Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. Okay, as my regular readers probably realize, I’ve had them more than “once”. This one began as just a germ of an idea — namely, a big guy, former superhero, who has retired from the biz and is trying to make a go of it as a “normal” citizen. Maybe he gets drawn back into crimefighting (insert Godfather reference here), I’m not sure. How does he make a living? Anyway, that’s all I had to begin with.
This time, though, I have more than just some basic ideas or story “set up” summary. Late one night probably a couple years or so after jotting down the initial concept, I got an idea of how to begin the story and just started writing. I don’t have much practice writing fiction, but it looked pretty good (to me). Several months after that, I sat down again and added some stuff, spruced it up a bit. And,… that’s what I present to you here. I hope you like it….
“Write What You Know”
Write what you know.
That’s what “they” say. That’s what my publisher wants, and that’s what my editor, Frank, keeps pushing for — more “capes-n-tights”. (Technically, what I wore was spandex and a mask, no cape. Well, except for that one time. But, who’s quibbling?) My first two books were full of it, and they sold a ton. So, I don’t blame them for wanting more of the same. The public seems to eat it up. But, I really want to write something different for a change.
I’ve been cooped up in my house for weeks and haven’t even figured out an outline for a new book. Well, not the kind Frank is looking for, anyway. I bought the place here in suburbia when I retired, using the first advance from my first book deal as a down-payment. It’s great. Nothing huge or fancy, just a modest split-level with a big yard and a tall fence, where I get to be “normal” for a change. I call it “suburbia”, because I’m not in the city and not out in farm country, but the plots are pretty big, so there’s a lot of room between neighbors. I like it because it’s… away. Away from the common crooks and the super-villains, the adoring fans and the hounding press. Just… away.
Actually, “cooped up” isn’t quite accurate. I do get out from time to time. There’s a lot of open land here in the American Southwest, so every once in awhile, usually under cover of night, I sneak out the back — just in case any neighbors or curious onlookers happen to be looking toward or driving by my property at the time — and fly off. Sometimes, I really open ‘er up to something near top speed, wind whipping through my hair (now cut relatively short compared to when I was in the public eye), reveling in the freedom! Traveling at supersonic speeds is awesome, too. But, I have to be careful not to fly too low or near buildings, because the sonic boom(s) can really freak people out! (My apologies to Oklahoma.)
When I’m feeling stressed, sometimes I’ll fly out to the “badlands” and start pounding on some hills or small mesas. Feels good to let loose like that without worrying about hurting anyone. Great workout. Once, I got creative and carved an entire chess board and pieces out of a mountainside. (Don’t worry. It was part of an abandoned mine and rock quarry.) The locals were rattled at first — first physically, then psychologically — but then enjoyed the media attention and tourism generated by the “artwork” of their mysterious night-visitor. It also helps that I’m practically invulnerable. So, when I accidentally drop a 5-ton boulder on my toe, I notice, but it doesn’t hurt or do any damage. Like I said, it’s great not needing to restrain my powers, if only for a couple hours. I don’t miss much about the old days, but one thing I do miss is trading punches with guys like Mountain Max, The Ogre, and the solar-powered CrimSun, just wailing on each other…. Is that weird?
I’ve put on a few pounds since retiring. Not that I was a lightweight before at 7 feet (OK, 6’11.5″), 420+ pounds. And it’s not like I need to work out to maintain my superhuman strength or anything else. The fortuitous combination of “stuff” and events that gave me my powers nearly 10 years ago keeps me pretty fit and buff, yet my strength is independent of my physique. I have a well-equipped gym in my basement (with “special” equipment), which is another place I go when I’m a little stressed, frustrated with writer’s block, or just plain goin’ stir crazy. In fact, not only have I put on more muscle but I have more definition. Heck, maybe I should really get serious about it and start bodybuilding for a living….
On second thought, maybe not. I think you have to be a lot more driven, not to mention vain, to pump iron like those guys do. I remember some of the fellas back in my pro-wrestling days — before “the accident”, of course — who practically lived in the gym. Some were decent guys, like my buddy Davey Rockett. But, a few of them were just super-competitive, muscle-headed jerks! I mean, I had my regular workout routine, protein drinks, etc. But, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as those guys, and I didn’t have the patience it took to get big results. (That is, both mass and definition.) So, being young and stupid, I decided to skip the obsession with the weights and jump right into anabolic steroids to get huge. Ironically, that was both the beginning of the end of my mediocre wrestling career as “Hacksaw Jack” and, eventually, the beginning of the start of my illustrious, superheroic adventuring career as “Mr. Zeus”. (Couldn’t seem to shake the spandex-and-mask theme, I guess.)
Now, here I am just trying to make a living like a regular joe and wondering how long this writing gig will last before I have to resort to bouncing at a nightclub or something. (Not that that’s the worst job in the world.) More likely I’d try something else first, though. I’ve had offers to try stuntwork, though a guy my size would probably be stuck playing mutants, monsters, and aliens. Maybe a superhero or two. Could be fun, I guess. A friend of mine suggested I become an independent consultant/troubleshooter, hiring myself out to do jobs where my superhuman abilities come in handy — like exploratory work in dangerous locales, dealing with unusual search-n-rescue operations, mining & construction projects, etc. Could be interesting, and with the right marketing, I’d probably be able to be picky about what I signed on for. There’s always bodyguard/security work for the rich and/or famous. And, of course, my old wrestling agent/manager really wants me to enter the ring again; but, I would obviously have an unfair advantage. (I do the occasional promotional appearance, though, but that’s all.) So, I think I’ll stick to writing for now.
That is, if I can figure out what the heck to write!
Not exactly action-packed, but… what did you think? Do you like the first-person journal/confession approach? Has it sparked your interest about Zeus’ past, the full extent of his powers, why he quit crimefighting, his current life, etc.? I’m not sure how it would work as a novel/novella, but as a short-story or intermittent day/week-in-the-life entries, it might. Haven’t quite decided where to take it from here, but I am considering some ideas for a second “chapter”.
So, seriously… whaddayathink?
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.