Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life on the Theriopolis (Day-to-Day Soundtrack).

As I continue to research and write this book, I've come to see and hear its world more and more.  Pale skies, the incessant thud of a colossus's footsteps, dusty buildings and man-made everyday gadgets adorn the cities on the leviathans' backs.  These scenes, as well, have taken on a cinematic life of their own and led me to start collecting music that captures the feel of life on the theriopolis.  I feel like with no air conditioning units, cars, garbage trucks, police sirens or tens of thousands of people nearby, my characters would live their lives with far less background noise than we do.  This universe is a quiet dustbowl of worry and hope, so I went into my library and started snagging a couple songs that had that feel to them.

The following songs have helped me get in the right head space to set the subdued setting for the book - the downtimes that show the outside when everyone's sitting inside having lunch or at work, or just as dawn is breaking.  I also have songs for specific locations and events, but I'll get into those another day.  I should mention for legal purposes that none of these artists or their labels have endorsed this project and so on; these are just great inspirations that remind me of my book (and that my book reminds me of).  Enjoy!

The Protomen - Intermission

Saxon Shore - May 26

Atticus Ross - Human

Radiohead - Hunting Bears

A.O.S. - History Repeats Itself

Gustavo Santaolalla - Home

The Ocean - Siderian

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays (Proteus: First Look)!

This week, visual artist Nick Whitmire provided us with an early Christmas present: a digital painting of Proteus, the second-largest colossus in my upcoming novel.  Made entirely in ProCreate for iPad, this stunning portrait shows Proteus the day he emerged from the sea - no city on his back, no fog overtaking the landscape, just a 2,000-foot tall titan from the deep.

Proteus Emerges.  Image Ⓒ Nick Whitmire and A Carrier of Fire,
all rights reserved. Used by permission.

You can download the full-size image for free by clicking here (2900x4000 pixels), but for all intents and purposes this picture is Ⓒ Nick Whitmire and A Carrier of Fire 2015. Reproducing this image and selling it or claiming it as your own work is not only wrong but illegal. Please check out some of Nick's other work by visiting his website,, and keep visiting for more updates on the book. Happy Holidays and thank you for your interest in this project!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Playing Catch-Up ("Timeshare" Reviews, Media Roundup, Etc).

Hello there fans and friends; I'm so sorry for the last several weeks of radio silence.  I've been dealing with pre- and post-Thanksgiving craziness including having a table at my final comic con of the year, VA Comicon in Richmond, Virginia.  Here's what you missed.

I sent my short story ("Timeshare") from this next book out to a few people I know and trust.  Here's some of what I've heard back.

"Wow, this was fascinating!  The setup for the rest of the book was great; I can't wait to read more."
"I'm truly sorry it ended."
"[Timeshare] painted a surrealistic scene the likes of Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien."

Next up?  I've been honored to have made appearances (in one form or another) on three podcasts since last month.  First up, the crew at 2 Fat Guys Podcast recorded a joint episode at VA Comicon simultaneously with the Full-Grown Fanboys podcast and I was the guest.  The link to the 2 Fat Guys copy is at this link (it's actually episode six but the page says episode seven, so if something changes, go to the main page at 2 Fat Guys and find episode six).  The Full-Grown Fanboys episode is the same besides the intro and outro, but you can download it from FGFB right here.  We spend most of our time discussing my books (including new details about this upcoming sci-fi project) and the con, but we slip in a couple riotously funny stories here and there as well.

The third podcast is Rafe Hates Caleb.  I'm honored to have earned Rafe's respect with this website and on their episode "Dodgeball" she talks about some of what she's seen on here.  Listen to the whole podcast by clicking here, but my bit comes in somewhere around the 33- or 35-minute mark.  I should probably clarify here that the new book isn't called Wandering City Blues (my fault!), but Rafe is really nice about it anyway.

