This has nothing to do with the novel, but gardening is as much a hobby as writing, and somedays is even more enjoyable, so I felt like posting about it. I’m in a 7b growing zone which grants the pleasure of getting an early start on planting. Mid-April is our last frost date so the time to germinate seeds is late February or early March.
Starting seeds indoors is somewhat difficult due to the architecture of my living space. I have windows, and some face south, but none of them are very wide. The sun only shines directly through each one for an hour or two. For the seedlings to get adequate energy, they need to be moved to different windows and different rooms throughout the day. Before the shutdown I was only able to do this on weekends, so all the plants were leggy by the time they were moved outside. Now that I’m working from home I’m able to keep up with the sun throughout the week, which is giving me high hopes for the garden this year. So far only the cabbages and Brussels sprouts have emerged from the soil but the planter also contains tomatillos, artichokes, and 4 kinds of peppers (Thai, serrano, chilaca, and Hatch chilis). It’s only been a week, so hopefully they’ll make an appearance by next Sunday.
This tomato had a serious head start. My sisters bought me a hydroponic station for my birthday last year. I’ve never been very interested in hydroponics because there’s no soil involved and part what makes gardening fun is getting my hands dirty. Now that I have one I can’t complain; it’s provided a never-ending supply of basil, parsley, and mint. There was only one pod, labeled as dill, that never grew. Since that pod wasn’t active I bought some cherry tomatoes and dropped a seed in to see what would happen. That was in December, right before I left town for a holiday vacation. When I got back the tomato had outgrown the station and was so top heavy it was nearly falling over. I moved it into the container and by mid-January it started producing fruit. There were 2 tomatoes that ripened just in time and I was able to cut and bury them this weekend. If all goes well they’ll be strong and healthy by the end of March.
For me, growing potatoes is a must. I usually buy packs of seed potatoes and plant them in a raised bed. This year I plan on trying them in containers. I still planned on buying a pack of seed potatoes, but when I got back from the store earlier this month I noticed a few of the eyes were active so instead of cooking those I just put them in a box and let them sit a while. When I checked on them last Friday I was surprised at how many eyes had sprouted. It might be a little too early in the year to get potatoes started, but they seem like they’re ready so I decided I might as well get them cut up and cured. I still plan on growing them in containers, so I’ll need to pick up quite a few more sometime this week.
I don’t usually grow fruit trees, especially not from seeds. It takes too long for them to produce fruit and I’ve heard that when started from seeds there’s no way to know about its genetics and how it will impact taste. Despite those issues, I decided to give apple seeds a shot last year. I kept them outside in their containers all winter because I wouldn’t have minded if they died. I realize how cruel that sounds, but I don't feel too bad about it because they didn’t die. Sure, they look like a bunch of sticks right now, but if half the videos I’ve seen on YouTube are accurate, that isn’t out of the ordinary this early in the year. Upon closer inspection most of them have nubs that I believe will grow into more branches, but again, I don’t grow trees, so I don’t know what to expect. I just have to wait and watch how they develop.
This was the first image I paid Lothar to paint for the illustrations. The first one he did depicted Soleil utilizing his toxic poncho, but we didn’t collaborate on that one; it was just an introduction to give me an idea of his skills. That’s the reason the image of Soleil doesn’t have much going on in the background. Lothar didn’t know what kind of imagery to use to capture the character’s personality so he just used a blend of light and dark colors. Before he started Inspector R.E.D. he requested a description of the character, a brief backstory, and some ideas for a setting. I figured I’d just email him a portion of the chapter where I described what Inspector R.E.D. wears and having Lothar pain a generic background like he did with Soleil. This is the first time I’ve explored the option of illustrations so I really didn’t know what to expect. This was when I started getting a handle on the information necessary for putting pictures in books, and how complicated they can become.
We had a long discussion of where Inspector R.E.D. should be in the image. The first time the readers were introduced to him was in a cemetery in Made to Be Broken, but he was murdered in an abandoned store, and took his revenge in a factory where his killers work. We decided to go with the factory since that is a high action moment in the book, focuses on Inspector R.E.D.’s motivations, and Lothar thought it would be the most fun to paint. We also talked about what kind of factory it is, what sorts of machines and materials would be present, and the condition of the building overall. This is how it will look in the book since it can only be printed in black and white, but there is a colored version in the works. I’m looking forward to how that one comes out.
