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This blog started during NaNoWriMo in 2015 to journal the early days of writing during National Novel Writing Month. We are happy to announce the book has been published.

Darwin’s Paradox: An international science mystery http://amzn.to/2k8qJgi

Even though it was published second, it is book one of the Pandemic Mysteries, a collection of stand-alone novels about the contemporary world under siege by different mysterious pandemics.

The world is on the verge of a pandemic. Using tribal and scientific medicine, can a small group of amateur scientists solve the unsolvable?

The only things they know for sure about the disease are minor aches, followed by fever, convulsions, and death. The mysterious disease is circling the globe faster than anyone believed possible. It’s stretching out from the interior of Africa, reaching into the cities of Australia, and windswept deserts of the southwest U.S. With no solutions from established science, can an international collection of amateurs solve the unsolvable? Using tribal and scientific medicine from around the globe, a few young scientists may be humanity’s only defense.

About the authors of Darwin’s Paradox

The authors grew up in Oakland, CA and Long Island, NY before meeting in Salt Lake City. J. raised three wonderful children while making time to publish poems and short stories. D.R. researched Silicon Valley startups. Today they live in Southern California with their two cats. They enjoy international travel, reading, and writing, and gathering a different perspective from the magical minds of their grandchildren.

Read it. Enjoy it. Review it.

Day 11 Chemists? #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting #sff 35,825 words

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I AM AN AUTHOR. FICTION ADVICE.

More questions about retired chemist Brian Macalester (see previous WP post for his health problems). He wants to help find a cure for an international pandemic. However, the only ones who were interested in his assistance are in Maputo Mozambique. (He has earned a reputation as a bit of an a**hole and no one wants to work with him.)

He is helping with clinical trials. Investigational drugs are sent to Maputo for testing. We (joint authors) have already addressed the issue of Phase II testing being done without Phase I. Things are bad.

No one in Maputo has much faith in the investigational drugs. Brian has been convinced to test compounds from native potions. Besides a Mass Spec, what else does he need to extract small molecules from the native mixtures. Money is no object. Things are bad.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/31/mrsa-superbug-killed-by-1100-year-old-home-remedy-researchers-say/

He has commandeered a modern chemistry lab. I’m not sure how it got there, maybe from international forensics efforts looking into genocides. They also have modern, high-speed DNA sequencers (doesn’t everyone?) What might he need in terms of specialized equipment beyond what might be optimistically be expected to be there.

Regardless, he will isolate a compound and there will be trials with questionable results. He would like to optimize the compound. We will ignore the issues of bioavailabilty, toxicity, oral delivery, pharmacokinetics.

For plot reasons, he wants to optimize this compound for its ability to be airborne, aerosolized, or even better, to be airborne along with its target. (This is SF.) What can he try to accomplish this. Maybe make the drug more hydrophilic to attach to water vapor in the lungs. That is my best guess. How would he do that anyway?

Again, thanks for anyone’s assistance. Best suggestion wins a appropriate acknowledgement in the book (when published) and a pre-publication copy (when available); also the gratitude of the author.

Day 10 Doctors? #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting #sff 30,811 words

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Need medical assistance. Brian Macalester is a retired chemist. In the last week he lost consciousness three times. His doctors suspect TIA (transient ischemic attack) syncope or neurocardiogenic syncope. The former could foretell a major stroke, while the latter could indicate ventricular tachycardia leading so sudden cardiac death.

What diagnosis, these or something else, would you recommend? Best suggestion wins a appropriate acknowledgement in the book (when published) and a pre-publication copy (when available); also the gratitude of the author.

How would his doctors diagnose the recommended condition? How certain is death in the next 30 days? Are there tests to narrow down the prognosis? Are there behaviors to minimizer and/or maximize the likelihood of death?

The is a difficult case because:

Episode one: Fainting happened during a highly emotional experience and in conjunction with blunt force trauma to the head.

Episode two: Fainting occurred when he was alone in a car, either before or after the car drove off the road and crashed.

Episode three: Occurred in a hospital bed with doctors in the room.

Thank you.

