Dancing Landmarks

The second chapter continues to yank me in unexpected directions, all for the best. Nearly done now, and on the cusp of 10,000 words. In page terms this is an arbitrary number; at an average of 250 words per printed page, that comes to 40 pages. Still a good chunk of pulp, but it’s not even a round figure. Ten thousand, now that sounds like a nice milestone. And I’m nearly there.

I might have written even more tonight, except that research ate up way more time than I intended. Any time you write about New York, you really need to know your background — and sometimes the details can get kind of crazy.

Both my wife and I are touched by your continued support. The most recent donation comes from my very old friend Lan, which makes two contributors in a row in need of special cookie recipes. Dietary minefields are all part of the challenge.

If anyone has been putting off a sizable donation out of concern for gluten or sugar content, don’t you worry about it; whatever your needs, my wife can work around them. She’s clever that way.

Structure by Faith

This chapter started in a weird place, and now has wrapped its way back to reality. There is something to be said for keeping one’s eyes on the horizon and having faith in the tendency for a story to end up where it needs to be. I am now feeling more confident than ever that this project is going to work out the way I want it to.

Although from here I will offer only slim hints at the book’s content, I can’t help but share a particular sentence:

Colin viewed his neighbor’s feet with detachment.

That’s it, then. Goodnight folks.

Except that’s not it. I need to send out a huge thank-you to my friend Brady Hartel for his support of this project. He is due a fun bundle o’ junk when the process reaches that stage.

On a related note, you will see a few new details to your left: progress meters both for the novel (based on a rough guess of 300 pages) and for funding (based on rough estimates of expenses), and a tidy space to memorialize all contributors to this project.

Thank you all for your continued interest, and again for whatever help you can provide.

Auto Focus

Despite my early hang-ups with chapter two, I am now only one page behind in my daily schedule. The words have been flowing, and I have decided to ignore any imperfections until the next go around. That’s a piece of advice I wish had been drilled into me from an early age: writing is writing, and editing is editing. When writing, remember that there will always be another draft. All you’re doing now is laying down the raw material for later. Without that material, you’ll have nothing to edit.

For the fun of it, let me introduce you to some of the key characters. The first few pages introduce more names than the first episode of The Wire, and the story takes a while to clarify them all. Here, then, is some of the core cast.

  • The central, or most featured, character is a mechanic named Bill. He has only lived in the area for a few years. Before then he worked in Oakland. Between the two car cultures, Bill feels a bit more useful in Brooklyn. Bill is a quiet, practical man. He has his principles, and will stand up for people where he can. Otherwise he minds his business, keeps his head down, and loses himself in his work.
  • Colin Drumlin works alongside Bill. At night he chases a futile music career, and he usually feels it in the morning. He also feels it in his stomach. Colin tends to cocoon his insecurity in a warm blanket of irony, that helps him to fit in with the Bushwick crowd.
  • Gary is the absentee owner of Gary’s Auto, employer to Bill and Colin. When the shop’s manager checks out unannounced, Gary is forced to take over day-to-day operations. He’s drowning, and he has no one to blame. For now Bill’s mission is to avoid becoming that target, and maybe to deflect Gary from the lower-hanging fruit.
  • The lowest at the moment may be the manager’s younger brother, Omar. He’s green, and he makes Bill seem like a chatterbox. Though he may have no defense against Gary, Omar sees everything and remembers most of it. In his own time and his own way, he will always find a creative way to respond.

Mind you, everything I say here is provisional. The first two chapters introduce at least another four or five characters, any of whom may grow or diminish in value. For now, though, this should give you something to gnaw over.

Under the Shades

The progress continues on chapter two. Whereas the first chapter materialized of its own accord within a matter of days, this next block has been a struggle. Part of my trouble, I think, is the shift in perspective. I know the story from Bill’s point of view. I have no trouble there. To wear another character is to run the story through a fussy manual translation. I know who these people are, but it’s trickier to understand how they work outside of Bill’s own knowledge.

