. This is the chapter I was referring to when I said during a previous Peek that you still hadn't read the scene which was hardest for me to write. Toward the end, I could hardly bring myself to type those words - but what was worse, even if I didn't type them, they would still be in my head. I was literally depressed for days about Shara's death.

Does that make sense to you? If it doesn't, think about it this way. Some actors play a role on the set, then leave it behind when they go home at the end of the day. Others carry that role with them for the length of the production. Even when they're not in front of the camera, they stay in character until the director calls "cut" for the final time. Well, if I were an actor, I'd be Daniel Day-Lewis - and I don't even want to be! It's just the way my mind works.

But enough bitching and moaning, from me anyway. I have no idea what people will say in the comments section (They'll probably call me a hypocrite since I wrote the scene on purpose ;-p). Here are some other random notes.

I didn't want to keep Hawthorne offstage for so long, but the story wouldn't work if she had any doubts at all about Paul. She never even thought of checking up on him because as far as she knew, sleepwalkers couldn't Wake Up. It hadn't happened in 27 years, and the people who accomplished it died without sharing their formula. Plus, Hawthorne wanted to punish Paul because of those very people. Now her hubris has come back to bite her.

I really didn't expect people to guess that Paul would be re-imprinted (probably because I devised the Charlotte scene much later than the confrontation scene), but good on those of you who did guess. I'm always pleased when I figure out a joke or puzzle some other author has hidden in a story, and I like to give my readers that sensation. If any of you guess where chapters Nine through Eleven are headed, I hope you'll be pleased when you find out you're right. Think of the story as a rollercoaster. Seeing its overall shape isn't the same as riding it. I want to give you a good ride.

Paul has bought himself a little breathing room, but Wizard is in the shit. It's tempting (for me, at least, and maybe for you) to think she's Wonder Woman, but she isn't invincible. She sacrificed herself for Paul just as intentionally and almost as thoroughly as Shara sacrificed herself for Hawthorne. The spies are closing in on Wizard now, and they will pin her down. That's not so much a spoiler as a warning.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Here's your sneak peek at Sleepwalkers, Chapter 8

I have to say I'm nervous about sharing this one. So far my blog readers have been very perceptive about where the story is heading, and I sincerely hope that will continue. I also hope that after the chapter goes live on the EMCSA, if readers on the forums are less perceptive, one or more of you will take the time to respond to them on there.

I'll say no more for the moment. I hope I won't have to.

Here you go.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape: Sleepwalkers, Chapter 7

Let's start today with Zane. It took me a long time to pin down his personality; he seemed as mysterious to me as he is to the rest of the characters in the story. I originally envisioned him as a wunderkind who came out of nowhere and became a major player in the novel; but the role never seemed to fit him. I've said before that some of my characters write themselves (Wizard is the perfect example), and it felt like Zane was resisting my efforts to make him a hero. I just couldn't figure out what he really was until I got to this chapter. I wouldn't call him an antihero, but he has a dark side he's not proud of. That's part of what makes him a loner.

Ian turned out to have a dark side too, didn't he? As a matter of fact, my non-fetishist beta reader (the friendly neighborhood orc) was deeply offended by the first draft of this chapter. I suppose EMC fetishists take revenge scenes for granted since our fetish lends itself so well to that fantasy. But the orc helped me remember I was writing a novel and not just a stroke story. He didn't talk me into dropping the scene, but his reaction caused me to me tone it down, give Ian more motivation, and show other characters' discomfort with Ian's actions.

Now let's talk about Wizard. This blog post, which I wrote back in January, was about the situation with her failsafe. It's all perfectly clear now, eh? I just hope you could follow what she did. I had to rewrite that section a lot. Let me know if you didn't get it and I'll do my best to explain.

Here's another note about Wizard. I've intentionally kept her isolated from the friendly characters in the story (Even her interactions with Linda take place "offscreen."). I've also intentionally kept her in darkness most of the time. She's lived with loneliness and hardship her whole life, and they've made her who she is...not that she likes dealing with them. She'd prefer to be out in the sun, healthy, and among friends. But at least she has one out of the three now.

As for Shara, well, what can I say? You all saw it coming. The next chapter will be an even bigger nail-biter than Chapter 4.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Here's your early look at Sleepwalkers, Chapter 7

I haven't said much about what to expect from each chapter as I've posted it here, but you might like to know that Chapter Seven includes a scene from the mysterious Zane's point of view, a lot of stuff about Wizard, and the second-biggest cliffhanger of the series.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Peek Beneath the Duct Tape: Sleepwalkers, Chapter 6

This is a difficult chapter of Sleepwalkers to write a Peek on. I think it's a powerful chapter (although, looking back over it last night, I realized I should have given it one more polish). I just don't have much to "peek" on because everything's right there in the text.

Charlotte's sacrifice is one of the most poignant parts of the story for me. She and Aimee seem, on the surface, to be rather soft; but they're just powerful in a different way from the other characters. They had the courage to do something no one else did, even though everyone could see the need for it. They also knew what a terrible price they'd pay, and they accepted it. Charlotte's price is clear, but at least it doesn't give her any pain. Imagine, for a moment, how Aimee must feel now.

I'm not going to say anything about Wizard today, but I'll have plenty to tell you in later Peeks.

You should be able to figure out most, if not all, of the process by which one Level Zero turned LeFebvre into another Level Zero; but I've kept it a tad mysterious. The next chapter will spell things out clearly.

I didn't mention before now that Ian is gay for two reasons:
1. I didn't want it to affect your opinion of him in any way, good or bad
2. There's so much overt sexuality in the world I've created that it leaves no room for homophobia. You should assume most characters are at least a little bi, whether or not I've spelled it out. Only LeFebvre is an exception: until this chapter, he's been obsessed with blonde Amazons. Now he's interested in blondes of a different sort. ;-)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Here's your early look at Sleepwalkers, Chapter 6

Based on what's happened already, you should have some idea of where this chapter is heading, but I can pretty nearly guarantee you won't guess everything! Give it a shot. ;-)