N.M Sotzek

Author of the AIM Chronicles

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Once Upon a December...

Posted by nsotzek on December 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Yes, that was a reference to the animated movie, Anastasia. Moving on, last year some of you may remember that I participated in National Novel Writing Month (affectionately known as NaNoWriMo). I did not achieve the goal last year, although it did allow me to finish my first novel. This year...well, this year is a different story! Literally. I used this year's competition to complete the sequel, and I did! When I looked over the novel, I realized I finished the plot line in under 60k words. I needed more. So I continued writing, and writing, and writing, until....I reached that blessed 50,000 word count for the month, three days early! There's still so much to add to that novel, I now have no fear for its word count.

NaNoWriMo isn't a true contest. There is no one winner. If you write 50k words within 30 days, you're a winner. There is no prize for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. All winners get the same things. Usually they're discounted memberships to writing software or something similar. Every year, there's always what we consider a top prize: 5 free copies of our novel from CreateSpace. While I'm still on the hunt for an agent, I'm still taking up this offer. Until my book gets published, I thought it would be nice to have it in a hardcopy form.

So, for the past few days, I've finally begun going through a document my beta-reader sent to me with her edits and comments and making the appropriate changes. Once that's finished, I'll do another re-write to add/take away elements of the book that is, or isn't, necessary. I have until June to use the CreateSpace offer, so I have plenty of time. But before I do that re-write, I'm going to use the same method I used for my sequel: post-it notes. People have been saying that my writing in the 2nd novel is much stronger, and I feel it's due to my planning process. I need to decide which scenes are essential in the first one, and add them if they're not there, and take out those which I don't need. It may take me longer than the other re-writes, but I'm determined to make this novel even better before I send it out to agents again. Which also means an upgraded query letter.

In other news...I'm getting married! Very excited, indeed. The big day is at the end of next September, and we still have so much planning to do. The writing keeps me sane amidst the chaos of wedding planning...well, mostly.

The Next Big Thing

Posted by nsotzek on November 6, 2012 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I've come out from my hole in the ground to do something quite new and extraordinary. Perhaps that's too strong of a word, but I like it.  There is something called a 'blog tag' going around in the interwebs currently, and I've been tagged by the wonderful Ross Harrison who writes science fantasy.

So, this blog tag comprises of questions on our current work in progress. Here goes!


What is the working title of your book?
Chasing the Underground, which is a sequel. I'm currently procrastinating writing it simply to do this blog post. You're welcome

 

What genre does your book fall under?
It's technically Science-Fiction, although I like to think that a subgenre is Crime, because of the corrupt mafia-esque scenarios.

 

Give a brief synopsis of your book. 
Cam Tylar, an ex-star athlete works for a group known as the Underground, which researches a way to create a safe substance and chip for a new technology, Artificial Intelligence Morphers. The one currently in production by the McCarthys, a multi-million dollar family corporation, is becoming dangerous. The old chip produced and distributed by the McCarthys grows dangerous over time and reverts to an animal mind instead of abiding by the laws of robotics. This new one won’t, but it means recalling all of the old AIMs, admitting a dangerous mistake, and the loss of money for the McCarthys.

Cam and his team present their new product to the McCarthys to a neutral response. A few days later, a phone call in the middle of the night changes everything. His co-worker in the Underground, Sandra Rodriguez, tells him to come to a lab in Niagara Falls. Maria, his ex-girlfriend and team mate is waiting there. After their baby’s stillbirth, Maria quit the team as well, and joined the Canadian army to become an AIM Operations Technician (AIMOT). She tells Cam and Sandra that she had been attacked in her home on the army base. They believe it was her relationship with Cam that made her a target for the McCarthys. Clearly, they did not approve of their presentation. More workers in the Underground are found either missing or dead, and so Cam and Maria find a safe house to work out a plan, but they discover that it is actually Maria’s job that makes her a target. She discovered on her own that AIMs become dangerous when a fellow soldier was killed by a rogue AIM, and Maria had been attacked after writing an official report about these faulty robots.

