Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

I had a great idea for NaNoWriMo this year, one I conceived of months ago and have thought about a lot since then. Unfortunately, thinking is all I did about it, with the result being that my attempt at writing 50,000 words in 30 days died almost before it began.

There is something of a common problem among writers (and I’m not going to get into the philosophical, psychological, and practical battles here about what defines a writer) in that we often don’t write. We want to write. We think about writing. We talk about writing. Then we don’t actually write.

For the past year or so, this has been my shortcoming in the extreme. I actually really do love writing. I crave it, to be honest. I feel more complete when I am writing. Then for a variety of reasons, I don’t actually write.

My caution, then, and my encouragement for all of us flailing writers out there is to not let another November sneak up on us with a years worth of wishing about writing without any writing actually having been done. I’m not saying it will be easy or that it will be good, but if you’re like me, you need to do it.

So let’s.

DLH

[10349]

Writing has to be one of the most agonizing undertakings anyone can set his mind to, especially since so many people do not consider it a “real” job. That real job question is important because it factors into the reason that so many talented writers find themselves writing in the wee hours of the morning or night, on their lunch breaks, or at other most inopportune times in between their efforts to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves.

I’m not saying that writers should be getting handouts, yet I cannot help but notice that the creative enterprise in the United States suffers from a clear lack of public support, even from people who know and condone what creative people are doing. Whether someone is building the next social media giant, useful technology, the next great work of art, or the great American novel, the public romance is of creative people living in creative slums clawing their way toward fantastic success by the sheer force of their own will.

A lot of great ideas die that way.

If I am not saying that creative people should be getting handouts, what am I saying? Well, frankly, I’m saying they should be getting support. For example, 15 days into NaNoWriMo, the Office of Letters and Light has only raised $431,982.51 of its $1.1 million goal to help writers young and old realize their creative gifts through events like NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy. While the laudable organization Kickstarter has raised millions for start-up creative ideas, it should be raising billions.

Before the 20th century, it was a common thing for people to support the work of creative people–not just writers or artists, but engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of all kinds–in their efforts to create with things as simple as encouragement and as significant as room and board and financial support. We’ve lost that ideal as a society, both in the United States and in the West in general, and so creativity is dying a slow, painful death.

I am not telling anyone they have to do anything, but I am asking everyone to consider something. Think about the things you enjoy, your favorite television shows, movies, books, magazines, works of art, buildings, or whatever. Now, ask yourself how any of them could exist if you do not support their existence. Now, consider how your next favorite thing can possibly come into existence without some kind of support. Do you see a place for yourself in that consideration?

DLH

PS: You can be one of the people who makes a difference, and you’ll get a benefit out of it too. If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post what I wrote for NaNoWriMo on December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

[9860]

A week has passed since National Novel Writing Month began, and so far, I’m behind and having to work really, really hard to make this story I’m writing work.

And that’s ok.

What I have discovered over the past week is that there is a lot more to writing and to my style of writing than I originally allowed for. I tend to develop my stories in layers, often from a central premise, so that the layers become wider and wider circles, one covering over the one previous.

Why does that matter? Because now I understand something I haven’t for years: why my stories always seem unfinished after my first attempt at them. That’s because they are.

Now, how does that help me? Well, for one, it is making me realize that I need to loosen up a whole lot more while working on my first drafts. I need to let the story flow more, let it take wrong turns, let characters grow, appear, and disappear as necessary until I finally have a workable draft. I also need to focus more on developing my idea before I start writing so that I have a better framework to hang the whole story on.

And why should you care? Because I want you to see that writing is not just about creativity, inspiration, and desire. It’s also about style and craft and technique. Successful writers have to have both if they are going to succeed, and learning how to develop all aspects of your writing cannot help but help you succeed.

DLH

PS: If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post my story December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

[1442 words]

One of my goals in this year’s NaNoWriMo is to explore how I create. It sounds like a lofty goal, but what I want to do is technically analyze how I create a story, and in this case I am doing so under the gun of having to develop the entire story over the next 30 days.

Why do that? Because writing is more about hard work and determination than it is about inspiration when it comes to getting things finished and published. Understanding the guts of how that process works cannot help but make the hard work and determination easier.

On the other hand, it looks like this story is going to be like pulling teeth because I wasn’t prepared ahead of time. Over the next weeks, I hope to document that process for all of us. I hope you’ll follow along.

DLH

PS: If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post my story December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

Here’s final installment in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2011, presented in its raw and unedited format for all to see.

If you like what you read here, there is a way for you to read even more. I have decided to raise money this year for NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light to support their efforts in encouraging writers both young and old. So, I am asking you, my readers, to sponsor my writing effort this year.