Finally, I'm going deep into research mode for a couple months but I'll get back to posting more regularly, starting now, than I did in November.  Thank you for your continued support and interest in this project; it's going to be a Hell of a thing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Longer Segment from "Timeshare" / NaNoWriMo Update.

I began officially writing my fourth book (which really needs a title, doesn't it?) on November 3rd.  Last week I shared with you a finished paragraph from the sub-plot of the book, a story I'm calling "Timeshare" in my notes.  I doubt I'll end up naming each chapter of the book, but I had to name the Word file something.  Anyway, I'm thrilled to announce that I completed a working draft of "Timeshare" last Friday, which was my entire goal for National Novel Writing Month.  I can't share it all here, since it's 14,200 words (45 pages) and needs some editing and rewriting, but I wanted to give you a longer and more concrete excerpt from it - specifically from a part I feel is completely finished and will remain word-for-word when the book is released next year.

Before you read, here's what you need to know.

1) A "theriopolis" is a city on a colossus's back.  In Greek, "thirio-" means "beast" and of course "-polis" means "city."
2) This snippet takes place very shortly after the paragraph from the previous blog post.  Sean Bellamy - the main character of "Timeshare" but not of the whole novel - has developed and implemented a vacation plan so 27 residents of our wandering colossi can get away from it all on a camping trip.  The destination is the OKO South Tower in the Moscow International Business Center in mid-July through early August, because life on the theriopolis gets a little claustrophobic or mundane.
3) Due to the very selective nature of which cultures and histories have survived in such a small population, Sean is more familiar with the Hawaiians' spin on cabin fever, which they call "island fever."
4)  This story takes place 82 years after we left - or "ascended" from - the surface of the Earth.

*     *     *

Word escaped Triton’s city hall and buzz generated quickly.  In a few months, half of the theriopolises and all their posh socialites had heard of the idea and were throwing riches at Triton and Proteus for the chance to be the first vacationers since the ascension.  Amazingly, the faint-hearted gentlemen and dainty young ladies who won the bids for the trip underwent all the travel without a hitch.  Over the next several months, these travelers spent considerable time working their way from the other leviathans – including Proteus, Galatea and Naiad – to Triton, where Sean had hired an assistant to provide them with their packs.  Each pack held three weeks’ food, several gallons of water and a sleeping bag scavenged from the surface years before. 

And today was the big day – August 3rd.  Sean Bellamy waited shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor Pulaski of Proteus to welcome the first post-ascension vacationers back from their trip.  Sean figured there was more glory waiting for him in the pickup than the drop-off, so he trusted his assistant, a young Triton resident by the name of Alan Vaughn, to get the vacationers onto Moscow’s skyscraper by himself while Sean left for Proteus well in advance.  Now, waiting at the docks for Proteus to lumber up to the Moscow International Business Center just 20 days after the tourists landed, Sean was brimming with excitement and pride in his work.  He’d had a brilliant idea that not only helped save the theriopolises from another bout of Island Fever but could incorporate a whole new branch of their lifestyle.

From the lookout tower behind them, they heard a young boy shout “Moscow dead ahead!”  The excitement grew to a fever pitch.  Musicians banged on drums that sounded throughout the late morning sky.  Children chased each other in games of Tag through the crowd.  The cigarette vendors announced they were offering free pouches of herbs to the travelers upon their return.  Mayor Pulaski laughed and patted Sean on the shoulder.My God I’m going to be rich, Sean thought.

The dock workers readied a 15-foot ballista to fire to the tower.  They’d done it a hundred times before.  Two workers cranked the handle near the seat at the back of the ballista, bringing the string back until the limb itself bowed backwards and clicked into its set position at the latch.  A third man, already seated and waiting, was handed a long, arrow-shaped grappling hook trailing nearly a quarter-mile of rope behind it.  He placed it under and between his legs, into the flight groove on top of the long barrel.  The poorly-named “string” that ran from one end of the limb to the other – and would project the hook on its path to OKO South – was more of a thick belt of rope than it was a string, but the name had always stuck.  All that remained, as they knew from experience, was to await the order.  When the hook fired and caught on the tower, they simply reeled it in on the spool and let the travelers strap onto the ropeway and climb back across.

