Monday, November 25, 2013

The Fracking War endorsed by Sandra Steingraber - woo-hoo!

WATKINS GLEN, New York - When your writing is referred to in the same paragraph as a book by John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and another by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin), there is only one rational response: You blush.

So Sunday afternoon I had a thoroughly beet-red face for quite a while after I read a book-jacket blurb kindly offered by environmentalist, biologist and author Sandra Steingraber.
Sandra Steingraber
"It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, not economic data, that turned the page on slavery.  It was The Grapes of Wrath, not demographic reports that opened a nation's eyes to Dust Bowl dislocation.  Out of that tradition comes Michael J. Fitzgerald’s The Fracking War.  Here, within a smoldering crucible of social crisis, is a tale of power, money, fateful choices, and consciences aroused.   If you like your drill rigs served up within the context of a fast-moving plot line, you’ve got what you want right in your hands.” 
  —Sandra Steingraber, author, Living Downstream and Raising Elijah

The beet-red blush was also because Sandra Steingraber is one of my heroes. Working here in New York as a journalist, I've published reams about her courage in fighting the hydrofracking menace, helping to lead the struggle against a manifestly dangerous propane storage project in Watkins Glen, and her arrest and jailing earlier this year on trespassing charges following a protest.

So to have her praise The Fracking War so highly, well, I'm blushing again.
Book cover art by Will Sweeney

All of the pieces have fallen into place - with a little pushing - for electronic publication of The Fracking War this week. There may be some last-minute surprises from the publisher to delay the e-launch. But as they say at NASA, 'Confidence is high.'

And the print version is on track to be available in early 2014.

By the way, my sincere thanks to all the folks who supported The Fracking War through the campaign. We made our goal. And right now Adm. Sylvia Fox and I are scrambling to get the promised T-shirts done and mailed out. I'm also trying to put together an author's website.

At a fabulous end-of-the-season party last night at The Stonecat Cafe in Hector, several people asked me about a sequel to The Fracking War. The answer is yes, there will be one. But I won't say much more about it until Wednesday at the book publishing celebration at the Hector Wine Company, which not surprisingly, is in Hector, too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'The Fracking War' gets a great endorsement, 5 days left to preorder

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The countdown clock seems to be ticking faster.

There's five more days to pre-order a copy of The Fracking War. Pre-ordering guarantees getting the book well before it's available via normal commercial booksellers - including

This week the book got a fabulous endorsement from someone who has already read the book - environmental activist and book editor Wrexie Bardaglio of Trumansburg, NY. Wrexie did both editing and proofing of the 96,000-word tome.

Here's what she had to say:

"Trust me, you will want this book. Beyond the excellent writing are diabolical and enraging plots twists, terrifying because in our hearts we do not doubt that they have happened and will continue to happen. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes fiction is the only way safe way to get at the truth." - Wrexie Bardaglio

Here's the link to to pre-order either an electronic book or print copy:

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Just 10 days left to pre-order a copy of 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York - There's only 10 days left to pre-order a copy of The Fracking War, either in electronic format (Kindle, iPad, Nook or?) or as a signed copy from the first press run.

The book is available through at this link:

PRE-ORDER 'The Fracking War'
10 days left to pre-order 'The Fracking War'

The Fracking War e-book version and printed edition will be commercially available through bookstores and online outfits in spring of 2014. But if you want one sooner than that, now is the time to log on and take care of business.

This morning The Fracking War's Kickstarter/pre-order shows 62 backers ranging from $10 to $250. Another backer said she will pledge $250 as soon as she gets her account working properly.

New York anti-hydrfracking Artist Will Sweeney has taken our agreed upon book-jacket concept and is working on  the final mockup and drawing even as I write this. We should get the final cover art Tuesday or Wednesday.

I will post more in a few days about book cover progress and two more anticipated endorsements.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Environmentalist, author Bill McKibben endorses 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA Bill McKibben - an environmentalist, activist and author - Sunday passed along his written endorsement of the novel The Fracking War

Bill McKibben
It will be included on the book's cover, along with a photo of Bill. (Most likely a different photo from here...)

