Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just Try to Top This!

Last week, I finally—I can hardly even believe I’m saying this—FINALLY finished a complete draft of a manuscript called Jordan’s Shadow. I have been trying, off and on, to write a complete draft of it for, let’s see…approximately 30 years. Yes, that’s right. Thirty years. I just dare any of you to top that record for persistence. Or procrastination. Or insanity. One way or the other, that’s got to be some kind of record.

The idea for Jordan’s Shadow actually came to me more than 30 years ago. I was casually thinking about time travel. (This reminds me of a Stephen King quote I once heard. He was talking about being in a grocery store and thinking what it would be like if pterodactyls were flying around in the store, because, according to him, that’s the kind of thing he thinks about.) Anyway, I was thinking about going back in time and meeting my parents when they were teenagers like me. As I was mulling this over, another thought occurred to me. Suppose I were able to time travel and become friends with my mother, but she didn’t know who I was—she  thought I was just another girl from her neighborhood. So then what would she think when she had a daughter who started to grow up and turn into a carbon copy of the girl who was her friend in her youth?

This may not do much for you, but it gave me chills. I went even further with the idea. What if the mother-daughter hadn’t been friends, but enemies? What if the poor time-traveling daughter never made it back to her right time, because she died in the past—and maybe Mom was even implicated in the accident that caused it? And now, Mom sees her darkest secret from the past revealed in the face of her adolescent daughter!

Not long after I started playing around with the idea, I heard that a movie called Back to the Future was planned, and I got discouraged and thought about scrapping JS. The ideas sounded too similar. But after seeing the movie, I knew there was no problem. First, for some reason, Marty McFly’s parents were too dense to recognize Marty as the boy they knew twenty or thirty years earlier. Second, Jordan’s Shadow is definitely not a comedy. Maybe I could bill it as Back to the Future done as a creepy gothic.

I realize I’m writing Jordan’s Shadow spoilers in this post and hope I don’t ruin anything for you assuming it ever gets published. But hey, who really reads my blog, anyway?

None of the above explains why it took me so long to write a complete draft. I think, partly, because the way I started this story was so different from the way I usually write. It started with a premise, but aside from the fact there would be a mother and a daughter, I didn’t know who the characters in the story would be. And I really had no plot aside from the premise.

The plot has evolved over the years and has become as convoluted as one of the latter seasons of Lost. Actually, I’m hoping Lost has trained a generation of readers to be able to comprehend Jordan’s Shadow.

I'm not sure why I kept going back to this manuscript. Maybe I've worked on overcoming my tendency to start things I don't finish to the point I'm now obsessive about letting projects go. But I've also always felt there was something to this story, something unique and worthwhile, even though writing it has been about as much fun as a 30-year root canal. And of course, I still have major rewriting ahead of me, but now that the plot is laid down from start to finish, that seems like a breeze by comparison. 

Maybe that will only take five or ten years!

Friday, March 15, 2013

When You Don't Know What to Hope For

Well, I came back from my long blogging break, wrote one in-depth post, and then disappeared again for a couple of weeks. But I’ve had a very good—or very bad—reason.

I had already started my next post. It was going to be called “When You Don’t Know What to Hope For,” and this is how it was going to start:

In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has some pretty tough criticism of Luke Skywalker’s potential. “This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.”
That was always me. Trying to dash through the boring routine and get through the waiting. Thinking the good stuff was out there on the horizon. We always tend to think of waiting and hoping for something good—like publishing a book and becoming a successful author, for example. But now, I’m faced with waiting through a situation with no good outcome, at least not in the earthly sense.
My dad has been getting more and more frail and sick, day by day. He and my mother can’t be left alone, which means my sister and I are either at work or taking care of Daddy about 95% of the time. Sometimes it feels as though it’s been going on forever…and will continue to. Even though we’re happy to do all this for our dad and mom, it’s exhausting and sad, and sometimes we feel trapped.
And yet…what do we hope for? We’d like some normalcy and freedom again, but we don’t want to lose our precious father. With him being 85 years old, with an incurable and progressive condition called microvascular ischemia, there don’t seem to be any good possibilities out there.

So that’s what I had started writing. And then suddenly…the wait was over, and my dad was gone.

Daddy at home in 2008.
Isn’t that the way of this life? Sometimes it’s hard to remember that nothing is permanent. Life is change, even when it seems as though we will wait forever.

It’s too soon for me to say anything terribly profound about all this. I do know that—most of the time—I valued those times with my dad. There were many days I was able to enjoy his sense of humor, his gratitude, his sweet smile even in the midst of all we were going through.

I believe the secret to the days ahead will be to focus on the eternal, the good things that really are out there on the horizon, beyond this world, for those who love the Lord. And my daddy did love the Lord.

I’m not there yet, but I’ll keep you posted.