RETRO READS: Streetlethal by Steven Barnes

Hi all!  Welcome to Retro Reads, where I talk about my favorite books that were published at least ten years ago. You can still find most of them online, though sometimes they have been re-released with a different cover and/or title. I will let you know if a book is out of print and/or otherwise unavailable.

 

StreetLethalStreet Lethal alt cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streetlethal

Steven Barnes

Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction

Publication Date: 1983

Status: Out of print/Available used

Streetlethal was my first purchase from Borderlands Books in San Francisco. ūüôā I’d already become a fan of Steven Barnes’¬†¬†books Lion’s Blood and Great Sky Woman (I checked them out from the public library), but I’d never heard of Streetlethal until I saw it while browsing in the bookstore. I bought it and another of his (unknown to me) books, The Kundalini Equation.

Streetlethal takes place in a somewhat dystopian future Los Angeles. The story centers around Aubrey Knight, a highly skilled nullboxer (nullboxing is like MMA to the nth degree) who becomes an enforcer for the Ortegas, a powerful drug family who also dabbles in black market organ selling and prostitution. ¬†Aubry is set up by his new girlfriend/drug addict (guess who is her supplier?)¬†because he wants to quit working for the Ortegas–which is not done–and sent to a maximum security prison for murder.

(Never trust a big butt and a smile, Aubry.)

He eventually escapes and goes after Luis Ortega, the man who orchestrated his set-up, which is how he meets Promise–a woman who had taken Aubry’s ex-girlfriend/snitch under her wing and got her into rehab. Promise becomes Aubry’s “in” to the Ortegas, with interesting results.

The technological advances in the novel are quite mind-boggling, especially considering that the book was written in the early 1980s. Barnes’s gift is showcasing the range of human emotion in all of his characters. In Aubry Knight and, eventually, Promise, we get everything from euphoria/”top of the world”; to the depths of despair when your world is snatched from beneath your feet; to the unique mindset of athletes, especially professional ones; to the¬†confusion and borderline resignation when things don’t quite work out the way you’d planned. In his strong secondary characters (Tomaso Ortega and Kevin Warrick are excellent) we get the roller-coaster ride of power plays, drug addiction, insecurity, family dynamics, and the urgent drive that comes from feeling like time is running out when you have too much to do. It’s also nice to read a post-apocalyptic¬†novel that doesn’t include zombies; then again, zombies weren’t as much of a thing in the eighties.

I missed the memo that Streetlethal is the first in a trilogy (it pays to read those last few pages of advertisements in a book), and that Aubry’s journey continues in¬†Gorgon Child and Firedance (that has been rectified–thank you, Amazon used books). Fans of dystopian stuff, martial arts, science wonks, and diverse sci-fi/speculative fiction would enjoy this novel.

Thanks for stopping by.

What I’m Reading: Fantasy in Death by JD Robb (with video!)

I pulled out an oldie but goodie, as I work on a character for an upcoming Bastille Family novel. ¬†It’s Fantasy in Death, by J.D. Robb (the pseudonym for bestselling romance author Nora Roberts).

Fantasy in  Death cover

I actually talk about it a bit here (it’s NOT a book review, per se):

Anyway, the story is set around 2060, and involves the death of one of the partners in an upstart video game company. It’s a classic locked-door mystery: the victim was alone in a locked room, playing a video game, and there were no signs or evidence of anyone else entering or leaving the room. So whodunit? The series protagonist, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, is very technology-challenged and has no idea how to navigate the very tech-heavy world of video games. She gets valuable assistance from her husband, Roarke, who is very skilled in his own right in the area of computers and technology, as well as the Electronic Detective Division of the New York Security and Police Department.

(Since this is over 40 years into the future, I’m hoping that a separate division that focuses on technology used in crimes becomes a reality).

The plot is pretty good, and there is an interesting twist at the end. This is one of my favorite books in the entire In Death series, of which I have every book so far (Fantasy in Death is the 31st book in the series, or something). I especially like the positive portrayal of female gamers (so refreshing in the wake of #gamergate) and the leap in applications of video games, virtual reality, and holograms.

The book came out in 2011, so it should be readily available at your local library, if you’re not inspired to purchase a copy for yourself. I do recommend it, as it is an entertaining read.

Thanks for stopping by.

No Sleep Till Publication: Burning the Early A.M. Oil

I am slightly sleep-deprived today, having nodded off around 10 p.m. last night  only to wake up around 2 a.m.

