A Sh*thead Writer’s Post-Mortem – Sizing Up The “Finished” Product

Good Morning, fellow Sh*theads! In my subjective universe that qualifies as a greeting, not an insult. If you take offense to it I apologize, but you were forewarned about Sh*theads and my definition thereof previously. For those of you that are new to “Random Musings,” or those of you that are in need of a refresher course on my psuedo-insanity, a Sh*thead is pretty much anyone that leads a relatively normal, nine to five existence, myself included. That’s it. Not exactly earth shattering, huh?

I say “relatively” because there is a gray area. Take me, for example. I have a full time job. I am a homeowner. I have a wife, two human children and two feline ones. I have favorite television shows and movies, favorite books and websites. I kinda’ have a bedtime though lately, that bedtime has fluctuated between roughly 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM. I occasionally drink and catch a smoke. Normal, right?

On the surface? Yes. But beneath the surface, my life is anything but normal. I’m trying to complete and publish a novel. I’m grappling with certain events that are poised to transpire within the next few weeks–events which I will not go into on this blog. There are some things about me that I don’t mind putting out there… out here for the world to see but others? They are for me, and me alone to contend with. That said…

My always perplexed mind has been highly preoccupied these last few weeks. I wouldn’t say “vexed.” I don’t know that I’m vexed by anything but preoccupied? Most definitely. You see, this whole novel writing, rewriting, re-rewriting and re-re-rewriting process has been equal parts invigorating and taxing. Invigorating because I’m doing what I love with a story idea that remains as much a part of my heart, soul and mind as my wife and my children. But taxing because so much has changed since I originally wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel almost two decades ago. Getting back into the mind(s) of the character(s) is, at times, incredibly difficult.

Consider: The novel’s protagonist, William MacNuff is an 18 year old kid on the run from the totalitarian society which holds him, his family, and everyone else under its proverbial boot heel. I’m a 37 year old father staring down 38 with equal parts dread and… well, just dread, living in a democratic society. The fact that the society that William inhabits is a machine run one is not beyond me. The fact that I’ve gone hard-core dystopic and layered in another, more ambitious story on top of (or beneath, depending on your perspective) the original story is not lost on me, either. I know the risk that I am taking, not just with what many would consider outdated subject matter(s) but with scope. Aspiring writers simply don’t write about post-apocalyptic worlds run by robots anymore, and they sure as f*ck don’t write about alternate realities. As for a synthesis of the two? I don’t know that it’s ever been done before. Asimov’s days as a top of the chart author are long past, as is Asimov (RIP), and Multiverse Theory? It is a subject generally left to the Stephen Hawking’s and Michio Kaku’s of the world.

Nowadays? Aspiring authors write about vampires and witches, werewolves and zombies. I hold nothing against them. I would never hold anything against anyone that is trying to perfect and profit from their art. We’re all the same, deep down inside “in places we don’t like to talk about at parties.” (Nicholson? Booyakasha. Respect). You, me, Asimov and Meyer? One. Just because I prefer “Foundation” to the “Twilight” series doesn’t mean that “Twilight” sucks. Look at how much money it’s made. Obviously someone out there likes Edward and Bella’s story. But my tastes remain traditional, reared in the same kind of subject matter that I grew up reading, back when vampires were of the Bram Stoker variety, witches had green skin and black, pointy hats, werewolves were played by Michael Landon (RIP) and “The Walking Dead” wasn’t even a glint in Robert Kirkman’s eye.

Still, there is the problem of a 37 going on 38 year old writing an 18 year old’s story. In the First Person, no less. I thought I’d left things like teen angst and naivete far behind me. But the process of re, re, re… re-imagining ENDWORLD – A Novel has forced me to reexamine it and let me tell you something, guys: Its f*cked up. Really. I’ll admit, I’ve grown quite complacent in my “old” age. It’s been a while since I felt the same kind of emotions that I used to feel back then. That’s not a bad thing, nor is it something that I miss. Far from it: It’s mental evolution, otherwise known as “growing up.” But I can honestly and truthfully say that I believe the book works on many levels as both a testimony to that era of mine and most people’s lives and a testimony to the things and the people that inspire me, presently. Nicole? Cara? Natalie? ‘Dorna and Roxy? Booyakasha. Respect. I love you all.