"If you've thought the debate over energy policy was a tad dry, this novel might change your mind. God hopes it never comes to this!" -- Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Bill's book-jacket endorsement comes as the campaign offering pre-publication sales of the book has just 14 days left.

In the meantime, New York anti-fracking artist Will Sweeney has promised to present a set of sketches Monday for the front and back cover.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

'The Fracking War' manuscript is in the publisher's hands

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The manuscript and soon-to-be book The Fracking War went to the publisher today after the final/final/final/final/final rewriting and editing.

Did I mention that this was the final rewriting and editing?

This last draft, which was pored over one last time, was living proof that humans are, well, human. Even after so many readings and sets of eyes, there were still a few little niggling items that needing attention. They are now fixed. No doubt though when the actual page proofs are delivered for us to read in a week or two we will spot an errant comma, apostrophe or - gasp - a word spelled incorrectly.

That's why we get yet another shot before actual printing.

The upload now means the company will get cracking on the design of the cover - a critical piece. We have some ideas. They have graphic artists. There's a NY artist who we have been trying to find for weeks who has done some fabulous work for the anti-fracking movement. A cover will come out of all of it.

In the meantime, we launched the campaign (The Fracking War - Kickstarter) for the book yesterday, grabbing 11 backers and a lot of buzz from people. The lack of a cover design has been an obstacle for some parts of that marketing effort. For example, while we have t-shirts from The Fracking War as a reward for contributing to the campaign, we can't display exactly what they look like yet.

Patience grasshopper, patience.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

'The Fracking War' to be published in November

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The final draft of the manuscript of The Fracking War should be available via Kindle - and other electronic readers like iPads - in early November.

Pardon me, but Woo-hoo!

This afternoon Adm. Fox negotiated a deal with a publishing house to handle all the details that will result in an electronic book going up in November with printed paper copies available six to eight to 10 weeks after that.

Why did we do it that way?

It turns out that the majority of 21st Century book readers are using Kindles, iPads, Nooks (and some other readers with which I am not familiar) instead of buying printed books. That phenomenon is changing the publishing world quite quickly. But the publisher we chose - after two weeks of reading and research - has a proven track record working with print and electronic publishing.

So The Fracking War will be coming to an electronic distributor - like - before Thanksgiving.

There are a number of steps still in the process. The manuscript has to go to our proofreader for a pass through. Then there is the uploading of files to the publisher. And the all-important cover art work has to be chosen and set in place.

But it's all do-able.

Woo-hoo, redux.

A hydrofracking rig - lovely, isn't it?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

'The Fracking War' moves closer to the bookshelf

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - The Beta readers have spoken. 'The Fracking War' manuscript (with a few tuneups and plot revamps) is ready to go to print.

Well, almost.

After about four more days of final copy editing, the manuscript should go to a professional proofreader for an excruciatingly close read. Then with the help of a graphic artist for page and cover designs - and locating a reliable printing company - the 95,000 (or so) words will go from a draft to, well, a book.

In the course of the last month, Adm. Fox and I explored the various publishing options. We attended a writer-publishers' conference panel in Halifax, Canada comparing traditional book publishing with the brave new world that is called self-publishing. (Actually, it's not that new, and you don't have to be brave.)

While I would love for a carload of traditional publishers to sweep into my driveway waving fat checks demanding the right to publish The Fracking War, I am way too impatient. Plus, I'm not sure they have the right address.

So some form of self-publishing and/or printing is in the offing. And very soon.

The Halifax panel at the Word of The Street conference (WOTS LINK) was very interesting - and convincing. A Canadian writer named Leo McKay stole the show (Leo McKay's website). Had it been a prizefight, he would knocked out the two traditional Canadian book publishers within minutes of the opening bell.

His message was simple: Most authors can get their book published without going the traditional route. The real trick is getting the word out about the book's availability so people pick it up and read it.

Watch for The Fracking War Book & Road Tour later this fall.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Betas take the field in 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Eight months and 95,000 words later, The Fracking War (at least Ver. 1.0) is done.

Spiral-bound copies of the manuscript were dispatched today via U.S. mail to two beta readers, one in California, the other in Maine.  The third beta reader is my in-house editor (and wife!) who each week checks over my column for the Finger Lakes Times carefully before I send it in.

