No, not that. Revisions. That’s what I mean.
See, writing a novel is easy. It just is. All you need is a story, time to write it, a place to write it, a medium (PC, writing pad, stone tablets, whatever) and voila! novel. But, making said novel readable? Different story (ha! I made a funny!)
Revision, IMHO, is what separates writers from aspirers. It takes a certain objectivity to look at your child, your precious, wonderful novel and realize it is dreck. Crap. Utter rubbish. Who will say that about their child, even after the fourth or fifth felony conviction? That’s why you’re seeing a lot of utter crap in self-publishing: the inability to spank that child. ‘Cause you write that novel and you know what you meant and it all makes perfect, clear sense to you, but a stranger looks at that same novel and goes, “WTF?” And then the one-star reviews and raging responses telling the reviewer you just don’t understand the genius that is me…
…uhm, no, I’ve not done that. I don’t respond to reviews because that’s what the reader thinks, and it’s entirely my fault if I disappointed. Mine.
Hence the word, “revision.” You have your vision, but you have to re-do it, or it’s only a vision.
I am in the middle of the first of what is probably going to be 4-5 revisions of The Ship Looking for God. I know that because I hate the first chapter. Just hate it. I have slapped it around a couple of times to get its attention, and then taken a chisel to it a few times. Definitely needs re-shaping.
I’ll let you judge. Those of you who bought The Ship to Look for God have the first chapter of Looking at the end of the book. Well, at least, the first version of it. Here’s the new version:
Weights and measures
“I…just don’t believe any of this,” Otto said.
Marc, peering through the forward viewport with a pair of binoculars, grinned back at him. “Neither do I.”
He went back to the viewport as Otto tried to think of a good one-word description of his overwhelming, and persistent, sense of disbelief. ‘Stunned?’ Well, yeah, when you jump from the middle of an epic cavalry charge through a horde of weird, suit-wearing angels or demons or whatever (can’t be real. Can’t be) into the hold of a slapdash rocket (also not real. Maybe), then cling for dear life to the dear and beautiful Claudia (very real; their kiss proved that), as the rocket takes off…’stunned’ might be a good choice. Except, it’s underwhelming. ‘Astonished?’ Nah, same problem. ‘Astounded?’
‘Gobsmacked.’ Yeah, that’s it. “So…how’d this happen?”
Marc shrugged without turning. “You put enough combustible fuel into the open end of a closed system, you can pretty much launch anything into orbit. It’s science. You can rely on science.”
Otto, of course, had been referring to the entire globe of recent events, but he’d settle for a specific. “Yeah? Then, tell me, Mr. Science Guy, why aren’t we weightless?”
Another shrug. “Beats me. That’s not science. At least, no science I know.”
“Been a lot of that lately,” Otto muttered. Indeed. Ever since Otto had keeled over from a massive heart attack and woken up face-down on a cobblestoned street smack in the middle of the most fabulous City in the universe…or not in the universe. Next to the universe, or outside of it or…whatever the heck Mr. Latchemondy had said, he’d run into an unending series of “no-science” things, like the hypno-sky, the velocity stars.
This silly, duct-taped, jury-rigged rocket.
“Surprised we didn’t blow up,” Otto said.
“Nothing. What are you looking at, anyway?”
“The little moon.” Marc gestured out the porthole with the binoculars. “It’s weird.”
Otto pressed around Marc’s shoulder. “You mean, weirder than the normal weird?”
“Yeah, as difficult as that is to conceive. But, it looks completely natural.”
“Why is that weird?”
“Because of its motion.” Marc swooped his hands like a fighter pilot describing a maneuver. “It’s all wrong, so it must be artificial.”
Otto craned for a better look, “Prester John said it was powered.”
Startled, Marc turned. “Prester John? THE Prester John? You met him?”
“In the flesh…or whatever we are now. He’s running some kind of mining operation under Out.” Otto threw a thumb behind himself. “Ferdinand met him, too.”
“I did!” Ferdinand enthusiastically called from his station at the console, “And I found him to be a most extraordinary man!” The Argentine bent back to his clipboard, scribbling through several sheets of paper. Trying to come up with some kind of map, no doubt. After all, he was the navigator.
“What were you doing under Out?” Mark asked.
“Running. So why is it weird for a powered moon to look natural?”
“No tech before its time, remember?” Marc said, “We humans couldn’t power a full sized moon like that, or, at least, not when I checked out.” He raised confirming eyebrows at Otto.
“Couldn’t when I died…or fell into coma…either.”
Marc smirked. “Still think this is all a dream, huh?”
A shrug. “Anyway,” Marc said, gesturing out the porthole, “that moon looks like a genu-wine piece of space rock, so the suits must have better tech than us.”
