Back in the late seventies I picked up my first Stephen King book: ’Salem’s Lot. I was captivated. The man hooked me on the first page. Yes, the book is about vampires. But it’s about so much more. ’Salem’s Lot is about heartbreak and loss; about courage, and loyalty, and resolve; and about the nature of small towns, where everyone knows everyone and how doors are open to all. The perfect environment for The Vampire.
For those of you who think SK is only a horror writer, think again. Read – or watch – The Shawshank Redemption (first presented as the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption in the book Different Seasons). Read The Body, or watch its film incarnation, Stand By Me. Read The Stand, The Dead Zone, and the dozens (and dozens) of his other books. Read between the lines. Yes, he writes horror. But the way he constructs his sentences into beautiful paragraphs, into beautiful chapters, into beautiful stories; the way he develops characters, the way he holds you word by word, the way he causes you to weep when a character dies and then keeps you mourning for years after even though the character wasn’t a real person, is why the man is such a phenomenon.
Stephen King is a wonderful writer. I want him to be my neighbor. I want to be his buddy, hang out, talk about writing. I want to tell him how much he’s inspired me, how much a part of my life he’s become, how I’m his number one fan (uh-oh, didn’t he write a book called Misery about some nut who was the character’s number one fan?). I want to tell him I’m not a nut. I want to buy the man a steak dinner and say thank you for all your great work. Alas…it is not meant to be.
I have always wanted to be an author. Not a writer, because I’ve been a writer for a long time. I’ve wanted to be an author. Truly, since I was a kid. A million years ago a friend calligraphied a wall hanging for me: “If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then that is not the desire.” This framed artifact hangs in my office, urging me on. In part because of that aging message, I continue to write. (Thank you Judy Floyd, wherever you are.)
Half a million years ago I started writing a book about murder, then titled Delta Newsroom. Like Stephen King I go for the creepier side of life, though not horror. I tapped tapped away in a studio apartment in Manhattan, then set the book aside and got busy paying the rent. The book languished for years. In 1993 I started again and got halfway through. Then more rent paying was in order. In 1997 the chore became mortgage paying. Finally, a few years back, I finished the book, which I titled If Thine Eye Be Evil. I sent it to dozens of New York agents until finally one not only contacted me, but called on the phone.
“You’re a great writer,” she said (she really did say that). “You should be writing full time. Although I hate the title, and you need to cut 78,000 words.”
But cut I did. Trimmed the book down to 90,000 words (this after publishing the big version through amazon.com and, if I do say so myself, getting some pretty good responses). Then the agent said the book still needed work and she suggested an editor, a fellow by the name of Richard Marek who launched Robert Ludlum’s career and was the acquisitions editor for Tom Harris’ Silence of the Lambs. A big-time editor. He took me on (to my stunned delight) and taught me things I didn’t know I didn’t know. The 466-page If Thine Eye Be Evil became the 265-page Delta Dead. Finally (finally!) the thing is done. It continues to float among New York agents. But my patience has run out.
On Tuesday of next week (June 28th) I’ll begin posting installments of Delta Dead, although I won't be posting the entire book. If you like what you read, the book will be available on amazon.com (I’ve tried to figure out Kindle but am not there yet). Interested readers will also be able to buy Delta Dead through my blog, and for a few bucks more you can get an autographed copy. For those of you who have read the original version, If Thine Eye Be Evil, this is the same story, yet quite different. And the ending is completely different. I write this now because I don’t want anyone who’s read the first version to think this is a brand new book. It isn’t. But in my opinion (and in Richard Marek’s) it’s better.
I don’t yet have a “traditional” publisher for Delta Dead, but I’m still looking. In the meantime, I’m hoping to get enough readers that one of the big boys will sit up and take notice. Book publishing is in a strange freefall these days now that we authors have online options that we never had before. I’m out there waving my flag. All of you, my readers (I hope), will help push that flag even higher. If you like Delta Dead please share this link with your friends. Encourage them to buy a copy. The magic number to get a big publisher’s attention seems to be 10,000 copies sold, which at the moment seems massive. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the response will be positive. As Mr. Marek told me at lunch one day, “It’s a good book, Kathy. But this is a wacky business.”
I’m opening my heart and telling some truths so please be kind about the fact I’m here hawking my own stuff. If you like the book, let me know by buying a copy. If you don’t like it…okay. Maybe you’ll like the next one. (I also write this with a tinge of frustration in that New Jersey housewife Theresa Giudice has a cookbook on the best-seller list, Theresa Giudice who pronounces the spice cumin “commin” and who calls that which she puts in her recipes “ingrediences.” But I digress…)
I’ll be taking something of a hiatus this summer in that I’ll be posting installments of Delta Dead on Tuesdays and writing only one column a week, on Fridays. In the meantime I’ll be working on my next novel, The Question Mark Murders. And I’ll keep you posted on anything exciting that might happen in my “author” career.
As for Stephen King? I don’t expect to hear from him about our dinner date. But if you’re reading this, Steve, thanks. There was always a fire in my belly. You’re the one who added gasoline.