Book 2 and How do You Know You are Human?

Book 2 of the Rubricatae Chronicles Back on Track, Different

She's back. With sisters.
I surprised myself when I checked my progress today. Thirty-seven thousand Forty-nine thousand words, more than half of where I was at when I nuked the previous draft. And that does not count a lot of words that will still work from the first draft. Most of the 37k 49k words are new, so I'm ahead of the game despite the nuke.

Sure, I'll lose some during the dewrites, but that's how I roll.

My wife agrees that this second novel is very different from the first one. That follows from the different characters in this one (don't worry, the story still revolves around the plucky Able family) and the rather dismal situation at the end of the first book. To say it is darker than a novel that begins with a drunken man setting out on Christmas Eve with a revolver in his coat pocket is not something I would want to admit.

I don't think it's true, either.

The first book portrayed the cozy demolition of one family as they grappled with real-life problems of temptation and reviving their marriage. On a superficial level, it turned into a "caper," as one reviewer accurately observed. He also said the moral issues became clearer even as action progressed. One principle I never wavered from was that character drives choices, and choices have consequences.

It was very tempting to chicken out on that.

It was dark, but it was brightened in the way one crazy scheme was deliriously piled on top of another. There was plenty of humor, too, although dry and mostly mordant. I wanted the reader sucked into the story, but also able to keep one foot out of the book so they could appreciate the surreal qualities and, frankly, not get too creeped out. Readers of my ephemeris, St. Corbinian's Bear will recognize the style, I think.

Death Penalty Defense Influence: Just What is a Human, Anyway?

The biggest difference is that this is less of a "psychological novel" and more of an urban fantasy / thriller. It is also more complex. I chose a new theme to explore, in this case: what it means to be human.

While that may sound "psychological," it is explored by writing techniques that rely less on interior monologue. I do not believe that psychology as a discipline, or neuroscience or materialism in general has the last say on the subject. Even Red made fun of our "reductionist materialistic scientific paradigm."

That's why we can't do some of the cool stuff demons can, don't you see? (Although they don't have TV.)
How do you know she's human? More urgently, how can you tell if she isn't?

Is it a body of a certain type? Reds have the same (and how!). Is it our intellect? Red can calculate an "optimum intercept vector" with the best of them. Is it the capacity for making moral choices? Reds sometimes seem to have that, too, especially the "Red 3.0" green-eyed version I introduce in the new novel. (I think you're going to like my sunny, devout and deadly little beauty - and there's the trick, isn't it?) Is it the capacity for feeling guilt and remorse? Free will?

Take away her "charm," and her unearthly beauty, and Original Red makes a pretty poor human being. She fakes her way through Judging Angels, fooling everyone, even herself. Even so, as we say here in Southern Illinois, "that girl just ain't right."

In the sequel, Brian subjects her to a "Turing Test" with surprising results.

In my former line of work - a death penalty defense attorney of some notoriety - these questions were more than academic. I had to convince a jury that someone guilty of horrible murders was a person, not a monster. My foundation idea was that persons, i.e. jurors, do not kill persons. It was always a contest between the prosecution and the defense to dehumanize / humanize the defendant, and both sides were shameless in their tricks.

Needless to say, the defense had its work cut out for it when the prosecution always had one or more bodies on their side of the scale.

Not all of my techniques were original. Standing behind the defendant and putting my hands on his shoulders. Whispering into his ear with a hand on his back. Subtle cues that he was a person (and was capable of not throttling his lawyer with his own tie). But I think I was successful because I deliberately pursued it as a strategy, rather than a few more shiny objects from the Big Bag of Defense Lawyer Tricks.

Not "a thing" for this woman.
(Ah, Ginger.)
Within the defense bar, many grasped at the latest in neuroscience, and subjected defendants to fMRIs that allegedly showed different parts of their brains "lighting up" (or not) in response to stimuli. I was against this. Reducing a defendant to a "bad brain" was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do. The failure of the new approach to keep people off death row speaks for itself.

My George-Able-like perfect record in keeping eligible defendants off death row proves the value of my approach. (The only way the author is like the fictitious protagonist of Judging Angels, despite one reviewer assuming he has "a thing" for red hair and Ginger Rogers.)

Why you would want to tell the jury a defendant was nothing more than a "bad brain" that made him dangerous, and he would never be anything but a psycho killer? A broken, dangerous "thing" is something you destroy, not keep around.

Anyway, I have long been fascinated by this theme, and am enjoying tackling it in long fiction.

Enjoying the Challenge, Now

The fabulous mechanical clock Messina, Sicily.
I confess it has been an unexpected challenge writing something so different from the first one. Yet, I enjoy the way it pushes me to grow as a writer. There is a bigger "big picture" that I must keep in my head as I write. I frequently go back and re-read what I have done, making sure characters remain consistent, and I'm getting the right "mix" among their doings. It is all too easy to give too much time to a favorite character. I want to keep things moving like the mechanical clock in Messina, Sicily, where characters tick out on their tracks for their moment in the sun, then make way for the next one.

In short, I have a lot more plates spinning.

And now, writing is fun again, instead of being a chore. I hope the second book of the Rubricatae Chronicles will satisfy readers of the first one and gain a wider audience as certain elements that were highlighted in the first book step to the side for new ones to take center stage.

Enjoy the Show!