Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benchmarks and Writing Schedules - Redux

I have always been a project and task oriented manager of my time. I look at the scope of the work and then estimate the time needed to complete the task and suddenly POOF it’s done. Well, most of the time, oh okay, some of the time. We, of the List Driven Clan (our tartan is criss-crossed out bullet pointed lists), fully appreciate the compulsive need to compile to-do lists and thus receive immense personal satisfaction by scratching off one item after another as our mini-goals are accomplished. We even keep them on our iPhone, we are a sorry lot, but we do get a lot done.

I started this blog as way to allow the patient and interested reader to follow the construction of my last book in the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, Toulouse For Death. During the past 101 weekly editions I fished one book, began and am now finishing another, and half-way through writing the next novel (so many lists, so little time). I didn’t realize that the initial list of dates and benchmarks (real business term – sounds official – so MBA-ish) would be driving me as hard as the stories. I posted the list for 12th Man in February.

The newest book is done, 12th Man for Death, has as its scenic backdrop San Francisco Bay and the current battle for the America’s Cup, the oldest international sailboat race. Since 1851 this competition has grown to encompass the world’s greatest sailors and richest people. Boys and their toys - expensive toys and very wealthy boys. Sharon is hired to find a killer, a killer who wants nothing more than to use the race as a way to gain immense wealth. Here is a taste of the first chapter.

Teaser Alert
Here is the first nine hundred words:

“She’s flying,” Catherine Voss screamed into her headset. “Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five knots, Mike, thirty-eight fucking knots. She’s flying!”
“I see you, incredible,” Mike Stroud yelled back into his microphone as he stood on the bridge of the chase boat, binoculars up and alert. “Watch the wind shift off the beach, watch it.”
“I’m watching, the hard wing looks good, real good, but she’s a beast in this wind.”
The thirty-six foot trimaran rode high on its thin hydrofoils mounted under each of the outboard hulls; these blades angled in like knives as they cut the heart from the waves. With each burst of wind, the boat’s speed increased; she rose higher and higher on the blades until she seemed to skate on nothing but the thin runners constructed of hard carbon fibers. Catherine, snug in the boat’s cockpit, flicked the control stick. Every servomotor on the sailboat responded. Lines came in taut in milliseconds, tightening the sail’s grasp of the wind. Other lines eased out. Every second, a hundred adjustments were made to the sails, the rudder and the angle of the hydroplane’s runners. She toggled the stick to the left, the boat corrected for the offshore wind’s kick, she eased it right, it corrected again. The Cheetah responded like the wild cat the trimaran was named for.
“The program is just right, magnifique, superb. God damn it, Mike, I’m flying. You can sail this boat single-handed.”
The hydrofoil raced across the San Francisco waterfront, tourists on the piers pointed at the strange craft, hundreds took snapshots. The setting was perfect with Alcatraz floating in the background. Catherine shaped her course into a large arc that would bring her near the Golden Gate Bridge. Even from two miles away, Catherine could see the fog boiling over the deck of the bridge. She increased her speed.
“Forty-one knots, Mike. Forty-one,” Catherine said calmly as she stroked the glass smooth hull of her pet. “She’s wonderful, Mike. Wonderful.”
“Watch the fog, it’s starting to lower!” Mike answered.
“I’m watching, damn,” Voss said as she carved a broad arcing U-turn across the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, “It’s dropping fast.”
Catherine Voss had practiced well that late afternoon. Running a thirty-six foot trimaran is not easy on the best of days, they usually had a crew of at least five, but single-handed sailing tested her on everything she had learned during her fifteen years on the water. The boat performed well; she had designed it. She knew it would. Her prototype, unique and innovative, cost two hundred thousand euros, but it was hers and she knew it would make millions when produced in quantity. She designed it to be sailed by one person, one very insane pilot with an unquenchable passion for speed. The boat might perform better with three people as backup and to help balance the weight. But today she drove the Cheetah alone, it was her baby.
She knew the growing mania for the next America’s Cup, taking place on these same San Francisco Bay waters, would create hundreds, if not thousands, of buyers. The new boats designs for the upcoming America’s Cup were different; they were catamarans with two gigantic hulls built for speed and agility. They could also explode into the most spectacular slow motion disasters imaginable, one pontoon would slowly rise out of the ocean, tip over on itself like it was flipped by Poseidon himself, throwing crew and rigging into the sea like a dog shakes fleas. Catherine’s boat was half the length of the contending AC-72s, yet still held thirty-six feet of sinewy muscle, speed, technology, servomotors, and cold wave slicing terror.
She wanted to feel the boat through her ass and her hands. Now her ass was sore and her callused hands, raw. The exhilaration was indescribable. But the fog was winning; the soup became incredibly thick; she suddenly lost sight of the trimaran’s bow not thirty feet away. It appeared and then disappeared. The last time she had looked north, Angel Island stretched across the deck of the Bay, its flanks hidden in the fog. Now she saw nothing.
“Finally,” she said out loud to the sound of the approaching launch. She ran down the evening’s schedule: a brief interview with that reporter from LA, dinner at Boulevards with the crew, then a long and luscious evening with Bobo. The black launch eased itself up to the port hull, scraping the gunnel of the sailboat.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” she yelled as two lines were silently thrown from the launch. Their loops expertly snagged cleats and secured the hydrofoil to the side of the launch.
Stunned, Voss just watched, not believing what was happening. Without warning, two men, dressed in black wetsuits, expertly pitched themselves over the launch’s railing and landed on the port pontoon of the Cheetah. Each carried a machine pistol and both were pointed at her head.

Let me know what you think, book is in final production, ebook by mid-November, paperbacks by mid-December, books signing in mid-January at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.

Info on distribution and sales is coming, look for it here. Any questions? Please post a comment.

More later . . . . .

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