The Turning of the Screws

Hold on – before I start this week’s entry, there’s something I have to say to all you Blackberry users – I think they’re Blackberries.. those phones that fit into your ear... anyway, just wanted to tell you: you are NOT Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. If you’re not on a call, take the stupid thing out of your ear. You DO NOT LOOK COOL. You look like an idiot, in fact, walking around with the thing in your ear. I’m sorry, that’s probably harsh, but treat my words as the Blackberry In Your Ear version of, say, Your Fly is Down. You hate to hear it, but you need to hear it. Take the thing out of your ear and be cool in other ways.

OK, so where are we? Well, worked more on Plague of Locusts, though the word count didn’t go up too much, to 12,800 words, but this is to be expected early in a new novel. I spent a couple of days actually writing 2000-3000 additional words, but all in my little “outline” document. There are a couple of parallel storylines. One... Peyton Kay’s... was going well. The other.. Gendrick Hellerton’s... seemed to be heading down the wrong path. What I do when this happens is a bunch of free-writing, talking to myself on the page, trying to work out what’s working, what’s not, redefining characters. From there I move on and do rough outline of what will happen along the timeline given the changes I’ve come up with. This helps me to see if what I came up with, will work with the plot. Most seemed to flow well, still a few parts that didn’t, turned a few more screws – course correcting, if you will. Looking pretty good now. Then I went in and revised a few chapters already written for the modified plotlines. PoL seems to be heading in a good direction again.

A couple of potential plot ideas are simmering in the back of my mind for the book, partly because I’m not exactly sure how the story’s going to end. This is usually an important thing to know for a novel, but I have the specific direction the book’s going to move in, so that’s enough for now. The final ending will come to me soon enough. If not, then it will be time to think of one, perhaps by the time I’m about halfway through the first draft.

Things are still moving forward on the US marketing front for the books. Finally, now that Margaret’s Ark is becoming the focus. Still, marketing a book, even with a driven agent (always an important ingredient), you just... never... know. Mmmmm, need a little paaaatience... as the song goes....

I thought it might be interesting to write in the blog world the general timeline of the novels I’ve written, just to show (and probably bum out) aspiring novelists who may be reading this. I remember0 when I’d finished the first novel below, reading Scott Nicholson’s series of essays on publishing your novel, and finding out how many he’d written before selling them at last. Kind of depressing, but seeing as how I’m still doing it, and enjoying it, I guess I passed the test... we’ll see... anyway:

In late 1998, after I began to sell short stories to magazines, I decided that to make it in this business I needed to try my hand at the novel form. So after a camping trip where a bunch of interesting ideas came to me all at once, I began to write my very first novel, One Night at Good Shepherd. It took about a year and a half to write. Learned a lot working on this “monsters terrorize hapless campers” story. How to research, how to build characters, and thanks to my then Beloved Proofreaders – my wife Janet and friend Fran Bellerive – how to edit these long monstrosities.

It didn’t go anywhere, eventually languished for a couple of years in the Black Hole where most new horror writers’ book eventually languished –the desk of Leisure Books. Even as I began to market this doomed novel, I knew it was the proverbial first novel and if I looked back on it one day I would see it had a long way to go. During the writing of Good Shepherd, my short story, “Lavish” was published in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination – at the time a fairly big print mag (even got my name on the cover). They massacred the story, removing scene breaks and riddling it with typos (why they felt the need to re-type the story when I could have given them an electronic copy is beyond me). I loved this story, and was pretty bummed out. But – good comes from ashes. Because the story was in the forefront of my mind, I began to think that it would make a great novel. The story itself would be the final chapter, and the bulk of the book would be the story of the characters getting visions of angels and preparing (or not) for a new Great Flood. Originally titled Lavish, like the story, then The Ark on the Common, then years later Margaret’s Ark, I began writing this book around 2000. I had no idea the ride it would take me on over the years. But I’ve hit what is probably the limit for a blog post, so I’ll continue this tale the next time.


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