Thursday, February 20, 2014

To Touch the Sun Book Launch Soon

The poster on my wall says it all!
Well this is pretty exciting. The big day is coming up and Dagda Publishing will be having a Facebook book launch for To Touch the Sun Feb. 25. I'll be popping in as often as I can during the day and am looking forward to meeting people and discussing the novel. And those who attend will have the chance to win a copy of the novel. 

She's on the case!
As I've stated often before, this novel is my baby. I've even taken publicity photos for press releases and I do NOT take photos.

Finding a publisher for it was like finding gold. I've been doing some interviews on it and writing a few guest blog pieces. It's given me a chance to reflect on the story and the various inspirations that went into it. I've been covering that in this blog. 

I remember when I was writing Chicago's Most Wanted: The Top Ten Book of Murders Mobsters, Midway Monsters and Other Windy City Oddities (My first book published in 2005 by Potomac Press). The day I signed the contract for that was the happiest and scariest day of my life. Happiest of course because I was finally going to be published. Scariest because I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, especially since I'd never done anything like that before. Once it was published, and I looked back on the writing of it, I have a lot of good feelings (even though I was going crazy while actually doing it). I guess it's all hindsight.
On the left you'll see Lake Point Tower, home to Narain Khan
It's a bit like that with this book. Slightly different though because I didn't have a contract for it and it was a work of fiction, so there was nothing pressing on me in the way of deadlines. But I remember, once I had fallen in love with it, being very concerned that I'd never find a publisher for it. I really wanted that story out. And as I say, looking back on it, I can see things perhaps I didn't realize as I was writing it. For example, I didn't realize how vital the character of Sophie is to the plot even though she really only appears in a few reminisces. Sophie helped Narain live a relatively normal life (in light of his condition) for decades. When she died, his motivations were colored by trying to retain that normalcy. 

The trenches of World War I
I used World War I as a backdrop for Narain's conversion to vampirism. I was inspired when I read that Albin Grau, producer of the film "Nosferatu" served in Serbia in World War I and heard the locals tell folk tales of vampires. It's what inspired him to produce a vampire movie. Narain left that war a very changed man. But it wasn't until I was writing up a blog entry that I stopped to consider that even if the feral attack hadn't occurred to so drastically alter his life, Narain would probably have returned to his family a very changed man. As most veterans of war do. Whether they wear that change on their sleeve or keep it buried deep inside, there's no way that the violence of war wouldn't change them in some way.

On a more personal note, and this is something I realized shortly after writing it, Narain's family dynamic somewhat mirrors mine. There were four siblings (though we had two and two). There's a wonderful scene in It's A Wonderful Life where Mr. Baily tells a young George, "You were born older." That's how I feel about Narain. He was actually born 12 years before the next child Aziz comes along, 15 before their brother Zaheer and a full 20 before their beloved sister Ujaali. So in some respects, even before he goes to war, he's on his own among the siblings. 

Denny and old time radio
It was such with my siblings. My older brother Dennis was only two years older than my sister Barbara (I came along seven years after Barb, my brother Robert a year after me). Yet from an early age, he was off working on jobs with my dad, an electrical contractor, while the rest of us had more to do with each other. Often, he came home very late at night, whether he was off working late, or with his friends. When I was ten, he had moved out of the house and popped in infrequently. I'd never even been to his apartment. Consequently, I knew very little about him. So while the age between us wasn't as expansive as Narain and his siblings, Dennis was just as apart. And sadly, as Narain was "lost" to his family (though he survived the war), my brother died at the relatively young age of 42. 

It's possible that's why I wrote Narain with so many regrets (and why he feels he needs to see if his sister, who would be in her late 90s, is still alive). He regrets never taking the chance to try to reunite with his family and help them understand what he'd become. It's that stuff that was left unsaid, for whatever reason, that makes loss difficult.

So reflecting on the novel for pieces to publicize it has led me to consider what went into writing it. Some of it done without even thinking about it. Which can be some of the best kind of writing.

And as I say often, I hope people get as much enjoyment out of reading To Touch the Sun as I got out of writing it.

My reaction to finding a publisher.
Visit on Feb. 25 to stop in at the launch on Facebook and say hello. The novel will be available on Amazon for Kindle and paperback format. There have already been some wonderful reviews on Goodreads for it also. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sophie's Sacrifice

It's funny. I didn't stop to think of this before but Sophie Grayson who only figures into a few quick reminisces is none the less incredibly important to the plot of To Touch the Sun. In the second book I offer a scene on how Narain and Sophie met, and I plan to delve into their relationship in depth in a later novel in the series. But Sophie's presence in Narain's life make it so much easier. Her absence is palpable.

