A Road Long Traveled

2010, Lakeview Drive-in, Lake Chelan

It was the fall of 1988. It was my first year of college and I was living on campus, hanging out with a group of occultists, and locked into a challenging relationship with a member of Campus Crusade for Christ. To say it was a confusing time would not be an understatement. It was a time of reinvention–a  fresh start.

See, public school was unpleasant. I had some good friends, but I was an outcast. I had taken a year off, lived in a whole other state for about 6 months to get a taste of freedom. And here I had a chance to define not who I used to be, but who I was going to become.

Isn’t that what college is about? Well, that and a degree?

I think that’s where the first “Christopher” story came from. It was about a mysterious hitchhiker who gets picked up by a woman who never picks up people on the side of the road. But she’s distracted, driving to the next town over on a mission of vengeance. Letting him into her car was never part of her plan, but their brief encounter changes the course of both of their lives.

And in a way, it changed mine as well.

By the time I wrote the second Christopher story, about a rainstorm, a Kansas farmhouse, and young girl who didn’t realize she was a ghost, the idea for a  book started to form. Christopher was part of  a much bigger story. These weren’t isolated incidents. This was a sprawling story of unknown destinies. Of lost saints. Of angels and demons. A love story about the back roads of the American west. And ultimately, this was a story of transformation.

I jotted down notes, did research, and cobbled together an outline which I’m pretty sure is lost to the sands of time. I mean, it was 24 years ago, after all. And even with the notes and the outline and a story that I was dying to tell, I never wrote any more of it beyond the brief opening chapter.

24 years ago, I didn’t write novels. They intimidated the hell out of me.

Jump to January 1997. I had finally moved out of my hometown for good, arriving in Seattle with a station wagon full of stuff and the future spread out before me. I moved around a lot within the greater Seattle area since then, and had a variety of big life changes in that time. It wasn’t the rural byways of SW Colorado, but it was home, and I loved it.

And sometimes my mind would turn to the Christopher novel, framed there in the rear-view mirror of projects undone and unforgotten. It haunted me. It should haunt me. It’s a novel about transformation, about taking a chance and stepping into the unknown.

I took that kind of step when I moved to Seattle sixteen years ago and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I wrote screenplays then, but the idea of writing novel still terrified me. I’ve written around ten novels since then…and yes, I’m counting the scrub practice novels which shall never escape their drawer.

The Christopher novel came to mind again today, this time as a possible candidate for the 2012 NaNoWriMo. I have done that challenge every year in some capacity since 2005. This year, I hadn’t given it any thought. After all, I’m deep into finishing out book formatting for the final Timid Pirate release of the year (due to release on Halloween), and going to World Fantasy Con in Toronto immediately thereafter. I have stuff on my mind.

To say nothing of the fact that I’m looking to step out into the void again if circumstances permit. If all goes according to plan, I hope to move to the other side of the world early next year.

What better time to spend a month writing a novel about transformation, destiny, and the American west if not now?

In lieu of my original notes (which I doubt I could find anyway), I’m constructing the novel around the core concept and initial short story. In jotting down characters tonight over a decaf pumpkin mocha, I realized there was a reason I waited this long to write it. I needed to be here at this place in my life. I needed to have some of these support characters stockpiled in the back of my brain looking for a home (like Ocho, the former drug gang trigger-man who became something else after his trigger fingers were removed.) I needed to be staring into the void again, one foot on the dirt of the past, the other pointed into the unknown.

The prep work began tonight. The writing begins in November. And between then and now, I have some things to wrap up. It’s going to be a busy autumn!

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