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For me, it starts with a thought that floats by when I can’t possibly write it down. I’ll be jogging, or driving, or more commonly, at a standstill but without a pen or my cell, much less a pad—the old fashioned method of capturing mental sperm and tethering them to an egg. Otherwise, I’ll be in company, obliged to listen, or at least balance the dialectic between mine and others’ minds. The few ideas that make it through this mesh and into print undergo a thin vetting, I’ll have to admit. They’ve worked hard to get there, I figure. Given the ongoing reaction (and sometimes lack of it) to my novels, Crystal From The Hills and The Situation, I glean that others’ filtering process might be more thorough. Or more drive-by. Take agents and publishers, for example: a cursory glance is surely all I’m getting from those deluged by submissions and supplications, waiting for that one idea, or that one expression of an idea, that will float their boat or stir visions of future dollar signs. Let me naively ask: are there agents out there struggling for work? I mean, struggling to find writers, or maybe just writers who will make them money, because maybe they don’t know what interests readers anymore than I do?
Among other things, my bi-novel opus concerns the matter of birthing ideas and then pitching them to an imagined, waiting audience. The characters’ process in bringing ideas to life is meant to parallel my own writing process as well as, uh, life, I guess. I’m serious, if diffidently so. I notice it works something like this: you get started, take in what you can, consciously and unconsciously, then later you turn it around and make sounds in the opposite direction. At some point, when ready, you let the world know what you got, hoping an unsuspecting public doesn’t gaze back, nonplussed and indifferent for a hot minute before turning away and moving on. Chris Leavitt, my first protagonist, took it in, all the data around him; in fact, he spent too much time taking it in. That is, he spent too much time in isolation, ruminating on things that didn’t make sense: the way people relate to one another, as in love, fight, and oppress one another in families, friendships, in workplace systems. By his mid-twenties he’d had enough of going forward, so quietly (as in secretly) he resolved to grow down and not up; to lie about his age, drop out of society in fits and starts. Despite himself, he still tries to live some semblance of an adult life: he gets a job, a fledgling career, even a girlfriend—sort of. He fucks it all up, of course, but he can’t stop the needs of his real self; the birthing of ideas.
In his mind, he births the idea of Shadows, his visions that foreshadow shadowy events, criminal happenings, and other important stuff. At least that idea isn’t rejected in so far as many others, including his friend Bryan “Weed” Tecco, share the fantasy, and it is a fantasy, albeit one that bonds many in collective alienation. On the other hand, Chris’ invention of a specialty diaper that purportedly detects urine versus feces, (a time and resource-saving notion for parents), is a non-starter, subject at best to the interest of a huckster lawyer, determined to steal Chris’ idea and sell it to more capable people. By the end of The Situation, the follow-up novel to CFTH, Chris’ invention, plus his whole not-so-fledgling career in medicine, seems dead in the water, recalled only in subtext, as an inside joke within a sinister kidnapping episode suffered by Weed. Chris buries his inspiration amid a swirl of insecurity and persecutory fear: will his inadequacies be exposed? Will malevolent forces, others more organized, confident, and skilled, seize upon his ideas and exploit them, and discard him?
Weed’s fragility is better defended. Introduced as a villain who has disappeared in CFTH, his image suffers in absentia. He is a slovenly rogue: a drug dealer, a vulgar egotist, and abuser of women; maybe a pimp. Who knows? He keeps to himself, mostly, fomenting these projections while thriving in the underground economy, relatively unconcerned by family or systems, a society whose rejection of him he grimly accepts. But he is not without ideas, and unlike Chris, he seems more fortunately endowed with talents: a “genius” at online video gaming; a suggestion of writing talent. Through his day job as a game tester for a corrupt telecommunications giant, Sahi corporation, he stumbles upon a game (dubbed ‘The Situation’) that utilizes the Shadows idea as shared by he and Chris, and—as it turns out—a secret society of Shadows seers, known as Cassandra’s Children. Foreseeing malfeasance within the corporate world, Weed becomes my serendipitous hero: a guy I’ve primed the reader to dislike, though he is poised for a redemptive mission. He steals the flash drives for the ‘The Situation’, makes a getaway with Chris and instructs his unwitting friend to stash his contraband. Then an accident occurs in which the friends’ getaway truck sinks into a lagoon, separating the two social misfits for most of the story. Anyway, this begins the action of both novels: the first, CFTH, a sprawling story of an itinerant and traumatized Chris Leavitt, follows his path back to reality and purpose. That’s Chris’ Leavitt’s drama, an unsexy allegory about living on the fringes. The second novel, The Situation, unfolds a more conventional tale of good, bad, winning and losing, yet it, too, pivots around the birthing of ideas.
Along his picaresque journey, Weed emerges (literally) from his disappearance and gradually reveals more of himself, largely by happenstance to Chris’ enmeshed girlfriend, Jill Evans, including ideas once captured in a video gaming book which—though completed and published—was badly edited and sold poorly. The backdrop of unrealized ambition becomes intertwined with the concurrent task, Weed’s seemingly vicarious goal of returning the ‘The Situation’ to its rightful owner and creator, a journalist/programmer named Jules Grotius, ala Julian Assange. Grotius is a man who births ideas but follows through: he is not fazed by inadequacy, or potential misunderstanding; the prospects of failure, or even persecution. The climax of The Situation, and thus of both novels, is the explication of a game containing an idea with—and I mean this—deep social implications. But to find out what that (my) idea is you’ll have to do more, much more than give this thing a cursory glance. I think you know what to do. I think you get the idea.