After Narain returned to Europe from his aborted attempt to reunite with his family, he was lost. Because of his vampirism, he could only move about at night and was forced to hide out where ever he could during the day (once his money was gone and he could no longer afford lodging). Feeding was difficult since, aside from what he considered the immorality of so intimate an act, Narain was worried he might pass the condition, and all its inherent power, on to someone who was dangerous.  

One of the themes I wanted to examine in this series was the inconveniences of this life altering condition. While Narain has the prerequisite strength and longevity found in so many vampire legends, he also has certain concerns that aren't often addressed. How does a man morally repulsed by the act feed from a host, even if they don't need to die for him to do so? Where does a man who must shun the sun hide when he doesn't have a castle to flee to or money to burn? And what does a man who craves human contact do when most of the people are in bed when he's able to roam around. I explore this even more in the fourth book of the series, but I touch on it in this first novel. After his conversion to vampirism, Narain's main motivation in his very long life is to achieve and retain some semblance of normalcy. 

Sophie is key to this. 

The couple fall in love and thanks to her resources, she's able to help him have as normal a life as possible even later helping him achieve his dream of becoming a chef when they move to Chicago and open a restaurant. When it's discovered early on in their relationship, through necessity, that Sophie is immune to whatever causes vampirism, she becomes Narain's food source, freeing him from the guilt and worry of having to go out and hunt for his food. Aside from some other minor logistical inconveniences, Narain suddenly realizes that Alphonse may have been right. It is possible for him, with some adjustment, to lead a relatively normal life. Thanks to this, in many respects, he grows complacent to the realities of what he is.

When the novel opens, Narain has reached a crossroads. Sophie is gone, succumbing to cancer the year before. She had over the years stored blood realizing that she would continue to age and eventually die and hoping to give Narain a chance to transition back to hunting for food. Narain, however, in grief-induced denial, ignored the inevitable. Now the blood is gone, and he's left having to hunt again yet unable to bring himself to do so. He has to though since, if his starvation should drag on too long, the body will make the decision for him and it could be deadly for whoever he should chance upon in this feral-like state. The last thing he and his normal business partner need is for Narain to lose control.

It would put at risk everything he worked so hard for: That normalcy that Sophie helped him attain. Everything he does after that is done in an attempt to cling to that normalcy.

So Sophie's presence and absence is integral because they offer motivation to Narain. And after she's gone, he doesn't always make the wisest choices.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Stuff of Legend

Discovering you're the stuff of legend is always a bit of a shock at first for the vampires in my universe. Those unable to process it become the ferals (more on them later). But for the sentients, how they deal with their new life depends on what sort of people they were prior to it. Those of a more evil disposition prior to the conversion will remain as such but be even more dangerous considering the abilities the condition gives them. One reason Narain finds "feeding" so difficult, even though he needn't kill the host, is because he's not sure if he'll pass on the condition. And if he should unknowingly choose a dangerous person...well you can imagine the rest.

Those people of decent conscience, like Narain, will remain decent even after the conversion and perhaps feel even more responsible for guarding others against the nastier realities of their condition.

That's one thing I wanted to convey in the novels: I wanted to project the confusion one might feel if he unwittingly falls into this situation where his life alters dramatically. And even for sentients it's not always an easy road to hoe. I view Narain not so much as a vampire but a man suffering from a dangerous, sometimes deadly condition that dictates how he maneuvers through the world. 

Narain found two key people who helped him deal with what he had become. The first was Alphonse Reno. A few days into the conversion (which would take a few weeks), when Narain's physical makeup was being altered, he was found wandering half out of his mind by Alphonse Reno, a wealthy land owner in the area. Alphonse had been researching vampirism since he lost his own son Laurant to the feral condition and believes that there is a physical cause behind it. It's his hope that one day he will be able to find a cure to bring his son back to him. Once Narain is out of his fugue state and Alphonse is certain he is the other sort of vampire: A sentient in full possession of his faculties. 

I really like the first scene between Alphonse and Narain when the old man breaks the news to his young guest what he has become. It's touching for Alphonse who takes on a fatherly aura when it comes to Narain; and to Narain who is now faced with an uncertain future.

Alphonse helps him adjust to the realities of his new life and even gets him to believe that a relatively normal life can be achieved. He even convinces him to try to reunite with his family in India who have longed thought him dead. But even after taking the trip, Narain is unable to bring himself to do so. (Still the trip would have ramifications in future novels).

Narain returned to France yet was unable to bring himself to go back to Alphonse feeling in many respects that he failed the old man confidence with his cowardice. Instead, he wanders, uncertain how to live a normal life with the constrictions of his condition. When his money is gone, he hides from the sun in crypts and caves, forcing himself to steal the blood of others yet unable to come to terms with what he must do to survive. 

It's during this time that he meets the second and most influential  person: Sophie Grayson, daughter of industrialist Harrison Grayson and the woman whose sacrifice would help Narain achieve what he thought no longer attainable.