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Free Fall


I’ve had some pretty scary times over the last decade or so.

I was once, for fifteen terrifying minutes, in command of a navy frigate on the Atlantic ocean. Me, alone, giving steering directions to the sailor on the helm. There were in excess of 250 people onboard.

I once found myself booted out of my home in the pale twilight of an otherwise ordinary Sunday afternoon, lamb roast in the oven, washing on the line. I had nothing but my clothes, my cat, $400 and a divorce on the horizon to claim as my own.

I teach young people for money. If that alone isn’t nervous-breakdown worthy, I don’t know what is.

But I’m putting it out there; the moment someone you care about and respect sits down to read your fiction manuscript for the first time inspires a fear unlike all others.

It’s one of the deepest kinds of fear. It’s a personal, bodily terror. Because having the responsibility for the lives of 250 people on a ship on the ocean – I’m not sure that really says much about my soul. Being dumped by a loser I was wasting my time with anyway – nope. Doesn’t say anything about my soul. But writing is the song of the soul. And when I give it over for scrutiny, as I have many times now, I fear for the lifeblood of that inner-born sound.

Enough criticisms could strangle the soul-music of a writer. I’m sure of it.

And don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my share. I read a review by some idiot recently that said that if I cut the back story of HADES and focused only on the front, I’d save paper, thereby helping the over-burdened natural environment. Thanks, jerkface.

The criticisms of someone you care about as deeply as I care about my fiancé, my publisher and my agent are different. The assessments of my publisher and agent wait behind email walls, but Tim read my latest manuscript, FALL, in front of me. I curled on the couch and watched him in the armchair over several days, frowning in that stern almost angry way he does at the pages, lips pressed together. Every time he put the book down, I ached. When he asked questions, they stung.

Imagine that this slow-burning terror comes out of a writer who already has a couple of scores on the board. My first two novels have been very successful. It makes me wonder about what criticism from loved ones and mentors does to the voice of young writers whose scoreboard is empty.

I’m pleased to report that the assessments of both publisher and the magnificent Tim are very good. I delighted this morning in watching him devour the last pages, exclaiming with surprise or horror, now and then, as his eyes danced over the lines.

My soul bellows today.

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