Otto tapped him on the head, “Hello, McFly! Combat lasers? Dimensional grenades?”
Marc laughed, shoved Otto back, and pushed the binocs at the glass.
“Who are these McFlys, some Irish family?”
That voice, crystal ringing in the wind…Claudia. Otto had a sudden urge to turn around and give her another in a long series of absolutely devastating kisses. Devastating for him, anyway. He smiled, “No. Movie character.”
“Ah,” she nodded. “Like Pyrgopolynices.”
Otto blinked. “Yeah, him.”
Her brows crinkled in amusement, knowing immediately he had no clue, but she was too much a lady to call him out. Too much a woman. Otto succumbed to urge and reached for her.
“Knock it off, you two,” Marc didn’t turn. Must have eyes in back of his head. “The rest of us are getting bored.”
“You mean, ‘jealous’,” Otto said and swept her up, or she swept him, couldn’t really tell and there, another kiss of sheer ecstasy, sheer eternity, the two of them whirlpooling away. It was the physical equivalent of the hypno-sky.
About twelve years later, they returned. “Done?” Marc asked.
“For now,” Claudia said, stars in her eyes. Otto was still incapable of speech, so just grunted.
“All right!” a sharp bark behind them caused both to jump. Otto looked. Captain Earhart (don’t call her Amelia; you’ll get a fat lip) stood in front of the console, glowering at them both. “You’re not here to lip wrestle. Help Marc keep an eye on the moon. We don’t need any mishaps trying to get past it.” She turned the glower back over Ferdinand’s shoulder.
“Aye, Captain!” Otto gave an exaggerated salute in an exaggerated Scotty accent, “She canna take anymore!”
Claudia blushed a lovely, endearing deep red as Marc burst out laughing. Amelia stared at Otto. “What?”
Otto waved it down. “Nothing. A reference that only Marc and I get,” he said to her, and Claudia, and Ferdinand, and the rest of the pre-Trekkies here on the…bridge, yeah, that’s what we’ll call this room filled with instruments and steering and navigators. Mr. Sulu, ahead full.
Her glower turned murderous. “Fine. One day you two will explain what’s so funny about that. As for now,” she pointed a murderous finger, “eyes on that moon!”
“Ever hear of radar?” Otto said then realized that no, Amelia hadn’t, so he raised conciliatory hands and got back on task.
“You’re going to get thrown out the airlock,” Marc said.
“Probably,” Otto agreed. “By the way, guess who else was down there with Prester John.”
“I give up.”
“Yeah, and he was calling the glowy stuff they were mining, ‘dilithium crystals.’”
“Glowy stuff, huh?” Marc looked thoughtful then pressed the binoculars against the glass. Otto, unable to see a blasted thing around Marc’s shoulders, sighed, and looked at Claudia. “I’m feeling a bit useless.”
“Well, you ARE a stowaway,” she dimpled and took his arm and leaned into him, but not in affection, more to brace herself as she peered past Marc at the distant moon.
Otto grinned, “And whose fault is that?”
She chuckled and Otto moved and they were closing in for another time-stopping kiss when Marc said, “Uh oh.”
“C’mon, man,” Otto groused, “You’re killing the mood.”
“Good,” Marc said, tapping the porthole, ” ’cause I need your undivided attention. Something’s out there.”
“What?” Claudia and Otto chorused and crowded the glass. “I don’t see anything,” Otto said.
Wordlessly, Marc handed him the binocs and pointed towards the upper right quadrant of the fast approaching little moon, which was back dropped by the much bigger primary moon, which itself blocked the view of whatever Jovian size world contained the City and Out and whatever the heck else was down there. But…wow. This must be what Neil Armstrong saw as he and the other guys got closer. Except for the extra moon, of course. Otto would love to spend a few years just gawking at it all, but there were other priorities. Possible suit attack, for one. He adjusted the wheel, marveling at the instant focus. Good stuff. What do you expect from Flemish lens grinders? “I’m still not…wait.” There, a bright speck, ill defined, moving against the little moon’s surface. “Uh oh.”
Claudia took the binocs out of his hands and peered hard. “Yes. Uh oh.” She watched for a moment then looked at them both. “We should tell the Captain.”
“Tell me what?” Amelia was suddenly at their shoulders.
Marc gestured at the port. “We’ve got company.”
“Dammit,” Amelia said under her breath and pushed her way in, taking the binocs from Claudia to locate the intruder. Her sudden breath-intake proved she had. “Out of nowhere,” she whispered, “Just like the Japanese.”
Otto stared. “Wait. What do you mean by that?”
