Annnnd Done

2016-01-30 20.06.31
It spent years in the incubator, due to day jobs and other commitments, but I can finally say The Faith Machine is a complete, readable, and finished. At least until an editor tells me otherwise.

I processed the feedback from my gracious beta readers, made cuts, fleshed out descriptions, and added a whole new chapter to show what’s at stake if the bad guy wins. At 96,993 words it’s a little on the heavy side but within the limits.

While I query agents, I’ll be working on 7 short independent pieces that follow up after this book, to build a body of work around my heroes, Project Dead Blind. Short fiction can reach into markets that a novel can’t, published or not.

But for tonight, I’m just happy to be done.

The Query letter, for the curious:

The Faith Machine is a science fiction novel of international action, espionage, and E.S.P. What if James Bond were to lead the X-Men through the X Files? Where psychic powers are linked to mental disorders, and a little bit of power means a life spent resisting corruption, and dodging assassination.

Doctor Ken Park is a Korean-American spy with a PhD in psychology. He’s the field commander of Project Dead Blind, a team of six unruly, paranormal agents. Among them is Park’s right-hand woman Ainia, a Latina who believes she’s a reincarnated Amazon warrior, Isaac Deal, who can mimic the skills of those around him when he’s on a bi-polar high, and Pollyanna, a depressed cynic with the unreliable power of positive thinking.

Sent to Africa to recover a Soviet psychotronic super-weapon, their mission is a failure. An agent is wounded and their target is destroyed. The team is scattered and pursued across America by the FBI, the Chinese Bureau of Spirit Suppression, and the mysterious Casemen.

The Faith Machine will appeal to readers of Tim Powers’ Declare, Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, and Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats. It’s complete at 96,993 words.

My first novel, Picking Up the Ghost, was published by ChiZine in 2011 and optioned for film by Breaking the Cycle Films LTD.

Thanks for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely, Tone Milazzo

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God Spelled Backward

If this dog whines enough, he can get a second dinner at 8pm.
I can’t remember a night when we haven’t caved and fed him.
We don’t correct him because we hate to yell at this face.
This dog has all the power. All of it.
2016-01-22 20.18.43

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A Newer Hope

You know when it’s too soon to talk about Star Wars. You never know when it’s too late. Considering that they’re still plastering lightsabers on bags of apples, I think the window is still open.

The Force Awakens reminded us what was good about the original trilogy and not suck. Disney spent $4 billion on this property and they weren’t taking any chances. Consequently, it was a very safe movie, sticking to the original formula like the Millennium Falcon stuck to star destroyer (That happened right? It’s been a while since I watched Empire) but diverging in all the right places.

The new cast is great, diverse, and…kinda young. Clearly the heroes should be young, this is child’s entertainment, but even the First Order is under command of General Ginger Baby. That bothered me at first. I assumed they were casting actors who they could count on being alive for a few decades of sequels. But now I see General Ginger Baby is taking up the mantel of a movement that was dead before he was born. When the Empire screwed up you had to chalk it up to adventure movie convenience. But the First Order’s mistakes are those of bunch of kids playing Empire.

I also appreciated what I call a Legacy Reboot, starting over without wiping the slate clean. It worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation and I hope the new Ghostbusters movie takes the same tack. Though it’s weird that the surviving characters are doing the same thing they were doing 40 years before.

The best part: The way they split Luke into his three aspects to create the cast. Rey is the Jedi adept, Finn is the hayseed with a heart of gold, and Poe is the ace pilot. Luke’s character was always a bit overloaded. Breaking his facets up gives them room to breathe.

That said, my two main problems with the Star Wars franchise remain:
It’s the McDonalds of science fiction. The ads are everywhere, it’s never been science fiction, doesn’t challenge its audience, and its nutritionally void. Star Wars fans spend their time rationalizing the Kessel Run because there’s no deeper content to be delved into. And the excess of marketing and fandom means I can’t go a day without getting hit in the face with an Ewok. That’s business I suppose, but as someone who’s easily jaded, it leaves me exhausted.

It’s spirituality hollow. The Force with its Light Side and Dark Side, the whole dharma of TGFFA, is arbitrary, and honestly, I’m not convinced the Jedi are good for anyone. Most of the series body count is on their hands, especially the Skywalkers. At this point in the story, the entire Galaxy should rally against the Skywalker clan. They’re the real problem.