What woke me up, might you ask? A book idea. More specifically, a furtherance of the plot in the novel I’m working on for Clarion Write-A-Thon. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, and I had to wake up and write it down. I felt like Pookie in the movie New Jack City:

 

Them plots be callin’ me, man…and I just gotta go to it! ūüėÄ

So I stayed up and wrote. And 2 a.m. turned into 5 a.m. ¬†A bowl of soup and one disgruntled cat later (he thought that, since I was awake, it was time for his breakfast. Nope–too early!), I caught a few more hours of sleep before I awakened for the day.

Since then, I worked on another campaign for my upcoming novel, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, and ran some errands for my mom. As my late grandmother used to say, no rest for the weary!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

Aside

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 13

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count:¬†871

Total words written: 8,218 words

 

I’m baaaaaaack! Is it really Day 13 of the Clarion Write-A-Thon? I guess more time passed than I’d thought. :/

I managed to do 871 words today, which is not that great, but it’s something. At least I made over my daily goal.

My story is starting to amaze me in the direction it’s going. Stories always do, when you let them tell you where they want to go. One of the things I’m also finding surprising is the character arc of my main character. Taking her from a somewhat naive, privileged person to someone who is realizing that the world isn’t as she always thought it was, is very interesting. This is going to be an eye-opening ride, since I haven’t been that naive and trusting in a very long time.

Now, onto Camp NaNoWriMo!

Thanks for stopping by.

Aside

Brain Strain, Best Intentions and “Five Minutes”

 

Yesterday was a testament to the foil of the best-laid plans.

I’d been feverishly at work on the finishing touches to The Camille Chronicles. My rationale: I was THISCLOSE to finishing, then I would be free to concentrate on my commitments to the Clarion Write-A-Thon and Camp NaNoWriMo. ¬†The sooner I finished, the more time I’d have to work on those other two projects.

Yeah, right. Man plans, God [or whatever deity you prefer] laughs.

I worked on tightening up the story, collaborated with my graphic designer on final touches to the cover, and then back to the story. ¬†Then my eyes started getting droopy around 10 p.m., and I was so tired. I’d gotten a decent amount of sleep the night before, but I couldn’t deny that my eyes were starting to burn like they did during final exam times in college. So I told myself that harmless phrase of self-delusion: “I’ll just close my eyes for five minutes.”

I woke up around 3:45 a.m. :/

In retrospect, I should have worked on The Camille Chronicles for a while, then forcibly stop myself and move to the other projects. This is what I’ve been doing for the past few days. But then, I would just continue to string along three unfinished projects instead of focusing to give the attention to finishing one, so I could move on to the others. It’s like the process of getting out of debt: you pay off one bill, then take that money that would normally be used to pay that bill and contribute it to another bill, and keep that cycle going until everything is paid off. In this case, the currency would be time instead of dollars. I didn’t do that for the past few days. I kept paying the minimum balance, if you will, and carried three balances instead of working to get all of them paid off.

This also made me wonder about brain strain. Writing is a very mental exercise, as is anything that requires more thinking than physical labor. I used to get a similar fatigue when I was a full-time editor, poring through manuscripts and advertisements line by line for typographical, grammatical, punctuation, and subject/verb agreement errors. If an athlete can overtax him or herself to the point of straining a muscle, then it stands to reason that I overtaxed my brain to the extent that it was strained. This reminds me of a line from one of my favorite books, Firestarter by Stephen King: “The brain is the muscle that can move the world.”

I will catch up on Clarion and Camp NaNoWriMo this weekend, and I will finish The Camille Chronicles by tomorrow. And I will rest my brain by taking a walk to the farmers’ market later on today. I just have to keep reminding myself that accountability and pushing oneself are one thing; pushing oneself beyond reason is quite another.

Thanks for stopping by.

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 10

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count:¬†826

Total words written: 7,347 words

 

I found myself actually irritated that I had to work on my Clarion piece today. ¬†As I mentioned in previous posts, today also started the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. The book for that particular workshop required more research, as the first chapter is initially set in the 1940s. I am a research wonk so once I get started on a research project, I dig in and keep going until I give out of energy. I couldn’t do that this go round; I had to literally stop myself and switch to Clarion mode so that I could meet my word count for the day. Arrrrggghhh…

The Clarion piece is coming along. My main character is starting to realize just how big of a mess in which she’s landed herself, ¬†and the effect it’s having on the people around her. She is also beginning to realize just how unfair life can be. This will provide a deep pond in which to fish for future plot lines, which is good. Hopefully, I won’t have a lot of writer’s block as a result.