If you head over to my fundraising page at StayClassy and help me reach my goal of $250, I will post my NaNoWriMo effort on my website on 1 December 2011. Help me double my goal, and I will post the NaNoWriMo story plus a completed version of the story of which my preview vignettes will become a part on 1 January. If we go beyond even double, I will find something else cool to do for you.

 

NaNoWriMo 2011 Preview #8

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

By Dennis L Hitzeman

 

The National Network Defense Center was the heart of the United States government’s network defense infrastructure. For the past forty eight hours, it had been a hub of activity unprecedented in its history, a fact Lucas was sorry he missed.

In fact, he had been on a flight back from Moscow when the attack against the Core unleashed itself in all its fury. As he understood things, nearly every node inside the Core had been compromised at one point, and military options against supposed targets were being drafted even as he landed at Dulles.

And then it stopped. The attack vanished as suddenly as it appeared, leaving no other trace than the actions of the network defenders in trying to stop it. Nearly a day’s worth of searching found no trace of a trojan, nor was there any evidence that any information had been destroyed or compromised.

As Lucas watched, a host of hackers on the floor were linked up with government and contractor hackers from around the world trying to figure out what exactly had happened. Lucas doubted they would ever figure that out for the same reasons he had failed at his primary mission over the past few weeks.

A message chimed in his queue indicating that his interrogators were waiting on him. He was surprisingly relaxed considering that the questioning he was about to endure could cost him his career. Maybe it was because he realized now that there was a heck of a lot more to life than a government job.

Inside the secure conference room, a panel of three people waited, his immediate supervisor and two other supervisors from other divisions.

“Agent Cantril, please have a seat,” his supervisor said. “As you know, such interviews are standard procedure after the conclusion of any mission, but I suspect you also know how important this particular interview may be.

“First, I would like to congratulate you on behalf of the Domestic Intelligence Service and the Director of National Intelligence on your successful take down of Alexander Varisky and most of the hackers working for him. His capture alone was worth the effort, and several of those captured with him are wanted in several countries. The capture of Vladimir Pentrenko would have made it a perfect mission, but such things are seldom perfect.”

The pause told Lucas he was supposed to say something. “Sir, we are following up on leads as to Pentrenko’s whereabouts as well as looking into the possibility that he was tipped off prior to our raid.”

“Which, ironically, leads me to my second item,” his supervisor said, “and that is the curious question of what happened with Colonel Dean Whiteman, Colonel Larry Chestnut, and Mr. Ryan Alten.”

“Sir, could you be more specific as to what you are asking for?” Lucas said. “A lot of things happened involving those three over the past few weeks.”

His supervisor cast him a sharp look. “Well, let’s start with the fact that Alten’s whereabouts are still unknown.”

Lucas nodded. “Which is not unexpected since Colonels Whiteman and Chestnut had never heard of Alten before I brought him to their attention. I believe a detailed description of those facts are in my report.”

“Indeed they are,” his supervisor said, “yet you also point out that Alten made contact with those two at least twice after you made contact with Colonel Whiteman. Don’t you find that odd?”

“Not at all,” Lucas said. “I believe that was his intention all along.”

The room was quiet for a long time. Finally, his supervisor said, “I am not sure I follow what you are saying, Agent Cantril.”

“Sir, I did some checking into how exactly Colonel Whiteman became our first and most important lead in trying to track down Altent,” Lucas said, “and as it turns out, no one inside the DIS inserted that information into the case file. In fact, as far as I can tell, no one inserted that information.”

“Are you saying that Alten did so himself?” his supervisor said.

“The lack of evidence strongly supports that he did, sir,” Lucas said.

His supervisor glowered. “Now is not the time for sarcasm, Agent Cantril.”

“Sir, that was not sarcasm,” Lucas said. “On the contrary, the most telling calling card that Alten has done something seems to be that something was done and that there is no other trace of its occurrence than the event itself.”

He could see the realization of what he had just said sinking in to his supervisor and the other two. They gave each other quick glances before their attention returned to him.

“Do you believe there are other events that can be attributed to Alten as well by this method?” his supervisor said.

“I do,” Ryan said.

“Would you care to speculate as to what they might be?”

“Sir, I have those events are part of my investigation as I indicated in my report.”

“How would you characterize that portion of your investigation, then?” his supervisor said.

“Ongoing, sir,” Lucas said.

The three supervisors conferred for a few moments, exchanging hurried whispers, while Lucas could see the traces of message traffic to and from them on the net. The reality of what he was saying was sinking in, but he wondered what their next question might be. It could define everything that happened thereafter.

“Agent Cantril, do you have any speculation as to what Alten’s motives might be?” his supervisor asked.

Lucas looked from one supervisor to another, then finally returned his gaze to his own. “Sir, Alten’s motives are central to this investigation, and I believe, once they are unearthed, the case will be solved.”

“But you do have an idea, I think,” his supervisor said.

It was showtime, Lucas realized. “I believe Alten is trying to prevent something, sir.”

