Another Saturday morning at Advanced Fluid Systems, Inc. in Royersford, PA. It’s been a while since I’ve worked one of these. Pre-Christmas. I forgot how… unique working Saturdays in thisplace are. C.I.P. (case in point): I’m fried, this week, in every sense of the word. Mentally, physically… every possible capacity of my being is drained. And I still have to stay here until 12. After that, I get to go home and rest for a bit before dropping the baby off at my in-laws house and heading back out this way for a “holiday” party tonight.
Tomorrow… my other “day off” this weekend, my wife is driving to Lancaster with her sister to go wedding dress shopping, I’ll be at home until 2 or so with the baby. After that, I get to drive 45 minutes to an hour to my mother’s for dinner. Sometime after 7, I’ll be home tomorrow night, only to get up Monday morning and repeat the litany again. This is my life, friends, in all its splendor. All together now: “Oh thank GOD.” Sarcasm fully intended.
Yet as tired as I am, I suddenly find myself thinking about ENDWORLD for the first time in an eternity.
ENDWORLD, for those of you that don’t know me or have just gotten to know me in the last few years was my lone, completed attempt at serious, long-form writing. I actually wrote ENDWORLD between the ages of 18 and 20. Thereafter, it grew in to a trilogy of novels–all unpublished–known collectively as THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. Book One remained ENDWORLD. Book Two, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, and Book Three, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD. I’d originally planned a fourth book called A BRIDGE BETWEEN WORLDS, but multiple attempts to begin that little composition ended poorly and in various places. I’d say BRIDGE had… err, HAS at least a half dozen potential storylines. But we’ll leave BRIDGE out of this for now. I could give a shit about BRIDGE, because without the other three, it doesn’t exist.
The problem with THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE, more specifically: ENDWORLD and the first half of CHILDREN is this: they’re pretty bad. They were conceived of good intentions, and my youthful desire to be the next Stephen King. But I started working on them before I learned how to write/before I learned how to tell a story. The third book, HEAVEN, could easily stand alone as a good, well written novel if it wasn’t so heavily reliant on the first two for continuity. Therein lies the problem.
Why not just edit and re-write the first two, you ask? Well, it’s kind of funny. Quirky, actually. Those of you that write may know this or may not, but writers can be a bit… flaky. Sometimes, an invisible wall presents itself to us, and we are unable to breach it. So has been, and remains my issue with the first two ENDWORLD novels. I’ve actually tried to edit/re-write them multiple times. Each time, I’ve come up short. I think it’s because of how much emotion and time I have invested in them. Granted, I know they lack something vital despite the time and effort I put in to them many moons previous to this one, but I just can’t… seem… to alter them. Or the story.
I think part of it is also confidence, i.e. my lack of confidence in myself. Scratch that friends: I don’t lack for confidence in myself. I had confidence in my capacity to succeed at CVS, and I did… for 13 years, I climbed the corporate ladder, made a fuckload of money, and left on my own terms. I had confidence in my capacity to succeed at Advanced Fluid Systems, Inc, and I did. For four and a half years, I’ve toiled away at a business I knew nothing about coming in, and have managed to not only climb the “corporate ladder,” but have further managed to develop quite an impressive array of knowledge about hydraulic and pneumatic theory, topics… the knowledge of which… are generally reserved for degreed engineers. I didn’t lack for confidence in my capacity to return to school and pursue my MA after a decade away, and I succeeded, posting a 4.00 CUM GPA in Drexel University’s MA of Education program before embarking on sabbatical nine months ago to be a father. I don’t lack for confidence in my capacity to be a father, husband, homeowner and provider for my family. I know I can succeed at that, and despite one or two minor mis-steps (which we all have, regardless of our respective confidence levels), I have.
