I’ve been doing a lot of re-thinking recently. I’ve decided to start the long, slow road to writing a screenplay for The Elements, based on developing a pitch for the streaming TV networks. The simple truth of self-publishing is, it’s for the most part a waste of time in terms of discoverability. The re-sellers like Amazon actually seem to try to keep a new author hidden, so even if I search my author name, I can’t find my books, since only sales stats and sales count. So if I can’t use re-sellers to be discovered, what is the point?
The point is, forget about self-publishing. Forget about sales. Develop craft, product as and when you feel inspired to do so, share with those few people who care, and let it grow slow.
As part of this new philosophy, I’ve resorted to a new simple contact with my developing story universe, linking the past to the future. For those who know the wonderful conceptual structures used by Christopher Nolan in film-making, he uses a sense of time in almost everything he does. Inception is a wonderful immersion in the relativity of time, from one dream state to another. In Interstellar, the regular beat of time is nowhere more conceptually manifest than when the decision is made to descend to the planet close to the black hole Gargantuan, where one year of life on earth passes in the beat of time made apparent in the wonderfully evocative music composed by Hans Zimmer. The impact of the waves scene unites all in what I believe is a truly powerful piece of moviemaking.
The Elements is also about time, but looks at time in a different way, but shares a lot of common ground.
Time is never made more real to us than in the impact the past has in those things we can’t really explain that conditions the present.
Therefore The Elements is really about the structures in time and how truth is hidden within them. To this end, the structure of time itself and the threads of the story I am now visualizing as part of a new drive to TV-network pitching.
The Elements will be called Labyrinth, a labyrinth in time. A labyrinth of deception and lies. And a labyrinth, where somewhere, their lies the truth, a cosmic premise waiting to be discovered that renders all the deceptions of mankind ultimately worthless. As part of this new re-think, I’m now adding in a new thread, the present. Here’s an extract from the ‘pitch in progress’:
LABYRINTH is an epic of storytelling that bridges the present to the past… and the future in ways never attempted before in fiction.
In the present, a reporter is isolated from her own past, having relocated to Baja California, to live a life of solitude, to come to terms with life that she has yet to make any sense of.
She bears with her a secret from the past that could redefine the very soul of mankind. Except, this secret has been perverted by the lies and deceptions of men who have dominated a world for so long that the world has forgotten what it used to be.
In the present she sits at a remote homestead bathed in the eternal orange glow of the desert. Here she returns to a world, the half-way recent past between her present and the past of her youth when she became a part of. She immerses herself in events she is still coming to terms with more than thirty years later. And as she writes, she becomes aware of the future, of the rise of a new threat she isn’t sure is just perceived or is so real as to become the final showdown amidst a new cold war waiting to be reignited.
In the present, old are the divisions. New is how they are once again torn open in a new fight between the divided East and the divided West in a world where global warming is all but forgotten about in the games played by the ignorant few who set the course for the many.
The main storylines of Labyrinth are based in her past
And in the past, we return to a world that has formed the present, when Europe was moving towards a final confrontation, except none of the ruling elite could see it coming. The fall of the Berlin Wall is not anticipated, the powers behind the scenes busy building webs of deception. An unseen battle is going on behind the scenes, as a cash-starved USSR becomes hungry for Western technology.
In the past, intelligence provided by a defector becomes a catalyst for a complex chain reaction, of cause and effect, projected not only forward to future events, but also backwards shedding new light raising new questions concerning disturbing incidents of the past.
The implications to the chain reaction are revealed by the characters, whose investigations reach back to events from the First World War, the use of Danish resistance operations controlled from London to later NATO operations of the cold war still shrouded in secrecy. The key to unlocking these secrets resides in a discovery of truth concerning the shadowy figure Eddie, a founding father of the most secret of Secret Intelligence Services.
Legend in all but name, if Eddie’s legacy were to become known it could threaten to undermine the carefully laid plans to destabilize the East-West balance.
As Ulrika in the present sits in her chair in Baja California, she returns to both the interviews she had conducted in a more recent past, the time she attempted to piece together the deeds of the more distant past she became a part of. In what becomes a search for the truth, as the more is revealed of Eddie’s past, the higher the stakes rise and the more the story transcends the limitations of normal life, the boundaries between the hidden and the visible world becoming increasingly blurred.
This is the new beginning, a scene to be added to the beginning of the already published Naked Ground:
The present day. Somewhere in Baja, California
There was always two sides to quiet and solitude. They were two distinct entities, yet the boundary between them was as indistinct as the line separating the Mojave from the Colorado desert. Neither had anything to do with the constant wind that blew in from the desert, whipping the air into a rising tide of dust, or did it have anything to do with the almost unnatural orange glow in the sky in the early morning and late afternoon, obliterating the once clear views to a horizon she couldn’t understand anymore. As far as quiet went, the silence wasn’t total. There was the soft hum of a car, the thrum of what she guessed had to be the refrigerator. But it was quiet and the quiet only caused a greater sense of frustration, as the women who had once called herself Ulrika Strömberg hunted for a word that still evaded her, despite the passing of the years, despite the attempt to journey overseas to start a new life. And then there was the solitude.