As they neared the cluster of towers, OKO South came closer and closer.  Just as the harbormaster was ready to give the order to fire the ballista, something in the crowd changed.  The onlookers at the front, who had surrounded and cramped the dock workers eagerly, got quieter.  Their raised hands lowered and their faces fell.  Each row of people stopped jumping, stopped shouting, stopped cheering one after another.  The drummers stopped their music, stood and stared at the tower.  Sean and Mayor Pulaski were the last to realize something was wrong.  One drummer dropped his fat drumstick and it rolled noisily downhill, clanging and clattering towards the stage.  An eerie silence enveloped the crowd, but eerier still was the sight that awaited their approach atop OKO South Tower.

Birds cawed and crowed.  Why are there so many birds? Sean thought.  The mayor charged up through the crowd, pushing people aside until he reached the balcony, its low railing chipped with dozens of marks from previous grappling hook attachments.  He borrowed a pair of binoculars from a nearby gawker and glassed the rooftop.

27 bodies lay on the roof.  

*     *     *

 What'd you think?  Comment below or on the link you clicked to get here, and share with your friends!  See you next week!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Timeshare" - First Details Revealed!

I'm humbled and honored to announce that since starting this blog in late September, it's earned over 300 views.  Wow!  I hope to continue to deliver enticing content and information leading up to the release of my fourth novel sometime in late 2016.

Also, I'm sorry I didn't do this post on Writers' Wednesday (yesterday) as promised, but I got caught up in getting some writing done on the sub-plot of this project.  It seems to be going along swimmingly, reaching 10,050 words in just two days.  Before I get too excited, I should say that I don't think I can write every day this month.  The doctors tell me I'm supposed to keep my left pinky taped to my left ring finger 24 hours a day, but in order to write I've been removing the tape for three to five hours each day (on top of my usual tape removal to shower and do dishes etc).  I should probably slow down and wear the damn tape, meaning I'd have to take a couple days off at a time.

So here's why I'm having a hard time doing that.  Remember in my last post when I talked about specifying where exactly the titans (on whose backs my characters built their cities) were roaming the planet at any given  moment?  My secondary story in the book, which has the working title "Timeshare," involves the largest beast, Triton, dropping 27 people off for a summer getaway atop Moscow's OKO South Tower - one of the skyscrapers whose roof stretches above the 1,000-foot fog ceiling.  Since it takes Triton over four months to circle the globe, it's a given that these people would have to be picked up by a different colossus who traveled near the same group of skyscrapers (the Moscow International Business Center).  Using the data from the maps I posted last month, I plugged numbers and found the following information, which was crucial to writing the section of the book I'm now completing (the "Too Long; Don't Read" summary is in bold).

Triton travels 48,057 miles around the world. At 15 mph with 52 one-hour stops, it takes him 135.645833 days (135 days, 15 hours, 22 minutes). Triton circles the Earth 2.69083091 times per year. Moscow is 50.6% of the journey from LA back around, at 24,338 miles. If we ascended at 7 a.m. Pacific time on March 23rd (and call it Year 0, Day 0, hour 0), then in Year 82, Triton would pass into Moscow on Year 82, Day 114, 18 hours and 37 minutes. This is July 15th at 12:37 p.m. local Moscow time.

