I finished The Spanish Bride yesterday.  Two marathon sessions, Saturday and Sunday, got me through the last four chapters.  The last two ended up needing major reconstruction.  About a week or two ago I realized I needed one more plot thread, which required me to bounce back and forth throughout the body of the novel to insert the necessary connective tissue.

But it’s done.  Donna will go through it once more for nits to pick, but that should only take a week or two, then the last pass to straighten out typoes and such, and off it goes to my agent.

Normally in the aftermath of a novel I go through a bout of major house cleaning.  It needs it, to be sure, as I haven’t actually finished writing a novel now for almost four years.  I’ve gone from one to the next to the next to this one in a constant stream of wordcraft, with barely a break between.

I have, therefore, four novel projects now ready.  My agent has three of them.

First, for anyone wondering, there is a new Secantis novel.  It’s called Ghost Transit and it is complete and it is in the hands of an editor.  Should he take it, I have hopes it will be as part of a two or three-book deal and I have two more Secantis novels in the planning stages.  (I had every intention of writing a follow-up to Peace & Memory, which would have been the only direct sequel to any of the books, but the whole MeishaMerlin implosion scotched that idea.  I’d still like to do it.)

Secondly, there is a big walloping alternate history called Orleans, which is the first book of a planned trilogy.  It is set in the 1920s, in French America—one premise being that Napoleon kept Louisiana.  There are many cool things in this book and I very much wish to see it published and get the chance to do the next two books.

Thirdly, there is a space opera completely independent of the Secantis Sequence called Under Athena’s Eye, which was begun at the request of an editor, but did not pass muster.  However, I did more than a hundred pages of it and I liked the premise, so I intend to finish it.  This is the only project that is making the rounds incomplete.  A hundred pages and the outline.  It would be a stand-alone, but you never know how the unconscious works, it’s possible to do sequels to damn near anything.

Now we have The Spanish Bride, which is pretty much straight historical.  Ostensibly, there is a murder mystery in it, though honestly I’m not sure how much of a mystery it actually is, but there it is.  Something of a thriller.  I’m hoping it attracts enough interest that it becomes a series.  I have at least two more books planned in some detail and a concept that would see it through perhaps ten books.  It begins in 1780 and I decided that if I do a series it would go to 1821—Missouri statehood.  In that timeframe, there are numerous historical characters I can use, including Daniel Boone, Manuel Lisa, Aaron Burr, James Wilkenson.  I don’t even have to leave it set in St. Louis—in fact, the third book will largely take place in Pittsburgh.

There are a few other projects I’d like to do, but I’ve decided to stop here for now.  I need a sale.  I need a contract.  I need to know which direction I’ll be going next.  It would be nice to believe I can do all these projects, and in fact I probably can, but I had best not add any new ones to the list.

This is a strange feeling for me.  I won’t be starting a new novel after this until I hear something positive about the others.  In a way, this may be detrimental, but right at the moment I must confess to being thoroughly exhausted.  There are other aspects to my life that need tending to—not least of which is trying to find a new job, with better income than I now have, because I must be realistic about my prospects.  It is conceivable that I can strong-arm my career to the place I want it, but I thought that was going to happen five years ago and everything basically fell apart.

The simple fact is, I’m discouraged.  I’ve completed this novel by dint of sheer will power and stubbornness, practicing a kind of Zen self-obfuscation, ignoring the little demon on my shoulder telling me it’s pointless.  Being too much a realist can be detrimental to a creative process.  But this is the thing I wish to do.  I am satisfied at this point that the four projects previously outlined are good enough to accomplish this, that starting a fifth one right now would do little to advance my situation.

Now, before I get all moribund and morose, let me say that all of this is conditional.  I’ve quit before and it never took.  I’m not quitting now, I’m just taking a strategic break in order to assess my prospects and take care of some other much needed details.

Like cleaning my office and my house.  Like finding a more immediate source of better income.  Like dealing with the Missouri Center for the Book, which is doing fairly well at the moment.

But mainly I need to put my life in order and get happy.  I can’t say I’m particularly happy right now.  I’m not miserable, but I’ve fallen into the trap of using temporary distractions in lieu of real living.  This is part of the novel-writing process, it’s nothing new.  But usually I finish the damn book and go do something else.  As I said, I haven’t finished writing novels now for four years.

But right now I’m sitting here composing this instead of beginning the chores.  They’ll keep.  This feels more important just now.

One project looming, which may turn out to be nothing, is a short story collection from a new local small press.  I met the owner/editor a month or so ago and she is enthusiastic.  She knew my name and we talked about the possibility of a project, so I’m going to look into it.  I have a few short stories that probably fall outside the scope of the main body of my work, so it would be interesting to do something like this.  A couple of the stories would be new, previously unpublished.  We’ll see.

I’m more than a little ambivalent about the future just now.  It’ll pass.  This is just me being brain-fried from this extended period of work.  Give me a few weeks and other things to do and I’ll get back in shape.

Since about 1982, though, being a writer is about the only ambition I’ve had beyond being a good companion to Donna.  I’ve put so much into it that I can’t really see anything else.  Hence the career counselor I’ve been seeing.  Publishing is fickle.  Even if I get a new publisher, there is no guarantee that things won’t turn out the same way again.  I need something else.  But it’s hard to even consider it.  I’ll get The Spanish Bride into shape, send it off, and wait.  Maybe I won’t have to do anything else.

I’d really like people to see all this work, though.  I’m very proud of it and it won’t do any one any good sitting in a drawer (or a hard drive) unpublished.

Published by Mark Tiedemann