All three beta readers have been tasked with the same thing: Please read this as you would any novel and see if it works.

The  idea for writing this book came from reading several very well-done, non-fiction tomes critical of hydrofracking for natural gas. They were full of details, numbers, references to studies. There were references to lots of news reports. Lots of references. Lots of news reports.

In some chapters, the books showed flashes of the emotion and trauma that surrounds this technology - a technology so lovingly embraced by our incumbent U.S. President and fossil-fuel companies who are making a bundle of cash.

And pretty much destroying the environment in the process.

Unfortunately, I don't believe those books have been able to capture the imagination of the public. They report and recite. In The Fracking War, I want to report and ignite - as in ignite passion.

My three beta readers will let me know in the next few weeks if I did that.

If I did. Well, Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

'The Fracking War' making some tactical adjustments

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - After a few fits and starts, I finished rereading the first draft of The Fracking War today, with pages of copious notes to consider as I begin rewriting/editing.

Propane truck explosion
I had put enough time between draft and first reading to read carefully. If you read too close to the original drafting/writing, you miss stuff. A lot of stuff.

I took out the corny material, saw where to add more action/adventure/anger/angst, and now need to set aside a couple of days to add descriptions and a chapter or two in the rewriting process. Maybe more than a couple of days.


Having never fought in a guerrilla war, parts of this book were hard to put together. But as a miscreant teenager responsible for a good share of hell-raising, I am quite familiar with the concept of serious destructiveness.
From the 1984 film 'Red Dawn'

And if that serious destructiveness was in the spirit of saving the world/environment? Well, so much the better.

There will be more news about The Fracking War in the next few weeks.

But, attention Beta readers: Prepare for incoming!!!!!!
'The Fracking War' as it lands in Beta readers' inboxes

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A photo assignment taken on the fly, completed the same way

MONTEREY, New York - The email from my editor at the Elmira Star-Gazette came Wednesday night. She needed a simple exterior building shot of a volunteer fire department's digs in a nearby town.

I believe she called it a 'building mug' and needed it Thursday afternoon for a weekend story/feature layout.

Sounded pretty simple, though getting it to her by 5 p.m. or so was going to be a stretch. I was in Rochester, NY at a medical appointment at noon when I committed to getting the photo. Rochester is  several hours north - plus I had several stops to make on the way back home. When you get close to a Trader Joe's in central New York, you stop, no question about it.

Building mug shot
The timing worked out so that I was in front of the firehouse - in a heavy rainstorm - by 5 p.m. And for this assignment, I was carrying the trusty Canon camera that went to Tonga last fall. But I was also carrying my newly acquired iPhone, the camera in which is excellent.

Slick, I thought. I'll shoot and send the photos from right on the spot - no need to roll all the way home.

I took three quick shots on the iPhone, cropped them and sent them. Well, I thought I sent them. If you have an iPhone you are familiar with that clever whooshing sound when a photo heads off through the ether. All three whooshed great.

Except when I went to call the editor to confirm they had arrived, I discovered I didn't have a cell signal down there in the little town of Monterey hollow - whoosh or no whoosh.

Santo Crappo!

Phone takes great photos, in rain or shine
I pulled out the Canon camera and rapped off some backup photos, then roared out of the little town, holding my cell phone in front of me like an actor in a really awful movie being chased by the bad guys. After zooming around a few hairpin-like turns, the cell phone signal popped up near the Watkins Glen race track. By the time I pulled over, the editor had already received the pix and chosen one.

Assignment completed. Editor happy. Photographer to get paid.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

First rereading of Part 1 of 'The Fracking War' is finished

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - I just reread the first segment (of five) of my draft of The Fracking War ("Prelude to War"). It was my first peek at the book since I drafted it last winter in Mexico.

Natural gas explosions, scary in real-life, too
I let it sit a long time so I would forget a lot of it. The time, I thought, would help me determine if it moved along fast enough, the dialog made sense and the plot was plausible.

Well, with some modifications, it looks like yes, yes, and yes.  Woo-hoo!

But it will be up to the Beta readers to determine if my somewhat-biased judgment is anywhere near right.