“Prevent something? By attacking the government?” his supervisor said.

Lucas steeled himself. “Sir, you asked me to speculate, so I will. It is my belief, based on my investigation to date, that the enemy is within the government and that Alten is a sympathetic force.”

His supervisor’s look was grim, but to Lucas’s surprise, he nodded. “I believe, given the circumstances, that you should continue with your work, Agent Cantril. Given the nature of the situation, I will expect regular status reports. Thank you for your hard work, Lucas. Your nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

And with that he was dismissed. And Lucas had no doubt he had just leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

 

Here’s my seventh of eight installments in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2011, presented in its raw and unedited format for all to see.

Also, I have decided to raise money this year for NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light to support their efforts in encouraging writers both young and old. So, I am asking you, my readers, to sponsor my writing effort this year.

If you head over to my fundraising page at StayClassy and help me reach my goal of $250, I will post my NaNoWriMo effort on my website on 1 December 2011. Help me double my goal, and I will post the NaNoWriMo story plus a completed version of the story of which my preview vignettes will become a part on 1 January. If we go beyond even double, I will find something else cool to do for you.

 

NaNoWriMo Preview #7

By the skin of their teeth

By Dennis L Hitzeman

 

Alexi stood there holding Vladimir, who had drifted into a stupor of exhaustion pressed against her leg. She didn’t even wait to contact Ryan. She sensed there was not much time, though she could not say why. She left a message in the usual place, and was startled when the chat connection came almost immediately.

“What have you found out? Ryan said.

She told him and was surprised to hear him laugh.

“That figures,” he said. “But I had to be sure. Thank you for your help, Alexi, and now I will help you. Leave where you are now as quickly as you can if you want to save yourself and Vladimir. Don’t worry about Alexander. Don’t worry about Vladimir’s people. Just get out and disappear.”

“I can’t just walk out…” she said.

“You can if you want to live,” he said. Then the line went dead.

She looked down at Vladimir and wondered if this was all worth it. She knew it was, but it would be just as easy for her to walk away as to take Vladimir with her. He’d been good to her, but his life of crime had to end.

She shook his shoulder. “Come on, now, Vladi, we need to take a trip.”
He muttered, “A trip? I have work to do.”

“Not until we get you cleaned up,” she said. “It won’t take long, I don’t think.”

She helped him to his feet and they made her way to the door where she left him leaning against the wall for a second. She made her way back into the scrum of catatonic hackers, found Anatoly and kicked him in the side.

He stirred and swore. “What? Oh, it’s you.”

She whispered, “If you want to live, come with me.”

He regarded her with bloodshot eyes, then struggled to his feet. “It’s come to that, then? What about the others?”
“What do you think,” she said, heading for the door.

“Leave them,” he said.

“Help me with Vladimir,” she said.

 

Lucas thought the helicopters were overkill, but the agent from the consulate and the officer from the Russian Special Intelligence Service assured him it was standard operating procedure.

They swooped through the mountain pass, coming upon the town and the scattering of dachas up the mountain side head on. They banked behind the target house, the choppers touching down just long enough to disgorge the twenty four response team members, Lucas, the consular agent, and the SIS officer.

The team moved with clockwork precision, surrounding the building and breaking in from several points at the same time. There was a lot of shouting, a couple of shots, and then the team began dragging out flex-cuffed and hooded suspects. Two came out in body bags.

About that time, the police bus rumbled up, and they brought the last man, whom Lucas recognized from the pictures as Alexander Varisky, notorious Russian crime facilitator, and more than a little confused as to what was going on.

He didn’t see three faces among the suspects, and that made him grimace. It appeared they had gotten away or had been tipped off. It didn’t matter, though. His government had gotten its take down.

He formed a private channel to the handler at the safehouse. “Go,” was all he said.

 

Alexi and Anatoly watched the take down of the dacha from the old pass above the town. Vladimir was long asleep by then.

“You knew they were coming,” Anatoly said.

She shrugged. “I knew something was coming.”
“Why save me?” he said.

“Your Vladimir’s best friend, Anatoly, even if you do think I’m going to get you all killed.”

He blushed. “I don’t believe that’s all there is, Alexi. You’re too cold hearted for that.”

“You and Vlad are a team, Anatoly, and were way before I knew you. That’s something I would like to preserve, for his sake if nothing else,” she said.

“I will not forget that,” Anatoly said, looking down as they loaded his onetime comrades into the police bus.

 

Natalia walked through the concourse of JFK feeling almost high she was so happy. She added a little extra sway because she liked the attention it brought her. She also liked that her presence in that airport meant that she had won at a very dangerous game. The feeling was exhilarating.

She made her way to the exit, thinking to take a cab to her hotel, but was surprised to see a man holding a sign with her name on it. Her real name. In an instant, her exhilaration turned to fear. She had been warned.

