I was awakened yesterday afternoon by a phone call from an unfamiliar phone number. I always take calls from unknown, unfamiliar, and blocked phone numbers, preferring to lean toward optimism. Even when it interrupts my incomplete sleep cycle. (As I wrote in an essay in my upcoming release, Time, emiT, and Time Again, I live fairly ‘Unstuck From Time’ and the hours I sleep and wake drift casually around with little regard for the rotation of the Earth. In this instance, I had gone to bed a bit after 10AM and my phone rang a while after 3PM.) I answered the phone as politely as I could.
I do not recall the precise details of the conversation, but it began with a confusion. When the caller insisted that something must be wrong, that Untrue Tales… wasn’t all there, I immediately went into tech-support mode and tried to determine where their problem downloading might be. Soon, as they explained further and my mind wakened more, I realised that what they meant was that the story didn’t have an ending.
Which is correct. Only the first three books of the series are written, so far, and I have plans for at least another four (possibly six) books to complete Trevor’s story. I have been putting off continuing the story for the last several years. Book Four is supposed to be nearly entirely flashback, filling in the story that led to Trevor’s exile on Earth and separation from his true love, and I’ve worried that I won’t do the story justice.
I wrote & published (via Cafepress, originally) Book One in 2004, Book Two in 2005, and Book Three in 2006. In 2007 I began seriously working on starting Modern Evil Press, buying ISBNs, contracting with Lightning Source, and getting several books both in print and available for purchase everywhere. And got married. In 2008 I stopped working a day job and started being a creative full-time, devoting quite a bit of that time to creating audio versions of my existing books and writing Forget What You Can’t Remember and More Lost Memories, which were published on 1/1/2009. In 2009, in response to certain feedback from readers of FWYCR, I spent the better part of the year doing research on zombie novels, then wrote Cheating, Death. Then edited together the Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut for sale as an eBook. So far this year I’ve put out the print edition of LaNF-DC and am nearing completion of this new collection of short stories and essays, Time, emiT, and Time Again. I’ve been busy.
Then, while I was working on Cheating, Death I had a few ideas for an alternate history universe where I could tell at least a few good stories. I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on the period and characters from which I intend to develop these stories from, but the task is far and away the most research-intensive project I’ve ever attempted. (Normally I prefer simply to write the stories and worlds that originate in my own imagination, rather than to attempt to start anywhere near actual history and real people.) So I’ve postponed it a bit, too. In fact, putting together (and expanding) Time, emiT, and Time Again was partially because I suspect that I might not feel ready for the first book to see print by the end of 2010, and I wanted to be sure to put out at least 2 new books this year.
On the other hand, I’ve received my first enthusiastic contact from a fan since Dragons’ Truth also led a few people to ask me if/when there would be a sequel. (My response to that is a question of where, exactly, one might go from the end of Dragons’ Truth. As soon as someone has a reasonable idea, I don’t see any problem with pursuing it.) I know thousands of people have downloaded the eBook and Podiobook versions of each of the three Untrue Tales… books, but the dropoff in readers/listeners from Book Two to Book Three is fairly significant, feedback & reviews are sparse & mixed, and I’ve long suspected that people aren’t getting to the end or don’t like the series very much. The only people who, prior to today, had asked me about continuing the series were people who hadn’t read it yet and were avoiding it because it was unfinished.
Actually, I’ve still been asked more frequently about the description of the fireplace in Book Three than when or whether Book Four will be written. As in: “I really liked the whole series, except for the description of the fireplace in Book Three. What was that about?” That, dear readers, was in the same vein as the entirety of Forget What You Can’t Remember; I was trying to simulate in the reader, via writing style and structure, the experience the character is having – forced on you by the act of reading itself. You like to feel tension and excitement while reading the tense, exciting parts of a thriller. You like to feel as though you are being romanced while reading a romance. I just tried to do the same thing with irritating distraction (in the fireplace), depersonalization disorder, and amnesiac confusion and ethical doubts (in FWYCR).
Yet I’ve now had a great conversation with someone who not only liked the Untrue Tales… books, but is eager and excited to read the rest of the series. Eager enough to look up and call the author’s phone number, to ask about the rest of the story. Which is, in itself, perhaps enough motivation to attempt to squeeze Book Four into my schedule before starting on the alternate history series. At first glance, I think perhaps if I start thinking about it now, I might be able to finish it & publish it by the end of August. Or perhaps September.
Even though I’m not much motivated to write it. I’m a bit distanced from the explicit erotica, violence, and (the core of the thing, which most readers will never notice) the central motivation for the whole project being the satire by exaggeration of the way series like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events were unfolding at the time. Rather than despising such frustratingly written yet inexplicably popular books and wanting to mock them by emulating and exploding them, I just don’t care about them any more. Technically I had already got to that point by the time I published Book Three, but it has been a real stumbling block to the continued writing of the series. I will have to determine whether I can either simulate or replace that motivation, in order to continue the series without drastically altering the storytelling style.
Perhaps this comes down to that question of ‘why’ – Why I write, why I publish, why I do all this work. If I write “for the readers” I’ve got to finish the series. If I publish to be able to write what and how I want to write, I’m fine to go on ignoring it. I think it’s complicated and contains some of both of those (and other factors), which is why I’ve neither written the next book nor taken the first three out of print. I shall continue to think about it, and I’ll see if I can start working on it this summer.