Atlantis

A nice article on the origins of Atlantis from the BBC website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/greeks/atlantis_01.shtml

This myth has been on my mind during these days leading up to the release of Slash of Crimson, as it figures largely in the storyline. Though there have been wide ranging theories as to origins of Plato’s sunken city, I think its location probably does match a geographical source from the classical or pre-classical Mediterranean. Discovering a story’s origins, however, often raises more questions than it answers.

We are conditioned by themes in popular literature to feel like we already know to some extent what kind of character a vampire has, a werewolf has, etcetera. We need these themes to stay somewhat true even to enjoy it when we add a twist to them. And so in this regard, when it comes to Atlantis, what we’re usually handed is an ancient civilization inhabited by advanced beings that encountered tragedy for unspecified reasons.

But I wonder sometimes what motivations might lie beneath this story structure. I wonder what an Atlantean would have to say about Plato’s tale, and whether what he thinks important would be the same as what she thinks important. Perhaps an Atlantean would have other priorities entirely. Perhaps she would ask something very different of someone she loves, for example, than a human would, and perhaps growing to understand what that love truly meant would lead to places uncharted indeed.

A Game of Phones

In an age where technology is splicing itself faster than a mad scientist’s Petri-dish full of mutant mitoticidal bunny rabbit cells, I sometimes forget about a device that existed long before blackberries, iPads and Skype. That is, the telephone.

During the weeks Armand (Writer/Editor with Rymfire) and I were sending drafts of Slash of Crimson back and forth, the emails started to get a little backed up. I kept sending him versions with names something like, Slash.of.Crimson.REAL.FINAL.VERSION.I.MEAN.IT.THIS.TIME.WITH.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.doc

As a result, we had to work out version control. We also had to discuss the final touches on the cover. And of course, the release date. This was going to take a lot of time through email, and increase traffic even more.

That’s when Armand came up with a radical proposal: “How about you call me?”

Carl: “Okay, no problem, let’s see, why don’t you email your phone number…”

Omitted: “…to my Gmail account which will automatically forward to my Blackberry (well, it’s not really a Blackberry, it’s a Nokia E71x that looked almost as cool as a Blackberry about eight years ago, but hey who’s counting…). Anyway it’ll come in as a text message and I can just save your number from there.”

Armand: “Sure.”

But of course when would the call happen? Because after all, one of the great advantages of texting and email, of beaming photos back and forth and posting things on social networking sites, is the time lag. You can respond when you have time to respond and get more done overall. Most of the time this works perfectly for us as we are pretty busy with full time writing schedules and other responsibilities. But finally we settled on our first phone call attempt:

Thursday night, 9:00 p.m.:

Carl’s email at 11:30 p.m.: “Crap, I’m really sorry, I fell asleep putting the kids to bed and forgot to ask Sarah to wake me up.”

Armand’s email: “No worries, how about next Friday?”

The Next Friday:

Armand’s email: “NOT TONIGHT—family duties, try next week.”

Carl’s email: “No problem.”

Omitted: “…I mean, it works out anyway because I had like three shots of bourbon and some hot wings and can’t talk. No, not a scheduling issue. I mean I can’t talk.

The Next Sunday:

Armand’s email: “I called this afternoon.”

Carl’s email: “So did I.”

Omitted: Guys, phone calls have to happen simultaneously.

Next Thursday:

Carl’s email at 11:30: “Crap, um, I fell asleep putting the kids to bed again, crap, damn, sorry…”

Armand’s email: “Oh, yeah, um, I was asleep too, but I woke up from about 9:00 to 9:05.”

Carl’s email: “Okay, we’re going to make this happen tomorrow morning.”

Friday morning:

I began to realize that the phone call had to be made a true priority. All kidding aside, the reality is that I function under a set of priorities similar to those listed in Stephen King’s On Writing. Namely, that the most important thing about the craft of writing is to write every day, rain or shine. Nor does it matter if it’s a holiday or day-job day, sleep-deprivation day (or night), or a kids or housework day. All must be worked around. This is the way forward in developing one’s craft as a novelist. This is the way to become a better storyteller. The advice in that book, which is generally echoed by other professional novelists, proves true in a lasting sense.

