For the past several weeks I’ve written about philosophy, politics, language, and general esoterica. In other words, I’ve written posts intended to be thought-provoking, or at least to convey my thoughts on pet peeves of mine. Now, I’m going to write something a little more personal.
I want to let all interested readers know that I’m close to being ready to publish “The Chasm and the Collision.” In fact, I plan to release it in August. The editing process is proceeding well, and it should be done before the end of this month. I read somewhere that, unless you have begun to hate your book a little by the time you’re finished, then you haven’t edited enough. I don’t know how much empirical data there is behind that pronouncement, but if it’s true, then I have come close to editing my book enough. Not that I truly have begun to hate it; all my books are labors of love, my figurative children. But it is a fact that rereading, rewriting, and editing become tedious after a while.
This is probably a good thing. It’s difficult to look at one’s own work objectively, which can impair one’s ability to edit as ruthlessly as one ought. So, it’s useful if rewriting and editing lead the author to become detached and harsher toward his or her work.
I’m also a fan of the advice Stephen King apparently received in response to one of his earliest submissions as a young writer: your final draft should be your first draft minus 10%. This can be a difficult goal to achieve, but trimming the fat is good, especially if you tend to write very quickly, as I do, and are verbose, as I am. I don’t always achieve the target percentage, but it’s good to set the bar high. If you aim for a lofty goal, then even if you don’t quite reach it, you’ll at least achieve something worthy of note, if not of song.
“The Chasm and the Collision,” (to which I often refer as “CatC”) is a particularly special book for me. I started writing it in jail and finished writing it in prison (I’ll say it clearly: I was bullied into a plea bargain, but I do not admit to being guilty of criminal activity, though I was certainly naïve). It was dedicated from the start to my children, and was written with them in mind. When I came up with it, my son had begun middle school, and my daughter was going to start it shortly. Also, they—like their mother and me—were fans of the Harry Potter stories and similar fantastic adventures. So, I wanted to write a fantasy adventure with middle-school students as the heroes. I thought of the idea in Gun Club, only finally finishing it at FSP West, in Raiford, where I would awaken at lights-on (about 3:30 am), and write 3 to 4 pages every day. It was on this schedule that I wrote “Mark Red,” “Paradox City,” “The Chasm and the Collision,” and started “Son of Man.”
Of course, those were all hand-written, and my handwriting is horrible. It’s taken a long time to get everything together, to re-write, and to edit all these books and stories. I wanted to get practice in on the others before turning to CatC. On the advice of my father, I decided not to put so much as a single curse word in this book. Those of you who have read my other works may realize how atypical this is. I write my dialogue in as close to natural form as I can achieve, and novels rarely involve people in pleasant, sedate circumstances; they tend to involve massive stress. People under stress—even young people—often use profanity. Or maybe I’ve just always hung around the wrong crowd.
Anyway, CatC is reader friendly to all ages, in the sense of not having bad language. It is dark at times, of course—that’s the nature of fantasy adventure. But it’s optimistic nevertheless. I like my characters, and I hope the readers do as well. Above all, I hope my children will read the book and enjoy it. I haven’t seen either of them since before I went to prison, and while I have spoken with and exchanged emails with my daughter, my son has been unwilling to communicate with me at all. With any luck, this book—and my others—might make them one day feel proud of me again, maybe even more than they would have if I were still practicing medicine. Who knows, they might even someday be willing to admit to others that they’re related to me.
Nothing else is very important. I miss my children terribly; I have missed so much of their growing up, and though I’ve obeyed their own requests and not tried to disrupt their lives by forcing my way back into them using the legal system that I despise, my heart breaks daily. I love writing, and I continue to work hard at it (even while still working full-time at my “day job”), and I want to make and do things that bring joy to others and help me feel good about myself. But without my children, nothing in the universe is of any deep importance to me.
Without them, to be honest, I could readily and without regret say goodbye to it all.