Then my wife suggested music. I don’t know how I’ve gone this far without it, but that’s the catalyst I needed. Turn off the rational thought. Stop second-guessing, and just let the characters talk. And splash, there’s a good hunk of the chapter. Now if I just had some Haribo and a steady supply of Moxie — that would really quell the inner editor. Note for a future day. (These are links to my wife’s Amazon store, yes.)

In other news, we have our first donation! Though not quite anonymous I get the sense that the donor prefers to slip by quietly, so I will save my thanks for the eventual foreword. He can’t escape that.

The momentum continues, and every page brings new threads to explore. I get the sense that I am going to want to read this thing when it’s finished.

Thank you all for your support on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Continue to spread the word and keep tuning in. There will be more to see soon.

How to Support, and What it Gets You

Welcome all new visitors, and welcome back to all old. Click here for a refresher on just what we’re doing and what The Under-Kings is all about.

For this novel to reach completion on or near schedule, it will need a constant stream of support. My wife and I have worked through the logistics, and as alluded in the previous post we have a donation scheme that should work for everyone and delight many.

Right out of the box, we have nine reward levels. For each tier we introduce a new reward, as a thank you to our loyal members and fans. The fun part is, the rewards cascade. So if you choose the Cadmium level, you also receive all of the benefits of Aluminum through Zinc. The reward levels are as follows:

  1. Aluminum ($5.00) – Our eternal gratitude
  2. Copper ($10.00) – A public shout-out — here, on Twitter, on Facebook
  3. Zinc ($25.00) – A printed thank-you in the book’s foreword
  4. Cadmium ($50.00) – A .PDF copy of The Under-Kings, delivered upon the novel’s completion
  5. Tin ($75.00) – A box of selected inspirational material
  6. Mercury ($100.00) – A selection of apocrypha, production materials, sketches, and photos
  7. Lead ($250.00) – A choice of either 12 chocolate chip cookies or 6 semi-sweet chocolate brownies, hand-baked by my wife
  8. Einsteinium ($500.00) – A name-check in a later chapter of The Under-Kings, plus a limited edition signed and bound hard copy of the novel
  9. Nobelium ($1,000.00) – A custom-written 5-10 page short story involving the above character with your name

For those who prefer to go rogue, you can always skip the reward structure and Paypal your preferred amount to novel (at) tairne (dot) com. Or if you wish to sidestep the whole Paypal thing, e-mail us at the same address to ask about hard contact info.

Member or not, I will continue to update this blog for you all as the writing develops. Later on, you can also expect some fun contests and activities. My hope is that everyone feels involved in the process.

Your enthusiasm is contribution enough. Though if you want to see the novel any time soon, I point you toward that Paypal button.

Rocket Pops

Thanks to the enthusiasm of several parties, including my dear wife and a fey little man named Brandon Sheffield, the writing is underway.

I have had three false starts over the last year or so; this one is for real. As of this post I have completed one chapter, begun a second, and roughly mapped out the book’s structure. It gets hazier the further back it goes, but that just leaves room for improvisation. Proximity brings clarity, and as long as you know where you’re going you know what signs to watch for.

The big question at present, now that I have begun this support project, is what to call the darned thing. My wife and I, she in the role of editor, have been rolling around several big, tawdry B-movie titles. Brain Freeze! Jumped! Cooler!

Right now I’m working with The Under-Kings. I think this may be the one. We’ll see if the writing presents me anything better. It’s usually a mistake to pretend that one is in control of a creative project. Anything of value is in total control of you.

As for you, dear reader: if I am to complete this book in any reasonable time, I will need your help. I work freelance; I get paid when I get published — or more probably, several months later. If I’m going to support my family, I need to keep working. If I’m going to write this book, I need to focus on it to the exclusion of all other work. So I prevail upon you, the enthusiastic.

I am going to set up various donation schemes, associated with some wild thank-you gifts. I want you all to feel a part of the process. This novel is going to be funny, scary, confusing, and quite probably good. I can say this because I have read it — both on paper and in my own head.

For now, there’s a PayPal button over to the left. Have at it, if you are inclined! With our next update, we will outline a greater scheme for you all.

You can read more about this project on the about page.