The man holding the sign came up to her and took her suitcase as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “Don’t make a scene, Miss Karova. You’re a professional, and now would be a really good time to act like it.”

“Of course,” she said, trying to control the quaver in her voice. “This just was not the reception I was expecting.”

“It’s a lot better than the one they had planned,” the man said.

She shot him a startled glance and he gestured her toward a waiting car.

 

Ryan sat back in his chair and extended the private channel. It was a few moments before his contact answered, and when he did, Ryan could feel the agitation the man exuded through the connection.

“What have you done with her,” his contact said.

“I’m surprised you care so much given that both you and the government planned to make sure her next stop was a morgue,” Ryan said.

“Do you really understand who you are dealing with?” the contact said.

Ryan laughed. These guys were like the bad guys from the old movies. “If you’ll recall, I used to work for you, watched you and the government murder several of my colleagues, and prevented you from following through on your plan. So, yes, I understand exactly who I am dealing with.”

“What do you want?” the contact said.

“Only to make sure you understand that I know what you were trying to do and that I have, at least for the time being, ensured that you will not be able to succeed.”

Then he keyed a sequence of letters and numbers and sent them to the man’s connection by a side channel.

“What?..” the contact said, but Ryan cut the channel before he could finish.

 

Kevin was astonished by his change in fortunes. Just two weeks before, he had been a cut rate scam artist with a knack for stealing people’s identities for fun and profit. Now, he sat in the data center of Larry Chestnut, one of the most renown and talented archivists the world had ever known. And all because he managed not to get rezzed when someone took down his employer’s hacking network.

And so it was that he found himself in the prime position to watch as one of the greatest hacks ever unleashed by anyone anywhere at any time began against the United States Government’s core network and several of its biggest defense contractors began.

Kevin accepted Larry’s private channel.

“Are you watching this?” Larry said. He sounded giddy.

“I am. What the heck is going on?” Kevin said.

“I think, as they say, the crap has hit the fan.”

“How do we record all of this?” Kevin said.

“Well, let’s get as much as we can live,” Larry said, “then we can go back and gather as many traces as we can later.”

Kevin laughed out loud with the excitement of it.

 

Natalia found herself in a comfortable but austere room, completely cut off from the outside world except for an intercom at the door and a rapid serve that kept her from being too hungry or bored.

She hadn’t spoken to anyone since her escort first dropped her off there what she thought was three days before. She’d spent the time running through theories of what might have gone wrong and how she might be able to get out of whatever trouble she found herself in.

Unfortunately, she kept coming back to the same conclusion. She had no idea what was happening, and that meant she was the prisoner of an actor she didn’t even know was in the play. The lack of knowledge made the panic rise in her chest again, and not for the first time she wanted to pound the walls and scream for help.

The comm chirped and showed someone standing outside; the same man who had deposited here there days before.

“May I come in?” he said.

“I don’t see how I can stop you,” she said.

The man came in, bearing a laptop—she hadn’t seen its like in a long time—and deposited himself on one of the chairs like he owned the place. For that matter, he probably did.

“You’ve been out of the loop for a few days, so I’ll catch you up,” he said. “Someone launched a second attack against the Core and several defense contractors, specifically Bione. They caused some major mischief, but no one knows what the attack was supposed to accomplish. The Russians have your man Alexander in custody along with a bunch of hackers, and the media is reporting that he’s being charged with placing a trojan inside the Core during his first attack. Oh, and they’re looking for you as an accomplice.”

Natalia’s fear changed to terror, but she fought it down. It was only reasonable that rat Alexander had given her up once he realized how much trouble he was in. Of course, her trip to the States was supposed to solve all that. But there was a bigger problem.

“I’m working for Bione,” she said.

The man shrugged, “I know, but no one is going to believe that after what’s happened over the past couple of days. The scuttlebutt is that you and Alexander were working for a consortium of crime syndicates trying to steal classified network technology from the American government. That’s high treason in several countries these days by any standard.”

“But, but… the syndicate was Bione… Them and a few other contractors,” she said. “I’ve been working for them for years now.”

The man smiled. He was good looking for his age. “But you’re a privateer, right? What’s your loyalty to them now?”

She bowed her head. “They said they would set me up. I want out.”

The man regarded her thoughtfully for a long while. “There still us a way out, I think, Miss Karova, but you’ve still got a little further to travel before you can get there.”

Her head shot up despite herself. She knew she was being played, but the glimmer of hope was more than she could resist.

“How so?”
“Well, it seems that you are the most dangerous asset in play for all the parties involved,” the man said, “Especially since, shall we say, your loyalties are questionable. It turns out I understand where your loyalties lie, and I can help you, I think, as long as you are willing to help me in return.”

She knew the man was right. Besides, what was the point in maintaining the pretense of loyalty when she had already betrayed so many? This was her end game one way or another, she supposed.

