James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

State of the Projects

Sort of like a state of the state/union address? Not so much, this; nothing so dramatic. No, at the beginning of a new creative season this is merely an update regarding the core of my creative output: my various completed novel manuscripts.

As I’ve been on a what’s become a two week break from working on anything (other than note-taking, of course, which never stops, not even for personal grief), the timing’s right to make mention of all my completed but unpublished long form work, as well as announce what I’ll be writing this summer, a/k/a Novel 2013.

DOGS OF PARSONS HOLLOW—Go here for the last update on its status as my flagship project. Under representation by Inklings Literary since November 2012, my agent Michelle L. Johnson has managed an heroic six requests to read the manuscript from major publishers. So far four of those have passed, but eventually the right editor will see the potential of its universal themes to connect with a wide reading audience, and we’ll have a sale.

LET THE GLORY PASS AWAY—The most recently completed and polished piece of my Edgewater County series of novels, this ambitious mainstream comedy-drama concerns narrator Cort Beauchamp’s travails as a blocked, middling literary novelist facing a number of conflicts both creative and romantic in nature. The story’s driven by his reluctant membership on the DDC, a citizen’s advisory arts committee charged with building a monument to a local favorite son, a rock star named Duncan Devereaux whom Cort once interviewed, making him the favorite to try to persuade the reclusive, retired rock legend to give sanction to the honor of a renamed street, a piece of public art, and as they all hope, a return to performing glory on the streets of his hometown.

Besides its narrative threads that run through Edgewater County, LTGPA is also very much my tribute to modern day Columbia, SC (or my slightly fictionalized version thereof) and its burgeoning arts community, as well as an exploration of the idea that our town has had a long recovery from the great conflagration that had come with Sherman’s march in February 1865, and in some ways is still seeking to find a post-antebellum identity of merit and distinction. LTGPA, at 110,000 words, is in the beta reader stage, and may yet evolve further on its road to eventual publication.

MANSION OF HIGH GHOSTS—The first novel I completed, this offbeat literary family drama—I call it Prince of Tides meets American Psycho—clocks in at a robust 160,000 words, which is a tough sell for someone yet to prove themselves on a larger platform than I have thus far managed. MOHG, which as its principal theme occupies itself with one character’s journey to a time of acceptance of not only that which he has left undone but his own eventual death, should one day represent itself to readers as a major step up in ambition and execution. The next major blog post will be a more detailed description of this particular project.

KUNK—What I like to call my ‘movie memoir,’ this 1980s coming-of-age story is told through the eyes of a middle-aged, downsized journalist reflecting on the romantic travails of his creative youth as a budding filmmaker in a southern city a long way from Hollywood. Under the influence of his scriptwriting colleague, the streetwise, late-blooming college student Levon Kunkle, the nameless narrator finds love, loss, and the lesson that our mentors and heroes oftentimes have feet of clay—in Kunk’s case, ruinously so. Mainstream, 85,000 words. Ties in nicely with all the other Edgewater County books, and seems to set up this nameless narrator as an important figure in the coming history of Tillman Falls, SC, that will be told in the new novel. That I don’t really have a character name for this guy, or any intentions to continue his particular story as part of the new novel, is a possible anomaly in the Edgewater County tapestry I’ve created, and will need to be addressed one day.

MIRIAM MULLINS—A very short ‘crossover fiction’ piece (that’s a newish genre of books intended as a transition category between YA and so-called ‘regular’ literary fiction), at 50,000 words MM is next up in the queue for a revision. What it’s about: Courtleigh Hoogstradt, an emotionally stunted, mousy 25 year-old reeling from the death of the infirm mother for whom she’s cared for ten years, reinvents herself as ‘Miriam Mullins,’ 15, a ‘teenager’ set on reliving the boyfriends and fun of the past she’d missed. When her no-good, absent drunk of a father shows up to collect what he hopes is her mother’s death-insurance money, though, Courtleigh takes out her revenge on him in a way that means she might have to stay Miriam Mullins forever.

And now… to announce the logline and title of Novel 2013:

DIXIANA—This epic saga of modern Tillman Falls, SC has long been planned to be my most ambitious project yet, and if now isn’t the time to get on this, I don’t know when would be better. Now is the only time, after all, and so the formerly-entitled TILLMAN FALLS and EDGEWATER COUNTY CONFIDENTIAL is ready to be written.

The deets: Prodigal son and recent divorcee Roy Earl Pettus, key minor character in MANSION OF HIGH GHOSTS, returns to Tillman Falls, SC, to inherit his grandfather’s honky-tonk The Dixiana; when he decides to not only re-imagine the tavern as a ‘third wave coffee shop’ but also paint over the iconic Confederate Flag mural on the side of the building, he provokes a firestorm of controversy that ultimately turns deadly. Amidst a contentious town election, a murder that eerily mimics those of the executed area serial killer Coy Wando, and terrorist fears over the Sugeree River Nuclear Station, where hardcore environmental protesters have set up camp to stop the building of a new reactor, Roy Earl struggles through a divorce, a wrongheaded love affair, and the dawning realization that he might not be able to ‘be the change’ he wishes to see happen there in his old hometown there in Edgewater County. A seriocomic Southern small town epic, this project brings together many characters and threads from all my other work (Jasper Glasscock, the narrator of KUNK, the ghost of Coy Wando hanging over the proceedings, Roy Earl and Creedence Rucker from MOHG, a major new character in the form of Button Sykes, a millennial Phish ‘phan’ trapped in her awful southern hometown, and then appearances by myriad other Edgewater County characters like Burnham Sykes, Rabbit Pettus, Garen Oakley from DOGS, etc.)

While DIXIANA represents a culmination of all the Edgewater County stories, it’s worth noting that there will be one more after this, a prequel called WANDO, featuring young Jasper Glasscock as its protagonist. More on that one later, though—after all, that’s Novel 2014!

About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

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