Ian Lewis's Blog: Ian Lewis Fiction

April 8, 2019

Batman, a Fantasy, and a Western all in a blender

I'm excited to announce the release of my new novel! "The Reeve Book I: From Legend" is the first in what will be a five-book Historical Fantasy series. There's a lot that went into this story from a conceptual viewpoint, so much that I worried whether I could effectively articulate my vision. The title of this very post is how I went about describing it to people early on. Sounds kind of out there, right? Well, all along my goal was to write something accessible, and in the end, I feel I was able to temper the narrative despite the ambitious nature of the project. So, let's dive in.

It started out with an abstract idea that came out of left field, very much undeveloped. I was looking at my mundane surroundings, wondering what my environment would look like in context of a Fantasy novel—sort of an alternate reality, if you will. This idea was so unexpected because I'm not a big Fantasy guy. There are some exceptions (notably the original Star Wars trilogy—and before you say it's Sci Fi and not Fantasy, let me say two words that recently changed my mind on this: Space Wizards), but magic, dragons, elves, orcs, and the like are just not my thing. At least not the classic, medieval interpretation of them.

I quickly abandoned the idea of a medieval version of Northeast Ohio because of that, but the alternate history idea stuck with me, and more specifically the idea of a stunted world. Not the kind where we progress as normal and then at some point in the future there's an apocalyptic event, but rather at some point in the past something terrible happens, and the present as we know it never occurs.

In the world I posited, things go awry in the 1100s. Here are the assumptions I provide to the reader at the beginning of the book:

Man once pursued alchemy seeking the purification of the human body and soul. Fueled by his vanity and pride, his pursuit gave birth instead to bastard mutations and obfuscation of knowledge, culture, and religion. The world has since been plunged into darkness.

Fast-forward centuries later, and the world has followed a trajectory somewhat different than our own: the Japanese reach North America before the Europeans do, Gothic architecture finds its home on the shores of Lake Erie, and technology is more or less at a Colonial/Victorian level despite it being the year 2017. I still needed a plot and characters, though.

Enter the album Koi No Yokan by the Deftones. I've talked before about how much music influences my writing. In this case I was listening to this album a lot during the germination stages of the novel, and subsequently the pacing and to a certain extent the plot were inspired by it. The lyrics in the first and final tracks especially fueled some of the concepts/scenes; they suggested things to my rampant imagination that just stuck.

A bigger influence, though, might be the Batman archetype, as a co-worker phrased it. I like the term so I'm running with it. I've always been fascinated with the Batman universe, and so the protagonist is to a large extent modeled on the "world's greatest detective." Whereas Batman is a polymath and a supreme athlete, Logan Hale/The Reeve is an approximation of that. Physically imposing, brooding, athletic, well-read. And yeah, he likes to prowl from above. Some of it's a bit on the nose, but I reasoned that even Batman had his influences (see Zorro and The Shadow).

The Reeve isn't a vigilante, however. He's a lawman—more or less a sheriff type of character. In fact, the word "sheriff" is derived from the term "Shire-Reeve." Hence the Reeve. And therein lies the subtle Western influences. Logan is the highest peace officer in the city of Beldenridge, and it's his devotion (or is it an obsession?) that prompts him to set out on a desperate trail into the unknown, pitted against the elements.

There's a lot to be said about Beldenridge (modern day Avon/Avon Lake). It's the grand ideal of its founder's intent to build the perfect city—sort of the Cyrus Pinkney/Gotham idea that I remember from the Destroyer storyline in Batman. I tried to capture the muted pallor of autumn skies in Northeast Ohio as well as the fickle weather. It's often such a depressing, washed out effect that permeates the feel of a damp morning along Lake Erie; I hope I did that justice. There are also some Easter eggs throughout the book for those who know Lorain County history.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the philosophical thrust that will underpin the series. You don't get too much of it in the first book—just a hint, really—but there will be something for all you thinking types as everything unfolds. The gist is that I've found myself consumed with the idea that it's logically impossible for God not to exist. Or worded another way, it's logically incoherent to even ask whether God exists.

Now if you're first inclination is to go running to Richard Dawkins complaining about flying spaghetti monsters or magical sky buddies, ask yourself if you aren't railing against a caricature or perhaps a popularized stereotype. My project isn't to advocate for any particular belief system, only to outline the philosophical concept of what we'll colloquially refer to as God, supported by arguments that have an inescapable cumulative effect. I want to strip away dogma and preconceptions as well as emotionally-driven responses, and then distill things down to logic and reason. The question isn't whether you'll like the conclusion or even find it palatable; the question is whether you can give it intellectual assent.

