Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wonderful World of Pradeep

So my latest novel, Fading Man, is a few months from completion, at best. I'm almost 30,000 words in, which is about a fourth of the total story, depending on how much I digress and detour along the way. Despite this, I just have to say I'm really feeling the vibe of this one. Though the characters are very different, it has a lot of similarities to Shadows of Tockland. There is definitely a rising and relentless sense of peril, punctuated now and again by acts of desperation and violence.

I've written eight chapters so far. They are:

1) Admiral Vinegaroon
2) Pradeep
3) All Places are Bad Places
4) Hasty Retreat
5) Desperate Measures
6) A Warm Welcome to Tulsey Town
7) Secrets and Souvenirs
8) Shadows and Substance

Just like Shadows of Tockland, there is a certain point in the book where everything just goes absolutely violently insane, and the story takes a descent into madness. Not literally, because none of the major characters are actually insane. Though a few minor characters certainly are.

However, with all of the crazy stuff that happens, I think and hope that it is the emotional core of the story that will ultimately resonate with readers. The relationship between the main characters is on a clear trajectory, and if it works, it should be the thing that really sticks with people. We shall see.

Anyway, I've got a long way to go, but I'm getting there, day by day, a thousand words at a time. This one's got post-apocalypse, environmental devastation, hideous underground people and weirdos aplenty. Just you wait and see, people. Just you wait and see.

In the meantime, here is an article I wrote about my previous novel, Children of the Mechanism, in which I expound in a little more detail what I wrote about in a previous blog entry.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Idea and A Mood

So my novels usually spring from two things: an idea and a mood. The idea is usually a single scene that springs into my imagination somewhere along the way. Once that scene comes to me, I play around with it in my head, fleshing it out, usually before there is any real sense of character or an overarching plot.

For example, with the Mary of the Aether series, the scene that was clearest in my head from the get-go is now the climactic scene of volume three, Mary of Starlight. It's the scene that takes place on Mount Magazine. Before I had even written the first book, that scene was the one I was running over and over in my mind. In a way, the whole series flowed out of that scene.

Now, at some point as I sit down to start a novel, that idea meets up with a mood. These two things aren't always initially connected. The mood tends to reveal itself as I work out the overall plot. It doesn't always arrive embedded in that initial idea.

For the Mary of the Aether series, the mood was definitely one of angst, which Webster's defines as, "a strong feeling of being worried or nervous : a feeling of anxiety about your life or situation: a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity." 

The interesting thing is that the novel I choose to write at any particular moment usually coincides with the mood I am feeling in life at that particular time. Actually, it is usually an exaggerated version of what I'm feeling, but nevertheless, in order to really get into a novel, I have to be on a similar emotional wavelength. When that happens, the writing of the novel becomes profoundly cathartic. 

And although my novels are never really autobiographical, I can usually go back after I've written them (or while I'm writing them) and see what things in my life were getting thematically regurgitated into the story.

However, because of this, I think one thing I really have to be careful of is creating a mood that is relentless. I think this is a risk when a novel is a cathartic experience, when you are really digging down to a specific emotional root while creating it. But on the other hand, if readers are worn out by the end of the book, then perhaps the happy, or semi-happy, ending will mean more to them. At least, that's how I approach it.

In other news, Children of the Mechanism is out now. The publisher corrected some formatting errors and typos that got into the e-book, and reviews are starting to appear. So far, they are really positive, so that's good.

Anywho, that's all for now.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Children of the Mechanism - The Official Blog Post

Hey there, folks. So my latest novel just came out, and I thought I might talk about it a little bit. Of course, I've mentioned it in the past, and I even gave a brief synopsis of how it came to be. But let me go in a little more detail today, and dig into some of the thematic elements that went into writing it.


Children of the Mechanism might be a little bit startling to people who have only read my Mary of the Aether series. Why do I say that? Well, because at times it is profoundly bleak and bloody. It is not a Young Adult novel.

On the other hand, if you've read Shadows of Tockland, then you probably know what you're in for. It's not the same sort of story as Shadows of Tockland, but it exists on a similar plane, in a manner of speaking. If you can handle one, you can handle the other.

Children of the Mechanism is an adaptation of a short story I wrote way back in 1995 as a creative writing assignment for a college class. For some reason, I had watched a documentary on CNN about children in the Holocaust, and the thing that disturbed me was the thought that there were kids who basically grew up in concentration camps. The evil and awful things they experienced on a daily basis were their only version of "normal," because they didn't know any other way of life.

And that led me to consider the condition of workers and child laborers in third world sweatshops. While my own children spend their days at school, at sports, playing video games, jumping on the trampoline, there are child laborers who endure long, miserable days of drudgery, hard work and pain, all for subsistence wages. It is the only life they know.

The thought of some kid working twelve to fourteen hours a day making soccer balls so that kids in wealthy countries can run around and play disturbs me greatly. But I can't tell their story. I haven't lived their story.

Science fiction gives me the opportunity to deal with the same things thematically in an artificial environment of my own creation. So in Children of the Mechanism, we are introduced to a series of young people who live and work in various room inside a massive, mysterious factory. They are guarded by cruel robots called Watchers. Life is full of daily misery and pain, but it is the only version of "normal" that these workers know.

Of course, at heart I am a hopeful person. I can't bear to leave people in that bleakness without the possibility of redemption or deliverance, so in the course of the story, strange things begin to unfold, and some of the workers escape from their rooms into the corridors. That is the gist of the story.

Writing Children of the Mechanism was emotional and cathartic, and I hope it is as impactful to readers as it was to the writer.