Where's my hammock?
It took a couple of hours to go through, reading fairly fast. I believe I will go back in the next day or so and edit this first section, making it final (as a draft). I had thought I would read through all five sections and then go back and edit.

But what I saw/read is pretty clear to me right now and doing it this way will make the editing task a little less Herculean.


Regardless, this writer needs a nap right now.

Right now. I'm writing myself a nap in this chapter of my life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Boy Scout salute derails my editing start on 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - I had my printed out copy of the draft of The Fracking War sitting on my desk, ready for the red-pencil treatment just a few days ago.

The next phase in this process is for me to read it a closely as a I can, making changes, perhaps adding chapters if needed. Because it's the last time I will edit before it goes out to my beta readers, it's a little nerve-wracking. I want to be sure to iron out any inconsistencies, fix factual missteps and smooth out the roughest edges factually and stylistically.

It's been at least six weeks since I peeked at it. So in some ways, it will be brand new and I should spot things that I would normally have read right past had I done this when I first completed the draft in Sacramento.

My confidence was very high until I dove into a novel I picked up at the Watkins Glen public library, a book that seems to have  been through the traditional publishing mill: editors, fact checkers, fact checkers who check other fact checkers and the editors.

Did I mention the fact checkers?

Then I read these three sentences on page 7 of this novel:

"No long stories. Scout's honor." 
The detective lifted two fingers in a Boy Scout salute.

Santa Crappo! The author wrote that he lifted two fingers.

Boy Scout salute
My time with the scouting organization was limited. A couple of years as a Cub Scout. Maybe three as a Boy Scout.

I still say the longest summer I ever spent was a week at Camp Merz, a Boy Scout camp in Chautauqua County, New York.

But I did learn all that paramilitary protocol forwards and backwards.
Cub Scout salute

For the record, the Boy Scout salute uses three fingers. Cub Scouts use two. Believe me. I saluted my butt off. We had some retired military guys as leaders who loved the saluting.

So you might say, big deal, a minor error.

Yes, a minor error, but just the kind of minor error that should never appear in a well-edited novel. If the writer (and fact checkers and editors and the fact checkers who check the other fact checkers) can't get a detail like a salute correct, how will a reader believe the plot?

They won't. Which I why I will be reading The Fracking War even closer than I had planned.

Oh, by the way, there is some saluting in The Fracking War. But if I remember, it's mostly of the single-digit variety.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fallling back into the news cycle: 4 stories in one week

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - I was back on home news territory only a few days before I went out on my first writing assignment for the daily Elmira Star-Gazette: Covering a trial of three people arrested for trespassing at the local natural gas facility March 18.

Protesters about to be released
They were blocking the entrance, making a political statement about how bad a proposed expansion of the project will be for the area.

It will be disastrous, actually.

But after that hearing - during which they were quickly sentenced to 15 days in jail - I wrote a second piece a few days later about their anticipated release.

Then the night of their actual release from jail I took photos to accompany yet a third piece published later that day about their release and their plans to keep fighting for environmental justice.

This story was a freelancer trifecta.

At the release of the prisoners, I managed to get scolded by a burly sheriff's deputy for standing up on a railing outside the jail while shooting still photos. He told me, "Get down before you fall down." 
Yes, it was cold shooting photos that night

It sounded soooo familiar. Then I remembered, that's exactly what I told all four of my children whenever they climbed on something.

I got down, by the way. Even with media credentials, you never argue with police, especially a cop that outweighs you by 100 pounds and carries a large caliber pistol and a nightstick.

Next up on the freelance writing/freelance photography deck is a photo shoot Saturday at the Tiki Bar Polar Plunge in Seneca Lake. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: jumping into 42-degree water. There will be large volumes of alcohol involved, too, so the swimmers will be able to warm back up.

Or warm up before they plunge.

OH! And The Fracking War draft? It's all neatly printed out in a box staring at me right now, making noises that say, Read Me! Edit Me! Publish Me! 

Maybe after the Plunge Saturday.

Last year's Tiki Bar Polar Plunge - hope the weather is as nice Saturday

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'The Fracking War' gets ready for first round of editing

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - After a full month of not looking at the completed draft of The Fracking War, I printed out all five sections in the last two days, burning through a whole printer cartridge in the process.

