The Spinoff Novel: part one
In the course of writing my first science fiction novel, Eye of the Timegate, the word count blew out to around 240,000 words by the time the first draft was completed. The finished work clocked in at just over 136,00 words. A lot of stuff was left on the cutting floor. After I finished the first novel, I took about 80,000 words of the leftovers and started fashioning, not a sequel, but a kind of spinoff novel that I called The Plimsoll Line. This was material that took place at the same time as the events in the first novel. It would be a sideways, parallel novel to the first one, following up intriguing storylines and characters that I’d abandoned for the sake of brevity. I did some work on it for a time, then abandoned it for a later date.
That time has come. It came when I realised there was no way in hell I was going to let myself get out of this great, wonderful life with its tremendous angels of affirmation and inspiration without finishing that damn thing. I mean, 80,000 words already. Come on!
This new story focuses on three characters in particular: Ron Everson, a young descendent of the Paiute Indians of Inyo County; Charlie Dunn, an ex astronaut and national hero; and Gary Mullens, a science mechanic and returning character from Eye of the Timegate. Their story involves a trip using the Timegates back to the wild American west of 1873, interspersed with adventures in New York 1980 and Boston 1773. It’s meant to be an exciting, rooting tooting adventure story of the old west (and the old east) with a general theme of redemption and acceptance. Or at least I think it is, at this point. I’m not sure.
There’s still a lot of work to do on it. I thought it might be aimed at a young adult audience, because my original vision of Ron and Gary was of a couple of young men not long out of high school who idolise the more worldly and heroic Charlie. But my ideas about that are changing. And the style and point of view are still uncertain. At the moment I’m leaning towards material like The Land Of Little Rain, by Mary Austin, and Life Among the Piutes, Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca. There’s also some of Jack Kerouac’s energetic, incandescent prose rolling round my head.
I like quite a bit of what I’ve written already, especially Ron and Charlie’s sojourn in 1873 California. But there are a lot of gaps in the story and ways it could go. I’m still not certain how I should proceed. Do I keep much of the original material, or do I ‘throw out my darlings’ and re-write? I plan to make updates here about my progress on this new, spinoff novel in the coming weeks and months. Feel free to come along for the ride.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel. It’s the opening few paragraphs of the first chapter. I have no idea if it will remain so in the course of finishing the thing. But for now, it stays. Hope you like it.
To the whites it was known as the Land of Little Rain. To the Paiutes and Shoshone it was the Dwelling Place of the Great Spirit. It was Inyo County, specifically the Owens Valley, California.
For much of the year it lay parched between the Sierra Nevadas to the west, and the White Mountains to the east. Not far to the south lay Death Valley and a scorched, dry land.
But a little rain had lately come to the valley, falling especially on the little town of Bethany, just south of Independence. This town contained a park – a small oasis of green that was divided by a creek and bordered by hills on either side. The park was a popular picnicking site for the townsfolk in summer, and a yearly attraction for all the children. At its centre was a curious object, a large monolith of gray-white granite that stood erect out of the surrounding grasslands, like an old and weathered giant tooth.
Not far from this miracle of geologic dentistry an eleven- year-old boy with dark red hair walked by on his way home from school. Despite the rain, his steps were unhurried and he glanced over at the monolith everyone called Bethany Rock. His brown eyes lit up and his strong jaw broke into a grin. He loved that rock, and he loved this place. He thought of it as the centre of the universe, with the Rock the fulcrum from which its greater power turned and emanated. He stood there for a moment, wrapped in the vibrations of peace and belonging that came to him from that silent sentinel.
He was an imaginative boy, filled with sentimentality for home and a healthy curiosity about the world and its inner workings. He could also be headstrong and jealous, with a strong competitive urge. And like so many of his tribe, he was deeply self absorbed. In essentials, he was all boy. His name was Ron Everson.