The Uncanniness of Birthdays
Today is the birthday of one of the co-hosts of this blog. Joyeux anniversaire, Delhia! I think birthdays are a fine topic, since they come into play in my American Craft series. (Also, the second novel in the series just had its book birthday last week.)
My two novels, American Craftsmen and The Left-Hand Way, chronicle the modern-day adventures of the magician-soldiers and psychic spies known as craftspeople, while also telling how their ancestors inspired the creepier fictions of Poe and Hawthorne. In The Left-Hand Way, the surviving craftspeople from the first book are scattered overseas like bait to draw out an ancient evil (and their journeys include a brief passage through France).
Astrologers and others make much of the connection between the exact moment of birth and a person’s fate. With the advantage of fictional hindsight, I’m able to create such connections for my story. The protagonist of my first book is Dale Morton, descended from the historical Thomas Morton of Merry Mount, who is sometimes called “America’s first rascal.” One of the founders of the competing Left-Hand (i.e., evil) branch of Dale’s family, Joseph Curwen Morton (a Lovecraftian name), uses his occult power to ensure that his twin children Roderick and Madeline (Poe-related names) are conceived precisely on the day the U.S. Constitution is signed, and born on the day it’s ratified by a sufficient number of states. “I tied your birth to the birth of a nation,” their father says. “I hope you appreciate the power in that.”
Whether they appreciate it or not, Roderick and Madeline remain tied to the fate of the country throughout their unnaturally extended lives, eventually corrupting the very core of the U.S. craft services, the ultra-secret H-ring below the Pentagon. As pointed out by G.K. Chesterton (and more recently by Tim Powers), this sort of spooky connection of events gets into our heads despite whatever our rational minds think about it.
I’ve also had to think about the rough timing of the births of other members of the Morton family tree, as well as the family of the most interesting new character in book 2, Royal Navy Commander Grace Marlow. Her family goes back to the historical Christopher Marlowe (the “e” gets dropped) and Francis Walsingham on one side, and Tituba of Salem on the other. I had to time the generations of her fictional family such that they could have inspired various literary creations, including Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Kipling’s Kim, Conrad’s Marlow, and Fleming’s Bond.
Finally, another way the timing of a birth can have both practical and occult significance in my story: the various romantic relationships in my books are eventually expected to produce offspring, as it’s a particular duty of craftspeople to their homelands to continue their families. Both through reason and occult farsight, one might guess that certain couples like those in my books will have unusually significant kids. This leads to two opposing courses of action. Various occult parties would like to kill such craft couples before they have a chance to have children, while other organizations will do whatever is necessary to protect the prospective parents, but drop their concern for the would-be father immediately after confirmation of pregnancy.
Oddly, last year’s book birthday had its own creepy correspondence for me. Within days of the American Craftsmen’s release, I was beginning the process of discovering I had cancer. I’m fine now and most probably completely cured, but at the time this seemed an odd convergence of events. Also, I wrote a surprising number of cancer metaphors into book 2 well before my diagnosis, so it was if I were trying to tell myself something. Again, my rational mind dismisses these synchronicities, but my fiction-writing brain does not.
By the way, I’ll be in Paris and the north of France next month, both enjoying the sights and taking notes. If any of the French readers of this blog have any good occult, literary, or historical recommendations for my travels that I might otherwise miss, please let me know. And if you’d like to read or listen to my other stories, please check out my website.
American Craftsman, Book 2
Synopsis:Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets ancient magic, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance
Poe’s Red Death returns, more powerful than ever. Can anyone stop him before he summons an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than himself?
In this second book of Tom Doyle’s contemporary fantasy series, the American craftsmen are scattered like bait overseas. What starts as an ordinary liaison mission to London for Major Michael Endicott becomes a desperate chase across Europe, where Endicott is both hunted and hunter. Reluctantly joining him is his minder from MI13, Commander Grace Marlowe, one of Her Majesty’s most lethal magician soldiers, whose family has centuries of justified hostility to the Endicotts.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul and Tokyo, Endicott’s comrades, Scherie Rezvani and Dale Morton, are caught in their own battles for survival against hired assassins and a ghost-powered doomsday machine. And in Kiev, Roderick Morton, the spider at the center of a global web, plots their destruction and his ultimate apotheosis. After centuries of imprisonment, nothing less than godlike power will satisfy Roderick, whatever the dreadful cost.