Tag Archive for The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity

Juggling Projects: Books in the Air!

Here’s an update of where my various projects stand (I’m putting this to pixel as much as an aid to me, a roadmap of where the heck I am at this point, as I am to provide you guys with info nuggets).

The Monster Trucks of Mount MonstraCity: This is the second book in my planned middle grades adventure/horror series. I’ve completed my plot outline and have this one waiting on the starting line. I’ll probably start working on the first draft in about three weeks, after I’m done with my current round of revisions on No Direction Home.

The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity: The first book in my planned middle grades adventure/horror series. I turned this in to Peter, my agent, a few weeks back and am waiting for his initial response, then expect to do some revisions before he begins submitting it around.

The Velveteen Ebook: This is a short, novella-length children’s novel that should appeal to adults nostalgic for technologically simpler times. It’s being considered at a handful of houses that specialize in gift books.

No Direction Home: I had turned this adult SF novel in to Peter for his review around the beginning of the year. I got it back from him a couple of weeks ago and am working on revisions prior to him beginning the submissions process.

The End of Daze: My friends at Tachyon Publications decided this eschatological satire didn’t fit in with their line. Another friend, David Myers of Commentary Magazine, suggested an editor at a small house who has a fondness for Jewish-themed fiction. Peter submitted it there, and it is also being looked at by an editor at one of the big SF imprints. If neither of these possibilities pan out, Dara and I will put out the book ourselves.

Ghostlands: This adult SF novel is still being looked at by a number of genre editors. Peter began submitting it around about a year and a half ago.

The Bad Luck Spirits’ Social Aid and Pleasure Club: I did a major editing job on this urban fantasy novel the second half of last year (after having been working on it, on and off, since 2006, in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina). The latest version is being considered at Tachyon and at one of the big SF imprints.

Fire on Iron: My Civil War-set steampunk horror-adventure novel has nearly reached the end of its submissions journey. It is being considered at one final SF/fantasy imprint. Should they give it a pass, it will become Dara’s and my first independent publishing project. The roots of this book go all the way back to 1994, just before I joined George Alec Effinger’s writing critique group in New Orleans.

So, my friends, that is where things stand at the moment. Like any writer, I wish matters could move along more quickly. But it appears that, no matter how things break with the professional editors, Dara and I will be working on one of my projects this fall, after our youngest son, Judah, begins attending kindergarten. So I should have something “new” to peddle by the beginning of 2013.

The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity is Finished… For Now

This past Friday, I finished my initial polished draft of The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity, which is: (a) my shortest novel ever; (b) my first middle grades novel; (c) my first book to be critiqued by one of my sons (Levi, my eight-year-old). It came in at just under 68,000 words, or about half the length of my other novels (yet the length of a typical 1960s science fiction paperback original). I’m aiming this at readers a little more sophisticated than those who enjoy the Goosebumps books, which run (I think) 30,000-40,000 words, so I’m hoping the length won’t prove a detriment when my agent starts sending it out to editors. My ideal readership, I’m pretty certain, would start out with eight-year-olds who are strong readers (like Levi, who didn’t have any trouble with the book) and would extend to twelve- or thirteen-year-olds. (But I’m also putting in plenty of “Easter eggs” for any adult readers to enjoy, adults who loved monster movies as a kid.)