The NaNoWriMo book is calling…or maybe I’ll watch Matrix Revolutions for the umpteenth time. Or play some more mahjong. Or have a snack. I’ll figure it out shortly.

Thanks for stopping by.

Aside

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 9

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count: 994

Total words written: 6,521 words

Well, according to the Clarion Write-A-Thon word counter, I am now officially 1/4 of the way through my goal of 25,000 words. *Tiger Woods fist pump*

It was a struggle to write today. I had gotten some crucial information from a research source for my upcoming novel, The Camille Chronicles. This required rewriting certain parts of the book to incorporate these changes, which would lend a more authentic flavor. I’m all about accuracy and authenticity, so I didn’t mind, but I also lost track of time. I got to 681 word and wanted to quit for the day, because I had been working on the final draft of The Camille Chronicles for most of the day. But I pushed through, wrote another 310 words, and managed to squeak in today’s 994 words under the wire. *whew*

My main character in the Write-A-Thon project has now been thrust into a journey where she will undergo trials that will reveal her true self. I now have to figure out what those trials will be. There can be the basic issues of trust: of herself, of others. There may also be the issue of finding out where she truly fits in the grand scheme of things, if anywhere. This will result in a profound alteration of the character’s character; all that I need to figure out is how dark do I want her to go. Will I have her retain a core of her usual ebullience, or will I have her become totally hardened (like Arya Stark in The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)? It’s kind of exciting, actually; we as writers tend to infuse our characters with aspects of ourselves. It will be interesting to see how much darkness resides in me, that I can give to the character.

I really need to figure out where I put my copy of¬† The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogel. It is an extremely helpful book and will come in handy as I figure out the rest of this book’s trajectory. I’ve had it since 2003 and it never gets old. I should probably get the latest edition but until then, Old Faithful will have to do.

I’m about to crash. .Thanks for stopping by.

 

Aside

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 8

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count: 991

Total words written: 5,590 words

I almost forgot to work on the Clarion project today, as I was working on the marketing stuff for my upcoming book, The Camille Chronicles. When you’re self-publishing, you wear many hats–at least, until I can afford to have someone do it for me.

The story flowed pretty well today. I tried to figure out if my main character would really be that naive about office politics, or if it was a bit of a reach. Then I remember, from my days in Corporate America, that ¬†there were people who didn’t have a clue beyond their workloads. Such folks tended to be blindsided by various corporate decisions and were under the impression (delusion?) that all was required was to show up and do their work. I know; I used to be one of them.

Anyway, the way the story is flowing, I’m going to write a rather action-packed scene coming up. How much blood and gore will be included will be determined as I go along.

Thanks for stopping by.

Aside

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 7

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count: 791

Total words written: 4,599 words

I took yesterday off (day 6) from writing, post-doctor’s appointment for my annual physical. Today, I was feeling under the weather, but I knew I needed to write something, so I pushed through it and did 791 words. Yay!

My character and plot evolution continue to amaze me, as I let the story take me where it wants to go. I’d always wanted to include an element of rebellion in the plot (e.g., the little guy takes on the big guy), and this new direction is definitely including that as a major plot element.

I also like how my main character is evolving in the face of this particular plot element. I am much more pleased with how she is shaping up. I never really connected with her original iteration; I had her as young and naive and since I am neither in real life, it was hard to make those traits come across convincingly on paper.

Now I need to turn my attention to more final edits on my upcoming book. Woohoo!

As for what I’m reading, I finally finished The Cocaine Chronicles and am debating on what to read next. Stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Clarion Write-A-Thon Day 5

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count: 801

Total words written: 3,808 words

 

Today’s story path took a darker turn than I’d expected. This could be good, if I do it correctly. This turn of events is a direct result of making one of my main characters much older than originally written. When you’re younger, you tend to have a more optimistic view of things. As one gets older, it gets harder to hold on to that optimism. My character is slowly beginning to see that what she thought, and what is, are different. Not quite The Matrix, but there is a definite awakening of the true self.

I’m cutting this short because I am watching the NBA draft. In case you didn’t know, I am a die-hard basketball fan, with a special love for college basketball. I’m paying more attention to this NBA draft because some of my favorite players from this past NCAA season are in it, and this is heightening my interest in the NBA this upcoming season.

Thanks for stopping by.

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