Monthly Archives: August 2016

From Darkness, Light?

from-darkness-to-light

This past weekend, I was driving on a two-lane stretch of Route 41, surrounded by vast empty fields and punctuated by the occasional warehouse or farm. It was around 7 o’clock. The light of the day was starting to wane and most drivers were on their way home, either near or far. I noticed that a few of the cars in front of me swerved to avoid something in the road, something black and curved. A blown out tire perhaps. But as I got closer, I saw that it was moving. That is was in fact a black dog. It had been hit. It was dying.

My stomach clenched up as the heat of shock rushed over my skin. A million thoughts raced through my mind: Should I turn around? There were a lot of cars on the road, and no safe place to turn around. But how could I leave the dog back there alone and suffering? And once I got back to the dog, how would I even get to it without getting hit myself? And even if I did miraculously get the dog out of the road, what could I do for it? I wasn’t equipped to put it out of it’s misery. I didn’t have a gun or a syringe of cyanide. We were hours away from any emergency vet clinic. There was nothing I could do.

I kept driving.

Over the next twenty minutes, I saw both a dead striped cat and a dead gray dog on the side of the road. I was grateful when it got too dark to see anything except the other cars.

I was a wreck for the rest of my three hour drive home, looping through a series of crying jags as I tried to shake the vision of that dog from my mind, and assuring my own black dog curled up in the backseat that I will always look after her. That I will keep her safe.

My sixteen year old cat is in slow decline. My fourteen year old dog recently had a health scare that smacked me across the face with the reminder that she is getting old. The father of someone very dear to me is losing his battle with numerous ailments to the point where he must be spoon-fed most of his meals — that is, when they can get him to eat.

And then I saw that dog in the road. Several days later, in quiet moments, I keep catching myself thinking  I should have done something.

It is difficult not to be affected by this sense of death lurking around the corner, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk. A friend suggested that I find a way to celebrate life. Start a new creative project. Adopt a kitten. Foster a puppy. While the two animals I already have certainly will not allow the addition of a third, my friend was on to something. This is why people have children. Make art. Write novels. To celebrate life. To create something that will live beyond death.

So. Perhaps it’s time to start my next novel.

Plotting to End It All

You know that melancholy feeling when you come to the end of a beloved book, one that has made you laugh and cry and stay up way too late contemplating the very nature of humanity? You know that feeling when you want to tear through the last few chapters to find out what happens, but you never want the story to end, never want to leave the people and world you’ve come to care so much about?

the-end

And then there’s that feeling that comes when you invest your time, your heart and your head into a great book that abruptly jumps the shark in the eleventh hour, leaving you frustrated and disappointed. This can come in the form of the classic Hollywood ending, where everything falls unnaturally into place. Not to pick on Wally Lamb again, but (**SPOILER ALERT**) I poured through the nearly 800 pages of mental health issues, suicide, professional failure, break ups, and family mysteries in I Know This Much Is True, only to come to an ending where the hero reunites with his estranged barren wife, adopts the miraculously HIV-free baby from his dying AIDS-infected ex-girlfriend, and then finds out he is in fact just Native American enough to share in a large financial settlement between the government and a local tribe. Ka-pow!

And then there are those torturous novels that offer no resolution at all (I’m looking at you, The Little Friend).

I hate those books for making me love them until they reveal their true nature. They are teases, players.

I never want to read those books. I never want to write them either.

Having said all of this, crafting a completely satisfying ending to your own beloved book is damn hard.

I have struggled with the ending of my novel, or at least the pacing for it. The overall feedback from my writers’ group and beta readers is that while the end felt satisfying and appropriate, things are resolved a tad too quickly. So I decided to add a brief flash forward to give the reader a peek view of the story that hypothetically continues on long after the book ends. Generally speaking, I am not a fan of epilogues and avoided the device here, but wanted to show just enough of the future for readers to draw their own conclusions. Because one of the best things about reading a novel is that you get to speculate over what comes after the novel ends.

I submitted Draft #4 of my novel in its entirety to my writers’ group three days ago. We will hold a special meeting to discuss the manuscript in two months’ time. Breath held and fingers crossed, I will bide my time attempting to write something, anything else. Wish me luck.