What Inspired Changers

I’m so excited that Changers: Manifesting Destiny is going to be published, quite possibly this summer, and I wanted to share some of where the story came from. It’s a confluence of a couple things, actually. First of all, it began as a flash fiction piece titled “Secret Admirer”:

“Who’s it from?” Cee asked. She held the delicate silver chain in her splayed fingers, the key pendant dangling in front of her nose. The diamond at its center flashed hypnotically.

Marcus shrugged and took a seat across the table. “A lot of people like you.”

“Yeah, but not a lot of them could buy me something like this.” Cee returned the necklace to the cotton bedding of the little red box. “And why did you have it?”

“Because no one would dare try to get into your locker.” A corner of Marcus’s mouth twitched in humor. “Even with as nice a key as that one.”

Cee was forced to acknowledge his point; her locker was known for booby traps both physical and magical. She eyed Marcus suspiciously. “It wasn’t you?”

He held up his hands as if to surrender. “You know me well enough to tell when I’m lying.” He opened his eyes wide for her to read them, but Cee didn’t really have to. Marcus was her best friend, and sweet, a poet at heart—and not at all interested in girls. Though Cee wouldn’t have put it past him to buy her a Valentine’s gift, if only to keep from having to listen to her whine if she didn’t get any.

Of course, now Marcus was going to have to listen to her fuss over who had given her this one.

“It was in your locker?” Cee asked him, all business now, ready to cull the facts.

Marcus nodded as he picked at his salad.

“What kind of charms do you keep on it?”

And now Marcus laughed. “None. If someone wants my school books, they’re welcome to them.”

“I need to see the scene of the crime.”

Marcus looked up from his lunch. “What, now?”

But Cee was already on her feet, taking her tray to the trash bin.

***

“There’s nothing,” Cee marveled. She ran her hands over the locker a fifth time. There had to be something, some little thing she was missing . . .

“Are you going to wear it?” Marcus asked suddenly.

“Not until I know who it’s from.” Cee’s hands paused in their search, hovering over the combination lock. “What . . .?”

Marcus leaned in to look. “Not magic.”

“Why?” Cee asked. “Why physically break into a locker if you could just . . .” Her eyes met Marcus’s.

“Justin?” he suggested. Justin was one of the slower students, not terribly gifted at magic. It would have been like Justin to force a locker rather than charm it open.

But Cee kept staring into Marcus’s eyes.

“Not Justin?” he said at length.

“Marcus,” Cee breathed, “have you morphed yet?”

Marcus flinched at the deeply personal question. “No one morphs at our age.”

“Are you sure?” Cee pressed.

“Of course I’m sure. That’s really rude, Cee. I know we’re friends, but—”

“Don’t panic, Marcus,” Cee said gently, leaning in for a closer look. “But someone else is in there.”

This was a tossed-off Valentine’s Day piece from a few years ago, but I always suspected there was more to these characters and this story. And though the characters have changed quite a bit, I think this scenario may have existed in their past—that is, in the time before Changers begins.

Cee I always clearly envisioned as having a blonde bob. Marcus is loosely based on Nicholas Rowe circa Young Sherlock Holmes (regular readers of mine will know that’s been my favorite movie since childhood).

The novel was also sparked by something my three kids have decided: that I am a dragon disguised as a human. And that they might also be dragons, too! I’ll leave it to you to read the book and see how that plays in, but I can say Livian (my dragon) has been a lot of fun to write. I’m currently working on the second book in the trilogy, Changers: The Great Divide.

The Wheel Turns, the Scales Balance

Yesterday (or early this morning, depending on where you are) there was a New Moon in Libra, the sign of the Scales. A New Moon is the beginning of a new cycle; the Full Moon is the culmination of a cycle. That doesn’t necessarily mean things start and end in two weeks, although it might. But it really depends on what project or goal is being started. It might take a month (a whole Moon cycle), or it might take those six months until there is a Full Moon in Libra.

In any case, I definitely got a taste of things. I had both good and bad news and some in-between. Very Libra, very balanced.

