I hope this post finds everyone safe and sound. Next week, I will have another post from R.L. but this week I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
The past month has been stressful for me personally. Training is designed to be difficult and I am reminded of this fact on a daily basis. The airplane is really simple, the Flight Management System is straightforward, and electronic display systems greatly enhance situational awareness. My issues with the program is that it has been shortened to the smallest footprint allowed by the FAA. One of the reasons the FAA agreed to allow FedEx to shorten the program is because they assume that 90% of all the students will have previous experience with modern aircraft.
I have minimal experience at best and my Captain has even less. He spent 16 years on the 727 and I spent 10. We are progressing in spite of our lack of experience and there is no doubt that ultimately we will figure everything out. But in the short term, it has been a bear to learn. We are constantly fighting the urge to turn off the automation and hand fly the airplane. We are getting there with a learning curve that is nearly vertical. But it is still like drinking from a fire hose.
But no matter how tough the program gets, I will keep the big picture in view. I am still getting a paycheck, I am walking on the right side of the dirt, and there is no barbwire separating me from my family. I and my family are blessed beyond measure, I hope you all can find something to give thanks for this week.
Until next time keep on rockin.
Well training has been everything I thought it would be and more. For the past eight days (It seems like a lifetime) I have been in school working hard, actually I have been going at 110%. Normally, I operate at about 55%, ha ha. I have been going so hard and focusing so intently that last night, I forgot to brush my teeth before bed. I was mentally trying to figure out the difference in procedures between FLCH and VNAV. After I crawled into bed, I remembered that I didn’t brush my teeth but I was so tired that I didn’t care. Training is no joke.
I thought I had a post ready to go but I had a problem and realized it wasn’t good enough. Honestly, I don’t have an hour of free time to fix it and R.L. is busy between his work and the release of Prometheus Rebound that it is best to wait until the weekend and get it right. Look for it on Monday.
The following is from R.L.’s website announcing the release of his novel.
“Prometheus Rebound is on sale now! You can find it in softcover and Kindle editions on Amazon, or you can special order from other retailers. But if you’re in the Charleston, WV area, you’ll find special pricing tomorrow at the book release party (Southridge Chick-fil-A from noon ’til 8pm): $12 for a single copy, or $10 when you purchase two or more!”
I wish I could do something clever to end this post. But I got nothing. I did figure out FLCH and VNAV today in the simulator, and tomorrow will be another crisis created by a lack of brain cells. Only seven more weeks until training is over. I will either get to go back to the good life.
Or I will be looking for a new career within the FedEx family.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
This is the fourth in a series with new author R.L. Akers. The previous posts were his introduction to the world, his character development process, and (Kara Dunn) his protagonist. Today we will take a look at the antagonist. The following is a loosely translated conversation from the morning of 11 October 2013.
“Tell me about the antagonist.”
R.L.A. “Well, the enemy in the story is very definitely this attacking alien force, but in truth, you see very little of them. They’re not even directly mentioned until halfway through the first book, and they’re not really ‘seen’ until the end of the first book.”
“That is a different concept, how did that develop?”
R.L.A. “Tolkien wrote—I think this was in the forward to one of his Lord of the Rings books—that a truly great villain is distant, shadowy, never truly knowable. I’m paraphrasing badly, I’m sure, but I definitely remember learning that from Tolkien a long time ago. And if you think about it, that’s how he created Sauron.
“Dude, you lost me again. What is a Sauron?”
R.L.A. “(Laughing) Sauron is the villain from Lord of the Rings, and what I just said describes him to a T… if you can even call him a “him.” He’s literally a force of evil, almost godlike in his power, without even a corporeal form. So while readers can identify with the protagonists’ fear of Sauron, they have a hard time identifying with any characteristics of Sauron himself. That makes him all the more menacing, hard to understand, I think.”
“Sounds like Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie.”
R.L.A. “Vader is obviously one of the greatest movie villains of all time. You see this Tolkein-esque treatment from a cinematic perspective in that you seldom get a complete look at Vader in the original trilogy. Most shots are either extreme close-ups or at a distance; some of the best shots are nothing but silhouettes—all of this adds to his mystique. From a characterization standpoint, he also remains very mysterious throughout the original trilogy; even at the end of those three movies, you’re left with as many questions about him as you’ve got answers. I think that’s part of why many diehard Star Wars fans aren’t as keen on the newer, prequel movies – we got to know Vader just a little too well, got to understand him perhaps more than we wanted, and he became less a villain than a victim.