The book (number one in a series, I hope, hope, hope) is an action-adventure-horror story set on an island city called Mount MonstraCity, located a little more than seventy miles west-northwest of Seattle, Washington. Monstra Island (named for Mount Monstra, an active volcano located at its northwestern corner) was settled early in the nineteenth century by members of the Frankenstein clan, who were driven out of Europe for the crime of creating monsters. They selected Monstra Island on which to settle because of its remoteness from civilization (but not so remote from North America that trade would be impossible) and because of its proximity to unique subsea radiations – radiations which are very interesting to the scientifically curious Frankensteins, and which are later discovered to have their origin in a 30,000 year-old spacecraft partially buried in a crater on the ocean floor. The Frankensteins established Mount MonstraCity as a haven for monsters of all types from every corner of the world. Vampires came to settle a neighborhood called The Castles; Ghouls inhabit Ghoul Gulch; Werewolves settled throughout the Wolfen Woods; Kabbalists and their Golems created a walled village called the Golem Ghetto; etc. “Normie,” or normal human beings, may earn citizenship in Mount MonstraCity, as well, so long as they can become successful Mad Doctors or Mad Scientists and patent inventions or medical advancements which bring revenue to the city. Aside from high-tech and medical innovation, Mount MonstraCity’s other major industries are its film industry (no CGI required) and tourism sector (which invites visitors to experience safe, guided hauntings within one of the mansions of Ghost Town, just one of many horror-themed attractions).

My two protagonists are Zacherly and Cosmo Juke, two orphans who suffer bullying and frequent indignities at the Putterknuckle Benevolent Home for Orphaned Children in Seattle, Washington. Zacherly, aged eleven, aspires to become a successful Mad Scientist in Mount MonstraCity; Cosmo, aged fifteen, dreams of costarring in action-adventure-horror films with famed Werewolf actress, Donna Demonna. At a triple feature at the Phantasmo Drive-In Theater, sponsored by the Mount MonstraCity-Seattle Friendship Committee, Zacherly and Cosmo are approached by the mysterious Mr. Bleck, who offers to obtain positions for them with laboratories in Mount MonstraCity which are looking for young research interns. However, to take advantage of Mr. Bleck’s offer, they must stow away on the ferry that runs between Seattle and Monstra Island. Soon thereafter, Mr. Putterknuckle, the tyrannical owner of the orphanage, forces Zacherly and Cosmo to steal clothes for the other children from a massive thrift store. After the boys are nearly caught by security guards, they flee to the ferry and embark upon their journey to Mount MonstraCity. Yet the fate that Mr. Bleck has waiting for them there is far, far different from that with which he tempted them… and the boys soon learn that real-life monsters are way more dangerous than the movie monsters they’ve come to love.

Possibly the most fun aspect of writing this book has been being able to utilize my son Levi as my first reader. Levi, quite unlike my other two boys, is congenitally unable to tell a lie (or at least to lie at all convincingly). So I can trust his feedback implicitly, knowing that he won’t feed me praise he doesn’t truly feel my book deserves in order to make ol’ Dad feel good. His verdict? The first chapter was “a little boring” (did my best to fix that in the second draft), but the rest of the book was “Super! Lots and lots of terrific action!” He reinforced this feedback by grabbing fresh chapters out of my hands as soon as I walked through the door with them, then immediately settling down on the couch or carpet to begin reading. What was his favorite part of the book? “The mystery about Zacherly’s and Cosmo’s mother… can’t you tell me more?” No, Levi; that would spoil future books for you!

Now, if I could only get Son #2, Asher, to be half as interested in reading as his older brother is. I’m working on it. Asher adores monster trucks and race cars. So, rather than start with a story idea for the second book in the series, I started with a title and built from that. My title?

The Monster Trucks of Mount MonstraCity

Can’t you see the toy line already?

UPDATE: Last night, when I explained the basic story idea behind The Monster Trucks of Mount MonstraCity to my three sons, they were enthralled. They loved the idea of monsters who become monster trucks – in this case, Ghouls who volunteer to have their brains transplanted into experimental monster trucks powered by fuel cells, which are in turn powered by hydrogen that is provided by the Ghoul virus contained within the Ghoul brains (the virus proves capable of splitting hydrogen atoms from oxygen atoms in water, allowing the trucks to be fueled with plain, filtered water). Asher and Judah insisted that I make them toys based on characters in the book. I promised I would buy toy monster trucks and modify them (with pieces from model kits and toy tanks and what have you) so that they look like the book’s characters (which I still need to design; still working on the plot outline, although that’s almost done).

