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Country Brains v. City Brains

It has been no secret to anyone who knows me (since college, if not longer) that I have no head for higher mathematics. The computer age has only made this worse. The problem has become obvious to me (using my inside knowledge): the kind of logical, step-by-step reasoning which is math, or using a computer, is–to put it mildly–not my thing. (Oddly enough, I have always been killer at spelling.) I like science; I’m just bad at it.

On the other hand, I have been a storyteller since I was in grade school. It was not until relatively recently, however, that I allowed myself to believe that I’m actually good at it.

Now that I have, however, it occurs to me to wonder: Why am I so good at one and not the other? And why are so many of my friends brilliant scientists who would rather solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded than write a ten-page paper? The answer: Country brains versus city brains.

O-o-kay, you’re thinking. What’s that all about?

Relax, this is not a red-state, blue-state kind of thing. It has nothing to do with where you’re from and everything to do with who you are.

Country brains are those that operate without maps. They prefer the open spaces, where they can blaze their own trail.* No clear path? “So what?” asks the country brain. “I’ll find a way to where I’m going, or if not, somewhere equally interesting.” If you put a country brain in the city, it sees the myriad intersecting streets, the hard-marked paths for getting to specified destinations, and throws up its hands. “How am I supposed to remember all these directions?” And it shuffles forward slowly, never taking its eyes from its map, a target for every tourist-hunting pickpocket on the street.

City brains love maps. Maps remind them of instruction sheets, and instruction sheets remind them of numbers. Nice, neat, solvable problems that have only one answer. (Ironically, city brains have to show their work, while country brains only release the final draft.) If you take a city brain out to the country, where country brains range freely and happily, it will refuse to leave its internet-wired cabin.

Obviously, I have a country brain. I will wander through the wilderness of a story (I have to get back to outlining!) until I have arranged seventy or eighty thousand words into a pattern that is not only cohesive, but sufficiently persuasive that a reader will suspend his disbelief and pay for the privilege. Most city brains could not do that any more than I could extract a cube root.

There’s nothing wrong with having either a city brain or a country brain, of course. I don’t know if we’re born that way or if it’s something we develop; it’s just the way we are. Neither is better, just different. Like everything else, it’s a spectrum. There are actually people whose brains can operate in the city as well as in the country.

If there’s an advantage to being a city brain, it’s that the path forward is clearly marked. On the other hand, if you’re a country brain like me, you can flail around for an hour just trying to figure out a clever way to end a blog post. Unlike our city cousins, we don’t have the luxury of knowing there’s a single right answer.

And sometimes, there is no answer at all. But then, I’m a country brain, and we don’t care.

 

*Country brains are perhaps more properly called “pioneer” brains, but that interferes with the alliteration, so we’ll stick with “country” brains.

#SFWApro

 

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  1. After everything you have done to push yourself into your field, your fate will depend on thousands of people you have never met, and never will–unless you succeed, in which case they will inevitably hunt you down and tell you everything you did wrong.
  2. No matter how many times you renew your term, one bad showing and you’re out.
  3. Despite the hundreds of hours you will spend outlining, talking, and writing, people will always insist they know what you “really meant”–even though they’re wrong.
  4. Despite all of the people wrongly insisting they know what you “really meant,” you will still be happy that they are talking about you at all.
  5. No matter how much you outline, events will always take you places you did not mean to go.

Bonus: Why writing is like voting: If you don’t put in the effort, your story will never be heard.

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My latest short story, “Relative Fortune,” appears in the November issue of Galaxy’s Edge (no. 35). All his life, Tom worked toward one goal: to explore space. Then, in an instant, his dream was dashed. And in the final insult, his brother Rey went into space instead. Twenty years later, Rey has returned from the stars to see Tom, who has built himself a new life–but has either really gotten what he wanted? If success and failure are two faces of the same coin, who decides which side he is on?

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Also available from Amazon is my time travel adventure series, The Stolen Future. Read it, enjoy it, review it!

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Here is the new cover for the final volume of The Stolen Future, The Cosmic City.

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This blurb makes it sound pretty exciting…

In the conclusion to The Stolen Future trilogy, Keryl Clee finds himself at the center of a crisis which could mean the destruction not only on Earth, but of Time itself.

Hostages of a time-traveling madman who is creating an army from the past to conquer the world of the future, before Clee and Lady Maire can defeat him they must come to grips with the shocking truth behind the 300-year-old Nuum invasion of Earth.