” ‘Cause if I’ve got my dates right,” and Otto’s raised eyebrow confirmed that he did, “you and Fred Noonan disappeared before Pearl Harbor.”
Amelia glared at him. “So?”
“Well, there’s a theory, just a theory, mind you, that you and Fred were spying on the Japanese, and they didn’t take very kindly to that.” Otto looked at her innocently. “Care to comment?”
Storm clouds gathered on her face and, after a moment, she said, “Don’t ever, ever ask me anything like that again. Or you’ll be walking home,” and she turned angrily back to the porthole.
Claudia looked bewildered as Marc and Otto exchanged knowing looks. “Bingo,” Marc mouthed.
Amelia suddenly tensed. “It’s stopped,” she said, “Right in our way.” She chewed on her lower lip, then wheeled and stalked over to the console, hovering over the pilot, a World War 2 Wehrmacht sergeant named Josef. “Evasive maneuvers,” Amelia ordered.
Josef blinked at her. “What?”
“You heard me.”
Amelia was incredulous. “I thought you knew how to fly this thing!”
“Captain,” Josef said, quietly, “I drove a trolley in Heilbron before I was drafted. I spent the war in a stable taking care of horses. You have much more time with aircraft than I do.”
“But we trained you!”
“Yes. To hold a straight line, to ease into orbits that Mr. Aronsen,”—he gestured at Marc—”calculates, but not to jink all over the sky.”
“Is that even possible to do?” Ferdinand, sitting next to Josef, asked.
“Whether it is or isn’t, we have to do something!” She glanced back towards the port. “I don’t want to run into whatever that is.”
Someone cleared a throat. All of them looked at the hole in the middle of the floor from which a ladder to the lower crew quarters peeked. A sleek head of black hair topped a pair of beady eyes glistening at them from the top rung. “I would advise a very gentle, very gradual course of maneuver,” beady eyes said.
“Who’s that?” Otto whispered to Marc.
“Taccolo,” Marc whispered back, “crew engineer. Was some kind of inventor, around da Vinci’s time.”
“Really?” Otto stared at the little crow. Definitely need to schedule some time with him.
Amelia bore down. “What are you trying to tell me, Tac?”
“I am not convinced the ship could withstand the strains of hard turns. Nor that we have the fuel for it.”
Otto stepped to the ladder where he could see Taccolo dangling, “We didn’t bring enough fuel?”
“Not for excessive maneuvers, no,” Tac blinked at him. “Who are you, again?”
“Otto Boteman,” Otto extended a hand—not as greeting, but to haul the engineer up. “Lately of Washington, DC. Seems a little shortsighted not to bring enough fuel, doncha think?”
Tac ignored the hand as he climbed up, regarded Otto coolly, then turned to Amelia. “Captain,” he emphasized the word, dismissing Otto, “the extra weight”—he rolled eyes back at Otto—”changes all calculations.”
Otto blinked. “Wait a minute. You’re saying this is my fault?”
Tac merely raised eyebrows at Amelia, who gave a long, exasperated sigh. “We figured a crew of thirty. You,” she pointed at Otto, “are number thirty-one.” Her point included Claudia, who flushed. After all, she was the one who’d dragged him onboard.
“Now hold on,” Otto raised a defensive hand. “Tolerances are built into everything. Right, engineer?” He said to Tac.
“Yes, they are,” a new voice broke in and everyone turned to see Karl, a Falkenberg blacksmith from the 1800s, clear the ladder. “But within expected standards. Your additional weight was unlooked for.” He and Tac exchanged approving glances. Nerds.
“C’mon, Captain,” Otto said. “There’s nothing that sensitive.”
“Except for weight,” Amelia looked mournful. “That’s downright critical in an aircraft.”
“This isn’t an aircraft.” Otto pointed out.
Amelia regarded him. “Principle still applies.”
The other also regarded him, some with hostility. Claudia, her flush deepening, threw a pleading hand at Otto. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have taken off!”
“That’s true for everyone in Star City!” Amelia snapped, “But we certainly didn’t take all of them with us, did we?”
Claudia’s mouth became a tight line. The stares between Amelia and her were now baleful and Otto was struck. Maybe Amelia would make him walk home.
“Hate to break up this charming conversation,” Marc called from the viewport, “but there’s been a development.”
That was enough to shift the crowd’s attention. “What?” Amelia asked.
“Our little visitor is no longer in the way. It’s, instead, coming alongside…” and there was a loud clang that raised a startled yell throughout as the ship shuddered and lurched.
“I think it’s attached itself,” Marc said.
