Over the past two months, I conceptualized, planned, researched, and wrote a dime novel.
It’s about 40,000 words, or at least will be post-August editing, and it’s entirely in long-hand, penned with care into a Decomposition notebook, a brand I recently discovered in Twosided in Lakeview, and with which I fell madly in love. The paper is the absolute perfect thickness–crisp, clean, and gives off that slight scratching noise as you write on it.
Also, I wrote it all in blue and black ink, primarily black. As I’m super invested in my pencils, I’ve never used pen on a writing project before, and let me tell you, it was very weird at first. But I found as I wrote in ink that my thoughts came to me with real commitment and conviction, and that I had to take a breath and ponder them very carefully before I wrote them down, permanently, on the page. I don’t think I’ll start using pen in all aspects of my writing life, but for this–a flash in the pan, surefire kind of project–they were perfect.
Ok, why did I write a dime novel? Two reasons.
First, I wrote the dime novel because it serves as an important plot point in my Energist novels–a key component of the Energist search for their lost generation. I don’t want to say exactly how that works, because mystery and all that, but suffice it to say, it is no ordinary dime novel.
The characters are constantly talking about it as they go about their business, so I started to wonder what the hell it actually contained. At first it was sort of an errant thought, but my curiosity deepened over time. And then I realized, oh right, I can just write the damn thing and find out what it says because…duh.
So, I did.
Actually, Spencer Lancaster wrote it on behalf of Magic, and even he buried himself in the narration, but, you know, I helped. More on that, below.
Second, I wrote the dime novel because it gave me a place to conceptualize back story and the inner workings of Atlantis without having to go back and write the full novels that precede the set I’m currently working on. In other words, it sort of fills in the gaps and helps me to better understand how the Energists think about things. What sort of problems they’re wrestling with, who they care about, and what kinds of apologies they need to issue (no one is perfect).
It is actually the first of six dime novels, all of which will help me with this second purpose, and each of which corresponds to one of the full novels. This first one is sort of general, but others will deal specifically with Energists history, myth, science, etc.
One of the most difficult parts of this writing project was settling on a narrator. I knew that it couldn’t be me, which meant I had to select an author from among my characters. And then I knew that it also wouldn’t do to have Spencer just sit down and write it like a textbook (as would be his tendency) because the novella has to reach a wide and young and excitable Gilded Age audience. So, I decided that Magic would be the narrator, and the narrator would be Magic.
It’s a bit difficult to explain..so, I’ll just let Spence do it for me.
Here you go, then. A Brief Prologue, by Spencer Lancaster.
* * *
“A Brief Prologue”
Before you turn the page and tumble into parts truly unknown, I must give you a word of explanation…or perhaps caution…as to the narrator who will act as your guide and the stories through which you will travel. Because this dime novel does not have an ordinary narrator or story. Not hardly.
Although there may be moments that remind of you of cowboys or pirates, or pulp detectives or true criminals, or romances untouched by time and trial, these sorts of stories are not the foci. And although the narrator will at times seem as human as you, that is very much not the case.
This is a story about Magic, told by Magic.
I do not mean to say that this Magic has anything to do with the sort Houdini uses, neatly contained in a three piece suit and a set of playing cards. And, calm yourself, dear reader, because this is not the magic of the occult–of darkness or demons or witches. Not entirely, anyway.
This is Soul Magic. This is the Magic of pure essence. It is a series of tunnels between personhoods. It is a blanketing sky-scape that makes universal all existence. It is every single personality encompassed in a oneness that is both singular and multiple, with all the conflict and kindness and stubbornness and growth that would imply.
This is Kinship Magic. It is Magic that is born in the blood and bones of its users, in symbiosis with their hopes and dreams and talents, resonating to their idiosyncrasies and honesties, their imaginations and falsehoods. It is a changeable relationship that bends and shapes itself based on the sort of person you are, or want to become, and on the manner by which you deal with the buzzing, seeping wholeness of Magic under your skin. Are you overtaken, or compelled? Driven sane, or kept mad?
This is Real Magic, in so much as anything is real. There are so many realities, you know–pasts and presents and futures that are all collapsible within a Magic that cares not for chronology. Sometimes Magic appears to be unbelievable or extraordinary, even though it is acting with deliberation and tangibility. It is a creator of borderlands, a fastener of unrelated topographies, and a wringer of eccentricities.
This is Mystical Magic. It is the magic of tricksters, of enemies, of kings and queens, and of scholars. It is the magic of lovers, of sires, of siblings, of children. It is an explanation at the same time it is a bundled box of mystery. Sometimes it is a textbook, and sometimes it is a smirking oracle. Sometimes it is a set of tarot, and sometimes it is a script. You never know what you will get with Magic, and to think you might is sheer folly.
This is Energist Magic. And you will come to see what that means.
And although I wouldn’t always trust Magic to see me safely across town when walking in the rain is too troublesome and a quick Travel better suited. Or to remember to water my plants. Or even to give me so much as a fair mixing cup measurement conversion…
Although I wouldn’t trust it with any of those things…
I do trust Magic with your life.
Did you want me to say I trusted it with mine?
* * *
“A Briefer Prologue”
The only reason my esteemed symbiotic companion wrote that he would not entrust his life to me is that he is now about five years missing and assumed dead. I must have given him some sense of imminent demise, but, truly, I had next to nothing to do with the actual demise. He was a good man and a good Energist.
Couldn’t cook worth a damn, though.