Cam agrees to find other scientists and Scanners who are willing to use the new AIMs instead of the old, dangerous ones. Maria decides to use her military contacts to attack the McCarthy company itself using politics, while also finding other AIMOTs who may be in danger. With the help of his AIM, Cam discovers the many fractures within the McCarthy company, along with the help of who he thought was his worst enemy, Jack Tyson. An ex-Scanner like Cam, Jack has worked for the McCarthys for eight years, and is ready to take them down, but he knows that he needs Cam’s help to do it.

Meanwhile, Maria finds an ally in her dad’s old battle buddy, and he agrees to arrange a meeting with the Minister of National Defense. If anyone would be able to support her against an American company, one that is supplying Canada with faulty weaponry (as AIMs are now also regarded as weapons), the Minister would be the first person to contact.


That's all I really want to say....because that's not really brief.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for the first book was completely my fiance's. He came up with the idea when he was just a young boy, and wrote about it for years. When we started dating, he began writing a new version of it, one with Cam, Maria, Ryan, Rick, and Owen. It was about a new sport with robots that could transform into animals. He let me read it as he wrote, and I fell in love with it. He lost interest in writing it, and allowed me to continue it. It's changed so much since then, that he fully accepts it as my story now. The sequel is completely my creation. The characters have evolved so much from how they were originally created, and as my fiance always says, it was always supposed to be about the sport. I've made it much darker, and included many more elements than there ever were intended to be.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh man, I've thought to many times about this, and I have absolutely no idea. I have some ideas, but they're corny.
Cam: Mike Vogal
Maria: Evangeline Lilly
Ryan: no idea
Rick: no idea
Jack: Josh Holloway

See why I said corny? Perhaps it's not corny, but I don't want people thinking the characters are like those on Lost. Although Sawyer is pretty much exactly how I imagined Jack to be.

 

Tag!
Hmm, well, I don't know many writers who haven't been tagged already, but how about
Tina Closser, and Clive Clapson,

Thanks, everyone!

Originality

Posted by nsotzek on June 28, 2012 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I was recently proposed with the idea of originality, and it got me thinking. What is originality? What makes something unique? I've discovered that the two words are very different.

I can't tell you the number of times I open a book, or start a movie, and within ten minutes I know the entire cycle of the book/movie, and how it will end. To me, that screams of something not being original. Or I'm psychic.

Then I had to stop for a minute, and take a look at my own books. I thought that writing science-fiction would give me an edge, since, y'know, that makes it a bit original on its own. But is it? The concept of robots isn't new. Sports definitely aren't new. A book about a team falling apart certainly isn't new (although most end happily with a strong finish). A book with a ex-couple not getting along isn't new either. All of it combined, and how I deal with it is new and unique, though. AIMs are definitely a new concept. The sport Scanning is a new concept. The ex-couple still isn't new, but as Meatloaf said: "two out of three ain't bad."

I think that's the difference between original and unique. It's how the concepts are dealt with within a specific setting. Is a book about a murder original? No. Is a book about a murder narrated by the murdered person unique? Definitely, and that's exactly what Alice Sebold did in The Lovely Bones (which is an amazing book, by the way).

What makes a book special is not necessarily the idea, or concept. Its uniqueness comes from how the author deals with the concept. Of course, that's just my opinion.

A little late...

Posted by nsotzek on May 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, I'm a little more than overdue in my next post! I took a bit of a writing break. Not that I lost motivation, but I needed to step back and take it all in. I needed to re-focus. Do you ever get that feeling, that there's just so much to do, and you're running out of time? You don't necessarily have a deadline, but there's this pressure deep inside that's telling you "you have things to do, and you have to do them soon!" Yeah, that feeling. I've had that for just over a month now.

So, I started a new writing project. Nothing major. It'll stay on the side for when I need a break, and need to feel productive. Why do I say productive? This book is actually set in the Iron Age IIC period in Babylon and Israel. I'm putting my degree to use! Well, I'd much rather write on the Middle Bronze Age, but this topic stuck out in my mind, so I just went with it. I've been doing tons of research, which has consisted of digging through my boxes of textbooks, and binders filled with lecture notes. It's kept the academic side of my mind charged and entertained, which I've noticed slowly turning to mush since I graduated a year ago.

Maybe eventually it'll turn into a major project, but for now, all of my intense efforts are on Revealing the Revolution, and finding the perfect agent for that, while working on the sequel (which is coming along swimmingly, might I add!). Still no bites, but I know there will be.

