ReelThoughts: September 15, 2013

"The Last Whisper of the Gods"

Commentary by James Berardinelli

Recently, I have been repeatedly asked two questions regarding my website. (1) Have you stopped writing ReelThoughts? (2) Are you ever going to review older movies again? Both are fair questions and deserve answers. So here goes: (1) no. (2) yes. Not satisfied? Read on...

The lack of recent non-new movie review posts is not part of some grand scheme to frustrate those who prefer reading ReelThoughts. Nor is it a masochistic attempt to drive away traffic. Rather, it's a function of time limitations. Each week contains only 168 hours and most of those are filled (often by mundane things like sleeping, eating, and saying "no" to a 3-year old). Since the main purpose of ReelViews is to present reviews of a selection of new films, that's where the effort goes first. At no point during my "slowdown" have I skimped on new reviews. But, since something had to give, it ended up being video reviews first and ReelThoughts second.

Some will surmise that a majority of what used to be spare time has been absorbed by caring for my son, but that's only part of the equation. In fact, the larger sink has been something called The Last Whisper of the Gods and there's finally an end in sight. That means (hopefully) a noticeable uptick in ReelThoughts just in time for the year's end. I can't promise more video reviews (beyond certain commitments), but the variety of content at the site should increase. So, to anticipate the obvious question, what is The Last Whisper of the Gods?

I started toying with some of the concepts that went into this project, at that point a stand-alone novel, back in 2007. I even wrote about 15 chapters. However, dissatisfied with some of the story elements, I abandoned it and moved to other things. Then came a house move and a baby, both of which proved to be significant distractions from writing. However, beginning in the spring of 2011, I started thinking in detail about how the narrative could be rescued. I expanded the storyline and envisioned a three book series instead of a single volume. This offered me the latitude to explore not only the main characters and the central conflict but to add some esoteric elements and do a little world and mythology building. Standard fantasy stuff. But hopefully not boring.

So I started writing again. The first task was to sort through the existing 15 chapters and rework them. That almost killed my enthusiasm. There's nothing I hate more than revising and rewriting. But I slogged through that and started with the new material in October 2011. The 500-page first book, which bears the title The Last Whisper of the Gods, was completed in early April 2012. A few months later, while I was working on Volume 2, I went in search of an agent. Six months later, I came to an agreement with one, but we elected to not pursue publication until Volume 2 was completed - something that happened in March 2013.

Where am I now? Book 3 is about 2/3 complete (350 pages out of an expected 500-520 pages). My agent is doing what agents are supposed to do and sparing me the tedium of pitching the book to publishers. My expectations are as follows... At my current rate of writing, I will complete Book 3 a few days before Christmas. Revisions (ugh) will take about 2-3 months so the novel will truly be "completed" in March 2014. The Last Whisper of the Gods should see the light of the day some time thereafter. A lot depends on who the publisher is and what the chosen release strategy becomes. I foresee this primarily as an e-book with six-month intervals between the publications of the volumes, but I'm not necessarily in the driver's seat when it comes to those decisions.

Without giving too much away, I can say a few things about The Last Whisper of the Gods. It's a fantasy series set in a "traditional" medieval milieu. The entire story encompasses three volumes, each about 500 pages long. This is not open-ended. It has a clearly defined beginning, middle, and conclusion. Those who enjoy it and want to continue past Book 1 won't have a long wait for the subsequent installments. The first book has a very familiar "feel" to it. It's more about introducing the world and characters and setting up the situation than it is about venturing into new territory. There's a quest and a strong romantic element. By Book 3, I'm doing some very specific things that I hope readers will find intriguing and off the beaten path. I've spent a lot more time on detailed plotting with these books than with anything I have previously written. Character motivation is a big element: everyone has specific reasons for acting as they do. Then there's the underlying premise: the gods of this universe, bored with the monotony of eternity, commit mass suicide. In their wake, their creations must come to grip with this and figure out how to move forward.

I'll keep the lines of communication open regarding the books but, for the next few ReelThoughts, I'll stick to movie-related topics.

First up: a discussion of retrofitting classic movies for limited 3-D releases. Is this a good way of honoring a film on a milestone anniversary or is it a close cousin of colorization? After that, I'll ruminate about whether seeing a movie a second time can take the fun out of it. I watched several films twice this summer (for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with taking my wife on a date) and only one fared well as a repeat and it contained zero special effects.

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