“I’m listening.”

 

Here’s my sixth of eight installments in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2011, presented in its raw and unedited format for all to see.

Also, I have decided to raise money this year for NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light to support their efforts in encouraging writers both young and old. So, I am asking you, my readers, to sponsor my writing effort this year.

If you head over to my fundraising page at StayClassy and help me reach my goal of $250, I will post my NaNoWriMo effort on my website on 1 December 2011. Help me double my goal, and I will post the NaNoWriMo story plus a completed version of the story of which my preview vignettes will become a part on 1 January. If we go beyond even double, I will find something else cool to do for you.

 

NaNoWriMo Preview #6

A web of lies

By Dennis L Hitzeman

 

Lucas Cantril never suspected that his quest to protect his nation’s vital interests would find him in a seedy adult club in Moscow. Frankly, Lucas never believed he would travel all that much when he took his first job with the Network Defense division of the Domestic Intelligence Service, but his latest assignment had kept him moving in ways he never would have expected.

Now, he had everything on the line. It had taken two meetings with superiors and calling in favors to convince them to let him fly to Moscow to begin with. Everything depended on whether Colonel Whiteman was telling even part of the truth and whether his supposed contact actually showed. If neither proved to be true, it would probably cost him his career.

He jumped slightly when a slight woman took the seat next to him, but he tried to cover his nervousness by taking another drink.

“Are federal agents always so jumpy?” the woman said.

Lucus’s heart thundered in his throat. He was supposed to be a business contact looking for hackers.

“Don’t be surprised, Special Agent Cantril,” she said. “Your government has never been particularly good at keeping secrets, especially those of their employees. Nevertheless, we are both here. Perhaps we could find a better place to talk?”

Lucas nodded and allowed himself to be lead out of the night club across the street to a nondescript cafe that served coffee and beer. The woman slipped the hostess a small wad of bills, and she showed them to a secluded booth in the back.

“So, now that we can dispense with the pretenses, what do you want?” she said after the waitress brought them their coffee.
“Miss Karova, someone needs to go down for what happened next week,” Lucas said, “and I have been lead to believe you might be able to help me in that regard.”

“Please, call me Natalia,” she said with the flash of a pretty smile. “Whether I can help you depends a lot on what might be in it for me.”

“Well, why don’t we start with what you might want,” Lucas said, trying to play it cool.”

“I doubt you would be here unless you already knew what I might want,” Natalia said. “I doubt the US government sends its agents out with blank checks too often these days.”

Lucas sighed. She obviously had the upper hand here. “Fair enough. It is my understanding that you want to leave the country without anyone knowing. I believe I can provide that capacity for you, so long as the information you provide leads my government to be able to take someone down.”

“What guarantee do I have that you will follow through, Agent Cantril?” Natalia said.

He reached into his jacked and pulled out a small envelope. “This is the information you need to get to a safe house. They will keep you there until my government has acted. Once the take down is complete, they will provide you with passage to the destination of your choice.”

She touched the envelop tentatively, as if thinking about something, then pulled a small slip of paper from her blouse. “The man you are looking for is called Alexander Varisky. He can be found at the address here.”

Lucas took the paper and she took the envelop, and without another word she departed. Lucas was having a hard time believing it would be that easy.

 

Outside, Natalia Korova, folded herself into the crowd making their way to the nightspots that dominated the street, congratulating herself on another job well done. She wasn’t called the “Black Widow” for nothing, she told herself, and soon her price would go up even more.

She was so lost in her thoughts that the private channel surprised her. It shouldn’t have. Her employers were very particular.

“Zdravstvujtye,” she said.

“Is it done,” her handler said.

“That and more,” she said. “I will be able to make it to the US undetected thanks to your own government.”

“Good,” her handler said. “Contact me at the usual place once you are in the States.”

“I will,” she said.

“Don’t get careless, Natalia. You are not safe yet,” her handler said, then the line went dead.

She was suddenly apprehensive, but chided herself. The rest of these players were children compared to her or her employers. What could go wrong?

 

Alexi almost gagged when she stepped into the dacha. The place reeked of unwashed bodies and stale beer. Vladimir’s crew were strewn about the main room in various states of stupor brought on by too many days without sleep and too much boost. She saw Alexander passed out on a chair, drunk beyond caring.

In one corner, Vladimir sat with a laptop perched on his knees, his eyes fluttering in that strange way they did when hackers were multi-tasking between hard machines an their own connections to the net. He had a five day growth of beard, and she was sure he hadn’t bathed in that long either.

She knew he knew she was there, so she just went straight to the room they shared and waited. If he was going to come, he would come soon enough, and if there was some way to get the information she needed, she would, especially given the state he was in.

It was only moments later when he staggered in reeking and weak from his marathon exertion.