I know that the majority of authors don't make much money, and can't afford to sit around at home and write all day. I've tried to keep myself busy and make myself feel productive while writing (still unemployed, as well). How do you all keep yourself busy? How do you handle the time?

To add to my list of things to do, on June 10th I'll be walking 5km in the Walk to Fight Arthritis! Because I needed just one more thing to add to my schedule. If anyone wants to check it out (and perhaps donate...it's for a good cause! Think of this as a pre-cursor to me asking you to buy my book, but you get to choose this price.) here:
http://arthritis.akaraisin.com/C2F64CED01634C81A5673C136E64841B/nicholes

That's all for now! I will keep up this posting schedule. I will! I will!

The Web of Plots

Posted by nsotzek on April 21, 2012 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I wrote up a template for the plot for the sequel. It's mostly finished. I just have to figure out how I want it to end. I've added in some minor plots as well, but once again I'm not sure which ones to choose. Right now my outline looks like one of those 'choose your own adventure' books (those things were great, weren't they?). If you go down one path, and choose this plot, and then this other sub-plot, you get to one ending. For example, I'm undecided about which characters may or may not die. If (s)he dies, then I'm forced to write a certain ending I'm not convinced I should write. But if (s)he lives, then it may seem to be too happy of a book, as though everything works out great in the end, which we all know doesn't happen.

Killing off a main character is difficult, especially since this is only the second book in a prospective series. If this character dies now, there's no chance of another appearance later on outside of the books I write in the past (in terms of the story world, of course). On the flip side, some of my favourite books have the main character killed off. I've always loved that. The author took such a risk, and was so confident, I had no choice but to admire that and love that style. I'm all about showing realism in my writing.

I don't want to sound pessimistic, but life doesn't always turn out the way we want. The guy doesn't always get the girl. The characters remain hurt and never heal from something that happened in the past. Some characters will never change or learn from their mistakes. Those are the characters I've always loved the most. Sure, it's great to read a book where everything goes right and they live happily ever after, but now it's gotten to the point of predictable in books, TV shows and in movies.

It happened last time to me, too. I started writing, and things just ended up happening. I may have to rely on that again. If a character is going to die, it'll happen somehow. We'll just have to see.

Here's a little tidbit about me: my favourite death scene in a book is in 'Wuthering Heights' when Catherine dies. Nelly tells Heathcliff that she's died while he's waiting in the garden, and he's immediately tormented with grief.

'May she wake in torment!' he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. 'Why, she's a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!'

How can you read that and not be moved? Could you imagine 'Wuthering Heights' without Catherine dying? Sometimes a character dying is for the best of the book.

1 is the Loneliest Number

Posted by nsotzek on April 6, 2012 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, it's happened. I've sent out queries into the universe of agents. Within a day, I was rejected by one. One lonely rejection. Don't worry, my little form rejection. You won't be lonely much longer. When I told my mother, she was more upset than I was. I'm not disillusioned. I know I won't get an agent on the first try. Of course, it's the dream, but I know better. My thinking is that each rejection brings me closer to the agent who will be perfect for my book, or the agent my book is perfect for. Either way. It's actually made me more determined, and as though this is all really happening.

Having a hard time focusing on reality (I blame that on my writing), I don't always click in when something happens. Back in 2010 I went to Jordan for my field school. Despite being stuck on the plane for ten hours, it still didn't feel like it was happening until I was standing on Jordanian soil outside the Amman airport. And now, re-reading the rejection letter, I think it's starting to sink in. I wrote a novel, and that's something I've realized a while ago. But now...now I'm in the process of getting it published. Maybe it'll sink in a bit more when I get a request for more pages, or a full. For now, this is my reality. The hunt. The wait. The game of hide and seek, and I'm sitting in my little corner, breathing very quietly until someone finds me.

In other news, work on the sequel is going well. I was doing some research on the Canadian military, which I'll only partially use since my book is set in the future. Anything can happen. My boyfriend isn't part of this book, which is a strange feeling. He was a big part of figuring out logistics for the last book...but I kind of like it now. I'm figuring out all these connections that can be made between the Underground, the McCarthy's and the military. I'm developing new uses for AIMs, and it's absolutely crazy the potential these things have!

