Amidst setting up the studio for this year (it’s promising to be hectic), helping my 3 back to school and kitting them out, parent evenings, demos and a weird and wonderful lesson schedule, and various other things that might impact quite dramatically on my time in the near future, I’ve been writing…
When I first wrote the Solar Wind series in 2006, there were times when I was thoroughly stuck. I don’t write “according to a plan”. For me a story is not a town you construct. It’s a living thing that will grow whichever way it wants (and some never make it to completion – just like in nature). So the only “plan” I have, usually, is how to fit everything else around the writing…
This is not to say I don’t edit. Boy do I edit! But the initial “laying of track” like Julia Cameron puts it, happens free-hand, without a framework or roadmap, organically like a forest.
So during hectically busy times I sometimes only find one hour in an evening before I go to sleep. Times like those can be frustrating; but as long as one keeps at it, time goes by and suddenly – the book is finished.
Here’s another wee sample of what’s been happening on that magic ship, the Shooting Star:
“There’s a blow-up dinghy in the hold,” he said. “I found it last night. ‘s the only lifeboat we have at this point, but it’s good enough. Call Shawn, I’ll call Virian. We’re doing this the human way.”
The island was a lot closer when Shawn and Virian let the rubber boat into the water and paddled to shore. There were islanders on the beach, watching them in fascination. It took Shawn no time at all, and only the merest touch of Intergalactic Common, to get their message across. The islanders helped them deflate the dinghy; then led them across to the lagoon, where a motorboat took them across the turquoise water of the atoll, to the small village called Fale.
Shawn trailed his hand in the water. The lagoon was beyond incredibly beautiful. The water was warm and shallow; fish darted under the surface, and they passed over meadows of colourful seaweed.
By the time they were halfway through, Shawn’s head felt the burn of the sun. It was eleven in the morning by now; it had taken the Shooting Star that long to drift on the current until she was close enough to send the boat. He hoped she wasn’t going to drift past the island while they were travelling across the lagoon! He laughed at himself: Federi would drop anchor and wait, of course.
The boat moored on the other side, and Shawn and Virian got out. The Islanders led them into the village of Fale, and to the piers. A few men were fiddling with the moorings of a sturdy-looking motorboat. The Islanders told these boatmen in fast yakkering Island speak about the ship that lay outside the island, that needed to be brought in.
Shawn and Virian were on that boat when the large outboard motor growled into life and sped off, through the narrow channel of deep water, to the western exit. The boat turned south and roared towards where the Shooting Star lay – anchored, indeed. Within a few minutes the boat had the disabled Pursuer moored to it, and was tugging her back towards Fakaofo.
All this had a half unreal feel to Shawn after last night, and this morning. In the darkest hours of the storm he had at times wondered if he’d signed his own death wish by working for Federi. The ship had felt as though she were going to capsize, about every third minute. Nica had been relentlessly sick, until she fell asleep; he’d stayed up and done what he could, until he was ready to drop despite the gravitational disruption. And this morning, picking up those hooligans from the Arkenshaw had been on the hectic end of pirating. Also keeping a ship on course with only steering, without map, compass or drives. Drifting on the current. Despite the middle-of-nowhere placement and atmosphere of Fakaofo, the place felt like civilization to Shawn.
The Shooting Star was tugged all the way to the piers, and moored. Federi dropped anchor once again and gave all his crew shore leave. Paean hadn’t understood before what the big deal was about shore leave; but today she jumped to the mainland as though the ship might sink in the last second she was aboard.
Half an hour later Federi found her, Nica, Shawn and Virian passed out on the beach under a palm tree, sleeping soundly. He smiled wistfully as he looked at the four teens. Brave pirates, having weathered a night straight out of hell. Virian looked quite as human as the other three, and quite as young; the only thing that differentiated her was her odd colouration.
Fale was a pirate port if you knew how to look – and whom to talk to. Federi located the guy and bought all the necessary stuff. The Shooting Star had torpedo guns; only that those stupid animals had used up all the torpedoes trying to hit the Solar Wind. So those needed to be restocked.
Ship compounding, a massive repair kit, all that could be purchased legally in the man’s overground shop. For the processor, he had to fetch the guy’s younger brother aboard. The kid’s name was Joe and he proudly called himself a ‘hacker’.
Joe was absolutely brilliant. Federi watched in awe how the youngster with his toolkit – probably no older than Ronan – snipped and spliced the glass fibre connections and also the copper cables between the CPU and its power supply. He resurrected the power generator – the little machine whizzed back into life, feeding on the solar drives that were thoroughly recharged by now, until its micro-nuclear core was restarted.
This was one of the ironies about the Unicate, contemplated Federi. And of course Wolf would not have been able to jump-start this generator using depleted solar drives.
Joe ‘hacked’ the processor back into life. He reconnected the controls for the drives, but built a ‘hack’ for Federi to override the CPU and control them manually, should the Shooting Star ever get into such deep water again.
This young man was as good as many ship engineers and better than a few, thought Federi. He offered Joe a job aboard the Shooting Star; but Joe laughed and declined.
“Shows you what a good hacker I am,” he said. “Many ships make me an offer. But I like Fale. This is my home. Why should I move?”