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Finishing Up At Gettysburg

April 12, 2017

Tags: writing, research

View from the Union position at Brian Farm
Back from the reunion in Staunton VA, and I completed the research at the Gettysburg Battlefield that was interrupted eight years ago by a heart problem. It wasn't book research. It had to do with a real unit in the North Carolina Infantry that my character was in, and whose individual members I had brought to life and followed through so many battles from New Bern all the way to Appomattox.

The unit was Company E of the 18th North Carolina Infantry, Lane's Brigade, Pender's Division, 3rd Corps. Its assault goal was just north of The Angle in what is popularly called "Pickett's Charge," but which in North Carolina is known as "Generals Pettigrew and Trimble's famous charge, sometimes referred to by the name of a Virginia officer."

The company's starting position, in the photograph, is just to the left of where those cars are parked in the distance. It is a little under a mile away. The view is from the Union position at Brian Farm on Cemetary Ridge. The original plan was to follow the steps of the 18th to find out if the ground had anything to say to me, and it did. I also was certain that the ghosts of that company would talk to me, at best; or give me a chill or two at least. Neither happened.

It wasn't July 3rd 1863, a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, with thousands of soldiers behind stone walls shooting down at me. I learned valuable things about the ground, however: where the men of Company E were in range, when the ground dipped and they were no longer in line-of-sight of the Union troops, when they were in open fields, when they were among trees, where the fences were, the streams and creek beds, the buildings, and so on. The novel is a work of fantasy, but the characters and background were very real. I'm grateful that I was well enough to follow those footsteps.

I managed to get my old GoPro working and made a video of my walk, and as soon as I can figure out how to piece it all together, I'll make it available.

More Distractions and the Lure of the Other . . .

April 1, 2017

Tags: Focus, writing, Gettysburg, North Carolina Infantry

Bullock Road, Chancellorsville
So, heading down to Virginia in a few days to attend the SMA/VWIL reunion, which will give me the opportunity to do the Gettysburg Battlefield to complete a bit of research that was interrupted by a heart problem the previous time I was there eight years ago. My character, among other lives, also was a member of the 18th North Carolina Infantry in the famous assault upon Cemetary Ridge. I know from where they started and where they were supposed to end up. I had intended walking that route eight years ago, but ran out of air.

Well, in preparing for the trip, I realized I could remember almost nothing about the book I had written whose rewrite had been postponed pending another shot at Pickett's charge. So, I began reviewing the notes, the character names, the many peculiar situations my character gets in, the locations, then I turned to the manuscript. I fiddled with the title until I had a new one: Alan Trevane: Permutations. Then I almost turned to the first page----

----Jesus! This book is like quicksand, sucking me in, dragging my focus away from The War Whisperer. It's like a put-aside mistress I hadn't thought about for years beckoning from the shadows. "C'mon, Barry. You don't have to do a thing. Just look at the first page. One little peek---"

Got to concentrate on the War Whisoperer (or however the damn thing is spelled). Concen . . . funny thing about the 18th North Carolina. They were organized as the 8th NC, but in the larger organization their number didn't fit, see, so they were made the 18th, which meant new insignia, new flags . . .

. . . What? War Whisper what? I'll be there in a minute. . . .See, that picture. Well, that's where Alan Trevane stood that night at the Battle of Chancellorsville when he fired that shot that hit General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson taking him from the fray and eventually killing him. That's why the 18th North Carolina----
----Will somebody tell that other book to shut up?

*Puff, puff, puff*
. . . Now, where was I?

"I'm so mad I can't write," and other distractions

February 3, 2017

Tags: Distractions, writing, little voices, election, Trump, Clinton, Sanders

Squirrel! . . . .
I was angry, then depressed, despairing for the sanity and freedom of my country. That kind of stuff is a loud horn next to the whisper of the story muse. It dries up the writing. What was it all about?

The neo-brownshirts managed to violently prevent another speaker from being heard at another college campus. Anyone with a love of the First Amendment, particularly writers, would look upon such occurrences with alarm, one would think—or, at least, I thought. One would think wrong, however. If the speaker getting pepper sprayed is politically to the right of Roger Moore, then there is no cause for alarm. If the students and ticket holders to the event came to hear such a speaker, then beating them, hitting them with pepper spray, denying them the words, and setting fire to the meeting place is okay to many persons in the media, commentators, the hoards on social media, and even some folks who at one time were rash enough to call me "friend."

I still have a lot of writing to do on my current project and can't afford to take time off to turn my crank and bleat my protests at the daily injustices I see before me. Words-per-day, every day, is the only way to get the book written. Still, I was hopelessly depressed and not writing anything until a tiny voice in my head said, "Don't waste it; Put it in the book."

My current project is a libertarian science-fiction epic in which, among many other things, violent forces attempt to shout down and beat down those with opposing views. It fit, what my character would do about it fit, and all of it fueled by my anger and despair? The scene began writing itself in my mind (I was on a treadmill). As soon as I'm finished with this post, I'm putting that scene into the story and tying it into the entire political matrix of the story universe. And I already know that scene will smoke.

You feel strongly against the results of the election, you feel strongly for the results of the election, don't waste it on Facebook or Twitter; Put it in the story.

Anger, fear, loss, disappointment, outrage, love, lust, obsession —it is all valuable story material, the kind that puts an electric edge on what you write. Listen to those little voices. they will inject life, meaning, and purpose into your writing. Don't tell your therapist about them, however. Word to the wise.
Catching the big ones.


What About This Blog?


For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

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Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.