Solitude wasn’t being alone, she was used to being alone. It was being isolated… of not being to interact with the world, a world that had passed her life away in the blink of an eye. A world that for the most part, existed as memory, a world removed from afar like a distant echo of reality that had almost never been.
Without really knowing why, she looked across at the first of the many files piled high on her desk, and opened it. It was a picture of herself, taken in 1987. She had been… she didn’t even care to recall how old she had been. Young. And carefree. A young reporter on the hot trail of a hot story, oblivious to the warning signs. That story had taken her to, well, a place that changed her life, forever. She wondered briefly what would have happened to her life, if she had just kept walking, hadn’t thumbed for a ride back into Stockholm on a rainy day on a forest and ended up in the middle of a war no one knew about.
She would probably be dead, she realized. If she hadn’t been picked up that day, she would have returned to Stockholm, made a report in a newspaper about what had happened. She would have written up all the angles, recited what there was to be written. And that would have been that. She would most likely have been killed; by two, three or more bullets to her head as a car passed her at night, as she walked back to her apartment, silenced by the cold of a war that no one really knew for what it really was. So though she had been stupid, and stupidity is something in great supply in the young and the headstrong, her stupidity had saved her life in a world that had gone mad. Her stupidity meant she had tried to get back, had thumbed for a lift, had taken the first car that stopped by… and that was why she had never made it back to Stockholm. And that was why she was still alive, since she never wrote the story. And she had been beautiful, once upon a time. Beautiful and stupid and thank the gods for that.
She put the photograph away, closing off that part of her that still suffered from the things that had occurred back then. She stifled a shudder, deep forbidden memories stirring. In the end, it was the onward march of time that had lead her to take the decision: the decision to write.
And that was why the quiet had another side to it, since it allowed her to finally collect her thoughts. She had been waiting for the right time to begin, even though deep down she knew there was no such thing as the right time. She had no idea to whom this was for, if anyone would be in the slightest bit interested in reading any of it at all. And that was why she had taken 15 years to get to sitting here today, slouched in a chair from Ikea behind a sheet of glass from California, wondering if anyone would really care.
She got up and walked outside and sat on her chair in the veranda, sitting down to enjoy the warming late afternoon rays of the Californian sun, California dreaming before the fading shapes of Joshua trees. From hangmen caught in the gallows to Joshua trees; it was a strange juxtaposition and she tried to close her mind to the pull of emotions, feeling a rising tide.
What had started as an inner feeling had become a premonition, that she couldn’t leave this alone. She reclined in the simple reclining chair made of wooden boards with rounded edges they called an Amerikaner where she came from. She closed her eyes to the sunshine and flexed her fingers, feeling the writing itch she knew had returned. Tales like these didn’t belong in the modern world, with politicians who made an art form out of lying in public, where one country hacked the political mechanisms of another, where news was false, even when it wasn’t. It was a world of machines taking over jobs from the now unemployed, where news agencies vied for statistics instead of stories. All of this had at one time, never been here at all. Once, there had been a world without computers, social media or cell phones. A world where meetings were made in person, not on screen, when an arrangement was an arrangement, when people picked up a phone and made a call… yes, the world had changed. Deep down, she knew it hadn’t changed for the better.
There was this generation thing. What was the letter now?
First you had the baby boomers, these were the people she wanted to bring to justice, those of them that were left. Then there was generation X. This was her, the pre-Millennials. Then generation Y, the Millennial generation. Now there was this new generation, Z. What would the Z’s stand for? She wondered. Would they care less, this new generation? About shadows, secrets and lies from the past? Would they ever know the world they inhabited had been formed by those who had always escaped the light? Of course not. Real stories weren’t entertaining enough. And this one had none of those countless superheroes, dragons, or whatever else it was all the Z’s were into. Hers was the MTV generation, of great music, fancy clothes and stable jobs. But what of Angelica? She was an in-between, she thought, too late to be a baby-boomer, too early to have been an X. Perhaps that was why she never fit in, a victim to baby-boomer MGS’s, Grey Men In Grey Suits, as she had called them, all vestiges of world gone and forgotten. So deep down, she knew, no one was really interested in a story like this, with the many angles, the spy-shadowed secrets or the schemes of people long since dead and buried. Even if it did involve some of the most amazing discoveries no one ever knew abou…
The word was incarceration, that was it. The word that sounded like something you got by getting to near to something sharp.
She opened her eyes, took in the last rays of the sun then pulled herself out of beloved chair and listed to the beat of her feet on the floorboards. They beat a rhythm back to her laptop. She tapped a key and activated the screen, feeling the new beginning.