But with ENDWORLD… hmm. Strangely enough, it is a confidence issue. It stems back to those words spoken to me sometime after I completed the first book/began the second by my estranged father, Francis Xavier Marsh the Senior, when he informed me that ENDWORLD was nothing more than a “fantastical child’s wet dream.” They made me feel lower than the dirt on a hobo’s shoes. They didn’t stop me from completing the second and third books of my trilogy; didn’t stop me from embracing writing throughout my 20’s and in to my 30’s, but they DID leave a residual imprint on my confidence. Perhaps it’s my inverted and highly irregular schedule now that I’m a parent who works full time and has a newborn at home, but said residual imprint has presented itself in recent months like a case study on my psyche by a mad shrink. And here I am, still blocked; still unable to fix the single most defining, fixable moment of my young adulthood.
Despite my exhaustion and general cognitive vapor lock, though, that may be changing.
Driving in to work this morning, I was struck by two, simultaneous thoughts. I was following my morning routine, listening to KYW-1060. My head was spinning from a lack of good sleep, the migraine I’ve been sporting for three days now, the cigarette I’d just inhaled and the caffeine just beginning to course through my system (my emergency stash of Vivarin in my car this morning was a must). My stomach was growling and the sound of Harry Donahue’s voice was the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Thought one: I NEED MUSIC. LOUD MUSIC. SOMETHING LOUD ENOUGH TO DAMPEN THE BUZZING IN MY HEAD. I immediately switched from 1060 AM to 94.1, WYSP FM, and was shocked to hear…
…Stabbing Westward? On YSP, AKA the home of everything Zeppelin, ACDC, Aerosmith and Rush… and NOTHING ELSE? Shocker! More shocking, though? The song playing. “I Won’t Become The Thing I Hate.” Holy shit! That was never even released as a single. It was, however, along with the album containing it (“Darkest Days”) integral to the composition of HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD. Back in 1998-1999 as I was writing the closing chapters of my opus, I envisioned the final showdown between my protagonist, Roland MacNuff, and my ANtagonist, Dan DeNardo, transpiring to the intense backbeat of that song. It was perhaps as integral to my writing process as the songs “Kissed By A Rose” and “Bawaitaba” (don’t ask: my musical tastes are reflective of my personality: diverse, quirky and flaky). I hadn’t even thought about it in ages. Though I’d added it to my iPod shortly after my wife gave it to me for Christmas two years ago, it had never once played, not even on SHUFFLE. My ex-girlfriend used to tell me that God speaks to her through the radio. Was God doing something similar for me?
That thought branched off in to another sub-thought (I’m not to the second thought yet, so bare with me): I should put together a playlist on my iPod of ENDWORLD-type songs, AKA “Music Inspired By And Inspiring The Never Published ENDWORLD CHRONICLE.” It is now 10:50 AM in the morning on Saturday, January 16, 2010. I am still at work, sitting at my desk at Advanced Fluid Systems, Inc. in Royersford, PA, and I have been listening to my newest iPod playlist, “ENDWORLD Music” since nine.
A sampling of songs that have played follows. First to last order:
“How Many More Times,” Led Zeppelin
“Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle),” Limp Bizkit
“Princes Of The Universe,” Queen
“The Shock Of The Lightning,” Oasis
“Bawitaba,” Kid Rock
“I Can See A Liar,” Oasis
“Blowin’ In The Wind,” Bob Dylan
“Dazed And Confused,” Led Zeppelin
“Break On Through,” The Doors
“A View To A Kill,” Duran Duran
“Tangled Up In Blue,” Bob Dylan
“You Know My Name,” Chris Cornell
“Seasons,” Chris Cornell
“The Sky Is Broken,” Moby
“Holiday In Spain,” Counting Crows
“Home,” Foo Fighters
“Bulls On Parade,” Rage Against The Machine
“No Excuses,” Alice In Chains
“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” Bob Dylan
“Tuesday’s Gone,” Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Roll It Over,” Oasis
“Spaceboy,” Smashing Pumpkins
“Wanted Dead Or Alive,” Bon Jovi
“Not To Touch The Earth,” The Doors
“Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Beatles
“Silverfuck,” Smashing Pumpkins
“Stadium Arcadium,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
PAUSE (dramatic?) TO RE-READ WHAT I’VE WRITTEN SO FAR
“Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin
“The Rain Song,” Led Zeppelin
“Squrim,” The Dave Matthews Band
“Helter Skelter,” The Beatles
Is God talking to me through my iPod? I think so, because I’m feeling the zone, just beyond my reach, for the first time in almost a decade. Some have heard me call it “The Void.” Any way you slice it, it’s there. ENDWORLD is waiting for me, and in the immortal words of George Lucas, AKA the man who shit on my childhood by basterdizing the original STAR WARS trilogy with a new trilogy of sub-par prequels (though I DID like “Revenge Of The Sith”), “I’ve got a new MacGuffin.”