Proteus travels 24,206 miles around the world. At 15 mph with 23 one-hour stops, it takes him 68.1972208 days (68 days, 4 hours and 44 minutes). Proteus circles the earth 5.35212426 times per year. Moscow is 20,557 miles around from Dubai, Proteus’s point of departure. Dubai is +12 hours from Los Angeles, so if Proteus departed simultaneously with Triton, he left at 7 p.m. local Dubai time. Moscow is one hour behind Dubai. Proteus would return to Dubai at Year 82, Day 8, Hour 14, Minute 04 (March 31, 9:04 a.m. local Dubai time). He’d arrive again on Year 82, Day 76, Hour 18, Minute 48. It would then take Proteus 1,390.4666 hours (57.936108333 days or 57 days, 22 hours and 28 minutes) to reach Moscow after this. Proteus would reach Moscow to pick up the tourists on Year 82, Day 134, Hour 17, Minute 12 – August 3rd, 11:12 a.m. local Moscow time.

Therefore, the gap between Triton's drop-off and Proteus's pick-up is 19 days, 22 hours and 45 minutes.

Without giving too much away, I'll only say that this 20-day span of time changes the life of Triton resident and would-be travel agent Sean Bellamy in a huge way.  The story begins in the year 81 P.A. (Post-Ascension) and ends 18 years later, in 99 P.A..  If you have questions so far, I promise they'll be answered another time.  For now, here's a rough cut of my favorite paragraph a few pages into the story.

     Sean stopped just once while he walked to the docks.  All along Proteus’s back, there were small man-made outcroppings with balustrades on either side of the city and he made his way to one of them.  He looked out over the horizon and saw a comfortably familiar sight.  It was the same view he’d seen every day of his life:  the horizon split into halves, with the blue daylight offset by the reddish earth.  It was partly cloudy today, but the clouds were spread out enough that the sun shined brightly despite them.  Below the sky, the rust-colored red orange fog sat mostly still.  82 years prior, that fog had driven mankind from living on the surface to living on the backs of the 13 colossi that emerged along with it from the depths of the sea.  In his youth, Sean had heard hushed stories about what happened to the humans who didn’t live in a theriopolis like he did.  There were plenty of tall tales about whole tribes of people living on the dirt.  They were child warriors with a life expectancy of less than 20 years, living in villages inside skyscrapers just below the 1,000-foot fog ceiling.  His older relatives also talked about other people who lived in underground fallout shelters, and others still who had tried to develop floating sky cities.  There were as many urban legends as there were relatives, it seemed.  Since there was no way to separate the truth from the fiction, these stories were often as frustrating as they were fascinating.  And although Sean always denied believing in such fairy tales, whenever he found himself enjoying the view near a city he’d always lean forward a bit and squint, keeping an eye out along the top of the haze for feral adolescents carrying babies of their own.  He’d never admit it, but the old stories stuck in his mind.  I’m just looking because I know I won’t see any people like the ones in the stories, he thought.  It’s so stupid.  Sometimes he almost believed himself.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pinpointing Global Positions; National Novel Writing Month.

Dear friends and fans -

Please excuse my lack of updates the last couple weeks.  I broke the fifth metacarpal in my left hand and was in a splint, then a cast, for a combined total of four weeks.  I've only just gotten my cast off and been able to resume working full-time on this project.  However, I do have some updates and information for you.

Being bandaged up limited my typing ability, but I was able to get some research done.  I've fleshed out more of the logistics and behavioral traits of Psamanthe, one of my smallest colossi, with the invaluable help of an ornithologist at the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.  I also began plugging some more numbers on Triton's and Proteus's travel routes.  By multiplying Triton's speed and the mileage of his trip, I was able to determine to the minute how long it would take him to circle the Earth (as detailed in a previous post).  The new news is I found out exactly how many miles per year Triton travels, and have used that to figure out within a few miles where he'd be at any moment in time over the book's 100-year backstory.  The short version is, if Triton begins transporting his humans in Los Angeles and this book begins 100 years to the day after our colossi begin their regular migrations around the globe, then on that day Triton and his residents will be on the Eastern end of the Gulf of Mexico on their way from Miami to Mexico City.  Depending on the hour of the day, they could be north-by-northeast of Havana or northwest of Cancun.  I'm currently working on Proteus's figures and should have them figured out for my records by the end of the day.

