Working on the Vox

Lure has pulled me away from finishing Neon Blue for the last several weeks. I’m finally getting over the hump in Lure: moving from the scenes on the crashed ship to the scenes at Maia Colony. Since I’ve got nearly 50,000 words now and the movement from the ship to the Colony is supposed to happen about 1/2 way through, this is a good thing.

The last several scenes I’ve written take place outside the ship and that’s made me rejigger the configuration of the ship. I’ve been working off this diagram:

But I don’t think it works anymore. There have to be individual tethers to each of the bays for the ship to pinwheel in flight. Have to unearth Corel Draw on my hard-drive and draw me a new diagram, methinks.

More Worldbuilding

Something that’s always attracted me to writing fantasy and science fiction is the “worldbuilding” element. That is, the part where I get to create a world that’s both like the one we live in, and not so like it, as the setting for a story.

For Neon Blue and Blood Yellow, that “worldbuilding” has mostly involved integrating magic into a modern, urban setting in a way that I hope is natural and believable. But I’ve known all along that there was another big piece of worldbuilding that I’d need to do if I wanted to show Hell. Since I’ve now worked scenes in Hell into both Neon Blue and Blood Yellow, the time to do that worldbuilding has come.

A long drive to Edinburg (which He Who Is Doing the Driving says is pretty much on par with Hell, but I actually like, even though it’s freaking cold here for June) has given me the opportunity to do some serious worldbuilding for Hell. I’ve tried to get away from my biblical (and AD&D) roots a bit, although I know my Hell is going to be informed by Christianity (and Gary Gygax, and Dante). How could it not be? I’ve brought along a wonderful book I found in Harvard Square many years ago, Demonology and Devil-lore, by Moncure Daniel Conway (Henry Holt, 1879). I like his distinction between demons and devils. Demons, he claims, are not gratuitously harmful. Rather, their evil is incidental to their motivations: hunger, lust and other suffering. That’s my demons in a nutshell. They feed off strong human thought and emotion (mostly negative thought and emotion). Like any intelligent predator, they want to make sure their food source is readily available, so they’ve developed into tempters and stealers of souls.

This turns out to be a rich starting point for worldbuilding my version of Hell. It’s led to “types” of demon (fire, ice, earth, air and water) who feed off different kinds of thought and emotion. “Classes” of demon as the different types evolve from low-level consumptive machines (lemures) to apex predators (pit fiends). Thinking about the interactions between these demons has created a history for Hell, revolving around the perpetual struggle for dominance between the demon lords that is the Hellwar. And laying out the various conflicts of the Hellwar has led to a broad topography for Hell.

The broad topography has led to a more detailed topography of the area where Jou and his “clutch” live, Ash Hill (a very obscure reference to the movie, Silent Hill). It was natural to “people” Ash Hill, the Fiendyke, Bez-Kadder and the Soulfields after I’d mapped them out, so a bunch of new characters have evolved: Reece, the sixth member of Jou’s clutch (along with Fulsome, Nevida and the Zes), the murderous Noctil who inhabits Bez-Kadder (still working on a name for her), Cazin, the Hound of Ash Hill, Icky the Imp, Nesne, a not-demon who guards the Gates through the Fiendyke, Uzal, Keeper of the Soulfields. I’m not sure if any of these characters will make it into either Neon Blue or Blood Yellow, but they’ve been fun to think and write about!

A pretty good day, all in all.

Humility

Had a little spare time this weekend so I gulped down two books. One was an old favorite, Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds. The other was a recent purchase off Amazon, Jim Butcher’s White Night.

Both are really great books. Not good books. Great books. Books to savor. Books to read and re-read and think about and let them change your life. Here’s a wonderful passage out of White Night that if I think about it enough could do just that:

“Life’s easier when you can write off others as monsters, as demons, as horrible threats that must be hated and feared. The thing is, you can’t do that without becoming them, just a little. Sure, Lasciel’s shadow might be determined to drag my immortal soul down to Perdition, but there was no point hating her for it. It wouldn’t do anything but stain me that much darker.” (310)

Something I’ve known, mused about, tried to write about, but not encapsulated as neatly as this. Hating something violently, passionately, makes us that little bit more like the thing we hate. Draws us that much further down in to the darkness. It’s love, compassion, understanding that sets us free.

Now to write it half as well as Hughart and Butcher do . . .

A Basic Inability to Write

This synopsis thing is driving me around the bend.

Butt has been out of the chair several times. (For weeks at a time, actually.) I’ve surfed most of the web for inspiration, distraction, whatever. Still zero synopsis written. (Probably in direct relation to how much time I’ve spent surfing the web.) It’s really, really getting up my nose now.

Followed closely by my complete inability to write a query letter that makes me sound like anything other than a blithering idiot and my novel like something that was written by the monkey banging away on a typewriter who DIDN’T manage to crank out Shakespeare’s complete works.

Sigh.

In a vain attempt to cheer myself up and mainline some inspiration, I’ve been surfing sites and blogs of writers who have been having the same trouble as me and found this gem. It’s a blog where aspirants to the Unholy Temple post draft queries and sample chapters and get feedback on them. Granted, the feedback is from other aspirants, not the target audience, but, hey, all feedback is good feedback, as I always say. At least they’re not laboring along in the dark, surfing Cadbury Egg sites for inspiration, distraction, whatever.

So now I have somewhere to test my query and synopsis . . . if I could ever get them written.

The Dark

Watched The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising Friday night on DVD. (WARNING: movie spoilers follow.)

I expected to be disappointed. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series was one of my favorite set of books as a young teen. All the reviews I’ve read panned the movie. And the previews I’ve seen didn’t really float my boat.

But I actually enjoyed it. It’s nothing like the book, no. But I haven’t read the book in several years and didn’t read it again before I watched the movie, so I was able to enjoy the movie on its own. The mall guards turning into crows scene (with the nice homage to The Matrix) was genuinely frightening. I love Christopher Eccleston in all of his roles and thought he was terrific as The Rider. The scene where he rides across the bridge trailing darkness had all the small hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Those moments made up for the rank cheesiness of other moments like the Dark enveloping the Statue of Liberty (hasn’t Harry Potter convinced Hollywood that a movie can be about British kids, in England, saving British people, and still be successful?). And the departures from what I remember of the book and common sense (er, why is The Rider of the Dark riding a white horse?).

I then joined The Child in watching Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire last night. Enjoyed that, too, although I have to say that I think I’d watch The Dark is Rising again before I’d pick up another Harry Potter movie (maybe I’m just finally getting Harry Potter fatigue). But something that stayed with me from both movies was the repetition of “the dark.” The Dark is Rising. The Dark Lord. The Dark Mark. And the quintessential, the Dark Side. Dark, dark, dark, dark. Didn’t anyone have a thesaurus?

Now, I’m not ignoring the power of certain words. “Dark” is a powerful word. It carries a lot of weight in ontological and metaphysical terms. Man has always feared the Dark. And many writers have played on that fear, and the words that symbolize it, to good effect. But in thinking about it this morning while contemplating my own use of “the Dark” (particularly “the Dark Path” in Neon Blue), I keep wondering if it’s not becoming overused.

Surely with a little thinking and a good thesaurus, I should be able to come up with something else?

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