When last I wrote, I didn't have much of an idea about the third book and I didn't have a cat on my lap.
Well, both of those things have changed.
The cat is Emily and she isn't even sitting on my lap; she's standing, resting her fairly substantial rump in the crook of my arm. The things I put up with.
Back to literature. I spent at least twenty four hours floundering. I had several wonderful scenes, but I wasn't at all sure I could use them. They were very dark and not necessarily appropriate (curse you, sex and violence!). I was feeling the weight of Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone.
Shamefacedly, I must admit that I've taken to calling LAWKI/d&g, "The Future Classics." Sometimes I even call them the FCs. I'll try hard not to call them that here, but I make no guarantees.
But then, in a rare burst of sensibleness, I thought about what LAWKI/d&g were really about, which is family. My immediate response was a sullen, yeah, well that's the problem, because if Luke has any kind of family he's not going to need to get to Pennsylvania and hook up with the LAWKI family. Which is true.
But there are different kinds of family in this world. I have friends who I think of as family (and I'm even more fortunate because I have family I think of as friends, but that's neither here nor there). What Luke needed wasn't necessarily blood kin, but people he was connected to and concerned about.
Yeah, I know this would have been simple for you, but it was a real breakthrough for me. Because once I realized that, everything, and I mean Everything, fell into place. Even some of the noiresque stuff works. And the ending...If such be possible, the ending has gotten even better.
The book now has three basic sections, the first and third bookending the middle and far longest part of the book. In the beginning, we meet Luke. His mom (Lisa) is long dead, and his dad (Dad) died four years before the book begins. When Dad died, Luke was immediately taken to the mines (he was about 12 at the time). At the start of the book, Luke is in a death match, the winner of whom (who is not supposed to be Luke) will be liberated from the mines. Luke wins, gets liberated, and is encouraged to get out of the area, cross the river, and move to the east (where he will eventually find his family).
Luke hooks up with a business that transports people to the river. He travels with a married couple and four other teenagers, Hannah and her indentured servant Pet, Ethan, and Rachel. All of them are planning to cross the river, which is never done casually. Hannah is doing it because she's part of an arranged marriage. Ethan is going to avoid being recruited (kind of a draft dodger). Rachel is going because there's no education available for teenage girls west of the river. Luke is given food and protection in exchange for work, so he's both of the group and outside it. And the climate changes started while Luke was stuck in the mines, so when he sees blue sky and stars for the first time, the others have already experienced it.
Since the idea is only two days old, I can't tell you much about what happens on either side of the river, but I do know some stuff. The way it works with the powerless is that you're contracted for seven years of labor (Luke in the mines, Pet as a servant). Then, if your employer is satisfied, your option is picked up for another seven years (so Luke would have had to work in the mines for another ten years, and Pet would have to be an indentured servant, or "serv" for about ten years as well). After that, you're on your own, but after that, you're most likely dead.
When it comes time to cross the river, Luke finds out that he'll need a fair amount of money, to pay for transportation and some kind of papers that he doesn't have. Then Hannah gives him the money, explaining that to get it, she sold Pet's contract (or, if you want to look at it that way, Pet). Hannah is very pleased with herself for having come up with such a creative solution to Luke's problem, and for what she regards as a real act of charity, but Rachel and, as of the moment, Ethan are appalled (I haven't worked Ethan out yet, but currently he's idealistic). But Luke accepts the money and crosses the river.
Alas for Luke (but good for the readers) he develops a conscience and starts feeling guilty. Here's where things get a little tricky (curse you, sex!). I know (at least right now) that Luke and Ethan are both having sanctioned sex with Pet. But I can't exactly spell that out and keep the potential school market. But I do want it clear that Luke feels some connection with Pet, because I want him to talk about all this with Alex when he finally meets him (the exact details of which I've yet to work out).
Somewhere on the eastern side of the river, Luke and Rachel shake Ethan (although it is possible that Ethan refuses to cross the river and chooses to look for Pet instead, even though this means he stands at risk of being recruited). Then, for reasons yet to be worked out, Rachel doesn't go directly to school, but accompanies Luke when he meets the LAWKIs. Because I want Miranda to open the door, and Luke is just frozen with fear and longing, and Rachel steps in and says she's Rachel, and Miranda falls all over her, convinced this is Baby Rachel. Eventually, of course, the misunderstanding is cleared up, but Luke, who is already Outsider Incarnate, feels that much more alienated. But by book's fabuous end, Luke is accepted for who he is and more importantly can accept his family for who they are (I'd tell you who they are, but I haven't worked that out yet, although I am amusedly considering the possibility that Miranda is married to Brandon the figure skater).
In addition to minor stuff like figuring out plot and characters, I need to do research. Here's what I currently know about the Mississippi River: It's long. I've got to locate those coal mines and work out routes, travel agent kind of stuff. And figure out what things look like 16/17 years later. My brother has volunteered to push the moon out of orbit (well, he said he'd go to the library and see if he could find something about the moon), so I don't have to worry about that. I'm always willing to power share, if it means less work for me.
Speaking of which, I'm title hunting again. Various of you pointed out that Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone are both five word, single syllable, titles, so I'd like the third book to have a title like that. Suggestions would be much appreciated.
Well, Emily is no longer on my lap, so I suppose I should get up and do something, like take a nap. There are some perks to being old, self-employed, and the author of Future Classics, after all!