Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Diamond Flame

In my very first post I explained why you should not read this blog, but, in case you don’t want to go back and read that, I’ll recap it for you: blogs are full of other people’s crappy opinions, and mine is certainly no different.  But every once in a while I take a break from regaling you with my crappy opinions and write some fiction instead.  If there were a reason to read this blog (and I’m not saying there is), it would have to be for the fiction, assuming that sort of thing appeals to you.

I’ve been blithely rambling on for about 13 “chapters” now (although admittedly they’re mostly arbitrary divisions) without ever once explaining what the thing was supposed to be, so I thought I’d take a moment to do that.  The explanation is a bit late at this point, but perhaps I’ll go back and put a link to this post on each of the chapter parts so people won’t have to wonder what the hell is going on if they stumble into the middle of it.

Spoiler-free short version:  The fiction is basically a novel, called The Diamond Flame, and it’s meant to be the first in a series of books about a boy named Johnny Hellebore.  I won’t go into any details about who he is or what happens to him (that’s the joy of reading, I think), but let me offer a few similar titles so that you can judge if the thing is your cup of tea or not.  In rereading the content (which I do quite often), I would say the book is most similar to novels such as The Talisman or Shadowland, or possibly the (still ongoing) series Abarat, although I’ve heard Barker intended Abarat to be his Eyes of the Dragon, so to speak, which would make that a poorer comparison.  (Note that these three titles are penned by three of what I refer to as the pentagram of my literary idols.)  Specifically, it is designed as adult fiction, and definitely not children’s fare like Harry Potter or Perseus Jackson, although it has some similarities to those series as well.

The longer version would be this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  Since I was very young, I can remember writing stories.  I was actually never very good at telling stories, but I always tried to write them.  Longhand in notebooks, or on my grandmother’s manual typewriter—it didn’t much matter, I just wanted to write.  Once I got a computer, I started using that, and that’s how I write exclusively these days.  I wrote a lot of short stories, some of which are decent, although none of them are really good, and I started at least two novels that I can recall.  But I never published any of my fiction, and I still haven’t.  Now I’m over 40, and I suppose there’s at least an even chance that I never will.  But I also firmly believe in never giving up your dreams, so perhaps someday ...

Then again, maybe this is just my personal mid-life crisis.

There are two primary reasons that I never pursued my dream of becoming a writer.  The first is that I became a programmer.  Now, Stephen King once said (as apparently Somerset Maugham did before him) that you don’t become a writer because you want to; you become a writer because you have to ... because, if you didn’t write down all the stuff trying to burst out of your brain, your head would just explode.  I think that’s true, but perhaps too specific.  A creative outlet is required for a creative person, but it does not necessarily have to be the first thing that you fixate on.  We see this all the time, with singers who take up acting, actors who take up singing, directors who take up painting, ad infinitum.  I’m just a writer who took up programming.  And don’t let anyone ever tell you that programming is all logical and not creative.  That’s bullshit.  Writing a software program is like writing a story in many ways: you start with nothing, and then you create, trying different approaches, experimenting with different techniques, and, in the end, there is something.  Sometimes it’s beautiful.  More often it’s just adequate.  But, either way, it’s yours, and you made it, and you’ll always feel a bit proud of it, even if you know you could have done better.

So my creative urges found an outlet, in an unlikely place.  I actually only took up programming because I was decent at it, and I figured it was a great way to make money while I became a famous writer.  And then I ended up running my own software company for 12 years.  Funny how those things work out.

But probably the more important reason why I never became a writer is that I never had a great idea.  Oh, I had several good ones; just never a great one.  I was always a good writer, if I do say so myself, but pretty writing without decent ideas behind them isn’t very publishable.  In fact, you’re better off if you have good ideas and can’t write worth a damn.  My own idol King was recently criticized for noting that this was true of Stephanie Meyer; I’ll agree with him and go even further and call out another very popular author, Charlaine Harris.  In my opinion, neither Meyer nor Harris writes particularly well, but I’ll freely admit to being jealous of their brilliant ideas.  I only wish I had come up with something as innovative as either of these ladies.  But, alas, I never have.

Until, perhaps, recently.

One day about a year or so ago, I woke up from an unlikely afternoon nap with my younger son to find a picture in my mind: a picture of a teenage boy, dark-haired, slightly ragged-looking, and I knew his name was Johnny Hellebore.  And I became fascinated with this character.  The name alone was classic, in some sense ... a name worthy of a comic book hero, reminiscent of both Johnny Blaze and Daimon Hellstrom.  I had no idea who this boy was, or why he had invaded my light dozing, or—assuming he was a comic book hero—what sort of powers he might have.  But he kept running around my brain, and he soon acquired a companion: Larissa, a little girl who had first appeared in a D&D campaign I ran in the early 90’s.  Then followed a few more half-dreams about Johnny (and occasionally Larissa), and then a few more dreams which weren’t really about those characters at all, but somehow seemed that they might be shoehorned in nonetheless, and then I was writing little scenes and vignettes, completely disconnected, and then ...

And then I started a blog, for some insane reason, and suddenly there was a place to actually put all this stuff I was writing.  Of course, that required making some sort of coherent whole out of it.  So that’s what I set about doing.  Most of the content of this “novel” is really just me writing my way from one scene to another, trying to make them all fit together.  I think I’ve achieved some amount of success with this.  In fact, I suspect—although of course I may be wrong—that this may be the best thing I’ve ever written.

So, if you think this is something you might be interested in, I encourage you to start at the beginning.  Feel free to backtrack occasionally; you may find that I’ve gone back and revised things slightly (mostly for grammar and phrasing, not so much for content).  Each post has a link at the top to the previous entry, and one at the bottom for the next entry, so it should be moderately easy to navigate through it.  And, every now and again, I post a new half a chapter or so.  You can also find other posts like this one—me writing about the process of writing—by searching for the “metafiction” tag.  If you find any of this entertaining, feel free to post a comment.  I know, I know: I keep telling you not to read this blog.  But this novel just may constitute an exception to that.

Happy reading.

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