Beauty Pill ~ Just in Time for March

I’ve been looking forward to March, 2019 for the last eighteen months, because that’s about how long I figured a story like Beauty Pill would take. I didn’t think a contemporary novel would require much world building – now is already here, isn’t it? – but all the pieces have to be put in place for the reader to find it believable, and I wanted to believe it too.

“This story has everything,” the narrator says in her best Pussy Riot accent. “It has corruption, politics, faux science, and sex. It plucks at the deepest hearts of women in Southern Oregon.”

I’ve been writing novels since the last millennium, and got serious about it in 2010. Three of my books are science fiction: Halcyon Dreamworlds, Savage Genesis Book One, and Next History. I also wrote an amateur sleuth mystery, Angle of Attack, which is closest in style to Beauty Pill. I have another novel nearing completion. It’s sci-fi, The Hidden Perils of Suicide. That story examines issues around immortality, a post-biological future, and a robot AI that takes over the world. You can find more on these stories at Baldwin-Books.Com.

Beauty Pill is not from my science fiction mindset. I made sure the title was no magical promise, and to center it in the here and now, I gave the lead character a serious dilemma: she fears what happens after love. The story became the character study of a damaged protagonist, Cathy, and why she’s drawn to the promise of everlasting beauty from a pill. It’s about how she handles the times in her life when she is fooled.

Mostly the book is aimed at the cruelest fiction perpetrated on American women: personal beauty as a measure of human worth.

In the end, I really liked Cathy and Ferg. I was sorry to say goodbye. I wish them well, and hope you feel the same.

The Girl Who Hated Love

A hard-luck Oregon TV weather girl takes a desperate shot at redemption when she joins the clinical trial for a miracle drug. The glitzy brochure is a sales pitch, but her call reaches a university grad student with a secret agenda.

“This story has everything,” the narrator says in her best Pussy Riot accent. “It has corruption, politics, faux science, and sex. It plucks at the deepest hearts of women in Southern Oregon.”

Having a baby was too terrible a blow for Mother. How could the universe be so unkind?

So Mother invented her daughter’s surname from a time when she liked Scotch whisky, and wrote that fictitious name in the ‘father’ box on the birth certificate. She used the name of her favorite Scotch. Macallan.

Locked in a psychological cage match with her narcissist mother, Cathy Macallan’s only solace is a cameraman at the station, who questions the “high” she gets from the trial drug.

Suspicious, Cathy lures the drug trial’s admin into a live TV interview where all the chips are down. She needs to know if Beauty Pill is real.

World War Trump

What the one with initials DT, so reminiscent of Delerium Tremens, actually wants from his Trumpresidency, is this: To Have It Out With Fucking Everybody.

You got it. World War Trump.

Nothing intrinsically wrong in that, it’s our choice. Other civilizations in this galaxy and on this earth have collapsed. La De Dah.

The tea leaves have been read, brinksmanship fans. They spell a path to an unstable fascist dictator who has changed the language from ‘treat me fairly’ to mean, ‘give me whatever I want, now.’

He rails against Political Correctness but has learned to exploit the fact that the meaning of Political Correctness itself has been changed: You cannot speak against Me. No, future-buffs. The 1984 we’re looking at for 2017 will see people arrested for not treating the Trumpster fairly, as in, making some negative opinion comment about him. In the privacy of your idiotic iPhone.

If we all chose to invite the snoopers into our lives by adopting that barely-finished technology, we can invite the jackboots as well.

It’s easy to repeal the First Amendment with the right Supreme Court. Look at what the Court did to it in 1960!

A society gets the kind of rule it deserves. Always true. Oh well.

Tick, Tick, Tick…

Collapse of Universe Closer Than 5 sec. Ago

Step aside, climate change and global warming. Pooh-pooh, Cascadia fault. I need to worry about my fate in High Definition.

I want a countdown clock (in picoseconds) that gives me how long it is until the vacuum of free space goes to a lower energy level. Dr. Keenan concurs with Homer Simpson on the vital point that a hyper-sphere region of lower energy will expand at the speed of light, and all matter within it will flick to degenerate matter in amorphous clouds. BE THERE WITH ME when we turn into quarks and nuance.

