Being the writer/publisher/podcaster/convention guest/jack of all trades/that man can’t say no sort of guy I am, I do a lot. And often times in the midst of that doing, I get asked questions about aspects of all the aforementioned doing. So, every now and again, I’m going to share things with you here that will hopefully answer some of those questions. Not so much like a question and answer column, though there’s nothing at all wrong with those, but I want to try to make this more show and tell. So, to get on with that…
As a publisher, I often post calls for anthologies that Pro Se Productions will be publishing. When it’s a concept that I’ve come up with, or someone else has devised based on their ideas and characters, we often provide a ‘bible’. I have been asked many times just what a bible is in terms of publishing, so I thought we’d take time today to not only define it, but also to show how I do a bible.
A bible is literally the guidebook to the concept that writers may be writing. It lists information about the idea in general, characters, setting, pacing, and anything at all the editor/publisher/idea giver wants to make sure the writers have at their disposal to begin writing.
Yeah, it’s really that simple.
Below, you’ll see a bible that I put together for a concept called ‘The Ninth Circle’. It’s complete and detailed, as I tend to do bibles in this manner, but they can range from anywhere from a few lines to entire volumes all their own. But you can see how I bible a concept.
BEFORE YOU DO THAT, HOWEVER- Pro Se Productions is looking for experienced formatters to help us get a back log of books out. Preferably looking for people experienced in formatting books for Createspace for print and for Kindle and Smashwords as ebooks. We pay in two ways, either a small up front amount or a lifetime-of-the-book royalty. If interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, for some bible readin’…
PRO SE OPEN BIBLE-
THE NINTH CIRCLE
The title refers to the 9th Precinct, an area on the outer edge of the city. Lafayette Lane, known as Last Chance Lane to citizens, serves as sort of the Main Street, the center of the action of this part of town. This section of town is old and ran down now, but had a major heyday in the late teens, early 1920s all the way into WW II. This was a happening place, full of large buildings, theatres, grand homes, swanky clubs. Now, however, it’s a dark, dismal place with many of the same buildings there, but now they’re basically faded skeletons of the past, haunted with lost memories of yesterday and the lost souls of today.
The 9th Precinct is known as ‘The Ninth Circle’ or “The Dante Precinct’, referencing the Circles of Hell in Dante’s inferno.. This part of town is where all the losers end up. If you work for a company or the city government and they want to get rid of you, they put you in their office or working over on Last Chance Lane. If you’re a criminal and you’re hiding from the law, other criminals, and yourself, you end up in the Ninth Circle. Imagine the city as a dumpster. The rank and fetid, the foul and odorous, the really discarded and misused trash all sinks to the bottom. That’s The Ninth Circle
The best way to describe the cast of this story is as an ensemble. The area that this story takes place in is so small that its literally impossible for these people not to interact, so that will happen. Also its not like the Circle is across the world from the rest of the city, so denizens of the city will wonder down to the Circle and its citizens will climb up into the city.
This cast has one thing in common. In one way or another, they’re all losers. At the bottom. All the way down. Most strive to be more and don’t make it, but some thrive at the bottom and don’t mind it, some even learning that by falling down from way up at the top. The underlying theme of this idea from the first story on will be focused on this cast of failed spirits and how they handle chances at redemption. These dangling bits of salvation will come in different forms in different arcs, sometimes a person, sometimes an object, sometimes just a thought or event, but the cast of the Circle will all be united, albeit loosely, by how they handle chances given to them to be more than… or at least something other than what they are. Some will strive to be better, others just to be better at it, some to be good, some to be bad…. some just not to die. The bottom line for The Ninth Circle is this…There are no happy endings in the Circle…just some less sad than others.
The mood of this book will be a cross between the stark grittiness of Sin City and like stories…and the dark, yet strangely whimsical stance of Will Eisner’s Spirit. No masked hero in this, but I want it to have that ‘It might all work out/everyman’ feel to it, even though it only partially works out for anyone, if at all in the end on the Circle.
