1/1/2018: I Start the (Fur) Ball Rolling.
Sly! The Rogue Decamps is a thirty-thousand word Teaser-Intro to a series.(The umbrella title: Sly! A Rogue, Reconsidered.)
> Convoluted nonsense augmented with sham history.
> Ludicrous assertions bolstered with an abundance of semi-plausible detail.
> My CYA strategy: inane disclaimers.
The above is a drawing-in-progress, far from a final. But it shows the direction I am going in. This will be a (spot) illustrated book.
From a staged Visitation by the Virgin Mary (the goal, to lure religious tourism to a dirt-poor backwater kingdom) to a joint effort with Elizabeth of England’s Royal Astrologer to eradicate a tenacious rodent population in a North German town, a wily wiseacre offers astute but invariably self-serving advice to creeps, cranks, and kings. Welcome to my alternative-reality sixteenth century.
A rigid feudal culture was crumbling. The unprecedented upheaval moved have-nots to hope for greater prosperity, and well-borns to cling to their time-honored prerogatives.
You had your all-powerful despots, large chunks of the world in their iron grips; entitled toffs, insulated from abject want (it’s all relative, isn’t it?); cunning climbers, eager to exploit the new social liquidity; a small, vulnerable middle class; and low-lifes from cream-of-the-crop slicks to run-of-the-mill drunk and disorderlies. Bright discontents, up-yours snots unwilling to accept the status quo, sought to advance themselves (an outrageous concept) off their own merits.
Meet the snot of the age, Sylvester Boots.
I write fantasy goosed with what appears to be a wealth of fact. Take the history with a grain of salt. I’ve fudged. I’ve embellished. I’ve plundered sober histories and deliciously maudlin Victorian novels for zany material and I’ve woven the scavenged bits into my narrative, so that it (hopefully) sounds like I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve lifted salt-soaked terms and phrases from nautical adventures, including Two Years Before The Mast. I’m admitting it up front, so don’t nobody jump on me over it. I don’t know a damn thing about ships, and I’ve sure never put to sea on a square-rigger. I’m a light-fingered opportunist, like Sly. Where do you think he gets it from, eh?
Sly! the saga is an intricate chronicle of misery and mayhem, every bit as ridiculous as I could figure out how to make it. The story meanders. The characters reveal themselves through haphazard reminiscence and my insertion of curious collateral material. We lurch from pillar to post, generally due to my inability to identify a way forward. (I am the ultimate pantser.) (1)
Twenty years of poking around in history books has made me moderately informed on the sixteenth century in matters large and small, able to regale you with, for instance, curious circumstances surrounding the invention of the pencil.
Also: Margaret Cavendish, Countess of Newcastle-on-Tyne (called the first female scientist) liked to put her theories into verse. Sly and I have taken her impulse and run with it. (2)
And, from a marvelous PhD thesis on a fourteenth-century walled town in southern France, I snagged, with the permission of the author, delightful description of mountainous landscape. Rogue is a merry mash-up from hundreds of sources, filtered through my off-balance point of view.
The Rogue Decamps is black humor in spots, snark more generally, sweet from time to time. My cat drags a ton of regrets around with him, and obsesses over them entertainingly (my opinion), at length. He’s a bully, a con artist, and a sweetheart, as adorable (again, my opinion) as he can be.
Step into my ready-to-rollick Wayback Machine for nonsense with a whiff of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s giggle-inducing irreverence, and — good news/bad news depending on your taste — of a decidedly literary nature.
Do I have to spell it out? Sly is my smirk-filled reinvigoration of a nursery icon: Puss-in-Boots, reimagined from the boots up.
Ha! Puss-in-Boots meets Tom Jones meets Kurt Vonnegut. How ya like them egg roles? (3)
Chapter one: A Fine Kettle of Fish, will be up in a week or so. I am working on an illustration for it.
1. Pantser: Actually, Seat-of-the-Pantser, a term applied to an author who does not plan ahead.
2. Sly is a poet semi-extraordinaire.
3. A Professor of English at our local university characterized it as Tristram Shandy meets Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve substituted Tom Jones, another jocular period piece, to convey a hint of the personality. For how many are familiar with Tristram Shandy? I wasn’t. So, I read it. Know what? The man was right.