Pat Flewwelling
That dark fiction author with the funny name
The Story behind Helix
There's a story about the story here, and there's news.

The series is set in 1947. The making-of story dates back to 1993. And the news dates forward into 2018.

In a nutshell, The Fog of Dockside City has been a story of try, fail, try again, fail better next time. And I'm not finished with it yet.
The Backstory

In 1991, I was in my high school sophomore year. I hated reading, but I loved music, and I loved the library (because they loaned out music for free). And I'm pretty sure at the time I was only one of ten people my age who still had access to a vinyl record player, because at the time, we couldn't afford a CD player. What I could do, though, was borrow an LP from the library, and record it onto a cassette. Music piracy, 90s style.

One day I spotted this LP sleeve that stood out from all the rest. It was called The Shadow. I read the back, and I thought, let's hear what this is all about.

Let me tell you, at the first crackle and hiss of that record, I was hooked. And not just on The Shadow , but on Old Time Radio as a rule. I listened to it all: X Minus One, Burns & Allen, The Lone Ranger, Inner Sanctum, Batman and Robin, Dragnet, Suspense, Superman, Boston Blackie, Escape, War of the Worlds, name it.

But my first and best love was The Shadow. 

There was a note on the back of that old LP that went something like this: when Orson Welles first took on the role of the Shadow, no one knew who he was. More specifically, no one knew who the Shadow was. Legend has it listeners thought he was an actual person - a real life detective with the hypnotic power to cloud men's minds.

I thought...Gosh, if I were Orson Welles, and if everyone knew my voice but not my face, what kind of power could I hold? 

That's when I had the idea: a superhero known only for his voice. No strength, no invisibility, no powers beyond that of persuasion. The Fog of Dockside City was born.
The Early Drafts

In '93-ish I wrote about a radio studio and the actors and technicians producing this radio serial program called The Fog of Dockside City. Half of it was written in narrative; the other half was radio play script segments, which echoed and foreshadowed the straight narrative. On top of that, I managed to write the narrative without visual description except what was mentioned in dialogue, like in a radio play.

Unfortunately, stylistic ambitions aside, the plot and characters sucked, so I scrapped it and started over.

In '95-ish, I tried again. This time, I set the radio studio in modern times, and the play in the '40s. I didn't get far, but I was still faithful to the idea that it was some underwhelming dude with a very famous voice, scaring the poop out of bad guys without ever being seen.

Around 1997, I started working full-time in security. From 5:00 p.m. until 1;00 a.m., and the next year from 1;00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., I locked myself in a control room, watching monitors and listening to radio plays. I ran through a few episodes that were sucktacular, and I thought, "I can write better radio plays than that." So I did. 32 of them. I branched out into three different series, too. In total, I wrote about 81 radio plays over the next three years.

Then, hooray-hoorah, in 2001, four of my plays were accepted for publication. My first official publications! ...Yeah. I won't say anything about the editor or our working relationship (I'm at fault), but I will say those are the only four plays that made it into print. I've since bought back the rights.

In 2009, I decided to novelize some of those radio plays in my locally infamous "NaNoTriMo", in which I wrote 150,000 words that November. Three volumes of frenetic crap. But the right idea.

Through 2013-2015, I tried again, and at last, I was satisfied. I published the final results. 
And now, the news.

I still didn't get it right. It kills me to say so, because I hate when people release "Director's cuts" or "version 2.0" or whatever, especially when the author is self-published.

But dang it, the plot is there, the characters are there, the whole arc is mapped out from book 1 to book 4...and I failed to execute. Readers are dissatisfied, and that's the worst part.

The problem is, all the good stuff is buried under subpar writing. It's amazing what you learn after publication. You could write the perfect paragraph, time and time again, and still suck as a story teller. I described a series of images. I didn't tell a story.

And writing a book is one thing. Writing a series...that's a massive and delicate undertaking. I published Book 1 before I'd finished writing Book 2, and published Book 2 before it was ready. By the time I was halfway through Book 3, I realized I'd painted myself into multiple corners, and could no longer follow that beautiful arc because of errors I had published in Book 1.

So, in a few months, I'll be "unpublishing" The Obliteration Machine and The Ghastly Bargain and selling off stock at bargain basement prices. From there, I'll be re-architecting the entire arc, and every book in that arc, and every chapter in each book. Then, I'll write them all, from Book 1 to Book 4.

This way, if there's something I need to fix in Book 1 in order to make Book 4 work, then so be it. I can fix it, and no one will be the wiser.

Then, I edit all four together, from back to front and back again. Once that's done, I'll do it again. And again. And get beta readers, and a professional editing service. Then, and only then, will I relaunch The Fog of Dockside City. Whether it'll be self-published or not...well...we'll see. We'll see.

I hate rework, but since these characters have been with me for almost twenty-five years...I'm not about to give up on them.

I'm going to do them justice. 

And who knows. Maybe I'll even republish the radio plays.

Who knows?

I bet the Shadow does.
About Helix
About Dockside City
About Judge Not