“I thought you had left for good,” he slurred as he collapsed beside her.

She lay back next to him and caressed his cheek. “What are they doing to you, my dear, sweet Vladimir?”

He growled. “Your bastard lover Ryan has poisoned Alexander’s network, Alexi! We risk losing everything if we cannot fix what he has done.”

She slapped him, hard, and rocketed to her feet. “Never say anything like that to me again, you bastard. I have been true to you.”
She turned as if to go, and she heard him sob.

“Alexi, don’t go,” he said. “It will kill me if you go.”

“Why are you doing this?” she said. “Why not just walk away?”

“I can’t Alexi,” he said. “You don’t understand…”

“Then tell me,” she put her hand on the doorknob and her heart thundered.

He sat up and buried his head in his hands. “Just don’t go.”

“I want to help you, Vladimir,” she said, “but I can’t if you don’t tell me.”

He looked up at her with blood-shoot, tear-stained eyes. And like an avalanche on one of the snow-covered slopes below them, he told her everything.

 

Here’s my fourth of eight installments in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2011, presented in its raw and unedited format for all to see.

Also, I have decided to raise money this year for NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light to support their efforts in encouraging writers both young and old. So, I am asking you, my readers, to sponsor my writing effort this year.

If you head over to my fundraising page at StayClassy and help me reach my goal of $250, I will post my NaNoWriMo effort on my website on 1 December 2011. Help me double my goal, and I will post the NaNoWriMo story plus a completed version of the story of which my preview vignettes will become a part on 1 January. If we go beyond even double, I will find something else cool to do for you.

 

NaNoWriMo Preview #4:

Be careful what you wish for

By Dennis L Hitzeman

Vladimir paced before the huge picture window that looked down on the tree covered expanse of the mountainside below them. He was nervous and he really wished he had a cigarette. Or some vodka.

He had somehow managed to conceal their new mission for the entire move to the dacha. But now, the rest of the crew was getting antsy, Alexi was getting impatient, and Vladimir wondered if this whole gig ended up with him dead in some frozen river.

He turned and looked at them. “Our employers want us to find the one responsible for attacking us.”

The rest of the team gave each other confused glances.

“It wasn’t the Americans?” Anatoly said.

Vladimir shook his head and studiously avoided Alexi’s gaze.

“Will we get paid more?”

Alexi interrupted before he could answer. “If it was not the Americans, then who was it, Vladimir?”

Now everyone was looking at him again.

“You already know?” Anatoly asked.

He turned back to the window. “Yes, yes I do know, and I fear he may be impossible to find.”

 

Ryan was surprised when he felt the tickle of a private channel from outside his enclave. He maintained several relays for a small group of people from the rest of the net who might want to communicate with him from time to time, but this was clearly not one of them.

He was even more surprised when he IDed who it was.

“Vladimir, I told you never to call me at this number,” he said.

“Ryan, you are just as much of an ass now as the last time I spoke with you,” Vladimir said. “And, it seems that you have been a very, very bad boy toward my employers as of late.”

Ryan laughed. “If you only knew, Vladimir, you would probably be a lot more desperate than you already are calling me direct.”

“We can do this easy, or we can do this hard, Ryan,” Vladimir said.

“Really, Vlad. You have no idea what you are in the middle of.” Ryan said.

“We will find you, Ryan. And when we do, my employers will not extend to you the kind offer I am willing to make.”

“I doubt you will find me unless I let you, Vladimir, though I suspect you will find your employers less than understanding about that fact. Do svidaniya and good luck with all that,” Ryan said.

Then, he cut the channels and keyed his self-destruct codes for his outside nodes. And just like that, any trace of Ryan Alten or any of his aliases vanished from the net. Next, he keyed up several bots and coded them to start cleaning any traces Kevin might have left behind. One could never be too safe.

Finally he unleashed a spider to gather whatever information could be found on one Vladimir Pentrenko. He smiled at that last one. Vlad was a worthy adversary, and that made the game far, far more exciting.

 

Vladimir swore and pounded the table while Alexi glowered menacingly. She had not taken the news that Ryan Alten was their quarry well, and that had added to the turmoil the rest of the group felt over their latest assignment.

“He’s gone,” Anatoly said.

“Yes, I know that,” Vladimir said.

“No, Vladimir, he’s gone,” Anatoly repeated. “As in, as far as the net is concerned, neither Ryan Alten nor any of his aliases ever existed.”

Vladimir went back to his feeds. Then he swore again. How had the man managed to do that? Then he realized he felt the same green fire he had heard from Natalia at the club.

“I told you he was the most amazing hacker alive,” Alexi said from her perch in the corner. “We will never catch him in this kind of game because he is the one who invented it.”

Vladimir refused to meet her gaze, mostly because he knew she was right. Then another thought, a horrifying thought, leapt into his head.

