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Monday, April 15, 2024

Arthur Clock

  He looked up and down the street. He settled on a bar down on the next corner. It was called El Águila.
  “I’ll meet you in front of that bar in the morning. But not too early. Say, ten o’clock.”
  —Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, chapter 15 (“A Night at the Plaza”)
Somewhat belatedly, I received a lovely gift a few weeks ago. The occasion was either Christmas or my birthday or both—the two are kind of synonymous in my case—and when I say belated, I don’t just mean it was meant for this past December. It was ordered by my nieces and nephew a year or two before that. I forget which because, though I had been notified way back when it was ordered, there was subsequently an extended delay in the shipping and I had long since forgotten about it. It was designed and produced as a Kickstarter project, and as a I know from my own experience, those things can often take longer, sometimes much longer, than advertised.

It was thus a complete surprise when my gift showed up unexpectedly at my door. Fortunately, seeing the name of the item jarred my memory, and I knew who had sent it. What I couldn’t do was say the item’s name out loud.

The name of this very cool thing is the Author Clock. That doesn’t seem as though it should be so difficult to say, but for the life of me every time I go to enunciate it, it comes out as “Arthur Clarke.” I guess that makes some kind of sense, seeing as how Arthur C. Clark was an author (2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End prominent among his novels), but it’s still a strange impediment.

The Author Clock was an incredibly thoughtful gift for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is that it must mean that my brother’s kids actually consider me some kind of writer.

The design is simple. It resembles a tablet like an iPad with a white, non-backlit screen framed in tasteful wood. Once set up using your Wi‑Fi-connected phone or other device, it displays every 60 seconds a different literary quote which includes the current time. The quotes have been crowd-sourced, and they’ve managed to find at least one for each of the 1,440 minutes in a day. The battery can be recharged through its USB‑C, and the clock can be set to update at less frequent intervals in order to prolong times between charging. (Minute-by-minute updates so far in my experience require a recharge every few days.)

 The main disadvantage is that, if you have it sitting on your desk, it can be hard to get any work done because you just want to sit there and watch for the next quote. What book will it be from? Will they have really found a passage mentioning 3:57 a.m.? Who knew so many novels included such specific times?

My fascination with the clock has got me wondering about times mentioned in my own books. How often in my six novels had I mentioned a specific time? I did a quick check.

Sure enough, in the very first chapter of my very first book (Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead) when Lonnie McKay shows up to drag Dallas Green off on an ill-advised adventure in Mexico…
  He didn’t kill the engine. He just sat out there revving it up. He knew that I would hear it and go on out there. I pulled on a tee-shirt and went out. It was almost ten o’clock and time that I should be getting to bed. I was kind of pissed at him for showing up this late when he knew I had to work in the morning.
Most of my mentions of time tend to be on the hour and thus probably not highly prized by the Author Clock folks. In a later chapter Dallas does some nervous clock watching at a bar called El Águila waiting for Lonnie to come back, but he tends to check the time on the hour. Dallas often happens to be waiting for people. In the sequel Lautaro’s Spear, he finds himself waiting for Valérie Destandau…
  When he returned with my drink, I looked at my watch again. She was now twenty minutes late. I pulled out the scrap of paper and double-checked the name of the place and the address. She had also written the time. It said “20.00” which I was pretty sure meant eight o’clock.
The fantasy novels mention specific times much less than the Dallas books, although there are at least a couple references to “the stroke of midnight.” And there’s this bit from Last of the Tuath Dé in which Koschei tells young Peter a story about the plot to kill the Mad Monk…
  “So that was when Prince Felix and the others decided the Mad Monk must be stopped. They invited him to the Moika Palace for tea and cakes at midnight. That’s in St. Petersburg, you know. The cakes had been laced with cyanide. As was the Madeira wine. In case the cakes didn’t do the job.”
So this is one more thing to be thinking about as I write. Maybe if I include lots of obscure time references, I will get mentioned by Arthur, I mean, the Author Clock.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Me and My Demons

How do you like the family portrait that now adorns the top of this page?

Yes, that is myself sitting at the keyboard, no doubt diligently writing away on the next literary masterpiece. I have to say the picture flatters me. It’s now clear that I should have always been an animated character.

I’m surrounded by none other than the renowned Demon Hunter Orpheus (a.k.a. Septimus Bridge), the renowned actual demon Astaroth (a.k.a. The Fiend), and the last two Demon Hunters in the world (as far as we know) Izanami (a.k.a. Chiharu Ito) and Sapphire (a.k.a. Lola Blumquist). You will know them all from reading The Curse of Septimus Bridge and its sequel Last of the Tuath Dé. I like how the human beings are looking vaguely impatient, as if they can’t wait to see what ordeals they are going to be put through next. Meanwhile, The Fiend appears over-eager, as if he’s the one who’s going to have all the fun. All the while, I seem to be cracking a wee bit under all the pressure.

The artwork is by Tamlyn Zawalich, the same talented illustrator who produced the images for the covers of the two Demon Hunters books. It was organized as a birthday surprise by my wonderful friend Dayle, who is not only responsible for making my books read as coherently as they do but who saves my bacon with fixes, corrections and suggestions and who encourages every possible drop of quality in the final drafts.

My friend Michael once suggested that I should turn the Sapphire/Izanami tales into a graphic novel. I was immediately open to the idea, and I’m even more so now.

Maybe, though, we need to extend the saga a bit more first. If you agree, then I have good news. Writing has begun on the sequel to the sequel. I’m only on Chapter 1, but that’s where I always begin.

There has been a longer break than usual (about a year and a half) between the publication of my last book and starting the next one. I had a couple of other projects in between as well as a couple of film festivals to attend, and then it was the distracting Christmas season which, where I live, always seems to run from late October to mid-January. This is the time of year when I usually get most of my serious writing done—even more so when there is pandemic along with government-mandated lockdowns in effect.

There is no lockdown in effect at the moment, but we did have a couple of storms. Last weekend these islands were buffeted by two named storms, Isha and Jocelyn, within a three-day period with us being located in the red zone for the former. We were without electricity for a night and a day, and with phones’ and other gadgets’ batteries running down, I was eventually left without the internet but still had a fully charged laptop to work with. There was actually nothing else I could do except make things up in my head and type them out. It was as though the universe forced me to start the next book.

So yes, the next book is definitely a continuation of (addition to? complement of?) the world of Septimus, Sapphire, Izanami and all the other characters in my own little fantasy world (see illustration above). My other ideas for books—including a story set entirely in Ireland and even also possibly one that returns to the world of Dallas Green—are still out there, but they will wait and gestate a while longer.

So, where does the story—actually multiple stories—go from where we left off at the end of Last of the Tuath Dé? I have an outline, but experience suggests many things could change by the time I’ve finished fleshing it all out. Some of the familiar characters will be back, and there will also be new characters.

So, where does the story go? Let’s find out together.