As it stands, here's my plan with regard to where these arguments will be featured:

Book 2: The Moral Argument

Book 3: The Fine-Tuning Argument

Book 4: The Cosmological Argument

Book 5: The Ontological Argument

Book 1 hints at Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason, but it's brief since "From Legend" is very much a setup for the rest of the series. The challenge for me is going to be how I can weave these arguments into the narrative while still telling a good yarn! I hope you stick it out to see if I succeed.

You can buy a copy of "From Legend" wherever eBooks are sold, or if you want a paperback, you can order from Amazon (which should be available in a day or two).

As always, thanks for reading, and please take the time to leave a rating/review.
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Published on April 08, 2019 03:29 Tags: from-legend, historical-fantasy, ian-lewis, the-reeve

September 28, 2018

A podcasting adventure...

I'm excited to announce a new writing project: The Promptly Written Podcast. I'm teaming up with my friend and fellow writer Matt Sugerik on a monthly writing exercise. The idea is simple. We'll each take an identical writing prompt and write two flash-fiction stories. Each episode we'll read our stories and then have a discussion about the writing process, inspirations, etc.

The fun part is you the listener will have a chance to provide input and vote on prompts from month to month. Then at the end of the year, we'll publish an anthology of the past year's stories. We may even open up a reddit so you can write along with us.

This is definitely new territory for me. Anyone who knows me understands how reclusive I like to be; I've always wanted readers to find interest in my stories rather than me personally. So it's with a bit of trepidation that I set out on this project.

Matt and I have been friends for quite some time, despite the fact that we are polar opposites on so many things. This of course will make for interesting dichotomies with respect to how we craft our narratives using the same prompt. It also puts me out there in the public sphere a lot further than I've ever wanted to be, and the inevitable scrutiny that comes with it. Matt has his sense of humor and I have mine; he has his way of speaking and I have mine. You get the idea. It's going to be an interesting ride with lots of twists and turns, so I hope you'll respect each of our creative drives as well as our viewpoints that might creep in from time to time. At the end of the day, we want to write good stories rather than use the podcast as a soapbox.

When you have a moment, check us out on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or the Prompt Written Podcast website:

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Published on September 28, 2018 09:15 Tags: ian-lewis, matt-sugerik, podcast, promptly-written

April 7, 2018

New release! Part 2: A few spoilers

The release of And I Will Lead the Revolt is finally here! Lots of late nights and writing on lunch breaks has hopefully paid off. This series went from an inside joke to an "I'll write this just for fun" type of thing to a narrative that outgrew either of those.

If you read any of the posts related to the release of Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, you'll know that the genesis of the story was rooted in a joke among co-workers. We envisioned ourselves as characters in this dystopian version of the U.S. I promised to write a story about it just for the heck of it. Well, once I plotted everything out, a new animal emerged which eclipsed the underpinnings. And it exceeded what could be considered one book.

All the same, I didn't see this as a series I wanted to take on for the long haul. There's certainly the potential to do so; there's so much terrain to explore, but it's not a universe that interests me as much as others, nor is a mass market thriller something that captivates me from a stylistic perspective. So it had to have an end.

Enter Seth Sloane. Whereas Godspeed is sort of Bobby's story, Revolt is Seth's story. Seth is a committed, capable member of the Military Police, and I was intrigued with the idea of seeing things from the other side. The Military Police are painted as this evil force in Godspeed, but then you see that Seth is just another guy trying to get by and provide for his family. I thought that antagonism mirrored a lot of what we see today with the left and right rhetoric. My theory is that if you took away all of the hot button issues and boiled things down to the bare essentials, we'd find we have a lot more in common than we think.

I try to press that point with a lot of parallels that I draw between these characters. Sometimes it's overt, like multiple characters going through the same experience such as being in prison or on their way to prison. In other cases, it's less obvious. Characters' beliefs are challenged, and they usually get pushed into situations that grate against their fabric. Even with the final chapters with armed revolt against the respective governments, there is always a common thread between what's happening.

And that leads into the outer plot. With Revolt being the end of the series, I had to steer everything toward some type of resolution. You leave off at the end of Godspeed with Bobby having perpetrated a terrible act of public murder, the Raider in a lurch with the shootout with MPs, and Bon having just gunned down two men in order to rescue the young Katie. So things were very much up in the air.