“Which incidentally calls to mind the other major thing I remember learning from Tolkien, which is that you always need to paint a horizon while you’re telling stories. If you decide to come back later and explore that horizon, that’s great, but make sure you then paint another horizon. Never leave a reader with the feeling that they’ve got the full picture. Give your readers a reason to let their imaginations run wild, wondering about those unanswered questions.”
“How does that play out in your story?”
R.L.A. “In a sense you don’t see much of the aliens in my story, but you certainly see the results of their attacks, the deaths and loss that result. At its heart this is really a human story, looking at how our human heroes deal with these challenges, while dealing with the fear of having no real idea what they face.”
“To come full circle, back to how Tolkien describes a good villain… There’s this great quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War—actually, that entire book is quotable, and I reference it frequently in both books of this duology. But this one great quote which says, in essence, that if you don’t know your enemy, you’re going to lose in battle as often as you win. And that’s definitely what our heroes are going to experience in this story until they figure out what they’re facing.”
Next week, we will discuss R.L.’s approach to writing. Until then, keep on rockin.
This is part three of a series discussing the craft of writing with debut novelist, R.L. Akers. I met R.L. about a year ago and since then we have discovered that we may have been separated at birth. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the 1988 movie “Twins.”
Back to important matters, over the weekend, R.L. launched a new website to promote his book, “Prometheus Rebound.” The new website is http://orbitaldefense.com/ I know that several of us are working on a novel. Not only do we work on the writing, editing, publishing, and cover design. We also have to keep the concept on target while we develop a complete packaging/marketing plan for all of this. There are so many hats we wear, and I honestly don’t do a great job in any of these areas. I need to try to emulate R.L. and the efforts he has taken to promote his novel. He is a serious guy, doing serious work, and putting serious effort into something that is seriously fun. Check out this site and enjoy. I promise it is worth your time.
Now we will continue the discussion R.L. and I had on 11 October. This week we will talk about Kara Dunn and a couple of other characters.
“Tell me about your protagonist.”
R.L.A. “Kara is an academic struggling to finish a double doctorate in computer science and physics. While most people would probably look at someone like that and think they could never identify, the fact is that she’s a human being just like the rest of us. She struggles with a huge amount of insecurity, and she has a hard time finishing what she starts. She’s brilliant, yes—she has to be, in order to fill the role I have for her in the story—but a lot of the time, she doesn’t feel brilliant. She tends to feel inadequate and fairly average. I decided to make her female largely because it forced me to get out of myself. Until that point, most of the protagonists I’d written ended up looking a lot like me, and I didn’t want that here. Ultimately, she’s a fairly complex character who, as a result, seems a little inconsistent at times. Honestly, a couple of my proof readers didn’t like that, but I’m of the opinion that humans are very complex and don’t always make perfect sense.”
“Outside of the plot itself, are there any recurring themes you explore through Kara?”
R.L.A. “Yes, one major one is this idea of control. Humans are always fighting for control of our life, or we live under the misconception that we are in control. Kara’s no different, but as she gets swept up in events far larger than herself, she has to face the possibility that true control is an illusion.
But she’s not the only one who struggles with this. I also wrote the President of the United States into the story as a sort of minor recurring character, but an important one. He’s not based on a particular real world person—in fact, I avoid even naming him. He is simply “the President,” and that suffices to say that he wields incredible power. If anyone is in control, it’s him. Except that even the most powerful person in the world struggles with all the same human weaknesses and failings as the rest of us.”
“Is there a character that best represents you?”
R.L.A. “I avoided writing myself into Kara much, I did write characteristics of myself into a few other characters. Usually very tongue in cheek. For example, there’s this one guy—Gene—who’s a public relations type, and though he’s very good at it, he’s comically terrible when put in front of a camera. A lot of his misadventures were inspired by my own time working in fundraising and PR, dealing with the simultaneous thrill and horror at being interviewed on live TV.”
“Of course, I also write the “real me” into the story in a couple places. As far as my characters are concerned, I created a character of a hack novelist writing a sensationalized account of the events they’re living. That kind of humor appeals to me—recursive, self-effacing, maybe a tad corny.
Next week R.L. discusses the antagonist. Until then, keep on rockin.