And now I can shed a bit more light on why I want this to be done so precisely.  November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).  Thousands of novelists and aspiring writers try to write as much of a book as they can throughout all 30 days of November.  It sounds like a large task, and it is, but no matter whether one finishes or not, s/he will have that much more of a book finished than s/he had the month before.  If an author writes 2,000 words a day, then by December 1st that author will have 60,000 words done, which is a good size for a book.

I have never participated in National Novel Writing Month.  My books have taken me between 11 months and six years each to write.  This year, however, I decided to find a compromise.  Rather than try to cram in writing the entire novel in a month, I'm going to aspire to completing the book's sub-plot: a heart-wrenching tale about a man earning the unfortunate nickname "Topper" and the lives involved in his tragic misadventure.  In order to write this story, I needed to know when and where Triton and Proteus's paths would overlap, whether at the same time or with no more than a month's overlap.  I also need some of Topper's story to take place a set amount of time prior to the rest of the events of the book, so knowing when each titan would be where and how far ahead/behind of the other they'd be was absolutely vital.  Now that I've done that (and finished outlining the story), I have all the tools I need to begin writing the book.

I'll do my best to update about my progression throughout NaNoWriMo right here on Wandering City Blues, so tune in every Writers' Wednesday for an update.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Triton's Migration in Full Detail

In my previous blog post, I teased the global journeys taken by our two biggest colossi, Triton and Proteus.  Triton walks a path stopping at 50 of the world's most populous cities while Proteus's journey takes him to 23 of our tallest skyscrapers (including several that have yet to be finished in 2015, such as the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles and Hermitage Plaza in Paris).  Today I'd like to offer more insight into Triton's migration.

Before addressing the length and required time of their journeys, the first question is: how would they cross the water?  As my titans will often be wildly different in their biological and physiological make-up, so too must be their methods of locomotion.  While I plan to have at least one or two who "doggy paddle" their way across the seas, I want Triton and Proteus to stay dry from at least the knees down, for reasons that will be revealed closer to the book's release.  To accomplish this and maintain a degree of realism, I turned first to water striders.  Water striders have a sort of cilia/hair system around their feet that allows them to "walk on water," which I've adapted for use on my two biggest titans.  However, if you strapped extra weight to a water strider's back (like, oh say, a city full of humans), the extra weight would sink it.  To solve this problem of added weight, I looked 100 years to the past in my book and to real-world Finnish biomimetics.

It's always been my intent, in my fictional universe, to have a period of one to three years in which humans frantically developed and implemented their plans for leaving the ground-level surface while the mysterious red-orange fog slowly covered the Earth.  When adapting to life in a "theriopolis" (or beast-city), keeping us above the surface on water would be as important as getting above the 1,000-foot fog ceiling in the first place.  If these teams observed Triton traversing the water, his strider-like cilia would be an immediate point of focus.  Next, to counteract the added weight of a population and its township on Triton's back, it would simply be a matter of developing a long-lasting flotation device to help keep us up.  Conventional balloon/bladder systems would leak or be crushed, possibly in a matter of months.  But a solid, flexible, superbuoyant shoe of some kind would accommodate changes in terrain, weather and weight, providing a long-term solution to compensate for our mass.

The Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, Finland, has already developed a breakthrough material that solves the "water-walking" problem raised by Triton.  Explained further at the American Chemical Society website, this aerogel, derived from the cellulose in plants, keeps 1000x its own weight buoyant in water.  If we combine this with the water strider's nano-fibrous seafaring, so to speak, the solution becomes clear.