Five sections, 100,000 words
But now it's printed out and the work - my work - begins with a full, red-pencil-in-hand read through. I will do that on the hard copy, making editorial comments along the way, just like I did for more years than I would like to count on student work.

When that process is done, I will boot up the draft of the book on this computer, making changes as needed, and possibly add  (or delete) sections. Whole chapters might get dumped, too, or expanded and other chapters added. I tried not to read as I printed it out, though peeking was too tempting at times.

But the month-long break from looking at it means I should be able to read the draft almost like a fresh piece of literature. At least I hope it's fresh and doesn't read (or smell) like a month-old tuna.

Once my editing/rewriting/rejiggering is done in the next few weeks, off the draft will go to three beta readers for their take on The Fracking War.

A number of people have asked me, "How many pages is it?" The answer? I have no idea. The total word count for the five sections is close to 100,000 words. That makes it longer than most books you would pick up in the airport to read on a flight, but way, way short of a Stephen King blockbuster. 

The other question is, "What's your next book about?"

Kee-rist, I'm just hoping to survive the publishing of The Fracking War. But I suppose as a follow up I could team up with Adm. Fox and we could write something a little lighter, maybe The Art of Sofa Surfing. 

Or we could write a non-fiction book about our adventures in Mexico.

No, not ready to tackle that.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Fracking War draft Ver. 1.0 is officially completed - wine please!

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - The first draft of The Fracking War is officially completed as of 5:31 p.m. Pacific Time. I tuned up the last two chapters this afternoon and had a character give a rousing speech that brought tears to eyes of the people in his audience.

I will break the tape with a wine glass
In the other chapter I had to tie up a loose end with a particularly gruesome scene.  I had to do it. The characters insisted.

We'll see what the beta readers think about that.

All I can think at the moment is Jesus H. Christ it was haul to get to this point!

In November when I started writing, the 100,000 or so words looked as formidable as a hike across the entire nation of Canada - in midwinter. Then sometime around Christmas I could see the words and scenes piling up, a story taking shape. Progress!

A few characters fell by the wayside as the months went by. There were plenty of incidents of problems with hydrofracking and the corruption of public officials finding their way onto my pages in the chapters. My characters were - I suppose I should say are - busy every second.

All along I was nourished by daily headlines and near continuous Facebook postings from various amigos about things going on with hydrofracking.

The real world of hydrofracking is a damned scary place.
Whose body is in the swamp?

The draft completed today will have one more piece added - an epilog.

I started to write the epilog two days ago, then realized that it would be better to write it after I do my first edit on the book. There are things from early on that will likely deserve mention.

There was a body found in the swamp I think that needs identification.

And the guy who drank the fracking fluid from the plastic water bottle? Not sure if I need to explain more about his ongoing woes from have a highly flammable ethylene-filled bladder.

And you thought it was a great trick in the film Gasland when the guy lights the water from his tap on fire.

That was nothing.

Josh Fox from Gasland ignites the gas in the tap water

Monday, March 25, 2013

The happiest - and saddest - day for the novel writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Until today, I have always had trouble understanding why some novels go on and on and on, long after most readers are ready for, well, The End.

When I started drafting The Fracking War in November, I thought I would never see The End.

But as I am tinkering with the final chapters (and likely an epilog), I can see why a novelist might want to simply keep writing.

All of these characters, scenarios, adventures, love triangles, disasters and triumphs that have been such a huge part of the writer's life for months come to a crashing end.

It reminds me of reading a really good novel. You know the kind, you want to book to just go on and on. The same thing happens to me with movies. Now that I am about to bid adieu to the 20 or so main folks in The Fracking War, it's like sailing away, leaving old friends at the dock.

I took a first run at the final two chapters today, and both need significant tinkering to make them as close to perfect as possible. In other chapters, well, it was clear that any questions or oddities could be simply handled down the line. Need to resolve an issue? Add that to the chapter notes for Thursday.

Now it all has to be tied up - as neatly as anything in real life is tied up. Perhaps it needs to be tied up even more neatly. The fate of  characters can't be left dangling.

The next time one of these blogs is written, I hope to say that the draft of The Fracking War is completed and will be facing an author edit.

