There are some moments in life that are worth celebrating. Marriage. The birth of a child. The big promotion. Getting that goiter removed. For me, I have tremendous cause for celebration because my second novel, The Case of the Wayward Fae ~ A Chronicle of Mister Marmee, was released on December 7, 2013, just in time for the Christmas holiday. I know, I know. We are two months past the release date, and I am only now getting around to posting about it on my blog. I never said I was the best PR person in the business or very good at marketing in general.
The truth of the matter is, it felt like the release day would never get here. Not the announcement part….the release part. The journey to bringing The Case of the Wayward Fae was a hard one. It was paved with sweat, as one would expect, but it was also paved with pieces of my shattered heart.
I suppose every novel can be described as a labor of love, but for this novel, it could not be more true. As most readers will discover when they reach the conclusion of this adventure, tucked within the ‘Thank You’ at the end of the book, is the soft, nuggety truth behind this story. The Case of the Wayward Fae might never have been completed. At least not for a long, long time. I know. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it is true.
My real-life Sir Happy Heart…my inspiration for the dachshund detective in the Chronicles of Mister Marmee…passed away February 19, 2013 before I had completed the novel. I was roughly two thirds of the way through the manuscript when my world was shattered by his loss. His death was not a peaceful one, at least not peaceful for my heart, and I did not know if I would be able to finish the story that had begun so joyfully with him laying by my side. Every time I looked at my computer, the brittle pieces of heart that I had managed to gingerly pull back together fell apart once again. I could not write the words without feeling the emptiness on the bed beside me.
The voice of the story seemed to die with my boy as if he held in his tender paw the key to it all. There was silence in my head and in my heart. No words would come to me. There was an emptiness in me that defied expression. I wondered if I would ever hear the rich tones of Sir Happy Heart’s and Mister Marmee’s voices in my mind again; there distinct Bristish accents bantering back and forth. I wondered if my heart could bear to hear them. I often wondered if my heart could bear their crushing silence.
It took time, but in the aftermath of my loss, I found my way back to Victorian London. Slowly, the ending of the story took shape, and miraculously, I found my way to the last word of the final chapter. But it was months…MONTHS before I could bring myself to touch the novel for editing. My heart was too broken. Too shattered. There were too many eerie parallels between the story I had written and what had happened when I had lost my boy. The parallels were unintended and were written when my world was whole and full of happiness and the sounds of my real-life Sir Happy Heart. After he was gone, I found every excuse under the sun NOT to touch the manuscript again. I even cleaned out my fridge. Who does that unless it is out of sheer desperation or under direct order from the Centers for Disease Control?
I found a lovely program called SmartEdit that enabled me to begin the process of editing my novel in a more clinical way. I lanced the adverbs and slashed the repetition. I boiled the clichés and the bad word usage right out of my novel without ever breaking a sweat or shedding a tear. It took the sting out of the emotional prose I had written and turned them into cold text that I could analyze without breaking my heart over and over again. It gave me time to heal. Then, when I was ready, I read my story.
This time I cried; not because my heart was broken from the loss of my boy but because I felt the triumph of seeing him once more gallivant across the page. The characteristics that made me love him in life were captured in all their charming glory. He was not lost to me. He was alive again in the pages of my book. Oh yes, I cut and pasted and bled upon the pages, “killing the little darlings” I had worked so hard to write over the two years of this book’s creation. I would be lying if I said my words came out perfect the first time, but even in their imperfection, I could see him. My Sir Happy Heart. The little tenacious boy I love still. Though I miss him as much today as I did the moment he left me, I feel a comfort in knowing he is near me once again as I write.
In fact, one of the reasons why it has taken me so long to make this post is the fact the voices of Sir Happy Heart and Mister Marmee have been hounding me with a vengeance. The third installment of the Chronicles of Mister Marmee is well on its way. The Christmas holiday proved very productive and gave the story a boost I could only have dreamed of.
The Case of the Monkey’s Misfortune is proving to be a fun adventure and every bit as unexpected as the first two novels. I cannot wait to see where the story will take me to next. The one thing I know for certain, above all other truths. No matter where the story leads, Sir Happy will be with me, walking by my side through each and every word. Wherever we end up, I know now we will journey there together, just as we always did.
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