Whew...it's done. At least the first stage. At 3:00 a.m. last night, I typed "THE END" on NIKOLAI THE PENITENT. Took nearly nine months to get here, and what a journey it's been. In these nine months, I re-aquired the rights to all of my books from my previous publisher, re-edited and re-released them myself, I helped several friends and partners launch The Crossover Alliance, BEAST was released by TCA, and I've been taking care of my wife who is pregnant with our third child. It would be nice to have a quaint writing cabin in the woods where I could be alone with my imagination for as long as I needed, but no - life happens and you have to write when you can.
Let's go back to the beginning. How did it all start? The seed for NtP was planted in my mind nearly three years ago, when I was still living in China. I had just started working on CYN, but I was already anticipating my next projects. I knew that after CYN I wanted to write a macho action/disaster story (which would materialize as BEAST) but I didn't have any plans beyond that.
While in China, I worked as an English teacher at a local college, and to get there, I had to take three buses and a boat - one way. I did a lot of reading on those bus and boat trips. On one such trip, I was reading a free book that I had downloaded from Project Gutenberg. It was called The Black Death and the Dancing Mania by Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker and was originally published in 1888. I don't know why I downloaded it, but it was a fascinating read. I vividly remember when I came to the part in the book that talked about the Flagellants, groups of men and women who would wander from town to town beating themselves in atonement for their sins and those of the townspeople. What started out as a pious, devout underground movement soon became a scourge that spread throughout Europe, upending the local churches and behaving in very un-Christian ways. These people were essentially rock stars when they came to town, and they acted like it.
When I read this passage, the spark was lit. I knew right then that I was going to write a book about these people. Some time later, the title NIKOLAI THE PENITENT: A NOVEL OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE CROSS popped into my head and it stuck. I let this idea simmer on the back burner, because I had to finish CYN and write BEAST. I finished BEAST earlier this year in January and sent it to the editor, and we worked on it for the first few months while I was writing NtP. After BEAST was released in September, I really turned up the heat and wrote almost every night, usually 500-1000 words. Any veteran writer will tell you that a steady pace is essential to completing a manuscript, and I really had to discipline myself. Since this was such a challenging story, it didn't flow out of me like THE AGE OF APOLLYON or CYN. I had to do a lot of reading and research and watched several programs and documentaries because I wanted it to be historically accurate. I couldn't just conjure up everything from my imagination. Of course, I took several liberties (particularly with one important historical event) but it had to be grounded in reality. This slowed my pace but I relished the challenge.
Now, more than 98,000 words later, I am proud to say that I did it. I thought writing BEAST was tough, but that was a walk in the park compared to this. This is just the first draft though - the real bummer is in the editing. I'm going to make two passes through the manuscript before handing it off to the editor who worked on BEAST.
However, that's down the road. I am not even going to look at NtP for a couple of weeks. When I finish a first draft, I always put it away for a little while. It's important to let your mind refresh itself before starting the editing process. Fresh eyes can spot things that tired ones cannot.
This does not mean that I won't be writing, though. I'm feeling another installment in THE JERUSALEM CHRONICLES bubbling to the surface... We'll see. For now, I'm just happy that I made it through the construction of my seventh book, and I am absolutely certain that it will be my best yet. If you've read any of my books before, you know I don't play it safe, and NtP is going to be a brutal read. Look for a summer 2016 release date.
So for now, Merry Christmas, and God bless!