Day 8 Chekhov’s Gun #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting #sff 21,180 words

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Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

— Anton Chekhov

Famously Anton Chekhov has stated the principle of economy in fiction. Fiction is minimal as nature is extravagant. The number of different characters, places, objects is absolutely minimal. Everything is reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Compare this to nature. In nature, everything is unique. Take leaves, blades of grass, snowflakes, cats, grains of sands, waves, clouds, etc., etc., etc. Everyone, everything is unique, different from each that comes before and each that follows.

Much of what is seen in nature us NEVER seen again. This is not true of fiction. As I watch my current WIP novel grow, there is a tendency for new characters to appear, but as opposed to nature, these people do not walk on and disappear. A salesman is also a husband. A lobbyist is also a daughter. A nurse is a mother. A daughter is a doctor or a scientist.

I think that is much of the fun of watching the story unfold. The surprise when a character walks into the book, and another surprise when they keep coming back.

Day 3 Faith & Fear #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting #sff 6918 words

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Writing is a challenge of fear and faith. Today’s words are not guarantee that there will be words tomorrow.

Take today. I had a great day. New subplots and characters just jumped on the page. My main character stood up and expressed opinions and attitudes that were new to me, but seemed like they’d always been there.

In the previous chapter my hospital director was running an hospital which was experiencing unexpected and unexplained deaths, something no hospital should have. The doctors, nurses and administrators were working together to address the problem.

I knew that solving the medical crisis would be hard, but the plot outline contains a map to the end.

Today, I discovered that in addition to this medical problem, there were conflicts among the staff and someone wants to get rid of my hospital director. He doesn’t know who, but he has some suspects. Myself, I’m also curious as to who is trying to sabotage the director.

This has been a great day for me. I love when the story comes alive and speaks for itself.

But am I happy? No. I marvel at how agreeable the muses have been today and fear that they might not show tomorrow. This is National Novel Writing Month, and I can’t afford too many days being left on my own without my muse.

Day 2 Ariq Research #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting 5170 words

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Character names can be treated as important or not. Years ago, I wrote my first drafts with numbers instead of names, and only named the characters after the story was done. I don’t recommend that approach.

Some characters are given ordinary like David Copperfield, Tom Sawyer, John Yossarian, and Elizabeth Bennet. Others are given unique names like Ahab, Huckleberry Finn, Heathcliff, and Hester Prynne. Some are even given symbolic names for Squire Allworthy and Biedermann.

In my WIP book for NaNoWriMo, I had a character Ariq. J and I discussed many different names during the planning, but finally decided we liked the sound of Ariq. That’s right, we chose the name because we liked the sound of it.

When I went to work on the character sheet, I needed to know something about him, back story, appearance, etc.

I searched Ariq, and the most popular result was Arabian, Muslim boy. This didn’t seem quite right for the intended character. In addition, I felt a Muslim would bring a lot of prejudice and assumption. I wanted a character who was freer to forge their own path without being so concerned about those that came before.

More searching came up with Ariq Böke. This Ariq is a grandson of Genghis Khan. I felt this was better because a Mongolian is more of a blank in the 21st century than an Arabian. Also Genghis Khan as a charasmatic leader seemed a good fit for my Ariq, and his legendary green eyes were a nice physical detail.

So Ariq the Mongolian it is.

Day 1 Preparation #NaNoWriMo #indieauthor #amwriting 2590 words

J and D R Oestreicher jointly write novels, so we might need more preparation than most for National Novel Writing Month.

Here’s what we do prior to November 1.

We decide on the overall plot for the novel and the main characters. We have four main characters, and each chapter has a single POV character. That is how we divide the writing. We each write the chapters for our own characters.

There is a balance between not having enough of a plan to allow us to proceed independently, and having too much of a plan to prevent the creativity that naturally comes as the writing unfolds. The result a rough outline with some of the key plot point, but lots to be determined by the characters themselves as they move forward.

We also have a simple timeline so the characters can interact and at least both be in the same place on the same day.

In addition we have both done research, some of which has been reported in my research blog.

Finally, each character has a character page(s) with pictures, interests, motivations, and back story. Again we walk the delicate balance between enough to be coordinated, but not too much to stifle the character’s creativity.

Much of the first chapters depend heavily on this preparation. As the novel progresses, it tends to both diverge and expand from this initial preparation.

If you like numbers, the preparation is over 100 files and 60 MBs.