“Alexi, this was all a feint,” he said, burying his head in his hands.

She shoot her head. “What?”

“Never mind. I have to talk to Alexander.”

 

Dean and Larry sat at Larry’s kitchen table, the dossiers of the twenty eight engineers and technicians who had defected from Bione some twenty years before spread out before them. Dean had to hand it to Larry, the man hadn’t lost his touch.

At the time the defections had occurred, Bione was one of the biggest defense contractors on the planet, focused mostly on bioengineering and human biotechnological interfaces. They had presented the Department of Defense with one of the most advanced and intriguing methods for enhancing humans that any of them had ever seen, but just as the ink dried on the contract, the entire team responsible for developing the technology walked out.

What followed was a dark time in American defense history. Not only did the team walk, but they dumped the entire contents of their research onto the public net. Overnight, anyone with a few thousand bucks and some patience could gen up an at least primitive version of the technology the DoD had just promised to pay more than a trillion dollars for.

It also meant that, overnight as well, millions of people around the planet could suddenly connect to the net as if it were a part of themselves. Native connection, as it was technically called, meant that people, but most especially hackers, could use the net like they breathed. The resulting chaos was terrifying and ushered the world to the brink of war.

Dean had lead the team tasked with counter attacking the fury unleashed by those defections, and they had succeeded for the most part. They had taken down the people they thought had caused the defection to begin with, defeated the hackers who were suddenly able to run amok on anyone’s system they liked, and established protocols for preventing all but the most sophisticated and sinister attacks from being able to compromise US interests on the net. He thought they had solved the problem twenty two years ago.

Now he looked down at the dossier of Ryan Alten, a junior biohacker on the Bione team at the time, and realized that even he hadn’t known the whole story at the time. He had thought the men responsible for those events dead for two decades, but if Larry was right, they had killed figureheads and the real leader had a legitimate ax to grind.

 

Alexander was not amused, but Vladimir did not expect him to be after the long and delayed train ride from Moscow.

The tea house was a cozy and out of the way affair, and in the depths of winter deserted. Vladimir could not think of a better place to discuss what he needed to say. A quick payoff had sent the waitress and the cook looking for someplace to wait out their meeting. Now he was left with Alexander.

“Well?” Alexander said.

Vladimir steeled himself. “I am afraid your network has been compromised, Alexander.”

Alexander threw his head back and laughed, then grabbed Vladimir by the collar. “You made me spend twelve hours on a stinking supply train to tell me something that cannot be possible? I should kill you now except that Natalia tells me you are still useful to me.”

Vladimir slumped back into his chair as Alexander let go. He might as well get on with it. “Who paid you to attack the Americans, Alexander?”

The man’s glare was an inferno. “You are walking on very, very thin ice, my friend.”

“I know that I am,” Vladimir said, “yet you must ask yourself why a criminal like me would put myself at risk right now with someone as powerful and deadly as you, Alexander.”

Alexander watched him for a long time. When he finally looked away, he said, “There are powerful interests who wish to know what the Americans know about the Bione technology. Our attack was designed to lay malware inside their network to seek that information out.”

“But who were they, Alexander?” Vladimir said. “Do you know who they are?”

Alexander slammed his fist on the table. “Why does that matter, Vladimir? I do not pay you to question my motives.”

“It matters because the one who attacked you is Ryan Alten,” Vladimir said, “and I can assure you that where our attack failed, I am certain his succeeded.”

A stream of curses sputtered from Alexander’s face as his face alternated white and read. Finally, he said, “Are you certain.”

“I would not risk dying by your hand if I was not, Alexander,” Vladimir said.

“Then you are certain our network has been compromised?” Alexander said.

“There can be no other reason he would have attacked you that I can imagine,” Vladimir said, “except to discover who is paying you or where they are or what they plan to do with what they might have learned.”

Alexander gave him a smoldering stare. “Natalia is right, you are still useful to me.”

 

Dean loved Lebanese food, a fact that was apparently common enough knowledge that Ryan agreed to meet him at Al Ameer in Dearborn, Michigan. He was surprised that the man agreed to meet him in person given the likelihood that the government had tracked his every move since his meeting with Cantril, but Ryan had insisted on both the face to face meeting and the place.

Dean was surprised at the man who took his seat in the booth across from him. He looked far younger than Dean expected and yet seemed far more mature than he had come to expect hackers of any sort to be. Ryan also seemed impossibly self-confident, a trait Dean found both repulsing and endearing at the same time.

“I’ll have the shawarma and coffee,” Ryan told the waitress like he ate there everyday, “and please make sure I get the check.”

“Don’t think I’m going to cut you any slack because you bought me dinner,” Dean said. “I’m not a cheap date.”

Ryan shrugged. “You know they brought you in because they thought it would intimidate me, right?”

“It had occurred to me,” Dean said, “but I doubted from the very beginning you were the type to be dissuaded by such things.”