The second installment in the Mystic Rampage series is on its way to being published. Before it becomes available, I wanted to share some of the additional content. This is 1 of 6 illustrations by Lothar Speer. It shows up late in the book, but it’s my favorite image. The character depicted is known as the Old Ticker, who showed up at the end of Made to Be Broken. The reason I like this picture so much is because the character is a scientist and while discussing what to include in the scenery I was able to use some of my lab experiences. I sent Lothar images and links to information on different kinds of spectrometers and nuclear magnetic resonance machines. I even sent him some information on particle accelerators, although I don’t have any direct experience with those. The scene became cluttered quickly, so not all the equipment I suggested could be included. Ultimately, Lothar decided to put in a High-Pressure Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC), which is the device on the left side of the page. Basically, there are two phases: the mobile liquid phase is a fluid that contains the component that is being measured, and the stationary phase is a solid granular material which the analyte will adhere to in certain conditions. It’s been about six years, but I had some experience with a machine like this while assisting a grad student. He was trying to develop a novel method for detecting an organic compound that was a common water contaminant. He made a solution of the compound in a certain pH, flushed it through the solid phase to make it bind to the medium, and then changed to a solution of a different pH which caused the analyte to dissociate and reach the detector. To verify that it worked, he needed to run the test as many times as possible, which meant people needed to stay by the HPLC and restart the procedure as soon as it was finished, over and over and over again. That’s exactly the kind of job that tends to be put on undergrads (good times).
The equations on the chalkboard are from a class I took last year and is basically just a photocopy of a notebook page. It pertains to electron configuration and breaks the overall angular momentum (J) into components of orbital momentum and spin (L and S). I did not send Lothar information on the author of the textbook the material came from, so I might as well do it here: the course text was Quantum Chemistry (sixth edition), by Ira N. Levine. It's a very dense book but the examples are extremely helpful. Quantum chemistry isn’t exactly my area of expertise and I was hesitant about including the equations since I’m not entirely sure they’re accurate. In the end, I decided that even if they’re not correct, having them on the chalkboard still conveys that the character is a man of science, so I decided to ask for it to be put into the illustration. Overall, the Old Ticker was a fun character to write and I hope people enjoy how I portray him throughout the second book.
I would like to thank Dale Travous in Illinois for taking the time to read and review the book. It wasn't my intention to portray Chicago in such a negative way to make it seem like a place to avoid, but I'm glad the danger of the territory is prominent. There are no plans at this time to turn it into a movie, but it's neat that the story is being read that way.
Dale Travous' review:
Made to be Broken, novel, by Hugh Fritz, is a 3-D IMAX™ action blockbuster in print. A plausible reality is revealed to us, one that is covertly co-habitated by a race of humans with seemingly supernatural powers; the Jinn. We are briefed into the mechanics of the 'magical' powers displayed by the Jinn; their ability to transform matter, as in the Bedouin folk stories where a sack of dates become a sack bursting with gold coins, their habit of popping-in and then vanishing, conjuring up terrific storms from clear skies, and flying around taking you along for the ride. Mr. Fritz sprinkles the story with bits and pieces of 'how-its-done', allowing me the reader to have fun linking together and assembling these bits into a hyper-realistic physical construction. The Supernatural gives way as it's made clear that the laws of Nature have remained unviolated.
There's a dramatic juxtaposition of the ancient Middle Eastern mythology with present day Chicago, the part of Chicago that one benefits from absolute avoidance, where you are in some serious danger just being there. But things get dangerouser as we're dropped into the fortress of an armed and semi wasted criminal gang syndicate led by a sociopathic dictator. Dangerouser still is the very well armed secret police death squad commanded over by an even eviler villain.
The pace of events picks up speed from the start as one action sequence segues into the next. I am astonished by Mr. Fritz's literary description of scenes of all out mayhem, ultra detailed imagery to a molecular scale, choreographed movements flowing through variable time, a big heavy club in slow motion.
It's difficult for me to not recollect this as a big budget special effects action spectacular. Or not to for-see the universe built on this framework.
Here's a tribute to another great show that's also on its last season. If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out. The team's last adventure has time travel. If that's not your thing, check out Supernatural. That on also went out on a high note.
Here we go again with Thanksgiving. It almost completely slipped my mind. I’m not planning on going anywhere, but that’s not just because of safety precautions. At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, this holiday gets less exciting every year. It’s nice getting a break from work, but it isn’t a long break. There’s usually a football game on, but I’m more of a baseball fan. There are plenty of people who enjoy turkey, but I can’t cook one of those to save my life. The last few years I’ve opted out of cooking birds and have gone with fish instead. They taste better, they’re easier to cook, and a lot easier to debone. There was one year my dad deboned the turkey before throwing it in the oven. It came out tender and juicy but the prep work took too long and required precise knife work. It’s more effort than I’m willing to put into a single meal. My favorite holiday has always been New Years. It isn’t heavily rooted in historical events. It’s just the end of the year so we all might as well blow off some steam. There’s something comforting about celebrating just for the sake of celebrating.
