• Mark Meier

The Longest Con

Normally, Indie authors write in series, and when asked to name a title, most of the time, they head over to the first title of their current series. I’m not going to do that today (cough)Riddled Space(cough). Sorry about that, they throw you out of the guild if you don’t mention the first novel in your series. The Longest Con (or TLC as I’ll put it here) was once an entry in the 3 Day Novel writing contest, which goes on every year around Labor Day. Sit down, write you’re a$$ off for 72 hours, submit the result and win a traditional publication contract.

TLC was a blast to write. People ask me if I outline. I only answer broad questions: What is the story problem? Who is the antagonist? What’s the climax? How do we end the story? Titchy little stuff, like how to stow away on a space craft, I leave to my imagination, which somehow reliably gives me an answer.

TLC was the result of watching too much of the BBC series Hustle, which outlined the adventures of a crew of long-con artists. Specifically, I wanted to recreate The Wire (Season 1, Episode 6 of Hustle) in Spaaaaaace. I am one of those guys who requires the science be correct—that if I say the Earth is on the other side of the sun from Venus, on that date, it had better be so. The astronomical research into that question took up two full evenings. So, I sat down Friday midnight of the first weekend in September, armed with all my research, and started pounding the keyboard. Introduce the characters, good and bad. Set up the story question. As the weekend progressed, the story developed. No, I didn’t have it all explicitly lined out in my head. I knew the con had to do with horse racing and leveraging differences in signal propagation, but beyond that, absolutely nothing. The standard steps of a confidence game, or grift, was an excellent guide to follow for the story. Even after the blow-off (composed on the spot), the question over how to get the con team home from Venus emerged almost without thinking about it. But here’s where it gets weird. I got to the part where I thought I would write ‘The End’….and my fingers kept typing! It seems there was more story to tell. And that second ending bit turned out to be the icing on the cake—the whole point of the story was absolutely nailed down there—and I had no idea it needed to be said. This is why I write—so I can be the first one to read the story. Do check out The Longest Con.

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