“I suspect that, given what I’ve learned about what you’ve been doing for the past twenty two years, that you and I share a lot more in common than either of us might want to admit,” Ryan said. “We’re just coming at it from different directions.”

“I’m not sure I agree,” Dean said. “Please explain.”

“What happened after we walked from Bione left a mark on you. You saw a system corrupted by its dependence on technology everywhere you looked, and you realized unless somebody did something, it was going to eat itself,” Ryan said. “So, you started straight farming because what can be more connected to reality than making sure people can still eat?”

“Fair enough,” Dean said, “but what does that have to do with you and I sharing commonality?”

“I happen to know that the snake is still eating its own tail,” Ryan said. “I walked away. You walked away. But the thing that corrupted the system kept on going. You’re trying to save things by making sure there’s something left after it’s all said and done. I’m trying to make sure there’s anyone left to care.”

“Larry told me what you told him,” Dean said, “but I have two questions: why did you tell him and why should anyone believe you?”

“First, Larry Winters is one of the most gifted archivists the world has ever known. I wanted to make sure that, if anything happens to me before I finish what I am trying to do, someone knew my side of the story. Second, if you really think I’m lying, then why are you here?”

“I could have just lead the government to you, you know,” Dean said, half wondering if that might not be true.”

Ryan laughed. “The government has caught itself in its own trap. The reason they can’t find me, Bione can’t find me, and their backers can’t find me is because they just assume everyone is on the net. They depend on being able to track everyone there, so the number of people who they assign to do actual physical surveillance anymore is almost non-existent.”

“So you’re telling me that there’s no one looking for either of us right now?”

Ryan shook his head. “No, I’m telling you that they were convinced that you drove to Saint Louis this morning and that they have a special response team raiding a night club there as we speak. It will take them days to figure out what happened, and by that time, we will have long concluded our business together.”

Dean looked at Ryan intently. “So let’s say I believe you. What next?”

 

One of the questions people who don’t write yet tend to ask people who are already writing is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Frankly, there is no answer to that question because the process is different for every writer and, at least for me, different for every idea. While I can’t answer that question directly, I can answer it tangentially, and partly by issuing a challenge.

I think one of the things that differentiates people who write from people who don’t is a specific kind of world view. People who write, in my experience, tend to pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the world around them and tend to be–this is even true with fiction writers–realists and pragmatists. I think the source of a lot of writers’ ideas tend to be events happening around them changed through the filter of their own creativity.

Writers tend to achieve this state of realism and pragmatism by being deeply connected to the events of history and of their own times. Writers tend to be the most voracious readers, tend to be deeply involved in politics of one sort or another, and tend to be willing to learn just about anything that happens to come along. In my experience, it is not unusual to find writers who are also engaged in a dozen other pursuits unrelated to writing.

This connectedness serves as the engine for creativity, constantly exposing the writer to new thoughts, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. Inevitably, these new things will periodically create an idea strong enough that it becomes the basis for something the writer will write, mostly because that’s what writers tend to do with such ideas.

So, if you want to find your own ideas, the first step is to get connected. I probably spend 3 t0 4 hours everyday just reading through my regular cycle of weblogs, news sources, and social media connections, and that does not include the books I am reading. Because of the amazing tool of social media, I conduct dozens of conversations a day about things that catch my attention.

I’m guessing, because I’ve never really kept track, that this behavior is good for at least a couple of new ideas a week. Now, most of those ideas die young due to disinterest or lack of follow-through, but I probably commit at least 3 or 4  ideas to some more formal status every month. That’s 36 to 48 ideas a year. Of course, most of those ideas won’t go much further, but a few of them will, and those few ideas that do move forward is what writing is all about.

For a new writer, I recommend carrying a notebook around. Granted, you can use a smartphone or a tablet, but I find that writing ideas by hand adds an extra level of intimacy for new writers that helps them see how their ideas come into being and how they can develop them. Down the road, every writer develops different styles for developing ideas, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the notebook works for a lot of people.

Once a new writer has some ideas captured, he has to think about them. By thinking about them, I mean actively mulling them over in his head kind of thinking. I find that this idea of active thinking is one of the hardest things for most modern people to comprehend and achieve. Most people don’t actively think about things. They feel. They react. They don’t think. If you want to write, you have to learn to think, actively and intensively and extensively. I have sometimes been accused of being lazy or distracted, and I can assure you that what I was doing during those times was thinking.

Finally, once a new writer has developed an idea by thinking about it, he has to act on it, but that action does not have to be good. I can assure you that most of my idea development is crap, but within that crap are the gems from which good stories will come. Frankly, if a writer never puts out the crap, he never gets the gems either.

So, at the end of all of it, I guess ideas come from life and being connected to it. From there, ideas are what the writer does with them.

DLH