Others will disagree–it’s inevitable–but I feel confidant that the story that I set out to write originally at 18–back when I and my brethren lived on a two square mile plot of prison ground that we endearingly referred to as “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else–is well-preserved within the framework of the story that I ended up writing at 36 and 37. There’s still an echo of my original motivation… my original concept of an “Autobiographical Fiction” in it, but it’s only an echo. One of Pat McClane’s ethereal “haints.” Like randomly hearing a song that you haven’t heard in a couple of decades and smiling, despite the fact that the person you were… the person who once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…attached so much significance to said song no longer exists as anything other than a memory: A fading, mental picture of a lovelorn, pre-adult who set out to fictionalize in words the life he wanted to live because he was disenchanted with the one that he was living. That ripped and yellowing picture? It was captioned “Endworld.” ENDWORLD – A Novel, though? It’s a JPEG. And while I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old, captioned picture that I keep right here and right here 

[POINTS SIMULTANEOUSLY TO HIS HEART AND HEAD]

…despite its physical, nonexistence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of being, it is no longer relevant. That’s not to say that the JPEG is. I’ll let the people that chose to read ENDWORLD – A Novel decide that. What’s the worst that can happen? I put it out there, people read it and hate it? Not everyone is going to like it. Hell, not all of my Beta readers liked it though in my defense, very few have yet read what I hope will be the final, final draft. Any of you reading this right now that are afraid of what my reaction will be if you read it and tell me that it stinks take heart: You can. Me = Mentally strong like bull. My ego is lead-lined. Or Black Shale lined if you’re an ex-pat member of the People’s Rebellion for Freedom and Equality (PRFE for short). But I digress. I don’t want to give away too much, too soon. That said…

It’s a gray and dreary afternoon here on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The wind is howling, the rain is falling and soon, said rain will begin transitioning to snow. You’ve gotta’ love a good winter storm–this one is called “Saturn.” I hope the snow holds off until after I’ve picked up my girls from school and gotten them home safely. I hope it holds off until my wife gets home securely from work later this evening. I don’t really mind a winter storm so long as I’m home for its duration and not out in the middle of it. It puts me in mind of a scene from the planned sequel to ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. In it, the protagonist, William MacNuff has been reunited with his brethren after… well, just after (no spoilers, especially when only a handful of people have read the first book and no one save for me has read what I hope will be the final, final draft). They sit down around a makeshift table in a makeshift tent in the middle of a raging blizzard to eat a “feast” which, by the minimalist and rationing-influenced standards of the PRFE is little more than the proverbial equivalent of bread and water. But the quantity of food available is not the essence of this scene. As the meal progresses, William is brought up to speed on all that he has missed in the last X-amount of X’s. It is, hand’s down, one of if not the most lighthearted scenes, written or planned in what was once called THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. And it remains my favorite, written or planned.

The kicker? It’s a past meets present kinda’ scene. Archetypes of my past turned elements of William’s sit down with archetypes of mine and William’s shared “present.” And despite an initial aversion to each other eventually? They are talking and laughing like old friends. That scene? I like to think that it is metaphorical of my life at this juncture: A healthy dose of the present, influenced occasionally by the past. Why? Because as the Captain of the USS Enterprise once said…

 

Sometimes, being a Sh*thead writer is not enough. Sometimes, you just gotta’ turn to Jean Luc Picard for the right words. Not to mention Will Riker’s reply:

“Speak for yourself, sir. I intend to live forever.”

A healthy dose of cockiness? Will sh*t, guys. That never hurts, either. Stay safe out there, fellow Sh*theads.

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