On the coast of Ecuador lies a little town called Same. (In Spanish, it’s pronounced with two syllables: sah-meh.) Although Same boasts a lovely beach, it’s also disfigured by one of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen.
Someone once planned to build a resort on the Same beach, and construction began of a huge hotel. That plan failed. I don’t know the details. The half-finished building looms over the beach, pathetic, silent, empty: a vacant shell of weathered concrete and rusted metal.
I hate to think how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested in this aborted hotel. The sight is an ugly one, and unspeakably sad. Someone’s dream died. The ruin isn’t merely an unfinished building. It’s a tombstone. A monument to failure.
That reminds me of something. Something personal.
When I was a kid, I decided to write a trilogy of fantasy novels. In high school, I started a story about a college student named Lance Eliot. At first it was nothing more than a shallow tale of journeys and dragons and sundry fantasy clichés. Early on, it even featured steampunk airships and motorcycles!
Years passed. More than once, I gave up on Lance Eliot and worked on something else. I wrote a couple of detective stories. (In a truly unexpected turn of events, one of them earned a scholarship that paid much of my college tuition!) I tried writing a crime novel. In the end, however, I always came back to Lance Eliot’s journey.
My silly story about swords and sorcerers became something more meaningful: the journey of a man searching for something—the trials of a traveler longing for home—the awakening of a hero from within a selfish, cynical coward. Of course, I kept the magic and dragons and people getting drunk. Lance Eliot’s story remained a fantasy.
It’s not a great story. I know that, but I hope it’s a good one. It has certainly become the most intensely personal project I’ve ever undertaken as a writer. I may not smoke or drink or use dated British idioms, but Lance Eliot and I are very nearly the same person.
It took four attempts over five years, but I finally finished the first part of Lance’s story: The Trials of Lance Eliot. A kindly author introduced me to a literary agent, whose invaluable assistance (and infinite patience) eventually brought my novel to publication as an e-book and later as a paperback.
At the moment, that’s where Lance Eliot’s story ends.
It’s hard to write a novel. It’s harder to publish one. After publishing The Trials of Lance Eliot, I was tired of writing. My life at that time was uncertain and stressful. Having just returned to the United States of America after six months in Uruguay, I had no job, no apartment, no driver’s license and no self-confidence.
Lance Eliot could wait. Once my life had settled down and The Trials of Lance Eliot had sold some copies, I could get back to work on the manuscript for its sequel.
It’s taken a long time for my life to settle down, and I’m pretty sure no more than a few dozen copies of The Trials of Lance Eliot have been sold. I have a job and several blogs and ten thousand other things to keep me busy. The manuscript for the novel’s sequel has been mostly untouched for many months.
Every now and then, however, I think of an empty concrete ruin looming over the town of Same.
The Eliot Papers, the trilogy of which The Trials of Lance Eliot is the first part, has been my greatest passion as a writer for almost as long as I’ve been writing.
Dash it to blazes, I’ve got to finish this thing.
(All right, maybe I do sometimes use dated British idioms.)
Besides my desire to get the deuced story written, I owe it to my agent and publisher to complete the trilogy. He’s invested much time and money in The Eliot Papers. For both our sakes, Lance Eliot must finish his journey.
This brings me to an important announcement.
When I decided to publish miscellaneous creative writing on this blog, I didn’t realize how great a commitment I was making. Posting “Zealot: A Christmas Story” has forced me to make some very hasty revisions and rewrites. It’s been stressful, and I’m not satisfied with the final result.
I can’t keep posting creative writing and regular blog posts if I’m going to make any progress on The Eliot Papers.
Thus, with apologies to my readers, I’m no longer publishing creative writing on this blog.
I’ll post the final chapter of “Zealot: A Christmas Story,” of course, and there’s a brief dramatic sketch I’ll put up on the blog next month. After that, however, TMTF shall revert to its old two-post-a-week schedule until further notice.
I hope that sad old hotel in Same is finished someday. In the end, though, it’s not my concern. Lance Eliot’s story is.
I hope that’s finished someday too.