The most obvious thing was the restoration of constitutional government. The Sons of Washington reveal that's their goal in Godspeed, and whatever one might change about our current government, it seemed the most logical choice when faced with the Directorate and the Valiant. So I went with it, but that entailed some research on the Constitution itself. I didn't have time for this to be an all consuming thing, but found that Hillsdale College's free online Constitution 101 class to be super-helpful. It reinforced some things I already knew, taught me some things I didn't know or else had forgotten, and even reversed some things I thought I knew:


Two concepts came out of this research that really resonated with me: 1. Consent of the governed, and 2. Natural rights. The idea that people consent to a certain form of government, not due to some arbitrary reason or any right of one person over another, for the sole purpose of securing one's rights, was a powerful one. And it's not important whether one agrees with these concepts or the best way to apply them; I simply wanted to distill down the original philosophy and acknowledge this was where the founders' heads were at.

These concepts ultimately drove much of the plot. I had to think about a group like the Sons of Washington, and what would they believe and how might they go about achieving their ends, and these seemed like appropriate motivators. But as I said in the previous post, the story is truly carried along by the characters. The weaving of their sub plots is what will keep you turning the pages. And with their cross-section of world views (Christian, Agnostic, and Atheist), you get different perspectives as the events unfold.

There's so much more that could be said, but I'd rather let you get a copy of the book and draw your own conclusions. Thanks for reading.
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New release! Part 1: No spoilers

I'm excited to announce the release of my latest novel, And I Will Lead the Revolt. This is the second and final installment in the Split series, which features a quasi-dystopian alternate history where the recession of 2008 precedes the collapse of the U.S. government. However, that's not the interesting part; that's simply the backdrop.

The meat and potatoes are the characters who are stuck in this world where the republic has split into two separate governments: the Directorate in the East and the Unites States Valiant in the West. The interconnection of their stories, their struggles and strife in spite of their environment, is what makes this so interesting.

I'll admit this series is quite different than the rest of my books. It's written with more of a mass-market style, but I tried to retain a vestige of legitimacy in a world of generic thriller drivel. I want you to care about the characters, which is why I spent much of the previous book (Godspeed, Carry My Bullet) character-building.

The series itself is also somewhat of an allegory, so while I took pains to reflect accuracy with respect to weapons, locations, climate, mechanics, and even in one case a Native American ritual, I ignored a lot or otherwise took liberties. For example, there isn't any consideration given to what's going on outside of the United States, no commentary on international relations at all. Or in other cases, I put characters into scenarios where they might not get much further than two steps without the coaxing hand of the author. I hope I've done so deftly enough that you forgive me that for the sake of the greater point, which as I said is allegory.

The whole enterprise is meant to be a commentary on the failure of partisan politics, sort of a plea for civility with respect to others who fall on the other side of the political aisle than you, because divisiveness isn't going to get us anywhere.

Or, you can ignore all of that! I myself don't care for politics, and would not have written a book like this without trying to tell a good yarn. There's a lot of page-turning material here. Since the characters from the first book are well established, the pacing of And I Will Lead the Revolt is faster. There's more at stake, and with the addition of only two new viewpoint characters, there's not much reason to dawdle.

Despite the title and cover, which some might find provocative or perhaps "not their cup of tea," I would encourage you to check it out anyway. Yes there is some action and violence, but it's never gratuitous. Nor is the story bogged down in political minutia. It's about the struggles of a single mother. It's a survivalist's tale. It's about two brothers who have to learn the nature of sacrifice. In several respects, it's a young man's striving to find his place in the world. It's also a young woman's decision to stand in the gap when no one else will. And it's about the universal desire to protect one's family.

Pick up an eBook from your favorite vendor today or a paperback from Amazon, and if you enjoy the read, please take the time to leave a rating or review.

Up next, part 2 with some spoilers.
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February 14, 2018

Now available in paperback.

I'm excited to announce the release of my books in paperback! I've neglected this market for some time, partially for a lack of interest in undertaking the legwork of formatting, and partially because of the print-on-demand association with the concept of "vanity publishing." The former proved to be a tedious, pain-in-the-rear process while the latter still irks me a bit.

There is a selfish fascination with holding one's book in hand; I'll readily admit it. However, there's something beyond that--there's a sense of fulfillment with the tangible. One's artistic vision is solidified in a very real way. And because I prefer the physical medium to the electronic, I have greater satisfaction with the end product.