The cast listed below is the central cast for now. That doesn’t mean other characters won’t step up and most definitely doesn’t mean others won’t show up in future arcs. The cast will shift and change dramatically, just another way to show how being down on the Circle can be short term for anyone, one way or the other.
Nameless- This guy may be the closest thing to a hero the book has, but he’s actually probably the most lost of the bunch. A sign hangs on the outside of the dingy broken down ginmill that he calls an office. The sign simply says ‘For Hire.’ Our boy inside is just that. For hire for any job short of murder. Not that murder bothers him necessarily, but it comes with so many complications. He has a black and white concept of right and wrong: Staying alive and hopefully having some money is right, everything else is wrong. There are obvious signs this mid 40s low rent everyman was someone in his past, likely a pretty good policeman or investigator. He now works with no license, no badge, and no goal other than self preservation. He’s very hard boiled and extremely cynical and only has one friend, who probably doesn’t like him very much.
Nameless probably won’t stay that way, because I don’t do real well leaving them nameless, but his history is a mystery and I want it that way a while. He will most likely be the POV of many of the stories, but not all. He will be a colorful character in the book, simply because his black and white view of things is so stark, he stands out.
Detective Tom Stoddard -- A policeman with a promising career once, Stoddard now finds himself the lone plainclothesman in the 9th Precinct. Perhaps the most tragic character in the book, Stoddard is a resident of the Circle only because he thought he was doing his job. One of the policemen used in attempts to get to or deal with corrupt cops, Stoddard became a liability once the cops are dealt with. Using mistakes he had made, both willingly and unknowingly, the powers-that-be offered Stoddard a ‘transfer or be jailed’ sort of deal and, being nothing but a cop, he took the transfer. The transfer and time on the Circle has made Stoddard a hard man, single minded in pursuit of justice. His justice follows the letter of the law, almost fanatically, but his methods do not. Stoddard fully and firmly believes that he must clean up Dante’s Precinct and particularly the denizens of the Circle and he will do that any way possible. Beating prostitutes and pimps, framing the wrong people, making the sure the right people end up dead, nothing gets in Stoddard’s way of solving the crimes on the Circle. He’s a stark contrast in appearance to his spirit, though. Even though age has worn on him some, he has movie star looks, Errol Flynn or some other matinee idol. He uses those looks as well, but they don’t hide at all the monster the man who only ever wanted to be a good and right cop has become.
Stoddard has particular issues with our boy, Nameless, so they’ll be seen together often.
Walden “Plato” Platen -- Extravagant, over the top, constantly a performer and expert on everything, former University Professor and once Leading mind in every field, Walden Platen is now and forever one thing…An alcoholic. An older man, say late 50s, Plato, as he’s known due to his background, had issues with drugs and women through the 60s and 70s. By the time the 80s rolled around and left, he’d given up drugs, but resigned to float at the bottom of a bottle and from his professorship. He’s Nameless’ only friend and although Plato doesn’t necessarily care much for Nameless, himself, or anyone near him, he sees Nameless as his ‘cure for sobriety. Helpin’ you my boy makes sure I always want a drink when I’m done’.
Billy “Newsie” Hawke -- Everyone used to know Hawke’s name. He once had a promising career as a newspaper reporter and wrote fantastic stories. One story too many, it turned out, and Hawke was revealed to be a liar, a fraud, and actually worse than that, someone who committed crimes to make sure he had stories. Vanishing from the world for years, he turned up on The Ninth Circle, running Newsie’s, a broken down newsstand he runs out of what had once been the satellite office for his old paper. A broken down vision of a man now, Hawke sells papers, magazines, and information, good and bad, to whoever will buy it. He also writes still, writing down his version of life on the Circle, hoping one day it’ll get back in print, but knowing it’ll probably only line his coffin. Hawke’s writings are another way to get this story told, even makes it accessible in prose pieces as well.