The good news: a short fiction piece of mine will be featured on the February 10th episode of No Extra Words.

The bad news: an agent who’d asked to read some of Changers gave me the “just didn’t connect” line yesterday.

The in-between: the small publisher looking at Changers acknowledged receipt and said it might take a few months to get back to me. They asked that I let them know if the status of the manuscript changes.

Also, I made great progress on the Peter edits yesterday and finished them up this morning. The manuscript is back with my editor now.

So, yeah, balance. Better to get good and bad news in a day than just bad. Hopefully there will be more good ahead as well.

“St. Peter in Chains” Table Read at Sundance

For those interested in attending, I wanted to let everyone know the table read for my St. Peter in Chains screenplay will be this Friday, the 25th, at 10:00 a.m. at the Waldorf Hotel in Park City, Utah. If you’re around and attending the Sundance Film Festival, please stop by!

Meanwhile, the novella on which I based my script is free for a couple more days on Amazon. Pick it up if you haven’t already!

And now for the bad news: my flash fiction that had been accepted to Pill Hill Press’ Daily Flash 2013 will go unpublished after all. The press has decided to close. I’m more than a little disappointed, but that is the nature of small publishers. There are pros and cons, of course, to small and large publishing houses; this just happens to be one of the big cons.

An Old New Book. Or a New Old Book.

My collection of stories titled The World Ends at Five now has a new life as a Second Edition on Amazon Kindle. You can get it here. (The original paperback from 2008 is out of print. But this second edition has the added bonus of a piece of flash fiction that didn’t appear in the first.)

As I mention in the introduction to this new edition, these stories are older, the efforts of my younger writing self. I’ve come a long way since these were written (I hope!), but I feel they still have a place in the world, and I hope readers will enjoy them.

Upcoming

Upcoming Publications

  • “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed” (Amazon Kindle)
  • “Alice,” “Secret Admirer,” and “The Summons” in Daily Flash 2013: 365 Days of Flash Fiction (Pill Hill Press)
  • “Warm Bodies” in NorthNorthwest 7th Edition (Northwest Playwrights Alliance)

Upcoming Productions
There are no upcoming productions at this time.

Upcoming Appearances

  • Austin Film Festival, Austin, Texas (18-21 October 2012)
  • San Francisco Writers Conference, San Francisco, California (14-17 February 2013)

2012 Thus Far

Thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of all that’s happened thus far this year. The good and the bad.
 

  • Scott interviewed for a new job (mid-January).
  • I made travel arrangements for my trip to London (mid-January).
  • I wrote and finished my novella “St. Peter in Chains” (January).
  • Scott was offered the job in San Francisco and accepted (early February).
  • My play “Warm Bodies” was produced and was a finalist at the Valley Repertory 3rd Annual Lab Works (late February).
  • Movers packed up our house, and after a couple nights at a hotel we flew to San Francisco and moved into temp housing (mid-March).
  • I flew to Boston for a night, then on to London for a 10-day stay, then back to Boston and home to San Fran (March-April).
  • While in London I: converted “St. Peter in Chains” into a short screenplay, saw two plays, and celebrated Easter alone.
  • I submitted the screenplay version of “St. Peter in Chains” to the Nicholl Fellowship (April).
  • An area agent and an agency in the UK asked to look at my Sherlock spec; the UK agency also asked to read “St. Peter in Chains” (April)
  • We sold our house in Massachusetts (April).
  • I found out three pieces of my flash fiction had been accepted to be published in a 2013 anthology (May).
  • The agent declined to represent me and the UK agency did not respond to my follow-up query (May).
  • Scott’s parents visited and Scott and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at El Drisco, eating at a fancy restaurant, and seeing Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers play at the Red Devil Lounge. Scott also gave me a gorgeous ring (May).
  • We moved out of temp housing and into a new house in Livermore (May).
  • I flew to Washington D.C. to see “Warm Bodies” produced as part of the Source Festival, and also got a chance to meet and spend the day with one of Scott’s high school friends who until then I’d only known online (June).
  • Scripts sent to Script Pipeline and the Page Awards did not advance (June-July).
  • After repeated rejections, I self-published the novella version of “St. Peter in Chains” as an e-book; it’s had steadily increasing sales (late June).
  • Encouraged by the success of “St. Peter in Chains,” I also self-published “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line.” It has outpaced “St. Peter” by a large margin and has been especially popular in the UK (July).
  • I did not advance in the Nicholl Fellowship (early August).
  • I self-pubbed my Star Signs Operating Manual (August).
  • I found out my play “Warm Bodies” was to be published in an upcoming anthology of short plays (August).
  • I was invited to submit a full-length play to a competition that only accepts full-length plays via invitation (August).
  • I did not advance in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition (August).

