I've been taking advantage of the fact that Ape hasn't said anything yet, so I still have time to work on other projects. This post is the official unveiling of Project X. I've had a few people recommend self-publishing it through CreateSpace (one guy told me his Lulu projects sometimes don't get listed on Amazon, and Amazon is important to me. I want this to have the best shot possible). Submitting to publishers for this ain't happening. I've dealt with publishers and editors. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate them, and I know they are doing their jobs, trying to make the book marketable. But frankly, this is exactly as I want it to be. The approach, the tone, and, most importantly, the mythology. The temptation to change things to make it more acceptable to a wide audience will be too great. So I'm going solo with this one.
Scared? A little, but not really. The response from the test readers has been phenomenal. I think about how everyone has been hanging on the stories, asking questions about the mythology, discussing the characters, and I wonder if I have create a Big Thing, something that goes beyond being just a story that is read and only exists while the book is open. Only one way to find out.
So, what is Project X? Project X is a fantasy courtroom drama, from the case files of Hannah Singer, Celestial Advocate. You know how, when you do something, some bluenose church who can't wait to prove they are holier than thou will tell you, "Oh, you're being sinful! You're being dirty! You're going to burn in Hell!"
Hannah Singer is your defense attorney. Her whole job is to make sure, whatever happens to you, getting Cast Down isn't an option.
The inspiration came from a news story I heard a couple of years ago (I think, I'm actually quite fuzzy on the details now). A group of five churches in one of the Carolinas ordained five women as priests. The Vatican responded by excommunicating them. Knowing excommunication as I do (I am technically excommunicated according to the Codex Juris Canonici), that struck me as rather harsh, and I admired the guts of the women priests. If only there was someone who, when they stood in judgment before God, could stick up for them....
...and Hannah Singer was born.
People do not automatically go to Heaven or Hell. They turn up in the Valley Of Death and, when they're ready, they petition to get into Heaven. Each case is considered by two sides, the Celestials and the Churches. The Celestials are under the charge of St. Michael, archangel and the most notorious prankster in all Creation. They consider the human angle, and their focus is on God's mercy, love, understanding, and forgiveness. The Churches, on the other side of the corpus collosum, are more concerned with how well you followed the rules. Either side contests, it goes to trial. Most cases are simple and are no problem. But there are some cases that are tricky, where what is right and wrong is not so clear, or things can't be simply resolved to everyone's satisfaction. These "grey" cases go to special Advocates who are adept at thinking on their feet and being very very sharp.
Hannah Singer is a grey Celestial. She's been an Advocate for almost 700 years now. She died in England during the Black Death in the early to mid 14th Century. She was an Atheist while she was alive, but that isn't why she isn't in Heaven. Hannah has her judgment, she can cross over to Heaven at any time. But she wants to help defend people like her who are facing nearly impossible odds and are scared they are going to Hell. Simply put, she's a hero. She is Advocating because she's good at it and because she can (I always hated the idea of the TV show Highway To Heaven. Take away the Heavenly reward, and Michael Landon's character has no reason to help people. That's not being a hero, that's bartering. That's offensive).
The approach of the stories is first person. I wanted a tone like she was your dinner guest. A friend says, when he comes over, he's bringing someone you just have to meet. She's smart, she's funny, and she's fascinating. And as dinner starts, you say, "So, Hannah, tell me about yourself." And she tells you of her cases in the Celestial Courts. The approach helps because, let's face it, I have created an entire mythology that no one but me knows. In order for readers to enjoy the story, I need to keep them in the loop about how things work. So her "dinner guest" approach enables her to explain things on the fly and then jump right back into the story.
Right now, I am picking and choosing which stories I'm going to run with. I will be editing them and getting them ready to go. Barring any last minute changes, the stories will be:
WISH YOU WERE HERE -- Hannah has to get a former porn star into Heaven.
TRIAL BY FIRE -- The "origin" story, how an Atheist became a Celestial Advocate in the first place.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER -- Hannah leads the Celestial opposition to Tomas de Torquemada. She has to find a way to keep him out of Heaven.
FISH OUT OF WATER -- Hannah discovers that mermaids are real, and one of them is petitioning. But the Churches are acting like the trial is already over. Hannah has to figure out the plot to literally save a soul.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN -- Hannah has to defend a politician from Alabama who used the Civil Rights movement to scam a bunch of rich racists out of their money.
CUNNING STUNTS -- A daredevil stuntman dies, prompting Hannah to hatch a plan to rook over the Churches.
THE OLD SWITCHEROO -- A woman with four kids dies. To help the kids, an angel takes her place. Now, the woman wants her life back.
I'll let everyone know when things are set to go, but it's almost there. Wish me luck.