Where’s Today’s Story?

Today I was supposed to publish the tenth and final story of the year, but it’s not quite ready.  I need to take this weekend to perfect it before I can let you see it.  But trust me, it’ll be pretty awesome.  So instead, here’s a “preview.”

Cue ominous movie trailer music and prepare to read this in that movie trailer guy’s voice: In a world where time travel is possible and time travel journalism is normal, one man will see his own future and try to change it.  He will break the laws of causality, he will risk everything to save Earth from total destruction, and he make Talie Tappler cry.  On November 19th, prepare for the epic conclusion to the Tomorrow News Network series: “The Wrong Future.”  Staring Talie Tappler, Mr. Cognis, Secretary of Defense Zane Riscon, and introducing a really creepy guy named Vison Sedrin.

So on Monday, I promise the story will be here, and you guys will love it.  In the meantime, if you haven’t read “A Stranger Comes to Town” you should probably get on that.  There’s a bit of foreshadowing.

I can also tell you that next year I’ll be writing another set of ten Tomorrow News Network stories.  We’ll have more cyborgs, more dinosaurs, and more time traveling journalists.  Also, a special guest star appearance by Albert Einstein!  So follow this blog, bookmark it, or whatever it is you have to do to stay tuned.  This is going to be a lot of fun.

Update: “The Wrong Future” is now finished!  Click here to start reading it.

What Do You Think of the Media?

Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.  If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”  I’m sure many of you have your own opinions of the media, especially after the recent hurricane and presidential election.  I know some of you hate the media, and probably for good reasons.

I work for a local news station.  I take a lot of pride in what I do.  Working in news is a stressful job.  Breaking news is chaotic.  Covering so many crimes, political scandals, and natural disasters can be depressing.  My mild mannered personality sometimes degenerates into screaming and cursing, and sometimes I make mistakes.  But I know what I do matters to the community I serve.

The public needs information, whether to help them decide who to vote for, what roads to avoid while driving to work, or how to prepare for monstrous hurricanes.  Even if a disaster is halfway around the world, we’re better off knowing about it–if only so we can donate money to the Red Cross or try to help in other ways.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe the media is without its faults.  Some reporters are biased.  Some reporters don’t even know they’re biased.  Sometimes reporters are so overworked and tired they don’t realize they’ve made a mistake.  We’re only human.  All I’m saying is that the media has an important role in society, and most of us take that responsibility seriously and try our best to report the news fairly and honestly.

So what do you think of the media?

Disclaimer: I have been asked to tell you that the views expressed on my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.  I have also chosen not to identify which TV station I work for.  The whole of the Tomorrow News Network series is based on my own experiences in the news business, so I’m sure you can imagine why a little secrecy is appropriate.

Coming Soon: The Final Story

It’s been nearly a year since this project started.  I promised to write ten short stories, one every month from January to October.  Things fell a little behind schedule in September, so the final story is now coming out on November 16th November 19th (sorry for yet another delay).

Through the course of the previous nine stories, we’ve seen how the Tomorrow News Network operates.  They’re a news organization run by time travelers.  Their reporters show up at newsworthy events before they happen.  They broadcast the news one day backwards through time, censoring it for some people so they can’t change their own futures.  They’ve covered a lot of crazy stories, from assassinations to dinosaurs to the UFO crash at Roswell.

But the Tomorrow News Network isn’t the only time traveling news agency in the universe.  In this year’s final story–the season finale if this were television–we’ll meet the competition.

The Real Charlotte

Fans of “A Stranger Comes to Town,” the most recent addition to the Tomorrow News Network series, may be interested to know the protagonist, Charlotte, is based on a real person.  We know very little about Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst except that she disguised herself as a man in order to have the career she wanted, driving stagecoaches and working with horses.  She lived in California and was apparently a respected member of society.  She even voted decades before woman won the right to vote.  No one knew the truth about her until the day she died and a doctor examined her body.

The Charlotte of “A Stranger Comes to Town” is a little different (click here to read her story).  She wants to be a journalist, and she lives in a later era when the Women’s Suffrage Movement is starting to take hold.  The idea of a woman holding a man’s job is still ridiculous in her time, but perhaps it’s not as ridiculous as it was for the real Charley.  And like Charley, Charlotte is stubbornly determined to have the career she wants, even if she has to disguise herself as a man to get it.

