On Worldbuilding: Fluid History

John: “Hey there, Jeremy, what do you know about holes?”

Jeremy HIllary Boob, PhD: “There are simply no holes in my education.”

–Yellow Submarine

If you’ve ever watched any kind of documentary or series, there’s always some element of “we’re not entirely sure what happened at this point in time, but we can make an educated guess by looking at the following clues” or some such.  The further back we go in time, the harder it is to pinpoint the date of an event; eventually the most we can say is “sometime during the [x] Era.”   Those are extreme examples, though.  Sometimes our view of history changes within a few decades, when we look at the events of a specific time with the eyes of a different generation, maybe even a different culture.

I started thinking about this sometime ago when I started writing the new Mendaihu Universe story.  One of the subplots deals with the events that took place in the original Bridgetown Trilogy, though this new story takes place about seventy years later. Without going into too much detail, our histories of our heroes in that trilogy have become somewhat embellished, even after so short a time.  Denni Johnson, the teenager who had ascended as the earthbound deity the One of All Sacred, is now viewed as a saint, complete with a marble statue that thousands flock to and pray at.  Her sister Caren and Caren’s ARU partner Alec Poe, who never ascended as far as Denni did, are seen as more than human; Caren is believed to be an angelic protector, and Poe is seen as a Mighty Warrior.

And yet, all three were merely human.  Gifted with psionic abilities, just like anyone else in the Mendaihu Universe who have gone through an awakening ritual, but still — they were just as human as the rest of us.

Part of the focus on this new story is how certain people and events in history get changed over the years.  We may have documents, we may have databases and videos, but it still boils down to how the person or event is seen by the viewer.  We put amazing people on pedestals, even if their personalities were less than stellar, because regardless of their infallibility, they changed the world in some way.  The same could be said of horrible people as well; their vileness goes down in history as a grim reminder (even if, on a personal level, they weren’t one hundred percent vile).  We rarely look at these things objectively; we always have some emotional attachment to them, however big or small.

The evolution of historical accuracy fluctuates a lot more than we’d like it to, quite often because of this emotional attachment.  In this new story, the views of the new devout (those who follow the steps of the One of All Sacred — that is, Denni — and hope to find clarity in their lives) have become reasonably established.  However, schisms have already broken out; there are those who see Denni as a savior, and others who see her as an ascended but flawed human.  There are the Elders, the spiritual leaders who have been around for centuries, who are also splitting: those who have embraced the evolution of belief, and those who want to retain the status quo.

It’s a bit of a mess, but that’s the fascinating part of history as it happens.  No one really knows what the hell is going to happen next until it does.


A Division of Souls: Character Sketch!


And we’re back! My first bit of artwork now that I’m back on the whiteboard schedule is another character sketch for the Bridgetown Trilogy gang.

Christine Gorecki has an interesting background, as she was originally a tertiary character when I created her late in the ADoS story; she shows up in person in the last third of the novel when I needed to have someone ARU-related meet up with Sheila and Nick during a specific point in the plot.  I ended up really liking her and gave her a major role in the trilogy.

She’s somewhat of a lone wolf.  She’s highly intelligent and resourceful and originally used that to her advantage while she was part of the Alien Relations Unit.  She’d decided about six months previous to the events in ADoS to take a temporary leave of absence to clear her head and deal with some very personal issues, and in the meantime she’d started freelancing as a detective as well as a low-level healer, which she runs out of a storefront on the ground level of the apartment building she owns.

Christine shares a very close friendship with Alec Poe; she is often the first person he thinks of when he needs outside (non-Vigil) help, and trusts her completely, and the feeling is mutual.  She’s also close friends with Caren Johnson and her sister Denni, and looks after them from a distance.

On Selling the Book: Who Is My Audience?

Kakashi from Naruto, @Masashi Kishimoto
Kakashi from Naruto, ©Masashi Kishimoto

It’s come to that point, and I don’t think I can avoid it anymore.

Who is my audience for the Mendaihu Universe novels? I admit it’s something I never really took took seriously while writing the Bridgetown Trilogy in the first place.  Sure, I bashed some of my ideas out with my coworkers while working at Yankee Candle, and I know a few of them have been waiting way too long for me to release these damn things.  I’ve talked about this universe here and there online for years.  I’ve had a small handful of beta readers over the years.  And then there’s me, the one who create the series, who loves writing within it.

And thinking about how to sell the thing to potential publishers, agents or readers is something I haven’t exactly wanted to think about too often, because I hate dealing in sales.  I had a telemarketing job back in ’93 and it was soul-sucking, and I lasted all of three months before I left.  Not that I can’t sell things I’m interested in — as mentioned earlier, I could upsell you records like no tomorrow — but it’s just not something I enjoy doing.  And come to find out, a lot of writers I know are in the same boat.

But seriously — who is the target audience for this universe, anyway?

I have a few ideas on who might enjoy reading this series, and though I’ll be shamelessly upselling to everyone in general, I know there are a few subsets of genre readers out there who might really enjoy the books, and I’ll be giving extra focus to those readers when the time comes.  [The actual upselling can be pretty tricky as well…there’s a fine line between selling it to a potential audience and billboarding yourself everywhere.  Something to think about.]

But who should I sell it to?

