18 Mar

I haven't published a book in quite a long while. 

There, I just looked. Skinner, my last book, published 7.9.2013. So it's creeping up on 11 years between novels.

Published novels, that is.

In the intervening years I finished two books and made starts on four others. I actually made starts on a lot more than that, but there were four that made it to at least 30K-40K words before I abandoned them so those are the ones I really count. 

I also wrote a shit ton of TV during those 11 years. Other stuff as well, but mostly a shit ton of TV. 

My TV career has largely been in the realm of development. Which means I spent a great deal of time writing things that were never produced. That's not meant as sour grapes. It's just the way that particular business works. Everyone should be so lucky that they get to make shit up, get paid to make shit up, write that shit down and then have people say they don't want to film it. 

Hardly suffering.

But it does occupy a lot of time and space.

The two books I wrote that have not been published will see the light of day sooner or later. I like them. When the time feels right I'll look for a home for them or self-publish. For the time being they are comfortable in their drawer.

Catchpenny is another matter.

I'd been working on that sucker for over ten years when I got it to click into place. It started life as a TV idea. I wrote a pilot, showed it to a few people, but it was mostly too weird for TV. I loved it so it came in and out of focus. I rewrote it, wrote a second episode, and then tried it as a novel. Then I tried it again as a novel. And then again. I think I took three distinctly different approaches to it as a book before I hit on the approach that worked and let me write the whole thing.

The bulk of the writing was done in fall-winter of 2021. I did use about 15K words from one of the previous versions and several ideas from abandoned book and TV concepts also made it into the finished draft. 

It was a beast. The first draft was close to 600 pages.

On my own, I cut about 100 pages, and then another 100 working with my editor.

So what is the thing?

It's me trying to shove only things I love into a book. I wrote it largely to entertain myself and keep myself occupied. It was a very dark time for me, and I was desperate to be within something. Being creative. Imagining. 

It's a big contemporary fantasy novel set within the world of a secret magic demimonde in Los Angeles. Sid Catchpenny is a thief in that world, a sly, able to travel between mirrors in order to pluck magical treasures for his clients. But all magic in the world of Catchpenny is based in emotion. Love, hate, fear, despair, excitement, hope, and all the other byproducts of our hearts are fuel for the working of magic. 

Sid, mired in a suicidal depression, is pulled into action when a teenage girl at the edges of this world disappears. Was she stolen? Maybe Sid can find out.  Maybe Sid can discover how the disappearance of this girl, Circe, is connected to someone's secret plan to rewire how magic works and who it serves.

Along the way, there is rock-n-roll, live theater, an eternal party in Laurel Canyon, magic 80s memorabilia, a doomsday cult, an assassin named Perilous Sue, Dungeons & Dragons, heartbreak and hope.

It is easily the most shameless book I have written. The book that most wants to please and entertain, and the book in which I most shamelessly let myself write exactly what I wanted without being embarrassed.

It is also, in ways it will take me a long time to understand, a record of one of the most difficult periods of my life. A time when my drinking had become so thoroughly businesslike that I could no longer pretend there was any pleasure or fun in it. A time when I'd become utterly alienated from the work I'd pursued for over a decade. A time when I was fighting daily with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and self-loathing. 

About 6 months after I finished Catchpenny I could no longer cope with being myself. I began to look for help. That started for me with therapy, which then lead to sobriety, and then to AA. 

I wrote Catchpenny while I was still drinking, but I edited it sober. It's easy for me to see now how much the book speaks to my state of mind and heart when I was writing it. Both where I was and where I wanted to be. I imbued the book with naked hope because I needed hope myself.

I fought for hope. That's not hyperbole. I fought and struggled and literally screamed to hang on to anything that resembled hope. 

What I believe at this point in my life is that hope is a kind of muscle. It's not a gift that is handed to us. It doesn't come from outside circumstances. Hope is something we have to work at. There are so many forces working against it. Personal and global forces. Staying hopeful means always pressing back against those forces to keep the muscle strong. It is exhausting, but essential. 

To surrender hope is to surrender everything. The challenge is to keep hope strong no matter how the circumstances press down. Without a belief that things can get better, there is no path to take action. You have to be able to imagine a thing in order to make it possible. You have to be able to hope for something before you can try to do it.

Catchpenny, is me hoping. It is me hoping on the page that I can make something I love that other people will also love. It is me hoping I can feel better. It is me hoping the world can be a better place.

Catchpenny is a book I wrote to give readers that feeling of their heart being slightly overfilled.

I hope you'll like it.