If I don't, it's because I just couldn't say goodbye.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A frightening ride as I write the conclusion to The Fracking War

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - It could be because I am sitting back in the USA and no longer writing listening to the gentle waves lapping on a Mexican beach.

But the characters and the action in the closing weeks, days, hours and minutes of The Fracking War are ramping things up and harder to control than ever.

 The previous rhythm and cadence has gone herky-jerky and feels like driving a big rig on icy roads through the mountains.

Hmm... there are lots of mountains where much of the action in The Fracking War takes place. And there are lots of big rig trucks. And there is ice.


The book is still on track to be completed by the end of next week, God-willing and the fracking fluid doesn't rise too high.

Happy ending or sad?

Why ask me?

I'll let you know in about a week when the characters get done.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vicodin, Mountain Dew and fracking wastewater - what a combination

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - What evil lurks in hydrofracking fluids?

A vicodin with that drink?
In the fifth (and hopefully final) section of The Fracking War, it all comes together in a melange of toxic waste water, some Mountain Dew and a handful of vicodin, that overprescribed painkiller that half of America has in medicine chests.

Getting back into the writing saddle was hard today, after five days of not tapping out a single word on the book. Still, because the fourth segment had concluded, picking it up seems to have worked. It did require adding a new character, one headed for infamy, though he doesn't know it yet.

He's sucked down too many vicodin tablets, washing them down with endless cans of cold Mountain Dew.

And he drives a hydrofracking waste-water truck. A big one. A filled one.

Hydrofracking waste-water truck loading up

The self-imposed deadline remains, 12 days from right now. At one chapter a day, we'll see how things progress.

Maybe I need some of that Mountain Dew to get production going. Forget the vicodin, it gives me a stomach ache.

Crap... I might need to speed up slightly. I am pretty sure I will need at least 15 chapters to wrap things up, plus an epilog to say what happened to that dog I introduced 60,000 words ago.

In the meantime, in the real world of hydrofracking, more and more people are taking to the streets to fight. My fictional predictions about a war might be closer to reality than I previously thought.

Back to the next chapter in The Fracking War.

Hydrofracking waste water in a 'pond' - ready for shipping to a river near you

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fracking War's final battles - banda music and finishing Section V

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - The Mexican work crew outside my window is blaring banda music (mixed with occasional techno crap) loud enough that I am considering breaking with all Mexican protocols and telling them to, well, SHUT UP!

An hour ago I finished the last chapter of the fourth of five sections of The Fracking War, which was infinitely satisfying on one level, and a dreaded moment on another.

Satisfying to finish because so far the book holds together just fine. Unsatisfying because now all the various characters, situations, dramas and themes are all crowding together like characters from a Charles Dickens' novel, racing towards the final chapter.

Dickens used to keep careful track of every character and by the end of each of his novels, the fate of that character would be accounted for. Some critics say he once added a chapter just to account for a dog who appeared briefly at the beginning of a book.

I only have one dog in The Fracking War, a female Labrador who I will not forget.

The last section of The Fracking War will get sketched out in the next couple of days here, in the relative quiet of my condo. The actual writing will (Dios lo permite) in Sacramento.

And the next segment takes me to the Bronx. I am not kidding, I just write what the characters tell me.

Oops, back to the drafting/redrafting. The music just stopped and the only sound is the ocean.


Cross Bronx Expressway

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The end is in sight for The Fracking War ... maybe

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Five more chapters remain to be written in the fourth segment of The Fracking War.

EPA says this is ok to drink
Time is moving fast now, as the different threads in the narrative - political corruption, pollution, poisonings, health problems, personal betrayals, death of innocent people and even a little romance - are simultaneously unraveling and yet being tied up together.

A fifth section of 10-15 chapters will be written when I am back in California.

Most of the action in the book takes place on the New York-Pennsylvania border where hydrofracking in the arguably real world is close to igniting a shooting war between opponents of this dirty technology and the gasbags who want it - mostly to line their pockets. The gasbags couldn't care less about pollution and the deaths of innocents. Or the destruction of the environment. They almost seem to want it.


In this regard, The Fracking War is having trouble keeping up with the ongoing real war in NY.

