I have to admit that every time I hear “I’m writing a book,” I just laugh inside. Really. I do.
I just don’t believe you.
Part of that is that it seems that everyone is writing a book, but most of that is because, as a professional writer for just shy of 8 years now, I know how hard it is to actually write one, let alone get it published.
Another part of me is that I just don’t believe that that many people have that much to say that is truly worthwhile to read. It reminds me of one of those Demotivator posters:
Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.
And now is when I sheepishly scuff my feet and announce that yes, I too am writing a book.
I’m not sure if what I’m writing or saying has any more meaning or power than what anyone else has written, but I’ve come to understand that it probably doesn’t matter. Being married to an artist has shown me that art really does sometimes exist just because it does. I watch her draw and paint day after day knowing that most of the time her artwork will go into a folder or a notebook. Permanently. Oh it might see the light of day every now and then when a grateful eye longs for it, and there is the small piece that I stole and had framed as a surprise for Christmas, but really… It just goes away.
I think most of the books that are written are much the same. A good friend, Nosurfgirl, has written… four? five? books now. None of them published, each worked over again and again. I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll eventually be published, but what drives her right now? What drives me?
My book, Semdeus, is one I’ve had in the back of my mind for four years now. It eats at me, and even though I’ve only written (and re-written half a dozen times) the first two chapters, the entire plot sits before my eyes. I’ve identified hundreds of characters, outlined dozens of plot twists, fates, and secrets. And each time I touch the book, they all change as I breathe new life into the characters.
At first, it was a book I wanted to write because I could see the potential for a best seller… a movie even, but my goals have shifted down over the years from best seller to cult status, cult status to just published, and now? I just want to finish it now. Like a piece of art, I think I’d be happy to see it written, closed, and set aside waiting for the truly grateful eye. If it were published, great, but that’s not what writing this books is about anymore.
Last night, I sat down to work on it yet again for the first time in almost a year. I read through the dozens of pages written and then I pressed the delete key. This was written back when the characters were neither alive nor dead. They just were. Hollow shells created by the point of a pen or, in my case, individual strokes on the keyboard. And then I began the painful process of rewriting it all. Nosurfgirl warned me that that would come, and I kept trying to salvage what I could, but each salvation pulled all the old problems. In the end, I kept exactly one line, and one line only.
Nothing else truly told the story.
But because some art deserves to be framed, even if the only critic is myself, I’ve decided to post the Prologue here. Why?
Because I’m writing a book.
… … … … … … …
I can’t bring life through drowning, she thought, and yet… here I am.
It wouldn’t really be all that long of a drop. Not that long at all. Over in a few seconds and then maybe a few more until true unconsciousness set in. Or maybe, I wouldn’t be unconscious at all… What then?
She’d heard stories of what it was like to drown; gasping for air as the water flooded your lungs, choking you even if you did manage to break the surface. Would I resist? Would instinct make me fight? Could I possibly be strong enough to give in when every part of me screamed to breathe?
The drop from the bluff to the pulsing ocean below was only a few hundred feet at most, but it wasn’t the drop that worried her. Lynnia was far more concerned as to what the drop would do to her unborn child. No… a son. My child is a boy. I’ve come to kill my son.
And she had.
Death was never the intent of the fall. Oh no. Her true intention had always been to kill her child. Lynnia had known this day would come from the moment of conception, and though she’d been preparing herself for this moment since then, she found herself scanning the sea for hope among the currents. Peace among the waves.
Solitude in her misery.
The setting sun cast its fervent gaze across the cliff face where gulls and other seabirds built their nests away from the threat of predation. The irony was not lost on Lynnia. You’ve come here to raise your young in peace, and I’ve come to end mine. And both for the right reasons.
In and out the birds flew, always carrying something back home. Kelp, mussels, maybe even a clam. Sometimes even trash that swept ashore on the crashing waves. Innocent poisons carried home to their young despite their best intentions. The little ones would gulp it down always trusting that what was brought home must be good and then clamoring for more before it had even begun to settle in their bellies. So much trust placed in parents who truly had no idea what they were doing.
Like me, thought Lynnia. Except she did know what she was doing, and she knew it was right and necessary. One life given that many more would not suffer a terrible fate in his hands.
The breeze was stiff on the cliff face, lifting the birds higher. It told of faraway lands, tropical by the scent of it, but nothing she’d ever seen or dared hope for. Her desert prison had never yielded a prize so simple as a fruit. Only sand, rocks, and the debris of ships wrecked in the channel. And of course my son.
But she had to give that back.
Even if the drop doesn’t kill me, maybe it’ll at least kill my son. What a horrible thought, and could she ever really live knowing that she had given up the only thing left that she truly treasured? No, better the sea take both her and her son.
Her mind dwelt on the twisted fate of conceiving, carrying a child to full term, and then giving him back unborn. So much wasted effort. Not that she minded. Lynnia knew she’d never bear the child, knew that she couldn’t; each day was nothing more than potentially the last day she’d be able to consider herself a mother. And though she promised herself each day that today would be the day, that today will be the day that motherhood ends, she never could do it.
The path to the cliff face was worn by the thousands of individual steps, all her own, worn through the scrub and moss each evening as she made her way to the cliff face. Each evening, she passed stones she could have known by name if she could have seen them through her tears. ”Good evening, Lynnia. Come to die today?” they might have asked had she stopped. Had she not been so preoccupied. “It’s a nice night to die, Lynnia, but I wonder if you’ll ever do it. You don’t quite seem the type.”
Yes, she responded. I will because I must.
And she stepped over the edge.