Recently, I put the untitled Kepler #5 in the can. It needs a rewrite, a little expanding. Add a couple of scenes and maybe draw out the existing ones. But a funny thing happened while I tried to ferment this.
I started outlining #6.
This was a story I had wanted to write years ago when I was convinced I was the next Dennis Lehane. With the events of this most recent story, in which Kepler deals with the consequences of moving to New Orleans a mere four months ahead of Katrina, I realized I left him in the perfect position for that sixth story, one actually written from another character’s point of view.
During the original run, I had planned to write Kepler #4 in close third person, detaching the reader a bit and showing Nick’s withdrawal as more and more bad things happen to him. Never did get that story to work. #5 would have been in dramatic third. Nick is totally cut off from the reader and lands in an all-is-lost situation.
And then I stopped writing for a while. When I came back, I wrote Gypsy’s Kiss, soon to be out as a combined book with The Compleat Kepler, as a way to give the character closure. At one point, I had even killed him off (writing in first person, no less. It’s pretty clear the last thing he says in the book would have been his last words. Period.) I was talked out of that.
So Nick lived, traipsing off to New Orleans for a new life of not peeping in windows, living with Gypsy and not really having to work. My wife, whom I didn’t know when I wrote Gypsy’s Kiss, said she loved Nick and wanted more. And if it wasn’t for her, I would never write another line about him. I was done. The thought of a new Kepler, hell, even the old ones, made me prefer rubbing sandpaper on my eyeballs. I was so done with the character.
My wife is, if anything, very persuasive. And I had just listened to an audioboook on how Jonestown was a tragedy that 1.) could have gone the other way, and 2.) never had to happen. A character, with a callback to Bad Religion, popped into my head, and off I went. Between a cult in the Bayou and the worst storm ever to hit the United States, Nick loses everything. Or at least thinks he does.
That left the perfect time for someone to go looking for him. The outline is in progress now, and I can’t believe I’m doing this without any idea of where to send out or even if. I’m just having fun for once.
Back in the day, when it looked like I might have had a career, a lot of established writers told me I should drop Kepler. It went to a small press that imploded. No publisher would want it. I was wasting my time.
Well, most of the advice I got back then turned out to be bad advice. (Yes, some of you know who you are. You meant well, but it didn’t translate into success, did it?) When I finally sent Holland Bay to New York sans agent last year, I had finally mastered the subtle art of not giving a fuck (Great book. You should read it.) Here’s an opportunity. Throw it in an envelope and send to the right person. If it doesn’t sell, oh, well.
So now, I write for me. Period. You may dispute that as I handed Clayborn Press the existing Kepler books for resale, but again, I am beyond caring at this point. I write for me. Yes, I plan to get this to as wide an audience as possible. But I’m done spending money I don’t have on Bouchercon and chasing deals that never materialize. If it happens, wonderful. If not, well, I’ll have a body of work I’m proud of. It’s not like I’d ever set foot in an awards ceremony anyway. Sure, they’re an honor, but they’re also a pain in the ass that offends my inner introvert to the core.