Beset by new and powerful enemies, betrayed by the Council of Nobles itself, Keryl Clee has one last chance to unite the peoples of Earth–Nuum and Thoran, human and non-human alike–because even he is powerless against those who are coming from beyond the stars to reach…The Cosmic City.

I recommend reading it, because if Time is destroyed, it could be a real downer for your plans for the weekend.

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So excited that the second volume of The Stolen Future, The Secret City, is available for Kindle from Amazon from Digital Fiction Publishing!

Here is the blurb from the publisher:

In this sequel to The Invisible City, after twenty years alone, Charles “Keryl” Clee once again finds himself hurtling through a time portal to an uncertain future.

Stranded in an unforgiving desert populated by unseen predators, Clee must find a place for himself in a world that wants him only dead. But his greatest fear is that he may not have returned to the world he left behind, that he may have traveled to an earlier or later era than that he knows, and that his love, the Lady Maire, may be long dead or centuries unborn.

Finding human treachery even more hazardous than beasts, accused of a crime he did not commit, still hunted for his attempt to free humanity from slavery decades before, Clee must find his own way as a ghost in a world where all are known, and ordered, and categorized.

Discovering that everything he worked for has been lost, and that his love has formed a new alliance with his greatest enemy, he has no choice but to fight–and just when it seems he has achieved victory, he and all he holds dear are plunged into the depths of horror as a new race arises from the nightmares of the distant past to wreak its revenge. If Clee cannot stop them, they will destroy every remnant of human civilization.

For lovers of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, The Secret City, the second volume of The Stolen Future trilogy, is a return to fantastic adventures in alien lands.

And remember, if it lives up to the hype (which it does…), please leave a review or a rating on your favorite site.

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When you’re in the groove, and the writing is going well, you want to write more. You may not want to write more of anything vitally important, but you still want to write. So you think of a subject to fill four hundred words and you write a blog post. This particular four hundred words is in the form of the newsletter that I’ll probably never start.

What? you say. The writing is going well? What’s up with that? Okay, that will do.

I just finished the second draft of a short story which has been on-and-off for the past few months. I had a first draft, but I knew it had a big hole in the middle even as I finished, so I put the whole thing aside for a few weeks. (I write slowly, so things tend to incubate for a while.) Finally pieces started falling into place and I returned to it, whereupon more pieces fell into place, and now I think it’s about ready for someone to see. (Not you, my reader, you deserve better than a second draft.) I am quite pleased with the alterations I made and expect great things to result.

Speaking of “great things,” The Invisible City has been out from Digital Fiction Publishing for almost a week, and is moving along quite nicely, thank you. I fully expect that, when The Secret City and The Cosmic City come out, fame, fortune, and a Hollywood premiere will quickly follow. Invisible currently available for the debut price of $0.99 (but that won’t last). Think about it: 120,000 words of swashbuckling science fiction adventure for less than a buck. You could buy the whole trilogy for the price of a venti frappuccino. (If you do buy a copy, please consider leaving a review or a rating. It’s crazy helpful.)

But if shorter works are your bag, do not despair. I have an SF story about the importance of family, “Relative Fortune,” coming out in the November Galaxy’s Edge, and a fantasy adventure, “When Gods Fall in Fire,” in the upcoming issue of Cirsova.

And of course, my gorilla-centric unnamed novel is poking along. I still hope to finish it by the end of the year.

So that’s my life in a nutshell, with the emphasis on “nutty.” And it’s almost four hundred words…

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It’s here! The Invisible City has now officially been published by Digital Fiction Publishing! This is my first traditionally-published book, and for a limited time it’s available for 99 cents! The redesigned cover is below.

The Invisible City KINDLE COVER OCT4

The Invisible City is the story of Charles Clee, a volunteer infantry officer in the hellish trenches of France in 1915, who disobeys orders to investigate what he thinks is an enemy trap. He’s right–but he also stumbles on an illegal time travel expedition from the 863rd century, and the only way to escape the Germans is to use the time machine, which traps him hundreds of thousands of years in the future!

Here he finds no Utopia, but a world seized by the same kinds of murderous hate he left behind, except that this Earth has been overrun by aliens and populated by laboratory-recreated versions all of the most dangerous animals of history, not to mention savage killers all too new to him.

Clee falls in love, only to have her kidnapped by one of the world’s most powerful men. In his quest to save her, he finds that there may still be a working time machine that could take him home. Now he must choose–will he stay with the world that needs him, or return to the world where he belongs?

The second and third volumes, The Secret City and The Cosmic City, will be available soon. You’re going to want to read them as soon as they come out, so I recommend you read The Invisible City now!

 

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