Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to Writing the Fenian Avenger (with a new concept painting)

A combination of a holiday at the beach, the kids crazy fall schedule of events, and health issues at home (and surprisingly, not mine) caused a break in my writing of the first draft of The Fenian Avenger. Perhaps it was a much-needed break. I was stuck on Chapter 34 for weeks.

But, all of that seemed unimportant as my wife Alicia started having some pretty scary symptoms from an irregular heartbeat. She was under a great deal of pressure, probably mostly because of a tennis event she was helping coordinate in Asheville. She was set to leave on a Friday morning, when she came down with this on Thursday night and wound up in the ER (a feat we repeated two days later). Between that and starting the kids on their home school program for the fall (which is more than a full time job in the first place, I’m a major slacker compared to her), that may have enough to raise the stress level to an all-time high. During that time, I scaled back on some things, came into the office a little earlier, got home a little earlier, helped take the kids to afternoon and evening events. We had tremendous help in the form of dinners and help babysitting the kids from our friends at ECPC and JFBC HSG (I feel like the government – that would be East Cobb Presbyterian Church, where we attend, and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church Home School Group, where the kids attend classes and are involved in sports and extracurricular activities. See, that’s too long, and exactly why I abbreviated).

Alicia is doing much better now. I wish I could have taken the last week or so off, as we used almost the last of my vacation time three weeks ago to go to the beach. I think one of the most relaxing holiday’s I’ve had was last year when we were supposed to go to Asheville (you see, it seems to be tied into going to Asheville) when Alicia required emergency surgery. Instead of cancelling the holiday, I just took it at home and took care of her. It was one of the most relaxing holiday’s I can remember (not for her, though).

But, it was nice this time scaling back and not being so busy, watching DVD’s of TV seasons that I picked out (I think she would grade me an A- on Burn Notice, an F on Mad Men, and an incomplete bordering on C- for True Blood). We spend time talking with the kids, talking with each other (Thought, I think she is sick of my stressing about Eamon Malone and the Fenian Avenger and that lousy Chapter 34 that won’t finish).

Now, I’ve returned to writing the Fenian Avenger now. And the break was just what the doctor ordered. As usually the case with me, I lose sight of what the first draft of a novel really is: A rough start-to-finish treatment of your book, if the moment leads you to write prose and dialogue, then go for it, otherwise terse explanations of what is happening in that passage or chapter will suffice.

Chapter 34 was a passage that was critical to the book, and I was becoming entrenched in the description of what was going on when it wasn’t truly necessary. The Fenian Avenger is a story in which a fictional current time Ireland that is mired in a deep depression in which one of the few industries that actually turns a profit is that which caters to Irish-Americans finding their roots. These people (that I am one of, though only a generation removed from being an Irish citizen) are often called Plastic Paddies, and desire to see the Ireland of their fantasies with happy Irish people dancing and signing in shiny green clothes. This Ireland is full of corruption in government as well in the police force, which is not called the police, they are the Garda (pronounced GAR-ad-ee), which is short for Garda Síochána na hÉireann, which is Gaelic for Guardians of Ireland.

Eamon Malone is a boy that was raised by a juggernaut corporation in Ireland called KOD, lead by the charismatic Kieran O’Dowd. Eamon is off the charts in IQ, physical activities, and artistic sense. His education and training are part of the mysterious Sons of Ireland by KOD. Eamon has parents, his father is a detective in the Garda, but it’s KOD that calls all the shots. When his father learns that Eamon is being trained in combat and how to kill, he threatens to pull his son out of the program. Well, what would any large corporation do in this case? Well, of course, remove the parents from the picture.

When this happens, Eamon escapes the training facilities. Angry and alone, he vows revenge against KOD and Kieran O’Dowd for parents. He meets up with enterprising Angus Shannon, a computer and electronics genius, and fellow Kieran O’Dowd hater. Angus wants revenge because KOD killed his parents and stole their scientific breakthrough which was the most complex and complete mapping and study of the human DNA (as Eamon learns this, warning bells go off in his head). Angus is limited in his pursuit of Kieran O’Dowd as the accident that killed his parents left him paralyzed in a wheelchair.

Together with Eamon’s fighting skills and Angus’ technology and hacking into every system, Eamon becomes the Fenian Avenger, fighting Garda corruption against the Irish people and hero of Ireland.

Okay, that sounds a little comic book-ish, but the more complete concept is quite long to go into. Thus, I really have to work on my 60-second elevator speech and query letter pitch for this book by the time it’s done.

Chapter 34 is right in the middle. It’s the crucial scene where the Fenian Avenger breaks into KOD corporate headquarters, which is secured the max like a fortress. Eamon and Angus were also forced to use the help of John Q, a former Sinn Fein lieutenant, who was able to get them access to the building in the form of an employee ID. Unfortunately, John Q used the Fenian Avenger smokescreen to steal company secrets on mergers and was able to profit by short-selling KOD stock.

Once inside, he discovers important clues about what Kieran is up to, and who is really is. Using Angus’ help, he is able to get by all the security systems. However, he misses one off-line security measure in Kieran’s office, a video camera that is motion activated and tied into an isolated computer. And it captured perfect images of the Fenian Avenger breaking into Kieran’s office and rifling through the files. Oops. Between that, and the evidence that someone stole inside information on a merger, that made the Fenian Avenger look like a criminal, rather than a hero.

Once this chapter was done by first draft standards, I was able to roll along and rip off another few chapters over the weekend.

I even revised an earlier concept image of the Fenian Avenger. Initially I was uncertain as to what he was going to look like, and the first image he had a fancy cape. I started to think to myself that this is a depression-era Ireland. I changed the cape for a long coat, and I think this makes a big difference. The Fenian Avenger is not a TV hero, he stays in the shadows, and he only reason he wears a mask is that he doesn’t want the Garda’s facial recognition software to spot him (as KOD is still searching for the lost Eamon Malone to finish creating the next generation of Irish men).

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