The Genesis of Phoenix Hill
I've talked about the Page-a-Day Challenge elsewhere on this site, but I wanted to have a place to talk specifically about the book I'm writing . . . "Phoenix Hill."
Right now, it's 2/19/15, and I've written 22 pages which puts me a bit ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, in the next five or 10 pages, though, my notes completely end. I have a vague idea of what happens next, but no clear direction. For contrast, in Lot 23 (last year's PADC story), I didn't know all of the events that were going to happen, but I had an understanding of the main beats that would need to be hit. This character is introduced at this point, these two people fight at this point, this object gets stolen at this point, and so on until the climactic battle. Not so in Phoenix Hill.
I'm okay with that. And I'm not sure if I'm okay with that.
The idea of the story comes from two very different places. First, the book State of Fear by Michael Crichton. At the end of the novel, there's a bit of exposition that talks about the age of the earth. The fact that it's five billion years old and been through numerous atmospheric changes. If you try to imagine what the planet looked like, felt like, smelled like even a billion years ago, it's nearly impossible. Sure, we have a general idea of plants and atmosphere . . . but not really.
The second jolt was from a comic strip. Yes. A comic strip. There was a gag in a Sunday strip of Sherman's Lagoon. The crew had found a stack of worthless Internet stocks that were dumped into the ocean. They began digging through the stack. The pile of trash ended up being enormous. They found pet rocks, lava lamps, powdered wigs, suits of armor, mummies and then primitive tools. You see, the trash was built in the strata of refuse from human history. The part that got me, though, was:
"Some primitive tools, dinosaur bones, and then a lot of rubble. Wait a minute, there's something under that. Internet stock options."
It was a throwaway gag about the cyclical nature of success and failure, growth and destruction, death and rebirth. It really got me thinking, though. Who's to say that we were the only civilization that ever lived on Earth? Would it be possible to think realistically that a race had evolved, grown, succeeded, and then died out . . . so long ago that nearly all traces of their existence were erased from the planet?
At least the part of the planet that we could actually see?
So, that was the very earliest form of the story I'm now writing. First, it was called "Pilgrim," then it was called "Superancient." Right now it's called "Phoenix Hill." It refers to a location in the novel (the location of Longyou Caverns . . the second location visited in the narrative, after Nan Madol), but also refers to the idea of death and rebirth. That title may change as well as the main story.
I think I can get away with finishing the Nan Madol section, and then I have to actually sit down and plan what happens (at least in a broad sense) for the entirety of the book.
Over the course of the challenge, I'll probably just add new sections to this page rather than writing new pages. Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions? Please send me an email.
Update To The Story Thus Far
August 1st, 2015, seemed like a pretty good time to post an update.
I certainly haven't given up on the book - it's just on pause. I managed to completely write Section One "Nan Madol" and plotted the entirety of Section Two "Grand Canyon." Section One is 48 pages long, and might be lengthened a bit on revision.
According to my current notes, the book should have six Sections. I'm currently working on the follow-up to Coldwater . . . "The Hidden Riches of Lord Granite." Once that story is written, I'll get back into Phoenix Hill.
Update To The Story Thus Far
July 12th, 2017, again, seemed like a pretty good time to post an update.
Phoenix Hill remains alive in my mind. Still. And to this date. I will get it written. It seems that this story is the one I come back to in between other projects.
-I put together the main plot and wrote the first 48 pages during the 2015 Page-A-Day Challenge. I put the story aside to write the novel The Hidden Riches of Lord Granite. Once Hidden riches was finished and published, I came back to PH.
-I wrote the first quarter of Section Two and did some editing of Section One after publishing HRLG. I put PH aside again to write The Beast of Trash Island.
-Once Trash Island was published, I came back to PH yet again. I finished writing Section Two "Grand Canyon." The total story is, right now, 103 pages (22924 words). With Sections One and Two completely written, I stepped away once again to write the novella "Paradox Iron" for the collection The Event.
-In between finishing Paradox Iron and starting the new novel "Objekt 221," I took the time to lay out the six sections/six locations of the Phoenix Hill storyline. Section Three is Kailasa Temple.
Time to get back to my dinosaur story . . . :-)
Update To The Story Thus Far
With all the other projects on my sheet, I had almost forgotten that I created this page to track progress. I suppose you could say that progress has been good. With any luck, the next update will be that Phoenix Hill is DONE.
It is right now 7/18/2023. Just about eight years since the PH project started. As you can tell from the other updates, the story took on something of a palate cleanser role in my writing. I would finish a project, then come back to PH. Whether it was writing, editing or planning, I seemed to always come back to this story after publishing something else.
In the last update, I mentioned "my dinosaur story." There were three. "Objekt 221," "Hell Island," "Project: REAPER." There have also been six Event short story collections (with the seventh very near publication). I have also written "Temple of the Spider God" and seen it go to press.
All that said, "Phoenix Hill" stands proudly at 59,649 words (256 pages on my document). I've written the first five sections with only the sixth standing between my current cursor and "The End." The novel has gone through numerous changes, though, even as I read back through these original notes. Kailasa Temple has been shelved ... possibly for a sequel. The six sections are:
Section 1: Nan Madol
Section 2: Grand Canyon
Section 3: Gobekli Tepe
Section 4: Longyou Caverns
Section 5: Eye of the Sahara
Section 6: Phoenix Hill
True to form, though, I'm going to pause between finishing 5 and starting 6 so I can write a story called "Curse of the Red Pyramid." It should be the first in a series of relic hunter stories that all carry the subtitle "A Jack Madden Adventure." We'll see if that comes to fruition. Also, the 7th Event book "Congo Sphere" is set to publish in early September. My story for it, "The Healer's Curse," is already written but I'll have to gather all the other stories and put them into order for publication.
After those two projects, I hope to come back to my dear friend PH and write the ending that I've been waiting for since February of 2015. The end is near. The finish line is in sight.