Even it I wanted to get into Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s unlikely I’ll have time. These last few months in school have been a punch in the face. I forgot how heavy the coursework gets toward the end of the semester. On top of that, I decided to try NaNoWriMo again this year. Those two things combined with work has resulted in a month of sitting at the computer pretty much all day. Even with the late nights I’ve still fallen behind in my NaNoWriMo project and only just passed the half-way point yesterday. Getting caught up is going to take a major push next week, right after the last exam. It’s going to be worth the effort. I’m happy with the way the story has been developing and before sending it to publishers I might submit it to the Book Pipeline competition. The winning story in that contest is pitched to studios to adapt it into a movie or TV series. I have a friend who just made it to the finals of that competition. If and when Unrelenting hits theaters I’ll be able to say that I didn’t just read the book before seeing the movie, I witnessed it being written.
Anyway, that’s the plan for the holiday week. Instead of butter balling meat and chopping vegetables I’ll be studying and getting lost in one of my many fantasy worlds. Since I won’t be able to visit family, it seems like the best I could have hoped for. If you can’t do anything fun, you should at least stay busy, and it doesn’t look like I’ll have any trouble staying busy for the rest of the year.
Thanks to the efforts of people at Artotems I had a chance to be interviewed about the book and my experience writing it. Here is the link to find information on the date/time and to get tickets:
I'm very thankful for a friend in town who happened to have a camera and editing software. Due to enforced shut downs, the bookstore is keeping everything virtual so instead of going in front of a crowd I printed off a set of emailed questions and was recorded responding to them. Public speaking is not one of my strengths so avoiding being in front of people made the event somewhat less nerve wracking. However, I'm not accustomed to talking about anything for an hour and knowing this was going to be seen by an audience was enough to bring some anxiety. I'm happy with how the video turned out but there is something I regret. Throughout the interview I tried to promote as many other authors as I could, but I was stumbling over my words so much that I after a while I just wanted to get through it as fast as possible and in that haste I forgot to mention my brother and the book he published. I want to take the time to do it now, so here it is:
The book is Monsters by Chris Nichols. It's about a human rights worker who wants to help a survivor of a massacre in her home country, but gets more than he bargained for.
Most of the short stories I have currently or will put into the Other Works tab are from writing competitions. Golden Years was from a competition specific to a genre called Solar Punk; I’d never heard of that genre beforehand but coming up with a fitting story wasn’t too difficult. Triple Whammy is different from my usual style because it was from an interesting competition. It turns out the U.S. Army has open writing competitions as part of its TRADOC (that stands for Training and Doctrine Command) Mad Scientist initiative. It’s called Mad Scientist because it’s used as a method of crowdsourcing and the idea is to let people’s imaginations run wild as they write what they think certain situations might look like in the future. I don’t recall exactly what the guidelines were for my submission but it was broad, and was something like “what do you think overseas threats will look like in 2050?” It then provided an outline involving relations between fictional countries. This year the prompt was based on what information landscapes (computing/infrastructure/media/communication) might look like in 2035. I didn’t submit anything for it since the guidelines specified nonfiction entries only.
When I wrote Triple Whammy I hoped it would be different from other submissions. I figured most contestants would bring in Star Trek- style sci fi words and bring in things like tanks made of indestructitanium that could only be damaged with a quadrilliwatt femtopulse laser. That’s why I centered the plot around a journalist instead of diving deep into the battlefield. Even though it didn’t win the competition writing it was still a fun experience. I always try to learn something new when writing and the countries mentioned are not real but after some Googling I found they’re the names of places that are used in army training scenarios. I also learned a lot about 3-D printing, although I couldn’t work a lot of those details into the story. I would definitely recommend the TRADOC Mad Scientist competition to other writers who are looking for new challenges. The whole point is to ask for ideas of what the future might look like and in that sense it seems like more outlandish the submissions get the better. It’s a great way to bring out your wildest dreams.
My nephew also drew a picture of a Mystic Rampage character. Here is his depiction of the Old Ticker.
I know an artist named Alison Nichols who agreed to take a shot at illustrating some characters from the book. She also reached out to one of her friends to do the same. The top picture of Flarence is her work. The lower image of Soleil was done by Lothar Speer. I think they both did a great job. That smug grin is exactly what I imagined when writing Flarence's scenes and I really like how Soleil's poisons look like they're being directed through small cyclones.