Weeks ago, I wrote that the characters in the book were seesawing between a happy or tragic ending. The seesaw is still in motion, though perhaps a roulette wheel would be a better image.

Perhaps both will be intertwined in one big bang of a finish.

Hmm... a big bang... Now there's a thought.

The Fracking War may end with an even bigger bang

Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter doesn't slow down the fighting in 'The Fracking War'

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - A 10-day writing layoff (more or less) had me terrified this morning when I first sat down to write.

Homer Simpson is helping me write today
I was sure I would not be able to pick up the thread of The Fracking War where I left off and move it along to its denouement.

I should have had more confidence. I banged out a chapter in less than an hour and probably have it in me to do one more today.

One challenge though was writing about things happening in the snowy winter in NY and Pennsylvania. Not snowy here.

Last night I received good news from an amiga - a novelista also - that her book is going to be reviewed by a literary agent, the same agent I hope I will be able to get interested in my tome. But she said one of things she had to provide - besides the manuscript - was a synopsis of the book.

Santa Crappo! I have to write a summary of my book?

You might think that would be easy. Perhaps it will be. But that synopsis won't be written until I write another 25,000 words (more or less). It's taking me a little longer to get to the maybe-happy, but more likely not-very-happy ending.

It is a story about hydrofracking, a war, and despoiling the earth, after all.

Hmm...  "More likely not-very-happy ending" sounds, well, more likely.

On to Chapter 13 in the fourth section of the book which is titled Archaea Rising. At least in Chapter 12 people were happy, swilling champagne and celebrating. They won't be happy when Chapter 13 starts.

Damned hydrofracking.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Fracking War - a Never-Ending Story for researchers

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Just about the time I get my research ducks all quacking in the same chorus, I run across more research about hydrofracking, more stories about political corruption, and more cases of illness and disease linked to this rather nasty, out-of-control technology.

For many thousands of words, I have consistently said - or more correctly my characters have said - that hydrofracking uses about a million gallons of water per well drilled. Out of that, about half to two-thirds comes back up as wastewater. The wastewater is a nasty cocktail with the toxic chemicals in it that the gas companies put down plus a healthy dose of radiation and other toxic crap from thousands of feet below the earth's surface.
Even more the Morlocks oppose hydrofracking

At least that's what I thought.

It turns out that in fact many of these wells are using a lot more than a million gallons.

In Michigan, a new fracking record was just set with a well using 21 million gallons. That's not a typo - 21 million gallons of water. Doing the math that says from that well alone about 10-15 million gallons of water came back up and needs to be disposed of in a toxic waste area. Or as gas companies have been doing in Ohio and other places, simply dumped back into the ground in deep disposal wells.

Better hope the Morlocks living underground don't mind.

In the meantime, I have to finish this book before it's discovered this technology causes earthquakes.

Oh crap, researchers already concluded that.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The dilemma starts: A happy fracking ending, tragic - or both

ROCKWELL VALLEY, Pennsylvania, USA - Today marks a significant milestone in The Fracking War. The third segment of the book (tentatively called Heroes and Villains) is done (in draft) and so the planning/drafting starts for what I think will be the final piece of this novel/puzzle.

I began feverishly writing the first chapter of the last section an hour ago, then decided I needed to let the just-finished chapters digest some before I move on.

But I can still plan. Oh, can I plan!

Part IV will have mostly the same characters - except for those already killed, taken in custody, disappeared, or kidnapped. And after 60,000-plus words of drama, intrigue, corruption episodes and toxic spills, the last segment will carry a denouement with a decidedly science fiction bent.

Like the rest of the book, the last part is snatched from daily headlines. It won't be a stretch at all to present my theory of what's ahead. Reading the conclusions of most scientists (those not in the pocket of natural gas companies) is probably as frightening as the scenario my characters are assembling in my head as I write this.

The Fracking War novel is winding down. The real war on fracking is ramping up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A week's vacation but 'The Fracking War' raged even in my absence

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Sometimes when I am reading a really good book, I actually slow myself down because I know it's near the end and I just don't want the experience to be over.

In writing The Fracking War, it's been kind of the opposite, in that I want to write more and more, faster and faster, so I can get the thing going ahead to find out what's going to happen.