Where that particular book is less useful, however, is in pointers in more recent forms of networking and conducting business. In a time when Internet and Ebooks are alive and getting stronger, we can’t ignore this side of writing. And though I would still never sacrifice the daily work on the craft, this other realm must also be developed.

And so that Friday morning I delayed the camping trip departure, delayed the bill paying, delayed even getting dressed. And though I didn’t cut out the writing session altogether, I did put aside some time at the end and made sure the phone call was finally on time!  An hour later Armand and I had our details worked out.

Thus, Slash of Crimson’s release date:  June 1, 2012!

On Wildernesses

Upon returning from a recent trip to the woods I found myself thinking about the true meaning of ‘wilderness’. As a writer, I’ve noticed most of my stories take place in either remote rural landscapes or deep in the inner city. This reflects my own biography, having spent most of my adult life living in large cities and most of my youth living in back-woods Maine. Of course, Stephen King has written quite a lot about Maine, and many diverse aspects of it. Yet I would venture to say, even as a fan of his writing, that in most cases, the way he engages Maine and Mainers could be characterized as ‘Small Town’ Maine. I think he has always done this exceptionally well, and growing up in Bangor during his time of coming to prominence as a novelist would be an interesting post in itself.

However, I’ve always felt like there was something else going on in my relationship with the locale where I grew up. I’m not talking so much about the small towns, but rather the remote lakes, streams and forests where my father spent as much time as he could, and where consequently, I spent a large amount of time during my formative years.

These places had a character that wasn’t quite so state-specific. Rather, I felt a sense of losing touch with mapped geography altogether and travelling back to something primordial. Being at the winter lake and listening to the ice bend and crack through the night, being at the summer lake and hearing the coyotes wailing far off in the hills had a limitless, impersonal kind of power. When we were in these places, we did not have running water or electricity, and often ate food that was hunted, gathered or caught. As a child this breadth of land and closeness of life and death had a profound impact on my mind. We were not church-going people and the old man rarely talked about impractical things. To the extent I heard anything close to spiritual, it centered on what animals had to do to survive. However, I would stop short of saying that nature itself was ‘spiritual’; instead I would substitute ‘nature’ with ‘wilderness’. I would consider wilderness a place where independence and survival constituted what was most important, and the landscape something to be tampered with only to the extent minimally required to facilitate survival’s priorities. True, animals and human beings living in these settings sometimes worked in groups, but there was a distinct sense of independence and thrift when it came to relationships that was nothing like what one experiences in day to day life in more civilized places.

Jump cut to my move to big cities—I have lived mostly in two large cities: Pusan, South Korea, and New York, New York, and for now will focus on New York.

When I began living in Brooklyn, I felt a stir very similar to what I felt when I would go to the remotest parts of Maine. Maybe that sounds crazy, because Brooklyn is so densely populated. But it did feel somehow familiar. Perhaps one factor might have been that the neighborhoods where I could afford to live were mostly impoverished, particularly when I first moved to the city in the late 1990’s. The doorways were thick with graffiti, the lots slithering with weeds and the carcasses of old cars. Most of us are familiar with scenes like these because many American cities have their own versions of them. But what took me aback about New York was the sheer size of it. Its immensity made it feel like an urban tundra—a place uncharted and not subject to the rules and regulations common to smaller cities, towns and suburbs.

And so wilderness began to take on a new meaning for me, something that consisted of what Maine and New York had in common—the sense of mystery, the sense of lawlessness and the sense of freedom. Whether urban or rural, these landscapes possessed a certain rugged power that could enliven narrative, particularly when dealing with subjects frightening or taboo. And though the setting alone would never be the whole of a story, venturing into lands ripe for exploration increased the chance for a thrilling discovery.