Let's pretend we shod Triton like a horse with just 5,000 lbs. of Helsinki University's nanocellulose aerogel on each of his four feet.  That's the weight of one mid-size sedan each - a small burden to lift for a half-mile tall creature.  With that, we could float 20 million pounds of added weight without Triton's feet even treading any deeper on his trek across the ocean, let alone sinking him entirely.  This equates to roughly 60 small homes - each the size of a two-bedroom apartment - plus their inhabitants, even before calculating in what Triton's (and the remainder of his cilia's) natural buoyancy could keep up.

By neutralizing much of this added cargo's gravitational pressure on the water, Triton could maintain a steady speed as he skated the ocean's surface.  The second question is:  How long is Triton's journey, assuming he could walk on the surface and float along the water?  Like I said, Triton is attracted to the Earth's cities that had the highest populations before we left the surface.  He walks a global path stopping at 50 of those cities, which are pinpointed on this downloadable map along with Proteus's path, which I'll discuss another time.  Connecting these 50 points in a semi-linear pattern (with brief stops to stretch his legs in Saipan and Honolulu), Triton completes his circuit in 48,033 miles.  For current hypothetical purposes, I'm assuming Triton meanders at about 15 mph.  Simple division tells us that, if he didn't stop for an instant at any one city, his trip around the globe would take 3,202 hours, or 133 days and 10 hours.  If he paused for an hour per city, it would take him 135 days and 12 hours to circle the earth completely.

The third question is:  Why figure this stuff out so exactly?  First, I hate deus ex machinas.  Nearly anything I put in a book, I want explained and believable.  "Suspension of disbelief" is a great mental tool that allows us to go along with a fictional story, but I aim to test your faith as little as is humanly possible.  Second, by writing distinct personality traits and locomotive speeds for each leviathan, I can triangulate their global position down to within 10 miles (or one hour) for any moment in their 100-year tenure roaming the planet.  If a person needs to travel from Triton to Proteus (for example), I need to know when, where and how often the two would cross paths in order to make that happen.  Since this book will involve a healthy amount of inter-colossi travel, I couldn't ask a reader to pay money for it if I kept saying "Oh, fortunately, these two beasts just happened to cross paths that day."  If one character needs to get to a city that his/her titan doesn't visit - or to a person on another titan - one or several transfers (plus some overnight stays atop skyscrapers in between) arise as feasible options.

With these planned migration routes, Earth just became a worldwide above-level subway system.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for more insight into my next book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leviathan Migration Patterns, Map 01.

In order to incorporate human travel from one of this book's gigantic beasts to another, I sought to establish routes by which they'd circumnavigate the planet.  Aside from the creatures themselves, however, I wanted to root as much of the novel in reality as I could.  I thought it would be too easy, or even "cheating," if I arbitrarily had them cross paths whenever I saw fit for the story.  Instead, I opted to give my colossi personalities, as many species of animal have in our world.  This would help determine which paths they'd take around Earth and why.

Today I'm proud to present the fruits of my last week's research:  the migration patterns for my largest two leviathans, Triton and Proteus.  Here's a mid-size map of the places they visit; please feel free to click here to download an extra large (4.94mb) .jpg of the same map, or simply click this image for a larger version.  (More text below)

Upon emerging from the sea, Triton, the largest creature, was attracted to some of the cities on Earth that had the largest populations of people - as a big fella, he likes big cities, which is how his routine developed.  Of course, since humans now live on the leviathans' backs, Triton's journey - which takes him to 50 of the largest cities we had at the time of departing the ground - continues now more out of habit than anything else.  On this map, his points of interest are displayed as red dots.

I've imagined Proteus as a creature with longer front legs than hind legs, like a gorilla that walks with his fists on the ground.  Since this puts him at such a peculiar upwards-looking angle, Proteus is a silly and curious titan who loves the tallest things.  Since his arrival, he has circled Earth visiting and playing with 25 or so of the world's tallest skyscrapers and tower structures.  He sees them the same way we see Stonehenge or the Easter Island heads - curiosities our size or bigger - although Proteus isn't afraid to use a billion-dollar high-rise to scratch an itch on his shoulder.  His favorite spots to travel are represented by green dots (or green circles surrounding red dots, whenever Proteus and Triton both visit the same city).