As mentioned in my last post, I'll look at animals as if I'm scanning them. And then it hit me. I always picture AIRCs (Artificial Intelligence Remote Console) as a small, thin electronic device, similar to a blackberry, but thinner (for the latest competing models, of course. Not the regular recreational ones). The oh-so catchy phrase popped into my head: "There's an app for that!" You wanna know what song is playing that you randomly hear on the street or in the mall? There's an app for that! You see an animal and you wanna know what it is? There could be an app for that! Based on this book, there could be an app which recognizes different species of animals and using GPS tracking, could tell you whether or not it's rare to find in the area. Am I crazy for even thinking about things like this? Maybe. But my boyfriend is trying to create a boardgame based on the book....at least I'm not alone in my insanity.

Procrastination is a Killer

Posted by nsotzek on March 28, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

So I have quite a few projects going right now. By right now, I mean right this second. I'm attempting to re-work my presentation for a conference on Saturday, I've been bitten by the genealogy bug once again (fun fact: my grandfather to the 22nd degree is King Edward III of England), I'm looking up exercises and drafting up my e-mails to agents. Look out! Queries are coming your way next week! (Of course, I'm talking to agents there.)

Right now, my mind is filled with slips and burnishes, bronze duckbill axes, mixed in with Cam's arrogance and trying to figure out how the military works so I can place Maria in a realistic role. I'll tell you one thing: she won't be using a duckbill axe in combat.

People have told me that I should write ancient historical fiction, since I have the background knowledge from my degree. I don't think I'd be able to do it, though. I'd be too harsh on myself and I'd never get anything done. I much rather writing either modern/future, or only a little bit into the past (1800's). Although, I do have a short story written which is set in ancient Rome. Hm, maybe I should look at that one again. I remember being quite pleased with it.

Do you see what I mean? I'm all over the place right now. So much going on. It's times like this that I try to step back and do one thing at at time....but not tonight! I have my comfy (too-large) sweatpants on, and I'm up all night! Let's see what other Kings I'm related to. Maybe I can add that to my book....

Pay Attention to the Details!

Posted by nsotzek on March 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I have yet another confession: I really dislike coming up with details. Not necessarily about characters, or setting (which is definitely something I need to work on, however), but just...details. Logistics. Last night I wrote out a scene in 'Chasing the Underground' that was all about scientific logistics. Now, I'm no scientist. I barely understand physics. What goes up, must come down. That pretty much sums up my understanding of the field. Oh! An object in motion, stays in motion. To every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I think that last one is Murphy's Law...that still counts, right?

But this was an intense scene. It's going into all the little details about the substance which makes up an Artificial Intelligence Morpher, and the formula, and the computer chip which powers it. When I originally wrote a highly scientific scene, science-people (sci-fi people, and some actual scientists) told me to scrap it because it's not realistic. Wait. What? Were rocketships realistic when someone wrote about them? Were robots? Nope. I understand that things still have to follow laws of nature, science, and physics...but do they really? Look at fantasy books. Entire worlds are created. Even in science-fiction/space-fiction. Okay seriously, let's talk about Star Wars for a moment.

They go around, flying to other planets, and we follow along because it's just darn cool! But let's think about this for a moment. They don't need space suits. They seem to have no difficulty: a) walking on different planets with different gravitational pulls, b) breathing in different atmospheres, c) understanding people, because it seems as though English is still the lingua franca. And people have a problem with my science scene because they can't imagine a gel-like substance turning into the form of an animal?

I'm not kidding myself. I know my book is soft sci-fi, but I want to add some science to it without scientists jumping down my throat. Dispend your belief! Repent!

I'm working through it slowly. I want to make it believable, but it's difficult to judge what's believable for others. I'm completely convinced that the creation of AIMs is just around the corner. However, I've been living with this idea for a while now. Whenever my boyfriend and I go for walks and we see an animal, we stop, stare at the animal, and say 'Scanned' as if we were part of the CST (he usually scans the animal first...it never works for me. He's just too quick with his AIRC). So, we'll see how it goes. Science is going to be important in this book so I need to try...along with my limited understanding of the mafia. Hey, it's my book, right? I could have a nice, loving, mafia. Pft. Who wants that?

Writers Anonymous

Posted by nsotzek on March 14, 2012 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi. My name's Nichole, and I have a problem.

I can't stop writing.

