Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Exactly Is Oogie Boogie Central?

I probably should have thought about answering this question ten years ago.

The simple answer is this: Oogie Boogie Central is the title of my first novel, and the de facto title of the series of books that follows it. However, the problem with simple answers is that-usually-the simple answer is really no answer at all. So, let’s examine the complicated response.

I’ve always been fascinated with Multiple Personality Disorder, or at least the fictionalized version of it. As a literary trope, its potential seemed limitless; as an exercise in imagination, the premise was intoxicating.

Unfortunately, the act of creating a novel around the concept of MPD proved more of a challenge than my enthusiasm anticipated.

The remnants of my early, aborted attempts at exploring this theme reside in the ethereal afterlife where broken hard drives and obsolete 5 ¼ inch floppy disks go to die. If memory serves, these efforts at universe building began with a traumatized toddler and ended with a Spec Ops unit (and in between, I have a vague recollection of a multi-generational tale set in the near-future, in which an aged MPD patient/superspy named Omega tells his tale to a young writer. Of course, by novel’s end, the young reporter assumes the mantle of Omega).

Here’s a lesson for all would-be writers out there: The first dozen things you write should never-EVER-see the light of day, no matter how easy or acceptable self-publishing has become.

After failing miserably and spectacularly, I tabled my exploration of the controversial psychological disorder and moved on to more traditional fare. I flirted briefly with fan fiction, undertaking a group project to craft a story about the return of Noah’s Ark, set in the world of the Millennium TV series. And, while the story was never completed, my contribution didn’t go to waste.

At the beginning of that five page chapter, my muse introduced me to Philip Ducalion, a lieutenant in the California Highway Patrol. By the time I sent those thousand words to my fellow contributors, I knew my smart-ass Lieutenant had more to say than just, “Where did this goddamned ark come from?”

I soon discovered that Philip Ducalion worked for a television program titled Whodunnit?, one of the plethora of unsolved mystery programs that inhabit the higher numbered cable and satellite channels. He had been a police detective until an encounter with a murderer robbed him of his family and career. He agreed to work for Whodunnit? in order to pursue the man that destroyed his life.

Ducalion lacked any mental filters, the biological circuit breakers that keep thoughts unspoken. He had a partner named Keith, a computer wizard and conspiracy nut who owned a bookstore in Charleston, West Virginia. His first recorded adventure took him and Keith to Pennsylvania in pursuit of a child abductor, and in the end . . .

In the end, I realized the Ducalion novel was a steaming pile of hot mess, and moved the entire file-all twenty chapters-into the Abandoned folder. The deletion was painful, but the heartbreak was ameliorated by a sentence stuck on an infinite loop in my head.

The Frenchman was the first one to notice the Hunter.

Thus, was born the Colony, seven departed spirits whose souls resided in the mind of a young man, a young man known as a Gatherer. He resided in Charleston and worked in a bookstore, surprisingly managed by a computer whiz and conspiracy nut named Keith. Keith’s assistant was a woman named Sharon, whose husband-and Keith’s best friend-was a department store detective named Milo Tucker.

The main story unfolded relatively easily. The characters spoke to me in clear voices, and protested only when I tried to lead them in directions they didn’t want to go. My version of Charleston was identical to the real one, except for a fictitious subway system and the existence of magic.

The first draft bore the working title of The Colony, a functionary, if pedestrian designation. All along, I knew it would have to change before I began submitting it, but I couldn’t think of anything better.

Enter the real life Keith Pridemore, and a conversation that went something like this:

“I don’t know what to call the book.”
“What are you calling it now?”
“The Colony.”
“You’re right; that sucks. What’s this thing about again?”
“The same thing it’s been about for the last two years. You read the first half. Remember?”
“I remember. It’s full of oogie boogie shit right?”
“Dude, it’s got so much oogie boogie shit in it I ought to call it Oogie Boogie Central.”

Followed by a moment of silence during which light bulbs flared over both of our heads.

Oogie Boogie shit is defined as: anything beyond the norm, including-but not limited to-the Mothman, shoplifters, headless psychics, a confederation of fifty-five mystical protectors, rogue mages, gangsters averse to sunlight, body-hopping, supper clubs that exist outside of reality and a crusty Obi-Wan Kenobi type with a predilection for porches.

And that’s just in the first two books.

And, while I was writing Central, I decided there was a place for a retired police lieutenant lacking mental circuit breakers, and Philip Ducalion finally made his print debut. He also appeared briefly in Oogie Boogie Bounce, and it was during that cameo I decided his time had come.

What does that mean? It means that while we all take a break from the Oogie Boogie universe (available now on all eBook platforms), I’m about to answer the question asked by most readers of Central and Bounce:

Who the hell is Philip Ducalion?

Coming soon to an ereader near you: Bang Bang Machine.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

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