It’s great to have a potential property under development that is so “toyetic” (that’s a real word, by the way, coined by Bernard Loomis of Kenner Toys in the late 1970s, when he was in discussions with Stephen Spielberg regarding possibly making toys based on Close Encounters of the Third Kind; his neologism means “the suitability of a media property, such as a movie, for merchandising spin-off lines of licensed toys, games and novelties”).

I’ll share more news on these projects as it develops!

Happy Fathers’ Day to All My Dad Readers!

A look of love between Dr. Frankenstein and son

I’d like to wish all my readers a very wonderful Fathers’ Day. All of us have had the pleasure of being a son or a daughter, and the luckiest of us all (at least to my way of thinking) have also gotten to experience being a father or a mother. Being a father is a role one gradually grows into; I don’t think it is possible to fully anticipate what that role will entail until one has already found oneself fully wrapped in fatherly robes. By the time my first son Levi came along in 2003, I had known for quite some time that I wanted children very badly. But it wasn’t until Levi had progressed through crawling and walking and feeding himself, and then been joined by his younger brother Asher, giving me two little men to keep track of, that I felt like fatherhood wasn’t just a Halloween costume that I had awkwardly dressed myself in — it was ME.

Godzilla and Minya

Daddy and son bonding

Luckiest of all fathers are those dads who are able to take advantage of opportunities to teach whatever they know best to their sons or daughters. Godzilla was a pretty fortunate dad, at least in his first series of movies (in his second series, he is more a a tragic dad, not unlike his colleague, King Kong, who never gets to enjoy his offspring). Imprisoned on Monster Island, he was able to take ample time off from his day job of mashing Tokyo into dust and spend long, lingering afternoons teaching Minya how to fight bully monsters and how to turn his radioactive smoke rings into blasts of fire. Watching him in Son of Godzilla and Godzilla’s Revenge, we see that he is patient and loving, but stern when he needs to be — when Minya simply does not get the whole “shoot radioactive fire” thing, Godzilla does not hesitate to stomp on his tail to push him onto the right track.

Kong and son, together only in manga

Not all fathers and sons or daughters are so fortunate. Some are like King Kong and Son of Kong, who never got to know each other. The elder Kong was kidnapped, stolen from his family home of Skull Island, and then cut down in an alien city half a world away from the only home he’d ever known. His little white-furred son was left to fend on his own (we never learned what had happened to Mom). But their genetic link proved to be strong, as little Kong ended up showing all the nobility and bravery that his bigger and stronger Pop had displayed in his struggles with Tyrannosaurus, Pterodon, and the U.S. Army Air Force. As Carl Denhem said of little Kong with a mixture of guilt-laced regret and pride, “Wow! What a scrapper! Just like his old man!”

A different type of father-son relationship; Ray Harryhausen and Mighty Joe Young

And then there is a different sort of father-son relationship: the mentoring relationship, which may be shared by two individuals who do not have any formal family ties at all. Such was the relationship between stop-motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien and his great protege, Ray Harryhausen. And looking at the photograph above of Ray and his favorite model of Mighty Joe Young, one of his first professional animation assignments, who can deny that a father-son relationship does not develop between a man and his artistic creation? Ray devoted almost two years of his early career to granting life and a very robust personality to Mighty Joe Young, the wonderful evidence of which can been seen by anyone who possesses a television set and a DVD player (or Netflix account). Isn’t this this essence of fatherhood?

Me and my three little monster offspring

Just this past week, I finished my first middle grades novel, The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity, the first novel I wrote with the interests and preferences of my three sons in mind. I’ll blog more about this book this coming week. It has been a special pleasure to combine two types of fatherhood in this way, shaping one type of offspring (my word-based offspring) based on feedback from my flesh-and-blood offspring.

I hope all you other fathers out there in Internet Land are able to take as much pleasure in your offspring as I am blessed to take in mine.

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