When A Book Means Something More

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Some of you may know that on the day I published Chronicles of the Roc Rider, I also lost my best friend. A wonderful person and one of my biggest fans, her passing has been painful to work through in so many ways. There are still several times a week when something occurs to me that makes me think of her. An inside joke, or something she would have loved. Not the least of all this is the bittersweet memories that crop up when I’m considering the direction of my writing career and which project to pursue when the Roc Rider series is complete.

You see, many years before Roc Rider became a reality in my brain waiting to be brought to life, another book/series consumed my every waking thought (and, if we’re being totally honest here, many of my sleeping ones too). My first completed novel, The Legend of Griffinlar, first in an intended four books.

The book was the definition of a passion project. Birthed in the forge of fiery and thunderous inspiration, driven forward through intense drive and will. The first universe of my very own creation, and a story I had high aspirations for.

I worked on it off and on for many years until finally, one college summer,  I decided that if I was ever going to get serious about becoming a published author I needed to finish the book and start getting it out there. The majority of the writing and all the revising and editing was done over the course those three months and by the end of that year, I had finally done it. I had finally finished it.

As the novel had grown and changed over the years, I had shared its incomplete contents with various people. Family, friends and English teachers for the most part. At last the time was nigh to make the leap and submit to agents.

To make a long part of this story short, I submitted it to multiple agents and it was repeatedly rejected for being too long. The story, they said, was interesting but no publisher would ever buy a book of that length by an unpublished author. One or two said they’d be willing to consider it if I could cut the length in half, but that was as close as I came.

I was, as is to be expected, disappointed by this. Even at that point, I had toyed with the idea of independently publishing the book if I couldn’t find a house that was interested, but I was still quite unsure whether it would be a good idea at that point in time. I was left with four choices in regards to The Legend of Griffinlar:

  1. Cut the length by half by winnowing out things from the story. I was convinced that if I did this it would change the story quite significantly and needed to decide if I was okay with that.
  2.  Find a point somewhere in the middle where I could cut the book in half and make two books out of one.
  3.  Independently publish the book.
  4.  Leave it in the proverbial drawer and move on.

Everyone in my life had their own opinion on what I should do. Some were convinced option 1 was the best choice, others looked to option 2 or 3. Basically, no one thought it was a good idea to walk away from the book altogether.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. Why? Well, at the time my research revealed that independently releasing the book wasn’t an option due to its length (this may have changed in the years since). And my mind was at an impasse as to what I wanted to do otherwise.

I never intended to walk away from it permanently. My intention was that I would work on and complete my second novel Coldfire while mulling over what to do about Griffinlar. Then make my decision later, when hopefully I’d have more experience and worldliness to draw from.

Most of the people in my life accepted my decision (even if some of them did shake their heads or roll their eyes at it when they thought I wasn’t looking). But there was one person who was always disappointed by my decision not to continue pursuing the path of Griffinlar. That person was, as you’ve probably guessed by now, my best friend.

I will forever be proud and humbled by the fact that The Legend of Griffinlar touched her so deeply. That she placed it on par with some of her favorites and the greats of the genre for how it made her feel:  Tolkien, Rowling, etc. She was one of the most intelligent women I knew, and she would have held my work up with theirs in a heartbeat.

As time passed and I worked on other books she would always bring it up again. When was I going to start the second book? Why hadn’t I self-published it yet? I’d better not dare cut it in half like the agents had suggested because it was almost perfect the way it was.

The thing is, I always intended to come back and finish the series whether the books got published or not. The story meant that much to me. My other projects were just as exciting to work on. The pragmatic part of my brain told me to work on other ones and build a career first. But I always intended to finish that series, even if it was only so she could read it.

My best friend had cystic fibrosis (CF). In her words, she’d been living with an expiration date since she was diagnosed at ten years old. We all knew she would pass away young, but my young mind always managed to trick me into thinking there was more time. Then one day she told me how long she thought she had left.

The news hit me hard over the course of a week and then, when I thought I had finally processed it, I realized… there wasn’t enough time. Even if I’d quit my day job, left the community theater and devoted all my time to writing, I wouldn’t have been able to finish the series in time for her to read it. That was the day I truly began to appreciate what regret is.

In the end, it wasn’t the CF that ended her life, and my best friend’s death came unexpectedly. We had intended to sit down and I would tell her in detail everything I had planned for the final three books in the Griffinlar series so she would at least know what was supposed to happen. But we were robbed of that as well.

Now, when I think of what book to write after Roc Rider is completed, my mind continually drifts back to Griffinlar. Would it ease a portion of the grief that haunts me if I edit and publish that book and finish the series? Could I still, after all this time, recapture that unique brand of magic that made the first volume so special, or has the moment passed? Would it be some small way to honor her memory and our friendship to finally bring one of her favorite books to the light of day? Or is it best left in the past, as a fond memory of a simpler time?

I don’t know what the right answer is, but it’s a question I’ll be thinking heavily upon, and seeking advice with, as I move into the new year. For while Roc Rider still has a few books to go, the decision of what will come after has, for me, got a lot more complicated.

Thank you for listening, everyone.