Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fortress Update


October 8, 2008
As regular readers of this blog know, I was having some problems with a middle readers manuscript, The Fortress of Diamonds. It basically is an adventure story with the main character, Jericho Miles, following clues and puzzles across the southwest in search of her missing archaeologist father. Along with her is one of her father's grad students, Ash.

I sort of envisioned it as a cross between Indiana Jones and National Treasure. I had fun writing it, mostly, and that may be the most important point, ultimately.

My agent liked it a lot except the ending, which she wanted me to change. The ending dealt with the what actually was at The Fortress of Diamonds, which I envisioned as a sort of portal into time. 

The whole story borrows from or is inspired by Anasazi anthropology and Hopi mythology--the blue star kachina prophecy, Coronado, cities of Gold, conquistadors, migrations, journeys between the various worlds, all wrapped up in maternal memories, etc.

Except my agent didn't like the ending and thought it was derivative and boring. I don't agree on the derivative point, no more than anything else written these days by me or anyone else--we all build on the shoulders of giants. Boring, however, is a problem. Although my beta readers didn't agree, I needed to fix that so my agent would market the manuscript.

I blanked on it, which is not typical for me. When an agent or an editor suggests to me a problem, I almost always can supply half a dozen fixes off the top of my head. Not so this time and I struggled.

Finally, after blogging about it before, I went back to source material--Hopi mythology. And quickly tripped over things I had considered the first time around--the central figure of Spider Woman or Spider Grandmother (see figure above), Skeleton Man or Masauwu, who is the Spirit of Death and the Keeper of Fire, and unexpectedly, considering that Jeri's father, Roger Miles, had disappeared into the Fortress, the prophecy of the Pahana, the "Lost White Brother," which is a second coming myth not unlike that of Jesus or any other number of religious messiahs. Hopi mythology says that the Pahana will return again, the wicked will be destroyed and a new age of peace will come into the world. (It has some interesting parallels to Aztec mythology and Quetzalcoatl).

Also, Hopi mythology tells stories of Spider Grandmother leading the people from one world to the next through a portal, or a straw, (which in kivas is represented by a sipapu, or fire pit in the center of the circular kiva) and how the people transformed as they passed into the new world--there are 9 worlds in that mythology and the current world is apparently the 4th.

So, after some masticating and digesting, I made the changes, which were not all that easy to make, but in the end turned out to be shorter and more to the point than I expected. I sent it off to my agent, she liked it, requesting only that I add something at the end that would suggest a sequel, which I was happy to do. She liked that, too, and now she's ready to start marketing the manuscript.

Will it sell?

Hell if I know.

Am I happy with the new ending?

Reasonably. It works. It satisfies my agent and it might be more appropriate for the reading level, and will probably please boy readers as well as girl readers, which is always a dicey proposition when writing about a female main character. That said, I wasn't unhappy or dissatisfied with what I had written the first time around.

So, ultimately, it's out of my hands now and we'll see.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

6 Comments:

Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

I was honored to read the earlier version, and I felt the conclusion was powerful. The final chapters were real page turners.

For what it's worth.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, well, Stephen, I would have been happy to go with that version as well. Now the ending is more action and adventure, while the earlier version went for an emotional kick (which my agent thought was boring).

I suppose if editors all pass on it, I could start peddling the first version somewhere, if I have the stamina for it.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

That's awesome! Congrats!

As for derivative...yeah and so is everything else. And it always has been. Art always influences other art or is influenced by it. It's why we have art movements. Why would fiction be any different?

To me it feels like "derivative" is a cop out from saying what you really mean. "Copy-cat" is a different thing, but...maybe people are trying to be PC. Though I doubt what you wrote was a copycat anything.

Even if it was...some book I swear was a Spike/Buffy fanfic with diff character names hit the NYT bestseller list...so clearly derivative has nothing to do with sales ability.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Congrats, Mark! Sounds like a cool book.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

This is good news. Although I really liked the original ending I guess there are endless different ways things can be written. No perfect ending, or perfect word, Flaubert notwithstanding.

As for derivative...as if most of the stuff on the bestseller list isn't in some sense derivative. Hell, if someone likes it then it's an homage, or in the style of, or the author is the next coming of so and so...we're all swimming in the same pool of ideas. Stuff is only "derivative" or "trite" or whatever when the reader doesn't like it. It's just one of the excuses agents and editors like to use, instead of just saying they didn't personally care for it, who knows why. Sounds better to give a solid reason.

5:31 PM  
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6:08 PM  

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