I wonder what the temperature of that enormous cloud will be!

That’s it, universe fans. Physics has shown us the way! The entire work product of this universe could be a fart.

Or could the fact that the universe is conscious just hold it together? God save us! But hold yer nose.

The Collapse is closer than when I clicked POST. Be frayed.

Shawn Coyne’s Advice on How to Write a Scene

It’s worth noting that Coyne in his book, The Story Grid, lets us off the hook of understanding the WHOLE topic of Genre with a simple statement: If you take away nothing else from this book, learn how to write a scene.

So here’s what he suggests as the recipe for a dramatic scene (paraphrased and diddled with by me).

Inciting incident — something throws the protagonist’s world out of whack
Progressive complications — as the protagonist tries to fix it, more obstacles appear
Crisis — Should hero go forward, or go home?
Climax — Protagonist makes a decision. Reader should be surprised and satisfied, feel some catharsis or change of worldview. The climax should fit with the earlier parts of the scene.
Resolution (turn) — Who won, who lost, can protagonist go back to how things were? If the answer is yes, it’s relatively boring. If the hero must go forward, your story becomes about life or death.

The Resolution is called a ‘turn’ because every scene is about CHANGE. If nothing changes, what you have is a pile of words. Your scene must have conflict. Someone must win or lose. Hero’s outlook on the world (or the world itself) must change by the end of the scene.

Learn to identify the five components of scene in everything you read. Watch what the turn of the scene FEELS like.

Work to create the inciting incidents that convey the most meaning and rocket fuel for the story you want to tell.

If you can write one good scene after another, you’ve got a book.

Recipe For Becoming a Pubbed Indie Author

After a delightful evening at the casino, a few of us writer types from the Ashland (Oregon) Writers’ Group put together a list of what it takes to get traction in the indie book market. Your mileage may be zero. But hey, go for it!

  1. Be a celebrity
  2. Don’t use too big a words
  3. Be a social media animal
  4. Make it about a boy and a girl, aged 13 – 24
  5. Make it an epic quest for Power and Things
  6. Throw in a zot of moral superiority
  7. Make it a trilogy, at least.
  8. Accept that grammar and punctuation are stylistic bits
  9. Spellcheckers aren’t worth the money

The future is a catastrophe to the past, so us outsiders with the paper 3D glasses need to man- or girl-up. The reality is virtual, from here on out.

The Frame, Riveting Sci-Fi that Makes Your Head Work

If you’re interested in a truly spellbinding science fiction thriller, check out THE FRAME (2014), a touching story that uses no planet-busters or death rays, but which posits a coherent though weird alternate reality where a mindless and all-powerful force scripts the lives of the characters.

Two random strangers begin seeing each other face to face on their TV sets, and gradually understand that they’re both actors in separate TV series. They’ve been watching each other, week to week, thinking it was only entertainment. But an authoritarian and malevolent mind lurks in the wings…

What shocks and endangers them both is the discovery that their every action is dictated. Desperation peaks after they determine that their series are about to be cancelled when the infernal script machine will type out, THE END. When they try to meet, they discover they’re in different realities, separated by malevolent bit players who keep them in line.

It is here that the film frame itself becomes a player in the action, and that will truly tilt your reality.

As large in scope as Inception, but not as cornball, THE FRAME is a true alternate-reality mesh that delivers and makes your noggin work. The tale keeps you on the hazy edge of reality and fiction, and reminds any writers among us that fiction, unlike reality, has to make sense. THE FRAME step by step allows you determine what is real. In the end, it all holds up.

From Jamin Winans, writer and director of the cult smash hit, INK, THE FRAME is a tale that disrupts our view of fate, and belief, destiny and existence, a maze of flexing rules backed by an inscrutable, personified evil.

YouTube trailer (take your seizure pill).

Star Wars Time Capsule Found on Hollywood Walk of Fame

OK, so tell me I have an axe to grind with Hollywood.

$528 billion in box office the first weekend (not counting China!) is impressive, but as we left the showing of Star Wars, The Force Awakens, my wife remarked, “That gives Americans what they want. Plenty of shooting, without a single idea.”

