An ancient game of chance and Fate. One boy's smoldering hate, another boy's need to make things right, and a father's ghosts of Vietnam past. These are the key players in this latest tale of revenge and reparation performed on the stage of the strange Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, NY.
The Man in Yellow
Tahawus is a small, isolated Adirondack town just north of Clifton Heights. A quiet place filled with simple people of an ardent faith, nothing much ever happens there...until the man in yellow comes calling. He knows your worst nightmares, and he can offer your fondest wish. All you need is faith...and a mouth from which to scream.
Okay, now that we've started this post off on a good note, let's get down to the nitty gritty...
It finally happened yesterday. I received my official Publishers Weekly review and critique of DOWN IN THE DARK, as part of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
Suffice to say it wasn't kind. I still have to get my official scoring, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that, based on PW's review, my run in the ABNA contest is soon coming to a close.
And you know what?
I'm totally okay with that. First of all, I just happened to finish a draft of the novel as the deadline for entering drew near. So I figured: "Why not?" Second of all - and most importantly - are the circumstances surrounding this novel. DOWN IN THE DARK came about through a series of pitches to a New York Publishing House editor. It initially began as something completely different. Through many changes, after it finally evolved into a weird western featuring Billy the Kid, the editor said those words all writers ultimately fear: "I love it, but the sales team doesn't get it."
BUT, because I had an outline, a workable idea, and a novel I could actually see through to the end, I decided: "Heck with it. I'm writing this." I'm not gonna lie; writing the novel hasn't come easily for me. At the time I felt that, published or not, this was an experience I desperately needed: to finish a novel.
And I did. The thing is, much as I enjoyed writing it, one little thought kept popping up in the back of my head: is this a "Kevin Lucia" kinda novel? A Weird Western featuring a demon-killing Billy the Kid is pretty far removed from anything I'd ever planned on writing. There's a story that before HEART-SHAPED BOX, Joe Hill wrote a 900 page fantasy novel he couldn't sell to anyone. That, and I've often heard it said that you really need to write a "bad" novel before you can write a good one.
Plus: this ain't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be hard. This is probably the biggest beef I have with self-publishing and small small presses (another blog for another time) is that it's become far too easy to publish the very first thing you finish, which maybe shouldn't be published at all. Maybe this novel shouldn't see the light of day.
That, and I've spent the last two years hearing nothing but very nice things about my writing. Regardless of whether or not this review is credible...writers need to hear things like this, occasionally. Especially new writers like me. We can't get so used to hearing how awesome we are, all the time.
I'm not giving up on the novel, however. Folks have been very supportive on Facebook, and seasoned professionals have been very frank in sharing their perspectives regarding PW in particular, and reviews in general. Their word carries a lot of weight with me. Plus, I spent two years and a lot of hours writing this sucker. I'm certainly not going to toss it because of PW's review.
What I AM going to do is this: finish my solicited serial novella for The Midnight Diner (more on that later). Work on another novel I want to submit elsewhere. Then, go back into DOWN IN THE DARK, smooth some things out, and put it before a rabid pack of beta readers I've come to trust completely. I'm going to keep writing, as always. Keep moving forward, keep getting better.
Because in the end, that's all you can do.