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Friday, 30 September 2016

The Parmenides Paradox: a conclusion in waiting

Parmenides once ‘proved that if Achilles gave a tortoise a hundred-metre start  he’d never be able to catch up to the tortoise. In similar vein: if Homer wishes to walk to the end of the path. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before travelling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one sixteenth; and so on.

Such paradoxes come to mind as I reach the final chapters of the last book in my trilogy – ‘The Gift’. The close I come to the conclusion, the slower I am and the more it recedes.

I have to finish it because I think it’s my best work, and it’s dominated three years of my life. It also has a USP. No, me neither, until I looked it up: Unique selling point. The agent, John Jarrold told me that, intrigued by how a cosy family saga is fairly soon subsumed by the occult.

The first book, ‘The Gift,’ takes us from an Edwardian Liverpool slum to the high society of 1927. Its heroine is Elizabeth McBride, and through her eyes we experience Aleister Crowley, the Morgans of Tredegar and a young Adolf Hitler. Halfway through the book we realise the enormity of her gift.

The second book, ‘Bloodline,’ traces the kidnapping of her sister, Elsie McBride, her incarceration in a soviet prison, and her subsequent corruption by powerful Satanists. The stage is set for a duel to the death—or worse, between the two sisters.

The final book, ‘Bloodfall,’ has proved the trickiest. Whereas before it’s been immense fun, weaving in historical characters, and making sure they’re placed where they should be and at the right time—inserting fiction in the gaps, the challenge this time has proved far harder and complex.

Writers are often divided between ‘plotters’ and those who ‘write by the seat of their pants.’ Most, I suspect, fall somewhere in between. I usually know up to three chapters ahead what I’m doing. Beyond that it’s ‘here be dragons’ territory, where  I have to sit down and map what comes next. Sometimes I’m stuck and have recourse to the Raymond Chandler strategy: ‘When in doubt have a man with a gun come into the room. In my case it’s demons.

So, the final book—Checklist:
Period setting  — Check
Evocative?        — Check
Plot                    — Check
Tension             — Hmm. Needs more work. It’s a bit ‘stretchy’ at the moment, like bread dough before the final bake. Assuming I succeed where Achilles and Homer failed—in my case reach the bloody conclusion— it’s just a matter of editing: cutting the flab . . . and perhaps introducing demons with guns. Downton Abbey, perversion, Nazis and Satanists—what’s not to like?


Maria Zannini said...

My comfort level with perversion has diminished greatly since my youth, but the rest of it sounds amazing, especially if you can weave the historical elements seamlessly.

I really do layout the entire story line before I start a book--not that I've done a novel in a while. It helps to know the end and the dark moments and then fill the gaps with "how they get out of this mess".

If you keep hitting a wall, step back and take a breather, maybe read something out of your comfort zone. Sometimes unfamiliar surroundings give us brilliant ideas.

Best of luck!

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, rest assured. Over the three books - aprox 250k in all - there is one explicit paragraph involving Guy Burgess and Eduard Pfeiffer (worth googling :). Other than that there is a hint of a child sacrifice but nothing seen or described, and a tender but thwarted love passage between two women, one deeply in love with the other who, though sympathetic is essentially hererosexual. So, three paragraphs in all - which is pretty good going when you consider we're talking of men like Crowley, and the predatory Evan Morgan. Like you, i see little point in shocking for shocking sake - unless you're going for the 'shocking genre' :) Does one exist.

I'm giving myself 6 months to interest and agent or publisher, because without false modesty I really do think it's good. Even my wife, the harshest of critics thinks so :)

I hope you get to read it - not to crit - but just to enjoy.

nikki broadwell said...

I need to read The Gift! I no longer receive your blog posts--had to look it up--I'm leaving a comment because I would love people to leave comments on mine! but they never do-*sigh*

nikki broadwell said...

Where do I find The Gift? Went to Amazon but is not there--or is this the one not yet published?

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Nikki, I'm glad you found me and I'm grateful for you thinking of The Gift. Unfortunately, It's not out yet as I'm still hawking it around agents and publishers. It I don't strike lucky I'll publish it in the near future and let you know. Presumably if you googled keyton on amazon, you'd have come to my 'author page' - sounds very grand - where I have two other books on offer.

Hope all is well with you !