MACGUFFIN is, per Wikipedia, “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention and drives the plot of a work of fiction.” Lucas wasn’t the first to conceive of it. The MacGuffin was actually Hitchcockian in origin. The lineage of the MacGuffin is not important. What is important is this: the original ENDWORLD as conceived of by my pre-adult alter-ego had no MacGuffin. It was a love story set against the back drop of a fucked up, “Terminator-esque” future world. Blah, blah, blah. Invigorating, huh? About as involving as a lobotomy to the non-“Titanic” loving portion of society.
Sometime around mid-point through CHILDREN, I decided I wanted to introduce an antagonist. Henceforth, Dan DeNardo was born, and quickly made irrelevant after two or three cameo appearances, only to re-emerge in HEAVEN as… what, the head of the Administration (the evil empire of machines that runs Endworld)? And his reason for hating Roland MacNuff, my aforementioned protagonist? He just didn’t like him and what he stood for. Okay, so Roland DID inadvertedly cause him to lose his legs, but it wasn’t intentional. Still, I guess I’d hate him to. But I digress.
Post-hearing Stabbing Westward in my car on the way in to work, POST-conceiving of the playlist I am proactively updating as I write this (which is causing a fair degree of vertigo as I scroll up with each new song that plays), I realized that a good antagonist… a TRUE antagonist… needs to be in more than just the final book; needs to have more than just a cameo appearance in the middle book, which SHOULD BE the strongest of the three to retain interest (the “Empire Strikes Back” syndrome). Darth Vader? Perfect example. Golum in LOTR is another one. He’s featured prominently and jaw-droppingly in the second movie, though admittedly, “The Two Towers” is probably the weakest of Peter Jackson’s three LOTR films. Take your pick of trilogies, friends. Zod in “Superman II.” Michael Corleone in “The Godfather II.” Had Belloq been in “The Temple Of Doom,” it probably would have been a much better film. You see my point. I realized that Dan DeNardo NEEDS to be in all three books. More specifically, he needs to have a history with Roland MacNuff that predates ENDWORLD. He needs to have a reason to hate him. This relationship may be the long, sought after key to reworking THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. But what function will he/does he have in Roland’s world?
I have a few ideas, though I’ve settled on nothing at this juncture. Time is actually growing short. It’s pushing 11:30 AM and I need to leave work soon. My boss gave me the okay to leave whenever, but… and by this, I mean no offense at all to my wife, Nicole, or my daughter, Cara… when I’m at work on a Saturday morning with little but ongoing projects to work on, I can actually think clearly and unacostedly. When I’m at home, my entire focus is on family and obligation… and finding a few moments to sneak a nap in. Besides, I think I need the relative silence of my car to hash out my thoughts from here on, so the 45 minute commute will do me good. Here’s what I’ve settled on so far:
Dan DeNardo and Roland MacNuff have grown up together. They both attend the same school: Jefferson Prep. They’re both 18. Both are seemingly unhappy with the rule of the Administration, but one is playing possum. Dan has been something of a double agent for some time, and will, over the course of time, use the misconceptions that Roland and others have of him to weasel his way in to the heart of Rebellion leadership… only to cut it out at the orders of the Lord Cornelius the First. More interesting: Dan is going to flee Jefferson with Roland and Maria Markinson at the beginning of ENDWORLD. And I’m thinking love triangle, though admittedly, that’s pretty goddamn contrived. We’ll see. And as “Helter Skelter” finishes up with Ringo screaming about the blisters on his fingers, I’m done.
More to follow…