She soon corrected herself, acknowledging that the obvious fresh idea was the emergence of a female Luke Skywalker, haha, a heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Oh, also there’s the Black guy, who might be around for future sequels.

Rey is cut from the same cloth as Skywalker in the 1977 version of the same plot: an orphan eking out a living among the miscreants of society in the galaxy’s forgotten backwater. Hard to understand why she hasn’t been eaten alive already. It’s important to note that she does exactly the same things as Luke in the original version: all the steps of the hero’s journey. The highlight of this progression sees her literally rejecting, then accepting the sword, in the form of Luke’s original hallowed lightsaber.

Spectacle it has, complete with storm trooper minions who dutifully left-arm salute (Seig Heil) a swaggering bully who’s exhorting them to the dark side in front of a red-draped acre of stage featuring a black emblem reminiscent of a swastika. Oh yay, black on a field of blood. Not too difficult to recognize. But hey, for what reason other than to grandstand in front of a Nazi-esque backdrop does Emperor hopeful Hux gather every available stormtrooper? Was his email down?

And why does the blast on Maz Kanata’s home planet have so little emotional impact? At least the bustup of Alderaan in 1977 meant something to the characters. The ‘disturbance in the force’ was felt throughout known space by the various peeps. For me, this instance of planet-busting was a mere light show.

Oh well. At least there is plenty of shooting.

The major trope of the 1977 version is Luke calling on his growing control of The Force to dive his X-Wing into the Death Star’s ventilation shaft to fire the fatal light-torpedo. That entire scene is lifted whole and placed at the same plot point in the 2015 version, as a dwindling number of tiny X-Wings buzz around a new death star that viewers can easily tell is more modern, because it’s bigger.

Abrams would have done well to lift the title from another movie, because “The Force Awakens” is only in evidence as a theme during the 20 seconds that Rey “gets it” that if she simply thinks about The Force, then It Will Be Hers, so she can suitably injure the Son of whats-his-name before that pushy chasm opened between them. (That superior title, IMO, is South Park’s Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.)

Did anyone notice, as the film progressed, that Rey’s outfit gradually became more low-cut on top, and tighter on the bottom? Yes it did. Did anyone notice the stand-in butt shots for Carrie Fischer’s character, who apparently did not get down to fighting weight as General Leia? Oh well.

So the time capsule aspect… they successfully waited 38 years to exhume and re-enact what is arguably the same story, even though some of the characters did move one or two spaces to the left.

Sigh. What did we even expect? But all of that shows that Abrams and Lucas understand a core fact about pirate movie-making: they have to be about the search for Power and Things.

The big thrill I got out of the whole experience is knowing that George “Luke” Lucas sold the entire Star Wars franchise to Disney for $4 billion, then DONATED that entire sum to education reform.

That, to me, is a hero’s journey.

Halcyon Dreamworlds

   Amid gritty realities of 2029 Amerika, the class war between the elite rich and the masses rises to blinding rage. This battle is most intense within the avatar universe, Halcyon Dreamworlds.
   The Dreamworlds is a permissive online rave with the morals of a beer commercial… where your avatar can mosh with millions of fellow addicts in secret lives of uncaring lust.
   But when an elite mastermind corrupts your private heaven with an electronic mind-meld wired to your neocortex, you’ll be doing exactly as he tells you… in real life. And as you fritter away each passing nanosecond, your next instruction could be: go die.
 MMORPG, LITRPG, or virtual reality? For you Dreamworlds ego-slaves, there’s nothing virtual about it.

Halcyon Dreamworlds Trending HOT on Kindle Scout

Halcyon Dreamworlds, Lee Baldwin’s new science fiction novel, is doing well on Kindle Scout, Amazon’s reader-powered publishing venture.

The campaign ends soon. Your nomination will push Kindle Press to pick it up for publication, and you’ll get a free copy if they do! (Plus my undying gratitude.)

Following on the heels of Baldwin’s novel, Next History, Halcyon Dreamworlds is a tale of political Armageddon as ultra rich manipulators attempt to vanquish the rest of us one final time.

Worth a look. Thanks!