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Phantom Channel & Sauna Tribe

Two upcoming books, Phantom Channel: TROPOSPHERE (scifi) and SAUNA TRIBE (non-fiction) explore the unseen, the spiritual and the deep well of human potential.

As you might be able to tell, I haven’t posted a blog entry in some time now. That’s not because I’ve run out of things to say – quite the contrary. But I’m in book authoring mode, which is taking up the majority of my thoughts and energy. It takes a surprising amount of that, and sometimes one must dig deep to find the wherewithal to keep moving toward a goal that you keep telling yourself is worthwhile. Those of you who have done it know what I’m talking about.

Today, I’ll tell you a little bit about these book projects, why I’ve been working on them and offer a preview as to what they might contain. The shortest explanation of both might be that they are explorations of who we are, the aspects of ourselves which are not always seen (the subconscious or hidden) and indeed, our deep well of potential as human beings.

In Phantom Channel, this is done in novel (and graphic novel) form – primarily being fiction. The protagonists, Renny Takala in Canada and Aurora in the United States, separately find their lives shattered in different ways, but in doing so, tap into deep forces they now strive to understand. Renny not only has an identity crisis, but he attracts calamity wherever he goes, not the best trait for a junior hockey player. He’s also known for his active imagination, culminating in a Near Death Experience he cannot convince anyone was actually real. Meanwhile, Aurora grows up with a very defined vision of her career path and life trajectory. To her horror, it takes only one event out of her control to completely unravel the threads of her imagined future, leading her to the world of storm chasing. With this comes something she never would have asked for. Can she learn to live with it?

Phantom Channel has gestated for nearly fifteen years in some form, because I felt that to create a believable and compelling story you first must live yourself and learn to see outside your own limited perspective. When it existed as “BRUTE”, it was a completely fictional sci-fi story in a completely fictional version of earth which I wanted to rival something Tolkien might do. Unfortunately, when I was honest with myself, I saw that the result was somewhat forced, difficult to follow and without enough of a soul. Worst of all perhaps, the main character was flat and cliched.

As I went back to the drawing board,  it became increasingly clear that I needed a story grounded in reality as much as possible, even if reality itself is sometimes subjective. I wanted the characters to be alive and relatable, even if the plot was rich in detail too. It’s a mystery story on a grand scale, and was always meant to be. So to make that enjoyable to follow (hopefully), my solution was to kill my misguided aspirations of being the next Tolkien, and settle for being me. Immerse the story in the places I grew up in, in the cultures I have known, with their completely real complexities and challenges. Such as the alienation sometimes caused by multiculturalism. Canadian, American, Native / First Nations and European cultures are all represented richly, and I felt the best way to do this was to set the first book primarily by the Great Lakes and border, where all of these cultures intersect (and sometimes, clash).

I would normally hesitate to draw comparisons, but here is a list of popular works which have been at least somewhat inspirational for developing the direction the story eventually moved toward: Stand By Me, Stranger Things, True Detective, Breaking Bad, Twin Peaks, perhaps even a touch of Dances With Wolves… but truth be told, it really is very different than all of those. Many lesser known films, books and even manga series have been just as inspirational. And life itself, even more so. Learning about myself and others and the wacky world we live in has been far stranger than fiction. And sometimes more beautiful.

Oh, I forgot the Kalevala. How could I? After all, it has always played a role in a sense, ever since the early drafts of BRUTE. Exploration of beliefs and religions as a whole, and the truths behind them have always been one of my interests as a storyteller. The Finnish people, long before Christianization, held a unique cosmology told and retold through runolauluja or runesongs, ultimately culminating in the Kalevala in the 1800s, our national epic. There is a vein of this which begins to reveal itself in book one of Phantom Channel, TROPOSPHERE. One could call it a modern reinterpretation of some of the aspects of these legends. Because it is Finland’s 100 year anniversary, it is only too fitting and I am pleased to be on track for publication to coincide with this landmark celebration.

Phantom Channel’s graphic novel adaptation, an in-development preview of which can be found in the header image of this post, will begin chapter releases coinciding with or shortly after release of the TROPOSPHERE paperback novel.

Sauna Tribe is just as interesting and unique, a snapshot if you will of the diversity of Finnish people around the world and this object we all unite around called the sauna. From the proud-to-be-on-the-cutting-edge of technological development mother country, to those on the front lines of some of the most challenging places on earth, to the descendants of immigrants around the Great Lakes who are a living snapshot of Finland’s past, each have their tales and memories of what it means to have grown up Finnish – both the joys and pains. Each also possesses their own inner instinct of why sauna is such a vital part of our spirit and “sisu” or determination. A significant portion of the book is both an instruction manual and a meditation on the sauna itself, conjuring up its magic and delving into the cutting edge of science behind its benefits, for spirit, body and mind. Unlike many sauna books which speak mainly of “rules”, Sauna Tribe explores both the diversity and the core of what makes the ritual so effective and vital for millions.

(Former working title: “SISU SAVED ME”)

So, now you know the reason for the radio silence; more will be broadcasted soon.

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