Yesterday I mentioned here (and to my wife later in the day) that I thought I should just write and accumulate manuscripts that were not only unpublished – but never even solicited. There’s still something attractive in the idea of getting a book down the way that you want it, maybe tweaking it, maybe not, and then letting it sit in the metaphorical closet under an old pair of bowling shoes.
I think the reason this looks so appealing is because I’m mentally exhausted from working from 8 to 5, and then for four more days of the week, going to class from 5:30 to 9:20. I mean, I’m thinking yeah, I could get through another couple of manuscripts – I really want to write that superhero novel now – but the idea of going back through one and editing it when I’m done seems daunting now – and the idea of going through the submissions process – even though I have an agent – looks out of the question. Don’t even talk to me about the publication process.
In any event, yesterday I got this odd idea. While I was in the process of looking for something else, I ran across this New York Times article about Tony Kushner, author of the Angels In America play marathon. It’s nothing more than a listing of things he’s been working on for the past who-knows-how long, with no related article attached that I could find.
So I thought what I would do is take an inventory of some projects, recent and not, to catch up the regulars in the audience and to show that, while many projects do make it into print, in the working writer world, dreams don’t always come true.
Here they are, alphabetically:
A Death of Honor/The Company Man e-editions – All I know is that they’re supposedly working on these. But, I suspect, they have a bunch of Star Trek and Star Wars novels ahead of them.
…and that’s the end of the news – Regulars here were midwives to the birth of this one. Now I just need to get the little critter cleaned up and ready for presentation. This is my first priority when class is dismissed for the last time.
Christmas play – I was supposed to have this finished and be going into preliminary read-throughs with this about… right now. Unfortunately, these classes have thrown me way off schedule. Perhaps for Christmas 2005.
Deadline – The next project I’ll finish when and/news is done. I’m about a quarter of the way through with this one. The first draft is being hand written into spiral bound notebooks with a Pilot G-2 pen. Don’t ask why. It just seemed the thing to do.
The Mushroom Shift – The novel I wrote between A Death of Honor and The Company Man. Not SF, but about a handful of deputies trying to keep their jobs and their sanity amid reports that their Sheriff is teetering on the brink of calamity. Likely the best, truest, and certainly the most profane novel I have ever written. I think it could have been a great cult novel, but my agent’s heart wasn’t with it, and he stopped showing it after collecting some rejection slips. I almost e-published it, but the company I was using changed their business model before I could move. Shelved but not forgotten.
Pembroke Hall (Author’s Preferred Edition) – I know, I know. Maybe between and/news and Deadline. Or maybe between Deadline and the superhero novel. Or maybe after Honor and Company Man are e-published. Why did I let my agent talk me into doing the work on this myself?
Pembroke Hall novels (Russian editions) – Ferman’s Devils is due from AST in just a couple of weeks. Boddekker’s Demons will follow in October. Supposedly, AST is releasing these not as SF, but under an imprint reserved for cutting-edge mainstream fiction. Interesting.
Rachel’s Children – Del Rey wanted a BIG science fiction project from me, and this was it – a cycle of novels (five at last count) following a handful of people over hundreds of years (because of light-speed time dilation) who survive a disastrous alien First Contact, are exiled to another world, outsmart the aliens and reclaim the Earth, then return to find all sorts of problems associated with their survival. What Del Rey really wanted was for my previous novels to have sold better, so this was their excuse for dumping me. The proposal for this also inspired a major publisher of Christian fiction to invite me not to make any further submissions to them, as chronicled elsewhere. Inactive but not forgotten.
The Scottsdale Blues – A comic mystery with series potential about a bad lawyer defending a femme fatale, co-written with one of my oldest friends, a lawyer. The problem is, while we’ve collaborated on many things since junior high, we’ve never finished anything. The play we were writing in high school that went through about 500 pages of draft and still wasn’t complete is now the stuff of legend. Anyway, Scottsdale is a funny idea and we keep talking about finishing it someday… maybe even in Scottsdale.
Superhero novel – While I’ve never read any Arthur Conan Doyle, I have long liked the idea of telling the story of a great man through the eyes of an assistant. This is the story of the world’s first true superhero, told by his trusted helper. I have a 100 page treatment for this novel that was originally intended as a piece for an ill-fated collection of stories edited by Kurt Busiek. At this writing, this will be the novel that I write after Deadline.
Trust – An election year thriller written for intended release before the ’96 election. It wasn’t. A couple of years ago, I told my agent that he should quit showing it around because I think it has reached its expiration date. Now, after a couple of years under the bowling shoes, I’m thinking it could be dusted off. But not right now.
Yaszawa – A big SF novel that I affectionately refer to as “Shane in space.” Rejected by Bantam following the Pembroke Hall debacle. Started as a lunch hour project back in 1991 or 1992, I’m about a third of the way through this sprawler. I open the file and pick at it occasionally. Maybe in another 12 – 13 years I’ll get it done – I think it’ll be a goodie. (Incidentally, the beginning of this novel – the first 50 pages or so – was also handwritten.)
Zmblgf – The children’s SF novel that my agent refuses to show around. Shelved, but not under the bowling shoes. In a binder. On my desktop. If you know what I mean.
This list is only of projects into which a serious amount of work has been done – in the case of the play, a serious effort into making sure I had a place to perform it when it gets finished. Thus, you won’t see much on some major projects which will likely follow the superhero novel – like a futuristic law enforcement satire and an offbeat UFO novel – because all I have on them are handfuls of notes.
I should also mention that my offbeat UFO novel has become a meeting place for characters whose main venue failed them. The three principals are; 1) the science writer from Rachel’s Children, 2) the tabloid reporter from Trust (who also has a cameo in Zmblgf), and 3) the protagonist from The Mushroom Shift. Because a good writer never throws anything – or anyone – away.
I’m also thinking of writing a novel and posting each day’s actual work (or lack thereof) at some point in the future. Don’t know which one it will be, or if I’ll even go through with it. But it’s an interesting notion, isn’t it?
(Actually, I do have an idea of which book it might be – but I’m not ready to talk about it yet. And no, it’s nothing that has ever been mentioned in these pages…)
Meantime, the big struggle right now is to find the time and energy to answer my e-mail every Saturday.
NP – Stan Ridgway, Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs