So, there’s this time-travel fantasy I’ve been working on . . .
Round 1: Too Conservative
Years ago I wrote a book titled (at that point) Anodyne. It was going to be the first in a series of connected stories each with a different protagonist, each telling their story under the pseudonym Jake Calcutta.
Long before the book was finished an author friend pointed out that the artsy intellectual guy in the book was nothing like the name would suggest. Jake Calcutta, he said, is a modern day Indiana Jones.
He was right.
I changed the protagonist’s name to Jesse Donovan and the book’s title to That She Is Made of Truth. It may become a series, but not in the way originally intended.
Round 2: Too Cerebral
The idea and outline for the next try came to me in one of those rare bursts where you see nearly the whole piece at once. I spent an hour with grease pencils scribbling all over a dozen sheets of paper laying out much of what has become The Temporal Lisle. Long time readers will note that it used to have the main character’s name in the title. It still might.
It just won’t be Jake Calcutta.
Time travel paradox is a mind game. The book took a decidedly Asimovian turn. With the whole story outlined and more than half written, it is not the stage for the real Jake Calcutta.
Round 3: Just Right?
Jake Calcutta is a cross between Indiana Jones and Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: intrepid explorer, tracker extraordinaire, gentleman of the old school, witty but understated, flawed, but not in normal ways.
Once I realized who he’d been, lurking in the back of my mind since I sketched a crayon version of him and stuck it on the side of the fridge a decade ago, I also realized his genre.
James Scott Bell and Edgar Rice Burroughs
(They both have 3 names. I may have to write Jake’s stories as Joel David Canfield, or perhaps J. David Canfield. Or just JD Canfield. Hmmm.)
Bell recently released a marvelous little book about how to write pulp fiction.
Burroughs wrote eleventyleven books including nearly 2 dozen Tarzan stories (don’t discount them; read the first 3 and you’ll discover why they named a city after his most famous creation in Burrough’s honor), a series about Mars, one about Venus, one about the center of the earth. His heroes are all midway between the cerebral stars of Asimov’s scifi and the bone and sword crunch of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Tarzan, David Innes, Carson, John Carter, they’re Jake Calcutta’s forebears, but none of their stories included humor.
Jake’s does. Watch Due South and you’ll laugh, even though Benton Fraser clearly has a very limited sense of humor, maybe because he has such a limited sense of humor.
The plan, vaguely formed at this point, is to write a pulp fiction series starring Jake Calcutta. The real Jake Calcutta. Write fast, release often. Crank them out just like in the old days of pulp fiction.
But what about that time travel fantasy?
It needed a main character. Or rather the main character needed a new name.
It’s a little harder than naming a child. Not sure why, but it is.
So the book may be called Rafe Keyn and the Temporal Lisle or maybe just The Temporal Lisle.
Assuming, that is, that Rafe’s name sticks.
We’ll know before the end of summer, because if I get nothing else done with my life this year, this book is getting written. After languishing in the bottom drawer for 2 years, it’s well beyond time.