Setting

Five Facts About One Nation Under God

Part Two of the “behind the pages” peeks at my work. This installment is the 2004 dystopian future novel, One Nation Under God.

Fact #1 – People Do Judge Books by Their Covers

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. After all, the purpose of having an attractive cover is so that people make the judgement to pick the thing up and look at it. But in this case, a lot of people judge it by not only the cover, but the title, too.

This cover should scare the hell out of anyone.

In my last blog, I mentioned an outrageous incident that occurred at the California State Fair some years ago. Here’s a less outrageous one. A guy sees the book and gives me two thumbs up and says something like, “One nation under god… right on, man!”

I gave a slight smile and said, “It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Right on, man.”

Look at that cover. It’s meant to offend the shit out of people. Replacing the stars with crosses? That’s absolutely not okay, folks. But evidently, some people disagree.

Fact #2 – I Had to Change a Character’s Name

In the first draft of the book, President Christopher’s wife’s name was Laura. But then this dude who was running for the office in 2000 somehow “won” the election, and wouldn’t you know it, his wife’s name was Laura.

I didn’t model this character after Laura Bush, but this bonehead:

“Dr.” Laura – hypocritical conservative busybody.

I knew, though, that readers might make the Bush association, so I changed her name to Sarah. No, not because of Sarah Palin. At that time, I thankfully had no idea who that airhead was.

Fact #3 – It’s Clearly Not as Prescient as I’d Hoped

I’ve been asked frequently how I “predicted” some of the things in the book that eventually came to pass in the real world. My answer to that is that I didn’t “predict” anything. I just saw the writing that had been on the wall for a while, and just projected what would happen if the Prez and Congress went ultra-conservative and uber-religious. I mean, more than they were at the time.

However, there’s one thing I did not see coming whatsoever:

I just wasn’t that much of a doomsayer.

Social media wasn’t even on my radar when I was writing the book. Would it have changed the story? Well… no. Because of certain plot points, I wouldn’t have had the protagonist actually using social media, but minor characters would have, and it would have been nice to have included them, if only for more accurate setting.

Any book that’s set in the future invariably will either over- or underestimate how much technology will advance. We don’t have flying cars, yet, after all. But we have the interwebs. Sci-Fi writers of the 50s would probably be surprised by both facts. So I suppose that, even though I didn’t see social media on the near horizon, I’m still in okay company.

Fact #4 – The Book Came to Me Fully Formed

No, it didn’t come to me in a dream, but it might as well have. I was living in Utah at the time (essentially a theocracy) and was sitting at my temp job when the idea just sprang into my brain. Not just the ideas for the characters and general thrust of the story, but also the formatting, a sort of 21st Century epistolary novel, with diary entries, email exchanges, newspaper clippings, web pages, etc. I just knew this was how it needed to be told.

Ironically, it was this form that prevented me from getting agent representation. I kept being told, “Epistolary books are a tough sell.”

Because people don’t buy epistolary novels. Nor do they get made into movies.

Fact #5 – The Book is Actually a Scrapbook… and a Handbook

The format of the book is meant to reflect the scrapbook that the teenage protagonist put together, a chronological telling of her family’s story. This is why many of the aspects of the story are not examined in much detail – they are things only of passing interest to her.

But I also meant for the novel to be a sort of handbook, a very loose primer on many different unconventional ideas, many of which are near and dear to my heart. Just a few of them are: alternative communitiesalternative religionalternative educationalternative relationships, and so on.

a.k.a. Ten Years of Utter Weirdness

Educating while entertaining. That’s always been my goal.

Posted by vmwales in Five Facts, Genre, Other Writers, Setting, 0 comments

Days of Coffees Past

A few years ago, I became enamored of Turkish coffee.

Black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.

I had it at a nice little place here in Sacramento called Kasbah. Technically, I had what they call Cafe Berber, which is Turkish coffee flavored with cardamom and clove. I absolutely loved it and, before too long, started making it at home. Sadly, I’ve never made it, or had it anywhere again, as good as that first time. Including the cup I’m drinking right now, which, frankly, is definitely not my best effort. But then, it’s been nearly a year since I last made it. Probably because it’s a slow process that can’t be rushed, and requires undivided attention.

The third chapter of my forthcoming book includes a scene where the protagonist is introduced to Turkish coffee. It may just be my favorite scene in the entire book. I was thinking of this scene earlier today (which is probably why I felt the need to prepare a cup), especially with regard to the way the story is going now, nearly twenty chapters later. Those early chapters have a pace to them that is fairly relaxed. And that’s as it should be, since those chapters are of times long past, in the context of the book. They’re the necessary history leading up to “today.”

Past a certain point, that relaxed pace disappears. Events take on a more urgent tone. There’s less time for waxing poetic about beverages, for example. And I find I really miss those early chapters. I’m not certain why. If I put on my psychoanalyst hat, I might posit that I’m nostalgic for those chapters in the same way that I’m nostalgic for my own younger years, that I’m having a mid-life… not “crisis,” exactly, but… something.

Nostalgia was better in the old days.

I’m not under any illusion that my younger years were idyllic. Far from it. Nor were they for my heroine. But the times then did seem simpler, less stressful, and more filled with promise and hope. “Today,” both in my life and the heroine’s, is filled with… less pleasant things.

Perhaps what my life needs is to make more Turkish coffee. It won’t change my life much, but it will add a few pockets of peaceful pleasure. And perhaps I also need to put more of that into my current writing. It is, after all, meant to be my heroine’s memoir. The later chapters could use some more deep, sweet earthiness, too.

Posted by vmwales in Details, Plot, Setting, 0 comments