One of the great things about setting this life-changing event in the near future is the opportunity to write in buildings that have yet to finish construction as of Fall 2015, like the Hermitage Towers in Paris or the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles.  Again, I wanted to make this world as real as possible, so I stopped myself from inventing new skyscrapers as an easy crutch for writing the travel routes.  However, utilizing unfinished towers lends the setting the near-future tone for which I'm aiming.

Stay tuned, there's a lot more to come.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

100 Words about Walter Atherton.

His elbows resting atop the balustrade, Walter Atherton took one final bite of the apple and casually tossed it over the edge.  When he was a boy he'd watch the apples fall, bouncing against the steep, nearly vertical walls, but by now he'd lost interest.  He could imagine it falling as he walked away though, down the hide of the great beast atop which they'd built their city.  Eventually it would slip into the red-orange haze that covered the surfaces of the Earth and come to rest on her barren soil.  We should be somewhere near Seattle, he thought.

Musical Inspirations.

I've always been a very musical person.  I started buying CD's when I was seven or eight years old and in the past 25 years I've collected about 700 albums on disc, plus another 800 or so digitally.  Until I got married, the only time I wasn't listening to music was when I was watching a movie.  I've listened to my favorite album, Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, in excess of 5,000 times.

When I started to think about working on this next book, one of the first things I wanted to do was compile music to go with specific scenes, stories and moods I planned to write.  I envisioned these half-mile tall, beautiful creatures and the man-made cities built on them.  Then I figured if you fast-forwarded 100 years, the natural population growth would necessitate new housing with far fewer resources, so I pictured the most basic of shelters - sheet metal shacks, teepees, adobe houses - on top of these really efficient modern housing units.  I loved this idea of contemporary architecture sandwiched between signs of nature (the leviathan) and early civilization (mud huts and so on), likely all blanketed by a Dustbowl-era beige and brown and pale yellow, and it's inspired my research, my writing and my personal soundtracks.

I've plucked some lonesome guitar tunes from my library to help get me in the mood of the quiet, meandering life my characters live during the downtimes of the book.  German prog-metal act The Ocean have some beautiful instrumentals and their song "Siderian" is a frequent listen in my office.  The solitary guitar, moody New York saxophone and murky percussion are perfect for inspiring the book's culture of equal parts despondence and hope.  The same can be said for the short Radiohead instrumental "Hunting Bears."  Atticus Ross composed the score for the film The Book of Eli, and his piano song "Human" did a great job complementing the barren landscapes of the movie's post-apocalypse.

However, there's been no bigger musical influence on this book than the British musician Tricky.  I've been listening to Tricky for almost 20 years and I've never been more fascinated by one artist's sound than I am by his. He hasn't found as much success as his peers Massive Attack and Portishead, likely since their albums are considerably more radio-friendly, but he's an amazing producer and songwriter.  Tricky's sprechsegang whisper-growl is one of his trademarks, but his musical style is what attracted me to him for this novel.  Tricky often uses very earthen, natural sounds from music around the world like Jamaican ragga singing, acoustic guitar, saxophone and piano.  However, he dresses them up with clearly man-made electronic instruments like drum machines, old synthesizers and vocal samples/loops.  It's a great blend of traditional and modern, like a UFO traveled the planet plucking small elements from all our cultures then laid them down on synthetic, manufactured sounds.

In other words, it's exactly the musical equivalent of how I picture each civilization to live on my colossi.  Contemporary art and design sandwiched between nature and other lifestyles.  One example is his 1995 single "Ponderosa," using classic percussion and jazz singing simultaneously with keyboards and DJ'ing.

Of course there are several other artists I'm listening to to inspire the feel of this next book, but those will have to wait for another day.  Thanks for reading; stay tuned for more regular updates.