LIVING ON THE FAULT LINE

image.vam.synacor.com.edgesuiteI believe there are two different ways Cascadia, my newest novel, is being read.  It’s dependent, I think, upon where the readers live.

When I do a presentation on Cascadia in the Southeast, where I reside, I’ve discovered I need to do a little extra.  I have to set the stage for the drama, because most people outside the Pacific Northwest don’t understand the existential threat this thing featured in the novel, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), poses.  They aren’t knowledgable about the acute danger that lurks in Washington and Oregon, as well as in southern British Columbia and northern California.

AN INDIAN VILLAGE, A BOOKSTORE, AND A SCENE FROM CASCADIA

ar12981428179091The opening scene in my newest novel, Cascadia, is set in a Clatsop Indian village on the Pacific Northwest coast over three hundred years ago.  Based on research, I placed the village on the present site of Seaside, Oregon.

I’m not entirely certain there was an Indian village there in 1700, the date of the scene, but I  do know there were several small Clatsop settlements in that area in 1805 when members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived.  Thus, I assumed there was likely one there a century before that.

WHY I DIDN’T ADDRESS “COUNTING THE DEAD” IN CASCADIA

earthquake-damage-1CASCADIA isn’t totally a novel.  By that I mean it’s not completely fiction.  The event the novel is set against, a massive earthquake and huge tsunami in the Pacific Northwest, is something that’s really going to happen.

In my previous novels, EYEWALL, SUPERCELL and BLIZZARD, I depicted major weather events that, while certainly possible, are not highly probable.  In other words, I stretched, maybe to the ripping point, the envelope of meteorological likelihood.  (In case you’re wondering, SUPERCELL was likely the least “stretchy” of my tales.)

YES, I KNOW THAT’S NOT WHAT A REAL TSUNAMI LOOKS LIKE

CASCADIA FRONT COVER 4_1When I got my first look at what is now the cover of Cascadia, my left-brain (logical, factual) persona took over.

 I fired off an email to my publisher: “NO, sorry.  The cover image looks great, but it’s much too Hollywood.  A real tsunami doesn’t look anything like that.”

Now most publishers, especially the majors, will merely drop a cover in an author’s lap and say, “That’s it.”  But in an unusual effort to accommodate their left-brained, pain-in-the-ass novelist, me, Bell Bridge Books ran through five more iterations of the cover.

THE FIRST ONE-STAR REVIEW OF CASCADIA

FullSizeRenderStormy, our five-year-old Shih Tzu, pads into my office and sits next to me where I’m working at my desk.

“Hey, Storms, what’s up?”

He doesn’t respond, just looks up at me with his big brown eyes the size of shooter marbles.  I notice he’s sporting a tie.

“What’s with the tie, dude?  Haven’t seen you in one of those before.”  I remember that Valentine’s Day is nearing.  “Lookin’ for love, maybe?”

“I’m neutered,” he growls.

“Right,” I say, and change the subject.  Quickly.  “So why the GQ look?”

HOW A NOVEL IS CONCEIVED

searchI grew up in western Oregon.  It seemed, at least in terms of natural threats, a bucolic place in which to spend my youth.  For instance, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes there were about as common as the Northern Lights in Georgia.   Hurricanes were nonexistent.  Such storms are born over warm oceans.  If you’ve ever dipped a toe into the Pacific along the Oregon coast, you know it’s water in which Polar Bear Plungers could train even in August.

GRABBING THE READER

imagesI preach it all the time in my critique group, so I don’t know why I have such a struggle doing it myself: grabbing the reader in the opening few paragraphs of my book; embedding him or her immediately in the drama.

Eventually, I always get things sorted out, but I usually have to get “slapped upside the head” before I do.

Maybe it’s because, as a friend who had an artistic bent once told me, “Buzz, your thinking is too linear.”