Plot and Plan? Or Plunge in Where Angels Fear to Tread?

James Scott Bell is a published author with a diverse portfolio of fiction, from period short stories about boxing to zombie lawyer novels (don’t ask). Anyway, in the promotional material for his writer’s coaching service, Mr. Bell divides writers into two groups:

  1. Plotters map out their stories in advance, making sure they know how it’s going to end before they even start writing.
  2. Bell calls the other type “Pantsers,” but that’s an unfortunate choice of words. Puts me in mind of bullies yanking down a freshman’s shorts in gym class. Whatever you call them, they just start writing, with implicit faith that their stories will find their way to the end. They plunge ahead. So maybe “plungers?” That’s got an unsavory connotation, too. We’ll have to work on it.

Of course, most writers will find them in both camps to varying degrees at different times of their lives. For the first two published novels of my career, I have definitely been a hybrid of the two.

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William R. Eadington (1946-2013)

When I was a kid, Bill Eadington was the likeable low-key guy who married my godmother, Margaret Dean. The Deans and McElligotts grew up next to each other on Coronado Drive in Fullerton, California. When I was little, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were cooked in both kitchens and passed over the side fence. On the Fourth of July, our two families, plus our neighbors on the other side, the Bakers, and another family down the street, the Marcons, managed to spread the party across all four yards. It wasn’t exactly Norman Rockwell, but it was close enough.

Bill EadingtonIn our little town, Bill was descended from citrus industry royalty. Back when the land around Fullerton was just one big orange grove, the Eadingtons and the Bastanchurys were the kings of the Valencia orange. There are still streets named after both families.

To rest of the world, for most of my adult life, William R. Eadington, Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, was the go-to guy on the subject of the gaming industry. I’ll let his own school say it:

Eadington is the current holder of the Philip J. Satre chair in Gaming Studies, a professor of economics, and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). He is an internationally recognized authority on the legalization and regulation of commercial gaming and has written extensively on issues relating to the economic and social impacts of the industry.

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Forty Years Ago Today

January 22, 1973. The United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that no government, state or federal, had the power to outlaw abortion, that it was an individual choice. That has been the law of the land ever since, but many will not rest until that decision is reversed.

What would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned? My next novel drops you right into the middle of a world where that has already happened.

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Kindle Readers Are Readers. Just Ask My Mother.

As I said in an earlier post, the arrival of my Kindle truly reawakened my passion for reading. The ease of finding, purchasing, carrying around a new book whenever I wanted, all without requiring me to find a new space on my already crowded shelves, has turned me back into the reader I used to be. But that doesn’t hold a candle to what it did for my mother.

She was constantly reading as long as I can remember. A visit from my sister, Maureen, would usually involve the exchange of multiple books before they parted. But Mom is now 85. Her knees and back aren’t what they used to be. Spending hours browsing the shelves of her local Borders was no longer in the cards for her, even before Borders went to that Big Bankruptcy Court in the Sky. Some time last year, she was actually reaching the point where the stack of books next to her favorite chair was down to its last volume. At that time her knee was really bothering her, so the idea of going to Barnes and Noble really didn’t appeal to her. Then her youngest son came over with his new purchase, the latest (at the time) Amazon Kindle.

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An Interview with Timothy Kurek

I first stumbled across Timothy Kurek on a LinkedIn group about book marketing. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that a realized that he was the same guy I had been reading about, the former Conservative Southern Christian who went underground in Nashville’s small but vibrant gay community, effectively going into the closet as a straight guy and coming out a year later with his outlook profoundly changed. The book that resulted has earned the author an appearance on The View, been dissected on Huffington Post, and received glowing praise from no less a figure than Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Too often, issues surrounding our gay and lesbian neighbors get clouded by superficial discussions of sexual morality and abstract arguments about legal equality. Kurek’s book cuts through that and performs the not-inconsequential feat of bridging two communities who seem irreconcilably at odds, and opening a channel for communication, for those who choose to use it.

In the following interview, Kurek says his lack of a college degree was one factor which contributed to his early reluctance to go ahead with a book. I suspect he learned more about life in that year than a lot of college graduates managed to absorb in four.

I believe there are a few among us have, under the spell of curiosity, alcohol, or some really good weed, “experimented” with a member of their own gender, but that never goes beyond the surface and past the moment. Kurek “experimented” with every aspect except the sexual for an entire year, immersing himself in the humanity behind the endless discussions, and the result should be illuminating for anyone willing to hold their own bias, about gays or Christians, up to the light he’s shining on the issue.

Upon reading the book, I thought I needed to have a talk with the author. He was gracious enough to agree.

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The Real and Unreal World of Human X – Northern Virginia

I have a love hate relationship with the back roads in that part of country. They are beautiful and, when you know where you’re going, a lot of fun to drive. That part about knowing where you’re going is key.

Back in the days before in-car GPS systems, I was in the Vienna/McLean/Tyson’s Corner area on business. I landed at Dulles at night and was driving to my hotel. If had gone right, I would have been in the brightly lit heart of Vienna. I went left instead and found myself in a semi-rural residential neighborhood. Back in those days (1995), the people in those parts didn’t believe much in street lighting. About once every block, the road I was on seemed to be named after a different Confederate general.

This was also before I owned a cell phone, of course. Fortunately, my search for a pay phone led me across the road where my hotel was supposedly located. If I hadn’t stumbled on that, I might still be roaming the wilds of Northern Virginia like a Flying Dutchman in a rented Chevy.

Human X: From 2012 to 2040

The political background of Human X is not completely beside the point. It helps to define Colin Jeffries, and it also sets the groundwork for future stories. His father, Remington Jeffries is a U.S. Senator, but not for one of the two major parties with which have been all too familiar this year. Seriously, previous election years may have seemed like the country was giving birth to a new administration. This year felt more like we were collectively passing an especially painful kidney stone.

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The Real and Unreal World of Human X – The Missile Site

When I wrote the climax of Human X, I thought I was taking some liberties when I described the missile site nestled in the oil fields of northern Orange County, Site LA-29. The site was real but I was certain that, by 2011, much less 2039, it was a neatly manicured tract of homes. Turns out I was wrong. The old site was still a decaying, graffiti-covered collection of abandoned structures. It was, however, far more complete than I describe in the book. Fortunately for accuracy, the remaining structures are marked for demolition and, by 2039, the site should be the relatively pristine wilderness described in the book.

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