That's not a problem you say? Well, maybe it's not. It sure feels like it sometimes. I'm currently working on the sequel to 'Revealing the Revolution' which I've tentatively named 'Chasing the Underground.' The title is beginning to grow on me, actually. Here's my brief pitch:

After creating the perfect AIM, Cam is running for his life. But the McCarthy's are everywhere, and see everyone.

Dun dun dunnn.

To be honest, I really like the direction I'm taking with this book. It's not about Scanning, but the Underground. It's much darker, and faster-paced. The members of Revolution all make an appearance in this book, but are joined by a few new characters: the McCarthy's. They're mentioned in the first book, so they're not exactly brand new but now I go into detail. Who are these mysterious people who founded Scanning? I answer that question in this book.

We find out a lot more about Cam's past, which I'm definitely exploiting. I love writing dramatic scenes. Actually, the last scene I wrote made me cry. Okay, I cry a lot over little things, but writing/reading doesn't usually do it. This is a sign to me that I'm on the right track.

I think the biggest question is: should I even be going this far? My characters scream "YES!" but a small part of me wants to focus solely on the first book. Other than editing, and adding/removing bits here and there, it's as done as it can be. It can be refined, of course, but I'm happy with it. My problem is that I can't not do something (double negative, for the win!). I can't not write. I even started writing a non-fiction account of my medical history! I wrote a lesson plan for a class, and I'm writing a presentation for a conference at the end of the month. I can't stop.

Do they have pills for that?

Seriously, I don't mind. I love my characters, and there's still so much left for them to accomplish. There's still so much of the world I created for them that I want to explore. I suppose I'll just keep writing.

Does anyone else have a problem with letting go of their creations? When do you know it's time to move on?

Character Love

Posted by nsotzek on March 5, 2012 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

If you hadn't noticed, I had a mini-interview for Tricia Drammeh's blog. The question was: have you ever fallen in love with your characters? Here's the blog for you to check out my answer, along with the answers of other wonderful authors: http://www.authorstowatch.triciadrammeh.com/2012/03/tall-dark-and-imaginary.html

It got me thinking about characters. Who are they? How are they created? When we think of famous fictional characters, what do we think of? What do we think of when we think about Heathcliffe? Do we think about his twisted and dark nature, or do we think of his internal torment caused by a broken heart?

I was always under the impression that authors put parts of themself into their characters, but when I look at the characters of my novel, I'm not so sure anymore. Okay, well Maria is extremely similar to me, so she doesn't count. But the others?

Cam Tylar. Oh man. How did I create him? He's so selfish, and ego-centric, I can't even believe I wrote Maria in love with him which in itself is a bit twisted...since she's practically me. My boyfriend, of course, created the characters originally and I've tried to keep Cam as close to the original notes as possible. I think what happened with Cam, is that I created him based on events that happened to him. For example: his father abandoned him and his mom when he was six. That resulted in him throwing himself into Scanning, proving himself to his dad, proving that he doesn't need his dad around. I think that's the big one, actually. That whole event pretty much sums up his character. He was so close with his dad, and then after he left Cam pretty much thought: "I don't need anyone. I can be the best without anyone's help, and without anyone in my life." When he did eventually become one of the best Scanners in Canada, that thinking was cemented in his mind. And then his mom died. Everyone he cared about left him. So much for lasting relationships.

Rick Warner. I think he's my biggest regret. I didn't do as much for him as I should have. He's the resonsible one, but holds all the guilt for the fracture in the team. I like to think I put my leadership into him, but I think that's about him. He tries so hard to just carry on as if nothing had happened, but his dad's in the hospital. This looks like it's a theme, but this was how my boyfriend wrote it originally.

Ryan Hampton is just a big cutie. Apparently, he was supposed to be the main character. I guess I messed that up. I think I put my goodie-two-shoes qualities completely into this character, and the rest of him is almost the opposite of me. He's part a huge, happy, family. He lives on a farm and is the oldest child out of six. I'm not quite sure why I made him into the boy next door type of character. That pretty much killed any chance he had with Maria. Sorry, Ryan.

So, how do I create my characters? In a big mess, apparently. I think a big part is creating them based on events that happened in their life. That's how people grow and develop habits, and characteristics, so I guess it only makes sense that that's how I would create the characters.


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