Introducing Jack Dixon #atozchallenge

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JLast time, many posts ago (before the A to Z Challenge), Rob started his soon-to-be-self-published novel – a little something like Rocky Balboa coming out of retirement in Rocky 4. Here’s a little more about it in J for Jack Dixon…

Taking inspiration from literatures many Jacks (like…er…Reacher or…Ryan…or even Sprat, of the no fat-eating), the hero in my novel is named Jack Dixon. He wasn’t always a Jack. Until very recently, he was Cat Dixon – a name to which I had given a lot of thought. I had created a cute back story that he was named after Cat Stevens. His parents (brutally murdered at the beginning of the story, poor things) met and fell in love at a Cat Stevens concert so named their son after the bearded one. I even penned a (if I may say so myself) rather beautifully written dream sequence using the lyrics of Moon Shadow. Unfortunately, as per one of the most basic rules of writing, this darling had to be killed.

For a start, every single person who read the manuscript thought he was a girl for at least the first chapter and were just a little confused. Cat is, after all, first and foremost a name for a girl. Think of famous Cats (Deeley, Power – there aren’t many, to be honest), Stevens is the only boy. No wonder he changed his name to Yusef Islam. I’m surprised it took him so long.

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Cat Stevens reacts to yet another joke about his name.

The second reason for changing my hero’s name is that I wasn’t even certain it was working for me. Sure, I love the sound of the name Cat Dixon. It is a heroic name; a good action name. However, for a teenager in the Noughties to have parents who met at a Cat Dixon concert in the Seventies or even Eighties, they’d have to be pretty ancient when they finally decided to have kids. It just didn’t compute for a boy with a younger sister. Besides, I had heard that Mr Islam could be quite picky when it comes to granting the rights to use his work. Seeing that my novel for young adults contains violence and peril (to which the wholesome ex-multi-million-selling-folk-singer-turned-headmaster may object), I didn’t want to be slapped with a law suit for my use of a Cat Stevens song, however sublime the writing (!).

So when I dusted Black Moon down for this self-publishing adventure, the first thing I had to do was find a new name for my boy. It wasn’t easy. Most of the good ones are taken by authors who are actually published already. And what indeed does sit comfortably with Dixon (and if you recognise the picture at the top of this post, you’ll know where I got that from)? Jack came out on top as the best – the only – candidate. Jack is absolutely an action name. J names are always pretty cool-sounding (led by the ultimate J, Bond, but there is also Die Hard’s McClane). It’s short and sharp with a cracking finish. It’s also unpretentious. I wasn’t going to call him Lief or River or Starsailor. Jack Dixon sounds like a hero to me.

And what, I hear you ask, did I do with my gorgeous Moon Shadow passage? Did I have to send it to the desktop trash can? You’ll be pleased to hear that it remains. I just made up my own nursery rhyme to replace Cat’s awesome lyric. It kind of works. You’ll see.

In Jack, I created  an average teenager in an average town in the South East of England. He’s a good kid; a bit cheeky and a bit lacking in direction but his heart is in the right place. The story of Black Moon moves from lovable Jack suffering a horrific tragedy to realising this tragedy has left him with extraordinary powers. He’s fitter, stronger and smarter than he was before. He has to work out what’s happening to him and why, at the same time as solving the mystery of his family’s apparent murder. Sounds pretty good, right?!

When the craziness of this A to Z Blogging Challenge is over, I’ll get back to my self-publishing adventure with weekly blogs leading to publication. The novel has been proof read now so I’m nearly ready. Watch this space.

Now, because I won’t get the chance again, ladies and gentlemen – Mister Cat Stevens…

Kraitt Out!

 

 

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The Rocky Analogy

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I’ve just discovered captions! The relevance of Sylvester Stallone triumphant on top of a Siberian mountain will become clear. Read on…

Last time, wannabe screenwriter Rob had hung up his keyboard and got a proper job but, years later, inspiration hit him between the eyes. What on earth happened next?!

So what kind of writer do I find myself in the Spring of 2008? Looking for a nifty comparison to kick off this blog, it seems too obvious to look at writers in the movies. Nicholas Cage in Adaptation? Too tortured. Jack Nicholson in The Shining? Far too bonkers. Joseph Cotten in The Third Man? Not unless I can identify with a hack author of pulp fiction caught up in a black market conspiracy in post-war Vienna.

Then it strikes me, looking back at that time, I was very much channelling the great Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky 4 (this is good, stay with me). After years away from writing (boxing, in Rocky’s case) and helping other writers (Rock was training Apollo Creed for an unlikely comeback), I come out of retirement to avenge the death of my writing career (Apollo’s tragic demise in the ring) against newer, younger, better writers (Dolph Lundgren’s pharmaceutically enhanced Ivan Drago). Going back to basics to battle my own demons, I rise victorious (write something) in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds; thus saving the world from near certain nuclear holocaust by ending the Cold War through friendship and reconciliation (not that last bit).

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It was certainly a bizarre feeling to be hit by the bug so dramatically after years of working with writers, rather than writing myself. And it really was a ropey idea that had my creative juices flowing again: a boy who turns into a fox and gets in adventures?! I’d have to come up with a bit more than that.

What’s more, I had inadvertently raised expectation elsewhere. Strutting around the office the following day, excited about getting back in the writing game, I boasted to my colleague and fellow agent Elinor that I would soon be delivering a novel for her to sell.

“Ooh,” she said (or something like that). “What’s It called?”

“Er…it’s going to be called,” I paused, scrabbling for something half way decent. “Black Moon. That’s it…Black Moon.”

“Great,” she replied. I guess. I don’t really remember the conversation that well and she was probably trying to do some actual work.

And there in a moment, I had set myself the task of writing a novel called Black Moon that might be about an adventurous fox boy.

I did a lot of thinking and scribbling over the next few days and weeks and months. My memory is hazy on exactly how my idea evolved into the story of Cat Dixon, star of Black Moon (now JACK Dixon but that’s for another day). Strong influences crowded my mind. American Werewolf In London for one, an astounding picture that had a profound effect on me as a teenager. I didn’t end up writing a werewolf book, by the way. It might have ‘moon’ in its title and want you to think it’s a werewolf book but it has a few other tricks up its booksleeves.

It didn’t take long for the pieces to fall into place. I was shaping a story that was very far from what I thought I had. Isn’t that the best thing about writing? You’re always surprising yourself.

Devoting an hour or two a night, more than I could spare considering work, life, sleep; Black Moon started to come together. Next week, I’ll tell you what happened when I finished.

Keeping it pithy this time.

Kraitt out!

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