To find out more about Charley, check out Charley’s Choice by Fern J. Hill (click here).  It’s a work of historical fiction based on what little information we have on Charley’s life.  I used the book as a starting point for developing the characters who appear in “Stranger,” especially Charlotte.

Writing Process: Drawing Characters

An important part of my writing process is getting a sense of what the characters in my stories look like.  So before I get too deep into the story, I draw all the major characters.  Every Tomorrow News Network story features Talie Tappler (you can find pictures of her all over this website), but each month we also meet some new people, the unfortunate people Talie is covering for the news.

This month’s story is called “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts.”  The story is exactly what the title promises: a life and death struggle between dinosaurs and astronauts.  To get started, I drew some concept art in my little sketchbook.  In the pictures below, you can see all the astronauts and two of the featured dinosaurs.

That’s how I get started.  How about you, my fellow writers and other artistic folks?  What do you do to get your projects started?

P.S.: “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts” was originally scheduled to come out Monday, July 23rd, but I’ve decided to postpone it a few days.  It will now come out on Wednesday, July 25 Friday, July 27 (I promise the date won’t change again).  With a story this awesome, it deserved a little extra time to make sure I get it right.

Preview of “The Opera of Machines”

According to the rules, Tomorrow News Network employees are not allowed to change history.  But time traveling journalist Talie Tappler doesn’t always play by the rules.  She is prepared to risk her whole career so that a great musician can finish an unfinished opera.  Her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis, is the only one who can stop her.

Here is a preview from “The Opera of Machines.”  The full story will be posted on April 16th.

 * * *

Once inside, Cognis made his way to the newsroom, the pulsing heart of the Tomorrow News Network.  Full of sleek, aluminum desks and computers, lit by pure tungsten light and the glow of approximately 900 holographic viewlink screens, the newsroom utilized the most advanced technology in the known universe.  Yet surrounding this high-tech facade were other machines, far older, tucked in shadows, built into walls, hidden in the darkest corners–cogs and gears, wheels and pendulums–keeping track of time in ways only ancient technology could.  Quietly, the giant clockwork turned, following the backward and forward journeys of time travelers, compensating for them so that as history shifted the newsroom remained unchanged.

Writers and producers bustled about, checking sources and typing scripts while technicians edited video.  A reporter and cameraman vanished in a burst of light, rushing off to cover a story in the past.  They returned an instant later, their work complete.

Cognis turned when heard the distinctive clicking of high heels.  Talie Tappler arrived a moment later, her skirt swishing around her long legs.  “Mr. Cognis,” she said, “we are in a hurry.”

“Mr. Cognis!” Macnera cried.  She ran across the newsroom, the joints in her legs buzzing and whirring, her pace out of alignment with her normal, steady gate.

“Cognis,” she said, staring at her feet.  “My dear, sweet Cognis.  I love you.”

A quick glance confirmed all the switches on her arm were in the off position.  Something was wrong, but before Cognis could say so Macnera flung her arms around him and pressed her lips to his.  The kiss proceeded so randomly, so unpredictably that it alarmed Cognis’s electronic mind.

Macnera pushed herself away.  “I’m sorry,” she said, moisture gathering under her biological eye.  “I must have overdone it.”

The whole newsroom had stopped.  Hundreds of journalists–members of species from all over the universe–watched Macnera run off toward the maintenance department.  Talie leaned against a desk, her arms folded across her chest.  Her golden hair partly obscured her expression, but Cognis recognized it anyway.  It was the one that meant she knew something he didn’t.

“What?” he inquired.

“You’re blushing,” she said.

Cognis checked.  “My heart rate and blood pressure are within normal parameters.”

Talie smirked.  “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the maintenance department too?”

“I am functioning normally.”

“Maybe you should show her how well you’re functioning,” Talie said, heading toward the spiral stairs leading to the News Director’s office.  Following her, Cognis observed Talie checking her pocket watch.

“I apologize,” he said.  “I’ve made you late.”

“I’m never late,” Talie said, twisting the dial on her watch.  The world around them swirled in impossible colors then settled ten minutes earlier.  Talie glided through time without the slightest disorientation.  She had natural talent.  Cognis, on the other hand, felt out of sync whenever he time traveled.  His cybernetic brain depended too much on the constant durations of hours, minutes, and seconds.