There are questions with regard to quality assurance and the expectations of the customer. I can't control the printing process or how the cover image I provided will or will not align properly with the spine each and every time. This bothers me of course, but it's part of the trade-off. I have to work with the resources available to an independent author which I admit are pretty fantastic. Amazon's tools, while not perfect, allow for a solid end product. The look and feel are for the most part on par with everything else, but alas, I'm a perfectionist.

So what else is in my way? The thing that ultimately settles any qualms about "vanity publishing" isn't the fact that independent authors are more accepted today than ever, or that it's easy to find examples of well-known, traditionally published authors who can't write their way out of a paper bag. It's the fact that I don't find validation in it. I don't believe I'm an author because I'm able to publish a book. Take a look around; any hack can do it and now the market is flooded with more books than there are people to read them. I'm an author because I have a story to tell. The creative urge strikes the prominent chord in my psyche, and all other interests pale.

So I'm moving ahead. I've done the publisher gig and ultimately found independence more gratifying. I want control over the what, where, and when. And I want to reach as many readers as possible. So here's to analog.
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December 3, 2017

Books are ready for download!

Hi all! The books are once again available for download! For marketing purposes, I chose to enroll the Driver series in the Kindle Select program, so for the next 90 days, those books will only be available through Amazon. After that, they will be rolled out to other vendors. The rest of the books are currently available from Amazon, Apple, and Kobo with more vendors pending.

Thanks for reading, and if you like what you read, PLEASE take the time to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
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November 29, 2017

Books will be temporarily unavailable...

Hello! You may have heard that Pronoun.com, the aggregator I use to distribute my books, is being shut down by its parent company. So today I begin the arduous task of finding a new home for them!

All books will come down from sale within the next few business days. Once that process is complete, I will get them back on Amazon first, and then iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Overdrive, and a few others after that.

Thank you for your patience during this transition. I hope you'll pick up a copy or two once the books are re-posted. I'll be gearing up for the release of the second and final installment of The Split series in early 2018, and I have more exciting things planned to keep you hooked as a reader for 2019 and beyond.
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October 16, 2017

The writing process

The more I write, the more the creative process changes. My first foray into fiction resulted in short stories for the most part. They were written organically, with simple, abstract ideas in mind. Literally, I would sit down and try to write with no outline at all. I was repulsed by the idea of approaching something creative as if it were something clinical. It needed to be pure. Three novellas and almost three novels later, I've found the outline is indispensable.
How did I get there? It was, well, organic I guess. My ideas became more complex, notably with the impetus that drove The Camaro Murders. It was high concept, yet literary and grounded, multi-character and to a certain point plot-driven. Timeline was critical because the story is told out of order.
With all that in mind, what evolved into an "outline" was hardly what I'd call an outline today. A semblance of that didn't evolve until I wrote Lady in Flames. It's continued to evolve with each release, to the point where now I typically write a paragraph for each chapter and create a cast of characters, like I did for Godspeed, Carry My Bullet and Beacon Road Bedlam.
However, it's not only the outlining process that's changed. The actual writing itself comes together in an entirely different way than before. I never used to advance past a paragraph without it being perfect, or at least what seemed perfect at that moment. This of course slowed down the writing process, sometimes to the point of me losing interest in what I was writing. So I let go a bit, realizing that moving past the thought and hammering out the story was more important. Revisiting the weaker, underdeveloped writing at a later stage, even as late as the editing process, resulted in stronger writing because you see things different with fresh eyes.
My current endeavor is another high concept story with a lot of abstract ideas that I can see clearly in my head. Because it's easy to take that for granted, It's hard not to "tell" rather than "show." So I've found myself laying out the skeleton of the story, getting the ideas out in the narrative without weaving the rich detail and evocative prose that I want to be there in the end. That will come later.
I won't lie. The writing process has become more like work than it ever has. Striving to write at professional standards demands that much, but it's the creative impulse that provides motivation for all of it. I hope you as the reader enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
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August 29, 2017

What is experimental fiction?

I've been touting the Driver series as experimental fiction for some time now, though only officially as of this year. I'm always hesitant to label my fiction as one specific genre since I'm not the least interested in writing genre fiction per se. And experimental fiction may not really be a true genre by itself. I see it as more of a technique than anything.

So is the Driver series in fact a good example of experimental fiction? It's not as if I'm trying to write an entire book without the use of the letter "e" or tell a story from the perspective of monosyllabic ants. I value character development and plot, but not one at the expense of the other. Conflict is still important. The story should not be sacrificed at the altar of technique or medium; however, the story in no way needs to be, or necessarily should be, formulaic.

