Dad was very sick, recovering from septic shock, and he jutted tubes like Cthulhu’s tentacles. There were tubes to feed him, tubes to hydrate him, tubes so he could defecate. After six weeks, we had all gotten used to the smell. What we could not get used to was the fact that the rock of our family was crumbling, and what’s more, he barely seemed aware of it. This kind and gentle man was now oscillating between bouts of catatonia and delirium. At times he did not recognize us. At night, he became manic and terrified. One night when I tried to stay with him, he berated me for no reason, using language I had never heard him utter before.
I made the mistake of doing the edits myself. No beta readers, no professional editors. All me. To make matters worse, I did these edits in the hospital on my laptop while keeping watch over my father. I was rushing to get the book finished, to get it to the printers. It was as if this novel, the one good thing going on at the time, might cancel out all the shadows in my life.
In mid-September, I brought my father a copy of Pitch. It should have been a proud moment, but I don’t know that he really registered what it was. Later that evening, I got online to check email and got a number of messages from friends who had glanced at the preview of the first chapter on Amazon.
Hey, on page 15, the word “of” should be “off.”
You might want to talk to your publisher.
Whoever edited this book did a piss-poor job.
I did talk to Balboa. I was told that to revise the galleys and do a second printing would cost me $500. I didn’t have a job. And, of course, my father was dying. These were not the best of times.
The last thing I wanted to do was write a series of books about shape-shifting cats.
The idea for The Glaring Chronicles came from my wife, although it was something we had both mused about on and off. The story didn’t really start fleshing itself out until she started thinking about it while we were apart, visualizing in her head what these Glaring cats looked like, how they changed into people, what sort of other powers they had, and so on.
It was September 23, 2012, when she told me about the idea. I remember this because the previous night had been spent with Dad in his hospital room, where he was surprisingly lucid. We watched a college football game (my Alma mater Kansas State shocking the Oklahoma Sooners on the road), and we talked and laughed.
For a few hours I had my father back.
When my wife called that morning, I was still wringing my hands over the typos in Pitch, trying to think of ways to raise the money for a reprint (which I eventually did, thanks to my mother, so if you want to read Pitch today I assure you its clean). I had but one idea for a follow-up novel to Pitch: something about a young man volunteering in Africa who suffers a bout of heat stroke (which actually happened to me in the rain forests of Cameroon) and sees the ghost of his dead father and …
I didn’t have anything after that, but it felt like a story that wanted to be told.
“I have an idea,” my wife said, and proceeded to pitch to me The Glaring Chronicles. “I think this story has legs,” she said. “I could see it expanding to be an entire series.”
“No,” I said. “I’m in no place to write books about a bunch of shape-shifting cats.”
But my wife persisted, and the more that we talked the more I softened. I didn’t so much come around to the idea as acquiesce to it. After all, this was my wife, the woman I loved and still love. While I was in Kansas, going through hell with Dad, she had been alone in California, holding down the fort and going through a bit of hell herself. The pressure on her to keep all of our balls in the air was incredible. The very least I could do for her was write one book about these mysterious Glaring.
I began Strays as a book about us, my wife and me. After all, The Glaring couldn’t very well look after the affairs of humanity unless there were humans involved. I decided that I needed a couple of troubled teens to interact with The Glaring, and since my wife and I had once troubled teens ourselves, I drew from our stories. Kyle started out as my doppelgänger; Sarah started out as my wife’s. But somewhere late in the first novel Kyle stopped being me and Sarah stopped being my wife, and the two of them started being their own persons.
I intended the story to end with Strays, with Sarah free at last and Kyle taking the first step towards being a functional adult. But once the final battle with Sarah’s stepfather began, I knew there was more story to tell. The characters were not finished with me. What’s more, I wasn’t finished with them. What started out as little more than a writing exercise to please my wife had taken on a life of its own. I actually cared about these creatures. I wanted to see what would happen to them.
Nonetheless, Youngblood turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever written. I knew where I wanted the story to go; I just couldn’t get it there. It took a lot of drafts and a lot of guidance from wise voices like my wife to breathe life into this story, but in the end I felt I had come up with a pretty good book. When I went back and gave Youngblood a final read, something magical happened—I actually started to weep.
I wept for my father.
I wept for my characters.
I wept for myself.
It was then that I realized that this series of books I didn’t want to write had brought about more healing in my life than I could have possibly imagined.
I hope they bring healing in your life too.