I’m going to have to come to grips with Yoda’s testicles being sold as grapes, that’s just America. But maybe, given that Jedi are liars, can we rewrite the Force has a more sophisticated dharma than, “Emotions are bad”, and the running through the swamp with a Muppet on your back workout?

The Franklin Richards fan theory helped me accept the Marvel Universe’s sliding timeline. Maybe I’ll come up with a new Force theory and run a Star Wars campaign where Light Side and Dark Side are illusions and the Force is pure mindless destruction, of lives, material, and the truth. Yeah I think I’m onto something here…

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2015-11-21 21.17.13

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Thanks, mom.

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If you have a website, especially one with a login interface, I suggest running a security check on it. My old host had a big fat F. It was a collection of compromised protocols.

It was time to move on to a new host. So far, SiteGround‘s been good to me. They’re security rates an A and I got a working SSL certificate out of it.

The working cert means I can run the Jetpack plugin. It takes WordPress to the next level. Now I’m more closely integrated with social media, some backend features, a bit more secure, a bit faster, and it includes subscription by email.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring over my old mailing list from the old plugin. So if you subscribed before, you’ll have to subscribe again. The form’s in the sidebar.

The experience, plus building my theme from scratch, has made me appreciate WordPress as an environment. I’d like to take up WP development as my day job.

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Bad at Tumblr

When I set up I didn’t realize it was a subblog to my main tumblr, fuckyeahhummingbirds. Subblogs are limited and I kept logging into the wrong blog. So, I deleted tonemilazzo and renamed fuckyeahhummingbirds. I don’t know how that might have affected those of you who followed the original tonemilazzo so here’s the link again.
Computers are hard… let’s go shopping!

On the plus side, this version looks a lot better.

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New Look for

Since I’m staying with the same basic layout and color scheme, most of the newness is under the hood. Can you believe I’ve been using that same grainy, gray background image since 2003? What can I say? It matches my business card.

The new theme is written in HTML5 and CSS3 with Bootstrap. I like Bootstrap for the same reason I used to pump CSS through jQuery. It handles the different browsers nicely without thinking about it too much. Now that we have to think about mobile devices it takes a lot of the weight off that development. Go ahead and call up the page on your phone. The layout changes. The sidebar becomes a footer and the posts and header expand to take up the full screen.

I also did what I could for Search Engine Optimization. I’ve had the SEO for “tone milazzo” locked down for 15 years, but a little more traffic can’t hurt. Google’s made mobile friendliness a ranking priority. I also added schema to make the site more machine readable. Because machines buy lots of books, mostly digital. That’s what I heard.

Next, I have to get the SSL certification straightened out. So I can use WordPress’ Jetpack plugin. For those of you who subscribe to this blog by email, that’s going to be a change. Hopefully, a small one.

What does all this computer stuff have to do with writing? Now that The Faith Machine is moving into its third draft, I’m hoping to barter web development for editorial or even publicity. I’ve seen editors’ web pages, there’s a market for this exchange.

Now that the blog’s all pretty-like I should use it more. 9 posts in the last year? That’s pathetic.

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Problem: I have a team seven protagonists and this isn’t an origin story. Since they all know each other, they’re mobilized right away. Originally, the team leader spent two chapters traveling the country and activating his agents in a sequence not unlike Ocean’s Eleven.

However, that’s a lot easier to pull of in a visual medium. No one watching a movie is going to confuse Bernie Mac with Brad Pitt. In particular I had two women on the team that readers were confusing, Polly and Gabby.

Initial solution:
Clearly, the spellings of Polly and Gabby are too close, so I replaced Polly with the full name Pollyanna. I also increased Pollyanna’s potty mouth and her a love of literature (dropping lit references in conversation) while cleaning up Gabby’s language and dumbing her down a bit.

Further solutions: 1) Cold Open: I’m going to extend the book with an action sequence at the beginning that’s loosely related to the rest of the novel, like in some James Bond movies. That’ll give me 2000-3000 words to introduce three of the four characters before jumping around the country for the other four.

2) Character Dossiers: Since this is an espionage story I can write up one page reports on the protagonists from the point of view of the spy master. They’ll come in after each character’s introductory scene and if the ink bleeds into the edge of the page readers can easily use them as reference. Like how fantasy novels used to have a reference appendix.

After this rewrite, I’ll try it on another series of beta readers. If they’re not confused then I’ll know if it worked.

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