Nurse Nancy, also known as Lady of the Open Arms -- Nancy Harrigan is the resident Mother Theresa of the Circle, but Mother Theresa never looked this good. Curves, honey blonde hair, and a corner on every charity movement in the Circle, Nurse Nancy helps people every day. She runs soup kitchens, free schools for children and adults, free clinics, and whatever else the denizens of the dumpster need. She is considered by many to be the sovereign saint to the people of the Circle. She also runs drugs, prostitutes, book, money laundering, and any other crime that can be profitable. She doesn’t talk much about her past, but everyone in the city knows her. She butts heads on a regular basis with encroaching gangs and crime families, but somehow always comes out on top. Nurse Nancy will welcome anyone into her open arms. They just won’t ever leave with everything that came with them.
Leo ‘Spaghetti’ Stivik -- Once a prominent hitman, Stivik is now the gun for hire and only independent pimp on the Circle, the only not working for Nurse Nancy. Once in high demand, Stivik had one assignment in which he was to kill a prominent actress. He didn’t pay enough attention to know this actress had a date book that contained names of a President, two crimebosses, and various and sundry other celebrities. A veritable marked man, Stivik went on a killing rampage that, although it kept him alive, discredited him in the hitman business.
Unable to get work, Stivik could only rely on the fact that no one in the world thought they could kill him. “Spaghetti” Stivik, given that nickname because of a penchant he had for pasta after murder, drifted down to the Circle to take a piece of the action there. Stivik continually attempts to become the top dog in the Circle, but never manages it. However, his reputation of being unkillable has kept him alive. So far. He runs a stable of five or so girls and a few minor criminal enterprises on the side, enough to make him a thorn in everyone’s side.
Lucie-Everyone knows Lucie. Not exactly beautiful anymore, but in no way exactly homely, Lucie has been around. Many times. Some would say she’s the female version of Nameless. She’s for hire herself, showing up on the Circle as everything from a part time girl for Stivik to a secretary to a…well, whatever was needed. Lucie is older, somewhere in her late 30s, early 40s, Lucie is friends with everyone, but doesn’t mind to make enemies either.
‘Baby’ Bella Gayle -- Owner of ‘Baby’s’, Bella Gayle was a once up and coming songbird who found out too late that her face and voice couldn’t outlast the years of abuse she put her body through. After years of sex and drugs, Bella found herself working for Nurse Nancy. In a deal that most of the above cast was involved in one way or another in their past, Bella outfoxed Nurse Nancy and in the end ended up with a low rent dive she named after herself where she sings, still good at it, even though its huskier now and doesn’t turn heads as much. She has few friends in the Circle due to her dealings in the past, but she’s okay with that, because regardless, everybody comes to Baby’s.
Pastor -- “Even People in Hell Need God.” Those are the words most associated for the mysterious clergyman known only as Pastor on the Circle. Using the only existing Church building in the Circle and calling it simply ‘The Church’, Pastor acts as the spiritual advisor for the lost souls. He’s been on the Circle for the last ten or so years. Considered by many to be a good man overall, Pastor is not without his secrets and these come to play often. It is unknown if he is actually a minister and what faith he actually belongs to and at various times he exhibits skills that no preacher should ever have, but overall people trust Pastor and follow his teachings. And he likes it that way.
Missy Marker -- Missy is the first chance at redemption in the first arc. She’s a young girl, allegedly 18, who shows up on the Circle alone, needing help, and about 8 months pregnant. She claims no memory of who she is or where she’s been, but as the story rolls along, Missy will definitely know more than she wants anyone to know and will play all ends against the middle in search of her own salvation.
With the cast laid out, giving a general overview of the first tale I have in my head is short and sweet. After an issue introducing the cast, done I think through Missy’s eyes, Missy will literally stumble into the story and become the center of attention. Some want to protect Missy and her unborn child. Others feel like they know who she is and what that child means. Still others don’t care about the child or the girl, just what they think she knows and how much it may be worth to them. What will unfold will be murder, treachery, children, drugs, guns, and all the things that make noir great. There will be heroics within the villainy and general life and death as well.