So . . . A mixed bag. I’ve left out the fact that a small army of query letters has gone without response. I’m chipping away, you see, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more success. The year is two-thirds over. Not sure what else I can hope to accomplish. I am working on another Sherlock Holmes story, and I am hoping to submit something to that playwriting competition. I’m also hoping some other plays I’ve submitted to various venues get selected for production. And more than anything I’d like these scripts I’ve written to get some notice. That, for me, would be the big win.

The Lazarus Syndrome

Although it was late in the morning, Sherlock Holmes still wore his threadbare smoking jacket and slippers. He had foregone breakfast, instead opting for his pipe, and he moved restlessly about our flat, walking first to the window then back to the mantel and around the table, circling like the bird of prey his sharp profile suggested him to be.

I was fully dressed and finished with my morning meal, now sitting at the table and picking through the morning papers. Usually Holmes would have done the same, but this day he seemed unable to sit still long enough. Then finally he stopped at the window and gazed out. “So many people,” I heard him murmur.

“Pardon?” I asked, thinking to draw him out. The past weeks had been dull for him, with no interesting cases to occupy his fantastic mind, and he had, much to my chagrin, returned to his vices. Such habits often caused him to mutter to himself, usually unintelligibly, and then sometimes in French, but since I’d made out the context of this last thought, I felt it might be safe to ask.

He faced me then, and I caught that excited, half-wild expression he sometimes wore, either when in the grip of a good case or the vise of his cocaine. “Have you ever thought that there might be something more to the world? That perhaps you’re beyond this?” He gestured to the window, turning again to look out at the street. “I do.”

I hesitated. “Well, of course, Holmes, you are quite beyond most people.”

“People live by assumptions, Watson. You assume when you set off to go somewhere that you’ll get there. You never think crime, tragedy, despair, death itself might meet you halfway.

“And yet,” he went on darkly, “I think there are people in this world who may never die.”

“You’re getting fanciful, Holmes,” I said gruffly, attempting to cover my unease. “Are you sure your solution wasn’t more than seven per-cent today?”

But he did not answer. He had fallen back into that place he sometimes went, that place truly beyond most people, that place that made him the best private consulting detective of all time as well as perhaps the loneliest man who ever lived.

A Tidbit

“And if you balance this equation . . .” The chalk squeaked over the board.

Young Sherlock Holmes’ voice rose from the back of the classroom. “That’s incorrect.” And as an afterthought, “Sir.”

A wave of tittering and whispers fell to silence as Professor Davis turned from his work to stare long and hard at his peculiar and difficult charge. “Mr Holmes,” he sighed, “I don’t recall your brother ever giving me this kind of trouble.”

“He’s too lazy for that,” Sherlock responded honestly to fresh mirth from his classmates.

Professor Davis tipped his head forward to look over his spectacles in the way that had intimidated students ever since his doctor had told him he needed glasses. “Do you have any idea, Mr Holmes, how long I have been teaching?”

“If you mean how long you’ve been misinforming your students . . . No.”

Later Sherlock would wonder, not for the first time in life, at authority’s habit of encouraging honesty up until the moment they were faced with it, at which time they often chose to punish it thoroughly.