Crime, fantasy or both?

NotebookMy wife tells me I’ve been in a funny mood this week. Slow as I am on the uptake, I’ve only just realised why. I’m in that strange writer’s limbo called floundering between manuscripts. As a result, my small human brain has been slowly shedding the last project and trying on the next (a process similar to trying on new clothes before you buy).

My most recent project, as I mentioned only last week, is a crime novel called The Frozen King. I’ve put the first draft aside so I can gain a little perspective on it before editing. I think I forgot to mention that it’s the first novel I’ve written with Scrivener, which was a joy to use by the way.

To distract myself from the annoying voice of that MS calling ‘Edit me, edit me,’ every few minutes, I’ve been dipping fingers into my favourite bubbling-under projects. Some are hotter than others, and each one tastes different. Here’s the list:

  • The Haunted Tree is the follow-up to The Frozen King. A big part of me wants to launch straight into it, but I’m fairly sure it would be a bad idea to even consider that before the first MS is in a more polished state.
  • String City Apocalypse is a full-length MS I finished recently, a novel developed from a set of weird fantasy detective stories known collectively as The String City Mysteries. It’s in good shape but the first chapter’s broken and needs fixing.
  • Black Dog is, I think, a novella. You’d probably classify it as horror or dark fantasy. Either way, it’s one of those stories I’ve been circling for years, trying to find the key to unlock it. I have a reasonably coherent story in my head, and an opening I quite like. Here’s the latter:

Later, I learned that was a term used by Winston Churchill to describe depression. That made such pictures in my head: the stalwart bulldog stat black dog esman prowling the English countryside while German planes threw down bombs on his head, all the time tracked by a silent, night-dark hound with eyes like red coals.
The thought comforted me, because I had a black dog too.

Black dog is older than Churchill, as I subsequently found out. Samuel Johnson wrote to James Boswell about him way back in the eighteenth century. ‘What will you do to keep away the black dog that worries you at home?’ he said. I’ve no idea what tricks Boswell had up his sleeve to combat the beast. The same as the rest of us, I suppose: hide when you can, run when you must.

You can keep going back through history and folklore. Look deep enough into the dark times and you’ll see black dog there. He was friend to witches, the faithful companion of Old Splitfoot. He was Cerberus, howling at the brink of Hades. He was the Hound of the Baskervilles. Black dog roamed then as he roams now, more than a wolf and so much bigger than anything man can endure.

So strange, then, that when I first met black dog for myself, I knew none of this. I was fifteen years old, and my friends Max and Paulie were too. Of the three of us, Max and I made it through that summer and got to be sixteen. Paulie stayed behind. It was a summer full of ocean storms, the summer we found the undertow.

The summer I created black dog.

  • Finally there’s The Music of the Spheres, a colossal fantasy series that’s been threatening to kill me for some time now. As with Black Dog, I think I may just have found the way in.

I haven’t been entirely idle during this week of indecision and procrastination. There is the day job after all. I’ve also managed to write half a review of Cinefex #18. So if you remember that summer when you went to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before crossing the road for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, come back soon to get the skinny on all those juicy visual effects.

Meanwhile, I think I have actually decided which of the five projects listed above is going to get my full attention for a while. I just haven’t decided if I’m going to tell anyone yet.

What do you think?

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