Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the lady and the writer

With the publication of my novel ZO in December of 2008 and its inclusion as a finalist for the Kobzar Literary Award in Toronto last March, many people became interested in what this work of fiction was about. To many readers' surprise, it was the first in a trilogy, and they found this out when they were left hanging - somewhat - at the conclusion of ZO.

Since I currently live in a small town it was easy enough for a number of readers to track me down and ask questions about the story and, most importantly for many of them, ask when the second novel in the trilogy was coming out. When I told them, casually, "Oh, about two years," some of them flew into a passion: "Two years! How can you expect people to wait two years after an ending like that?"

Well, it takes time to write and then revise and then edit. Then it takes time to choose a cover and a blurb for the back cover, to get it printed and bound, get the ISBN stuff squared away, etc., etc. But even at that, with a number of other writing opportunities suddenly falling into my lap, I had to wonder when I would get around to writing the sequel to ZO. Would it actually be two years - would it be that fast? Or might it be three or four? At the back of my mind, I sometimes thought: So much is going on. Maybe it won't happen.

Then one day my wife, who is an RN, came home with her own tale to tell. One of her patients, an elderly lady, after making make sure that her nurse was also my wife, said to her: "Well, I want to read the next book. You tell that man of yours that I'm in my 90s and I don't have as long as he has to get around to it. He needs to get it done and get it published."

Humorous as the story is I can't imagine any writer not being affected by her roundabout plea that the story continue and, eventually, be properly completed. So now the sequel to ZO is well underway. At certain stages I have been at it 8-12 hours a day or more. At first I scarcely knew how to start the sequel. Now I can't get all the characters to stop talking at the kitchen table in my head. Idea after idea is gushing forth. It's what Frederick Buechner called an artesian well effect. At one point two weeks ago I was so tired from unending days of writing and word processing I thought I couldn't go any further - I was only human, not a machine. But a few days writing more slowly out of doors rejuvenated me. Now I'm back to running to keep up with my characters and their story. I even tried to stop at the beginning of April, right after Easter, with an "All right, that's enough for a bit, I need to look into some other writing projects." Immediately a new character was in my head, talking, right at me, and I agreed to put his words down for the beginning of the second part of the book, but no more than that.

Fat chance. That was 35,000 words ago.

He's not the only odd incident. I brought a woman military driver into the story just to have a woman military driver. Talk about trying to leash a panther. She's such an important part of the novel now I don't think I'll ever be able to let her go. This happened with another person I brought in with the idea they would need to be "killed off" a few thousand words later. Yeah, right. There is too much to them. They are obviously not going to be killed off a few thousand words down the line. Who knows if they will ever be?

This story has too much energy for me - almost. I've never quite run into this sort of extended depth and complexity and intensity with my fiction writing before. Oh, sure, there's been moments and seasons, but this has no let up. If I could go at it 24/7 without ever eating or sleeping and never losing my edge I might just be able to hold my own with this crew. As it is, I'm hanging on for the ride and my hair is streaming out behind me.

I'll get there. And every indication of re-reading is that it appears to be worth the trip.

I hope the lady thinks so too.

I'm shooting for a late fall or early 2011 publication date.



Two books of mine have been released from Zondervan over the past month.

One is entitled ROOTED, the other STREAMS.

ROOTED has a longer history. When I lived near Banff, Alberta, a famous tourist resort, I first realized that we had a number of major gardens in the Bible that had strong spiritual connections to one another. Eden, of course, was first and obvious, and it had a direct link to Gethsemane, another garden, where Jesus made up his mind to go forward and undo the curse of humanity's sin in Eden. Then I looked and no sooner is Jesus taken down dead from the Cross then his body is placed in a tomb in another garden. And in that garden where he has been laid out dead he will rise from the dead on a spring Passover morning.

These three gardens were enough to give me a sermon series which I preached at the church I pastored near Banff in the town of Canmore. I used Eden, Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb. I spoke this message in various other locations as well, including the next church I pastored which is located only a few hours south of Banff. As time went on, I found En Gedi, another garden, and also felt that many portions of Revelation present the Kingdom of Heaven in a garden-like state, so I included those and wound up with five gardens in all.

The first time I put this idea in book form was a work entitled The Five Gardens of God. A couple of years later Zondervan asked me to re-work the book, make it more appealing to the mainstream without sacrificing its strengths, add more story, and ROOTED was born.

STREAMS came to be because they wanted a companion volume to go out with ROOTED and they indicated an interest in the water theme (I had suggested deserts or wilderness or high places and mountains). I spent several months working with water in the Bible, especially rivers and lakes and seas, in the same way I had worked with gardens. This time I included a lot of personal story from the start.

So far the feedback from both books has been positive and there has certainly been a lot of interest in the "new kid" of the two, STREAMS. Both are being distributed in Canada, the USA and Britain. Recently, the rights for a Deutsche ROOTED was sold to a publisher in Germany.

I'm grateful to God for the opportunity to tell stories and Biblical truths in such a way they might help others to see Christ and see the sometimes smooth and sometimes rugged road of believing that lies ahead of them. I hope I will get the chance to try out another couple of themes in two different books.