I set out to write The Camaro Murders with the intent to ask something of the reader. I wanted him or her to invest themselves in the story and think through it, to come to his or her own conclusions. As such, the first person narratives in this book are somewhat stark monologues, and they are told in a non-chronological order. Coupled with the subject matter, the reader is left with a very literary murder mystery with a large supernatural aspect. I love the contrast with this--the fantastic elements juxtaposed against the basic, concrete thoughts of the characters.

Lady in Flames, the second book in the series, continues the first person points of view. I enjoyed being inside the characters' heads in The Camaro Murders, but I wanted the narrative to exhibit more of a story-telling style with richer detail. It needed to be more evocative. The result is not my favorite Driver story plot-wise, but maybe my favorite Driver story writing-wise.

The latest Driver installment is Beacon Road Bedlam. Seeing as the first two books were first person and that the new story would explore the supernatural side of things in more detail, I decided to write from the third person point of view. Readers gets a different perspective I think, one that perhaps grounds them more in the mechanics of the world I created. There was also a noirish-pulpy vibe that kept coming to me with the flashbacks to the part of the story that takes place in the 1950's, hence the stylized cover art.

Future books in the Driver series will continue to be flexible and adaptive with regard to format and technique, but there will always be a good yarn, that I promise.

Pick up the entire series today for only .99 cents!
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Published on August 29, 2017 09:24

May 1, 2017

New release: Beacon Road Bedlam

I'm excited to announce the release of Beacon Road Bedlam. This is the third Driver story, and the first full-length novel in the series (the previous two books are novellas).

This book has been in the works for a while, its release delayed by the birth and rearing of children, the decision to independently release Godspeed, Carry My Bullet last year, as well as managing the re-release of my back catalog earlier this year. It was slow-going at first.

BRB continues the experimental approach of the series, albeit in a different format this time. I had written The Camaro Murders and Lady in Flames in the first person point of view; each had their own nuances with regard to timeline. So I wanted to try third person with BRB. I had just come off of Godspeed and was thinking of narratives from that perspective, but it just wasn't flowing.

The voices of certain characters (primarily the Sheriff) were so ingrained in my head, it was difficult for those voices to not come through in the narrative. I think a character's voice should come through in dialogue or inner monologue, but not the actual narrative. It took around six months to get some traction on this front.

However, I still couldn't leave the first person POV alone. I ended up writing some first person flashbacks into the story which I hope were done in an original way. I guess you could say that's the experimental part of this book. The Driver series is where I have freedom to try new and sometimes unorthodox things. And I want each Driver story to be a little different.

Is the book more accessible because of the third person? Probably, but that wasn't a primary motivation. I really wanted to explore the Upper Territory in greater detail. It's difficult to be poetic with description when things are told from first person, since I'm limited to the character's thoughts, and the character may not think anything that would pass as prose. With third person, I can be detached and paint a picture for the reader. Since the Upper Territory is a dream world of sorts, there were nuances that merited some more descriptive details that were lacking in the previous books.

Conceptually, "layers" were important to the story. The intertwining threads of the mystery are told in layers comprised of different characters' experiences, both living and dead. No one layer tells the whole story. The reader has to see them all together.

Thematically, "truth," or the search of, is something that drives all three viewpoint characters. It becomes an obsession for each in their own way: the Driver, Sheriff Hildersham, and Tad Ozzel (a pesky reporter).

I have to make mention of Ozzel. He was a lot of fun to write. He's named for Admiral Ozzel from Empire Strikes Back. According to Vader, he's "as clumsy as he is stupid." Similarly, Tad Ozzel is an over-confident fool with an inflated sense of self-importance. He was also partially modeled on Schwarzwald/Michael Seebach from The Big O, a reporter who's search for truth becomes a destructive obsession.

A good portion of the story takes place in the 50s (see flashbacks), which lent a pulpy/noir vibe, I thought. I wanted to capture that feeling in the cover, and Justin Adams at Varia Studios did a phenomenal job in doing so.

Another fun/interesting fact is that two short stories I wrote (well, technically one of them isn't finished) contributed details to the storyline. This happens quite frequently, and I hope to someday release an anthology of short stories so you as the reader can see how some of this stuff takes root.

There's a lot going on here! How would I classify this book? I'd say it's a supernatural thriller/murder mystery with rural noir overtones. If that doesn't get you interested, I don't know what will.

Thanks for reading, and as always, please take the time to leave a rating or review.
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