This past week, I slowed things down with a week's vacation - a terrifying notion because in books'  past, I have lost the thread of the narrative and left them (three in all) 90-percent finished. Maybe I'll pick them up after The Fracking War draft is done and get that last 10 percent in their drafts.


A little pepper spray spices up a protest scene in The Fracking War
The thread of the narrative wasn't lost this time because I have been meticulously outlining chapter by chapter. (Ok, if you know me, you know that's an exaggeration.) But I have been good about outlining in broad strokes about how I want to keep the plot moving.

Good thing.

When I came back to the computer and writing today I would have been lost for sure without the notes. But instead I picked up the story right where I left off and banged out 3,000 words by lunchtime.

That's a personal-best record by the way. And, upon rereading a few minutes ago, the 3,000 will stand with only some minor editing. A character named Luther Burnside I mistakenly turned into Luther Burbank by accident. My character is not a related to the famous botanist. Hmmm... now there's another subplot idea...

I am perhaps eight chapters short of where I thought I would be today (even with the burst of words this morning) but now that I know how this segment ends and what lies in Part IV, perhaps it's as simple as putting one word after another.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Fracking War draft enters its fourth - and final - phase

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - By the end of next week, God willing and the scorpions leave me alone, I should be starting the fourth segment of The Fracking War.

The third segment has about five chapters left to write. There is some death and destruction, a love interest and a nasty, nasty twist that has the bad guys itching like someone put fiberglass powder in their jockstraps.

Hydrofracking-related explosion
For the record, that's not what happened. What happened is waaaaaay worse.

The hardest part about this book has been forcing myself to sit and bang out a chapter or two per day. Every three or four days I do planning for the next week, sketching out the chapters based on what has just happened.

What, I don't know what's happening in my own book?

No, frankly. The damned characters are running this show.

Plus there are so many distractions here. You would think that carving out three or four hours a day would be simple. It isn't.

Today we did a whale-watching tour during normal writing time. But it wasn't a total loss. I came up with a possible wild finish for the book while watching the male whales in hot pursuit of a female.

Humpback whales speed dating
I said it was a possible wild finish.

That's the update for today. Sunday is normally a day of rest but duty calls next week. Adm. Fox and I are leading an entourage to Arroyo Seco and I will likely lose five or six days or writing in the process.

If I'm lucky, I won't have to reread the other three segments (about 60,000 words) to get up to speed on the story.

If I do, I hope it's interesting reading.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fiction-writing contest entry in - whew, what a ride!

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - My contest entry in the Writer's Weekly 24-hour short story fiction contest is off - sent via email an hour ago.


You receive a prompt from WW, then have to spin off a story from that. It can be very loosely based on  the original prompt, but has to still relate. Somehow.

The exercise reminds me of those comedy shows where you hand someone a banana, a banjo and a box of Tide and tell them to weave the three into a series of jokes.

My story came in just under the 900-word limit and I was pleased with it. Thank God the contest was only 24-hours. I could have farbled around with it for days.

If my story wins a prize, I'll send out the link to it. If not, well, I'll post it here for perusal.

And then you will see what the photo below had to do with what I wrote.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Fracking War holiday respite over, back to the trenches

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - The Christmas, post-Christmas, right-through-New-Years-day holiday from drafting The Fracking War ends tomorrow and the characters will have to get back into character so I can reignite the plot.

I suspect they will be slow to take their places, but once launched, they will go through their paces.
Natural gas well - a butt-ugly blight on the landscape

As it is, all during this brief respite-from-writing holiday, I kept reading news accounts and blogs and reports that all scream about the disaster known as hydrofracking. The PR firms and various paid PR guns for the gas companies are fighting a losing battle against a rising tide of anti-fracking activists.

One particularly obnoxious organization called Energy In Depth Marcellus has been cranking out lies so outrageous it's amazing even pro-hydrofracking people believe the drivel.

And then there is the movie Promised Land starring Matt Damon, among other excellent actors.

I hope to get a look at the film next month. But I suspect it is an excellent film - Energy In Depth and most of the gasbags supporting hydrofracking are frothing at the mouth when they talk about it.

Well, what the frack...