Well, that’s a good question.  I consider myself lucky that I’ve gone to various sff conventions, and that I have a reasonably large group of online friends and acquaintances so I’m familiar with what kind of readers are out there.  There are those who’ll read anything.  There are those who will only read military sf, or hard sf, or sword and sorcery, or paranormal romance, or what have you.  There are slow readers, speed readers, those who love short stories and those who love doorstop novels.  If I had to narrow it down, I would say my potential readers would be a mix of general genre readers, urban fantasy, and future sf, with a bit of fantasy realism in there as well.  [I think some manga readers/anime watchers would also enjoy the series, and that’s why you see Kakashi up there.]

Part of the trick is not so much to say “I want to sell to manga/fantasy/future sf readers” but to say “How can I capture the interest of this particular fantasy reader?” and adjust accordingly.  That’s part of what ‘knowing your audience’ is about: understand who it is you’re showing your wares to, and speak with them, not at them.  That’s something I learned in my day job, actually…don’t demand their attention, but pique their interest.  Your pitch will be a lot less stressful that way.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last few months — mind you, I’ve been doing a lot of research on this, not just hemming and hawing (although there’s been some of that as well).  I don’t want to do this half-assed.  I know if the response to the initial launch is crickets, thankfully I should be able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and launch it again, the right way.  There are way too many moving parts in this game, and I can totally understand that it can be frustrating, and one missed part can send the whole contraption falling down in an avalanche.  I’m hoping all this homework paid off, however, because it’s almost high time to get these things out in the world.

On Writing: Coming Back to Music

One thing I didn’t expect to revisit while writing the new MU story is to visualize the scenes I’m writing based on a specific song.

I used that sparingly during the original writing of the Bridgetown Trilogy; there are very few scenes where, at least in my mind, a specific track should be playing.  The final scene of A Division of Souls having Failure’s “Daylight” playing.  A scene of Alec Poe driving down a highway with Supreme Beings of Leisure’s “Strangelove Addiction” playing.  And so on.  I never mentioned them in the book outright, of course.  The scene was never based specifically on the song, it was only background that happened to fit.

Come 2015, I’m writing the second chapter of the new story, in which a character has stepped into Light and is soaring over the extended metropolitan sprawl of Bridgetown, sensing the presence of everyone he flies past as he heads towards Mirades Tower.  I’m about a page in, when Dot Allison’s “Message Personnel” pops into my head.  I play the song through with its peaks and valleys of psychedelic ambiance, and the next thing I know…the entire rest of the scene plays out crystal clear in my head, just waiting to be written.

I haven’t written a scene in that manner since…well, since I wrote the Infamous War Novel almost entirely in that fashion, nearly thirty years ago.

I found myself doing it again just the other day, as I was writing the start of the new chapter while flying home from London.  The in-flight music selection happened to include Led Zeppelin’s recent remaster of Physical Graffiti, which meant I got to listen to my favorite LZ track, “Kashmir”, in all its epic glory.  I’d used the song in the IWN, so it was to some surprise that the lurching bombast of the track somehow lent itself to the scene I was writing that moment, in which another character has ascended towards a higher aspect of the kiralla (a dragonlike form meant to be one of the highest forms of spirit in physical form), and she’s reveling in the fact that she’d ascended all on her own without training or ritual.  The track screams BIG, and so does the scene.

It’s kind of weird to revisit this old writing process of mine that helped me finish my very first novel when I was a teenager, especially when I wasn’t expecting it.  I’m not planning to lean on this style exclusively, though now that I know it still works to some extent, I’m not exactly going to avoid it either.  Whatever works to get the scene done how I’m visualizing it.

Back to the Grind

Spare Oom awaits.
Spare Oom awaits.

It’s been a crazy couple of months.

Between the trips to New York City and London, the weekend plans, multiple work-related issues and everything else, I’ve been so full up that I’d made the decision to clear the whiteboard schedule, temporarily stop work on a lot of creative projects, and focus only on the most important ones.  That meant that I focused almost all my creative juices on the new Mendaihu Universe story.  Little by little, I let a few things in as time permitted, such as guitar practice and photography.

Now that all the major events are out of the way for the time being, it’s time to get back to the grind and open up the floodgates a bit more.  I’ve replanned the whiteboard schedule again; I’m not filling it up too much just yet, but I’ve added art, music and work on the Walk in Silence book back into the mix, and moved the updating of the WtBT blog to Mondays.  I may revisit the daily 750 Words if time permits.  And musically, I have a few ideas I’d like to record in demo form as part of the Drunken Owl project.

The temporary hiatus did have its positives, as I was able to provide better focus on what needed it, and still have time to relax.  I was also able to recalibrate how I viewed my writing — not just the output but the style, and looking at what can be adjusted — to the point that I should also be able to do the same with my other writing projects that I put aside.  Long story short, I’ve realized that the best practice (to borrow an annoying work-related phrase) for me is to do most of my writing longhand and use my PC time for revision and rewriting, and that’s how I plan to work from here on in.

These last few months have been a relaxing reprieve, but I’ll say this:  it’s great to be back on schedule again.

Fly-By: London Calling


Oh, hi there! Yes, I am still here among the living. We’re currently staying in a nice quiet hotel in the Earl’s Court neighborhood of London, and we’ve been doing all sorts of sightseeing, museum visiting, and pub crawling the last few days.

I admit I don’t currently have any new posts at the moment other than this fly-by, but I have some things going in the background that I shall share soon enough. I’ve also been getting a decent amount of page count for the new MU story as of late.  It’s been a busy but fun vacation so far!

Talk to you soon, yeah?