At that moment, the ship pitched hard, like it had run into a wall or something. All were thrown off their feet. Otto grabbed Claudia as he flew by and cushioned her as they collided with the bulkhead. “Oof!” he yelped.
“Exactly my sentiments,” Marc said as he unpeeled his face from the port glass.
“Thank you,” Claudia whispered as she helped Otto up. He was tempted to try another kiss, but this probably wasn’t the best of times. Especially with a still-hostile crowd regaining its feet.
“What’s going on?” Amelia demanded of Marc.
He shrugged. “Your guess is good as mine, Captain.”
Amelia was about to say something else—probably a guess of her own—when the ship rolled hard to the right, throwing them all again. Otto landed in a tangle with Marc. “Say, while we have a moment,” he said, “is what Tac said true? Is this ship that delicate?”
“Very good question,” Marc unfolded a leg from underneath Otto’s back. “And I have absolutely no idea. I’m an astronomer, not a structural engineer.”
“Yeah, but that still puts you light years ahead of these relics,” Otto gestured at Tac and Ferdinand in a pile near the console. “No pun intended.”
“No pun noted.”
Otto chuckled and crawled across to Claudia, who was trapped under Karl’s massive arms. “Hands off my woman, Viking.”
Karl started, and then looked offended, “I am Dane, not Viking.”
“Six of one…you all right?” he asked Claudia as he helped her up. Who knew if the extraordinary healing powers of the City extended into near space?
She gave a little, charming curtsy. “I am, kind sir, and it is quite rude to refer to one’s opposite as a possession.”
“You’re right. Sorry.”
Her eye-twinkle signaled forgiveness. Otto, though, had never learned when to leave things alone. “So, tell me then, how did Romans refer to their slaves?”
Claudia lost the twinkle and took on the same offended look as Karl, but Amelia saved his bacon by loudly bringing them back to, er, reality when she called out, “Battle stations!”
Otto looked at her. “Did you actually just say that?”
Yes, she had. And the effect was immediate.
Karl and Tac zipped down the ladder as Marc and Claudia threw open hatches and took out weapons—Marc grabbing a double-barreled Savage .12 as Claudia wielded a short Roman sword. Even Amelia strapped on a Webley. The scrambling sounds from below indicated similar actions were taking place. Only Otto and Ferdinand stood motionless, bewildered.
“Don’t you have a weapon?” Amelia snarled at Ferdinand. No need to include Otto since he was just dead weight.
“I…don’t know,” Ferdinand said as Amelia’s color rose.
“Wait.” Otto’s upraised hand stopped the pending eruption, “He does.” He turned to Ferdinand, “Get your duffle. There’s a Contender .44 in it.” Otto should know; it had been his duffle first. Ferdinand looked blank, then slipped off.
He was back in moments, the gigantic pistol in one hand, and the box of ammo in the other. Otto showed him how to load it. “Beats a flintlock, hey?”
Ferdinand hefted it, admiration in his eyes. “If I had such a thing against the Portuguese…”
“You said the same thing about Machine-Gun Kelly’s machine gun,” Otto reminded him as the others took positions around the porthole and other possible hull-breach locations.
“Ferdinand!” Amelia gestured angrily at the top of the ladder, “Take that post. Repel all boarders!”
Otto raised an eyebrow. “Did you actually say that?”
“Here,” Claudia said, saving his bacon. Something nudged his hand and Otto looked down. She was pushing the leather scabbard from her sword at him. He took it, the leather drooping over. “So what do I do with this?” he asked her.
She shrugged. “You could slap someone with it,” and she took the opposite position from Ferdinand.
Otto held it up. “Great,” he said, but she didn’t hear him because she was focused on the ladder, fire in her eyes, grim purpose about her mouth, the sword ready. Valkyrie. Otto couldn’t help admiring.
“Don’t mess with Celts,” Marc observed as he moved to the side of the port.
“How’d you know she’s Celt?”
“Tectosage from Ancyra?” Marc shook his head, “What else could she be?” And he went into a combat stance, shotgun across his chest.
Otto figured his best use in this situation was as spoiler, so he moved to the middle, ready to scabbard-slap whoever, or whatever, broke through the hull. Everyone stood ready as moments passed. More moments passed. Then more.
They all looked at each other, a bit sheepish. Amelia frowned. “Did they attach, or not?” she asked Marc.
No chance to frame the coming question because the ship suddenly jolted, knocking them off their feet yet again, and began to accelerate. “Dammit!” Amelia swore as they all stumbled back to a standing position. “What’s going on?”
Marc was at the porthole. “Well, we’re moving again.”
“No kidding. What direction?”
“Right at the moon,” he said, grimly.
Sorry, some of the formatting did not paste, but there it is.