A Tale of Two Weekson May 14th, 2012 at 8:34 PM
More precisely, this is a tale of fourteen days, my new science fiction vampire novel just released on Amazon for the Kindle: 14 Days ‘Til Dawn. The idea for this whole novel came to me in a very unusual way. I want to take the time to share the story with you, and hopefully by the time we’re done, you’ll want to read the book.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. That’s where most novels come from. An author asks a series of questions, and the answers provide the basis for the plot of a book. In this case, the question came to me while I was driving home one night. The song “Freefalling” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came on the radio. The beginning of the second verse goes like this:
And all the vampires walking through the valley
Move west down Ventura Boulevard.
I had heard the song countless times before, but this time I had a vision. [Rick wonders: Is it dangerous to have visions while you’re driving?] Why would vampires walk west? The answer to that question is rather simple: they need to get away from the sun. But no one can walk fast enough to avoid the sun. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I had a novel on my hands. All I had to do was answer the questions.
The first obstacle I had to tackle was the previously stated fact that nothing can walk (or run) fast enough to escape the sun. My vampires would need to be mobile in some type of vessel. It would have to be airborne, because they would eventually hit a coastline. But I need them to be able to socialize with each other, which they couldn’t do in a group of airplanes. My answer: a flying city!
This was when the story began to really flow. Obviously, if I’m talking about a flying city, this story has to be science fiction. This opened another door for me: I was no longer bound to this planet. For reasons that you’ll see when you read the book, I chose the Alpha Centauri system. I put my flying vampire city on a moon in orbit of the third planet. With a four-week rotation period, I had found the perfect home for my vampires: the nights last for two weeks. This supplied me with the title: 14 Days ‘Til Dawn. It also allowed me to slow down my flying city, allowing easy access by those on the ground.
I spent a few months writing the backstory. This included a history of life on the lunar continent, a biography on all the characters, and the war that brought the people of this moon to where they are when the book opens. Next, I wrote a basic outline to use as a roadmap on how I planned to get from the beginning to the end.
Outlines are an interesting topic. Some authors swear by them, others never write them. I believe it is completely up to the writer–whichever way works better. I’ve written books with and without an outline, and I find having an outline to be much easier. With that said, I have to point out that an outline needs to be flexible. In 14 Days ‘Til Dawn, I had initially planned to kill off a certain character two chapters into the book. That character’s death was postponed, and eventually, the character completely took over the book. I still arrived at the ending I wanted; it just had a different face on it.
In a recent post, Rick mentioned setting up a timeline. In my case, the timeline became critical–and difficult to manage. The whole novel takes place over the course of a month or so. The problem was that on the moon I created, a night lasts for two weeks. Certain events needed to take place after the sun had set, while others had to coincide with the following sunrise. Without the normal day/night cycle to help me keep track of time, the calendar became much more difficult to manage. I had to take a lot of notes, and I had to keep a very close watch on the passage of time. If I had erred in my calendar math, readers would have noticed.
I’d like to close with a recommendation on two pieces of software that can be a tremendous boon for writers. The first has to do with map generation. With this being a fictitious world, I needed a map. I drew a very primitive map in MS Paint, just to give me a point of reference. But for the novel, I needed something more. Enter the new software: Campaign Cartographer 3. The interface for CC3 takes a little getting used to. But you can see the results in the novel. I used the same software to create a map for The Piaras Legacy and Archon’s Gate. The maps are available for viewing on my website.
The other software, which I am about to purchase, is Scrivener. A friend and fellow author gave this software his highest recommendation. It creates a virtual bulletin board, allowing the writer to easily track characters, events, and the chronology of the novel. While I can’t offer my personal endorsement on this program yet, I will keep you posted.
At long last, 14 Days ‘Til Dawn has hit the virtual shelves. Everyone with a Kindle, iPod, iPad, iPhone, or Android phone/tablet can download it from the Kindle Store. In a few days, I’ll have the paperback version ready. At this point, I don’t have plans to move it to Smashwords and make it available in other formats. But time will tell.