Crossroad in my Head- or, What Would the Count of Monte Cristo Do?
Posted by Will
This week my third online story from the Lands of Hope hits the ethereal shelves. When “Fencing Reputation” goes live I will have reached a goal I set myself back in January, to put three of my tales out to the world this year. And it’s been a fantastic experience.
I think back to how low I felt then, dragging around this enormous manuscript and trying to get an agent’s attention the old-fashioned way. I even sent a few letters on paper! IN ENVELOPES WITH STAMPS! And I have a couple of quaint, old-fashioned paper form-rejection letters to show for it, along with a few dozen one-liner rejection emails in my queue… somewhere…
Point is, I was very depressed; putting the chronicle of the Lands on paper made me happy, I couldn’t wait to get some free time to do more. But just one month spent chasing representation had drained that happiness away like the dregs of my bathtub, complete with the alarming low-gurgle sound at the end. Chasing the dim hope of an agent’s attention was like being in prison (he said, the way people who’ve never been in jail often do).
But if you keep going, you get better; I meet a great group of online authors trying to improve via mutual critique/chat/grousing, and my first week onboard I see a thread about New Year’s Resolutions… Poof! Six months gone in a flash, and here I am with resolution fulfilled. Did not honestly think I would make it (maybe one, I figured). So once again I’m feeling pretty good.
Along the way I discovered I have a book on my phone. I was trying to learn about e-pub, and somehow my smartphone (which is definitely smarter than I am) showed me I had downloaded a free book from the Kindle store. And not just any book, that deathless classic “The Count of Monte Cristo”. I read it again (tenth time?) start to finish, as I chronicled and learned and exchanged thoughts and encouragement with my new friends. And the parallels were everywhere. What were my sufferings compared to those of Edmond Dantes? My newfound wiser friends guided me, like the Abbe Faria, out of the horrid dungeon of the Chateau d’If into the light. And in finding my voice, in publishing on my own however humbly, I truly felt as if I had risen to wealth and power beyond mortal imagining. I’m more fortunate than Edmond Dantes in another respect- I have no enemies on which to take an unspeakable revenge. Though on second thought, some of those agents were a bit smarmy…
The question this week for me, as I take a small break to visit everywhere from Vermont to South Africa, is- where next?
I have begun the series “Shards of Light” and the next tale “Perilous Embraces” beckons me. I also have the germ of a novel idea, actually the first half of a novel for which the LAST half is already drafted and done; who wouldn’t want to write a story Merlin-like, from back to front? And then there’s always the monolith of my epic fantasy novel “Judgement’s Tale”, looming like a shadow over my future and patiently waiting for me to bring back the skills I’ve learned. Ooh, dramatic.
Don’t worry, I’m not planning to put it to a vote. “Perilous Embraces” is about a woman considered the most beautiful in the city, and my inner voice tells me I have to really think about what I want here. The backwards novel involves a slew of heroes, I mean a boatload, so it would be like “Game of Thrones” except without such a high concentration of jerks. And “Judgement’s Tale” would involve an enormous demand on my critique partners; it’s 202k words and I don’t believe it will get much shorter on the polish.
So what am I saying? I’m saying I need a vacation to think, pausing here at this lovely crossroads in a quiet glade deep inside my mind. Three paths lead onward, only one retreats. One thing I know for sure, I won’t be here long. And I’m never going back. Thanks to luck, perseverance and the saving grace of good friends, I am a chronicler now, until the day I die most likely. Happy days are here again for me. And I wish the very best to all of you, struggling writers (or, if you’ve bought one of my tales, struggling readers). If you keep going you get better.
And I have just finished re-reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” once more; the advice at the end is as good as it ever was: Wait and Hope.
See you on the other side of the glade.