All Play and No Work…

There is a ski lodge high on Mount Hood that you may have seen before.  It’s Timberline Lodge; and while its story as a WPA project is worth a read, and its interior a marvel in American craftsmanship, you probably know it best from its short screen time as the framing shot for the fictional Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  Now allow me to be upfront about this; Timberline Lodge is not the Overlook Hotel.  The hotel was a set piece, and the interior of the Timberline looks nothing like the faded glory of the Overlook.  However, there’s information about the movie proudly displayed in the hotel and the Lodge hosts the annual “Overlook Film Festival”; a bit of a perverse thrill in telling its guests that they are sleeping in closest thing to the Overlook.  (According to the Lodge’s website, room #217 — the original room in Stephen King’s book — is the most requested room.)

There is a house in Southwest Portland midway up a hill that you probably haven’t seen before.  It’s one of several on the cul-de-sac, snowed in under a foot of snow — unusual at best for temperate Portland, Oregon.  It has never been used as a framing shot for a horror movie, or any movie that I know of.  In that house sits a writer, frustrated with his craft.  He and his wife are snowbound, prevented from leaving via car or bike, but hardly bereft of the benefits of society.  We do have a supermarket and the local pub just a few blocks down the road and while abysmally cold out there, it’s not so cold that we couldn’t just bundle up and walk down.  In fact, we did so last night, preventive measures against the onset of cabin fever.  Kicked back a few beers, played some shuffleboard and restocked our stores for the long thaw that’s due Any Moment Now.  In the interim, we’ve tried to manage.  I shoveled out the drive and tried to clear out excess snow from our trees.  Bev has worked from home, holding conference calls not in her pajamas.  But I’ll be honest as well.  The writing gods have not been kind and well there’s this new season of Diablo 3…

All play and no work makes Josh a very uh… unproductive writer?

There’s really no excuse.  This is perfect writers’ weather — the enforced home stay in the depths of winter, the constant whirl, boil, press of coffee.  My desk overlooks1ut oh the cul-de-sac and all it’s snow covered beauty.  Snow cascades from evergreen trees as the sun fights through the sub-zero2Celsius temperatures.  Kids can be heard laughing as they hurl themselves down snow-packed side streets on rickety sleds that normally don’t see this much action year in and year out.

So what’s the hold up?

I shouldn’t say that I haven’t accomplished anything.  I’ve heard tell form more than one source that a good fiction writer creates an iceberg with their stories and worlds.  The reader sees only the tip, but below the waters should lay a wealth of back story and world building.  This is the part that I’ve been working on — stuff that will likely never be seen by a reader’s eyes, but informs my telling of the story none the less.  Does Peria’s obsession with mercantilism negatively or positively affect their social and interior policies?  At what point does the nascent trade economy of the surrounding lands develop into free trade, or does Peria’s economic nationalism just turn into flat out nationalism and they start a second wave of wars for economic supremacy?

It’s an interesting thing inventing a whole nation’s history.  Though none of this book takes place within that nation, its three major characters are all from the capital and all have grown up in hard circumstances.  One of the things I’d like to focus on is how my trio has diverged from their shared upbringings.  John Wren is the definition of a self-made man.  Protharious had the luck to leverage his considerable talent into a life of comfort.  Jest simply said “fuck it” and left the rat race as soon as she could.  But as the three interact, they all draw on their homeland as a basis.

There’s another reason I have to get my facts right as well.  Jest is telling the tale in first person to someone who has the same cultural experiences as she.  As a reader surrogate, John isn’t the best option3though, reasons.  So when I give readers an impression of Peria, it needs to be clear in their heads what I’m showing.  Otherwise, that unseen nation becomes Generic Fantasy Land #417,0764aka, Fake England.  See: Sendaria.  I desperately don’t want to happen.  Peria may have its faults in the eyes of my narrator, but she’s not the most reliable sort to assess the pros and cons of a massive economic power and near trade monopolizer.

Wait, wasn’t I supposed to not make Fake England?

Shit.

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