The final, and I do hope I mean final, proof copy for Unmortal landed on my doorstep late today. It's more of a formality than anything else; all the really heavy lifting on that book is finished. I still plan to give it a breeze-through before signing off on it, though.
It's always weird being on the cusp of two projects, one finished and the other hardly more than a title. I know, in the two-plus-two-equals-four way, there was a time when Unmortal was also nothing more than a title and an idea (and not even a title then, really; just an idea). But it's also hard to project myself back in time, mentally, to that point. Once something is finished it feels like it was always a part of you to begin with, and that all you were doing is digging it out of you and bringing it up to the light.
Next book on my agenda, Shunga-Satori, is so thoroughly unlike any previous project of mine that I'm going to feel even weirder when it's actually done and in my hands. It arose, more or less, out of me reading Doris Lessing's Briefing For A Descent Into Hell and feeling great frustration with it. Call this book a response to that one, if you want, but it's not only that; many other things fed into it and may yet move it even further away from my earlier work.
Every project of mine needs, in some way, to be a challenge, a boundary- and envelope-pushing mission. I'm not happy revisiting the same settings and characters, because in my mind they are tied to the story they came with, and they leave along with it. A new story needs as blank a slate as I can provide for it, so that it can tell all it has to offer without fetters or legacy concerns. Especially if its ambitions and intentions are a step beyond my previous work.
Odds are I'll start laying down words for Shunga-Satori sometime in the coming month. I'm still puzzling together an outline, although it's most of the way there. It's also possible I may not find it has come together enough to be feasible, and I might switch to one of the half-dozen other things kicking around in the back of my head. It'd be nice to do justice to all those eventually, too. This is one of the few times in my life when I think the folks seeking an immortality vaccine are on to something.