On Valentine’s Day of this year, I finished book three of my Scar of the Downer series. Though I have yet to come up with a title and have some editing left to do, I now see the light at the end of this tunnel.
It has been a long journey, one that I’m not quite finished with yet. Nearly thirteen to fourteen years ago, the idea of Crik first came to me. I didn’t know him by that name then, but the character was still the same, and so was the story. From the beginning, it was always going to be about a group of runaway slaves yearning to live free.
When I originally wrote the very first draft back in 2007, the three books were all in one 120,000-word volume. Over the course of several years, as the world in my story expanded, I decided to break the book up into three separate, yet smaller, novels. No one was going to publish a young adult novel that large from someone unknown, someone like me. It’s difficult enough to get a book published at all.
I can honestly say that from the very beginning, I always knew what the end of the story would look like. I always knew where my characters had to go.
I’ll be honest, it felt strange to write what I wrote this week. Some of you may understand, some of you won’t. I’ve talked about this moment for years with my wife, and now it is here. It’s one thing to read a book and come to its ending. Sometimes it happens in days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. I’ve never experienced something this massive. Nearly thirteen years of life dedicated to this one story. But now, now it’s coming to an end.
For these past years, I’ve lived it.
There hasn’t been a day that I have not thought about Crik and his plight. Though most people in this world have never heard of this book or this series, let alone have read it, it is a part of me. If people don’t know this about me, they really don’t know me.
How can this story not be that interwoven with who I am?
Besides God and family, I can think of little else that has occupied my thoughts more than this book, more than these characters. To most people, understandably, these characters have little to no impact on their lives, but for me, they’re as real as unreal people can get.
How do you say goodbye to something like that?
The short answer is you don’t. I doubt any other story will stay with me as long as this one has. It has been a project that has been with me before my oldest daughter was even born.
I know this sounds melodramatic to the reader, but this is a chapter that is closing in my life. I will be moving on to other projects, perhaps never to write about Crik again. Never to talk about what he will do, only what he has done. It is a bittersweet thing.
Like time, however, stories march on.
Because my last blog post was slightly negative, I decided that I am going to focus on something good, something positive, something that will stir the hope in the heart. We all need it, right? What stirs hope more than life? What stirs hope more than springtime after winter?
Well first, a bit of history. Though it’s a little outside the topic, I thought it was interesting.
Spring was once called Lent, which was derived from the Latin word lencten meaning spring. Makes sense, I know. Eventually, however, it became known as springing-time in the 14th century. It was the time when the plants were springing up. Again, makes sense. Then over the next two to three centuries it was shortened to spring-time, and then to just spring.
As we have crossed a threshold and are now nearing the middle of winter, the expectation of springing-time, of hope, has entered the bloodstream. On those brief warmer days, you can even smell it. Though I love the snow and how the sun gleams off its surface, I do also enjoy the warmth and greenery of spring and summer.
What stirred these thoughts? I’ll tell you.
As my family and I were driving to Old Forge this past weekend (just before a snowstorm hit), we drove past Whetstone Gulf, one of the great New York State parks situated on the outskirts of the Adirondacks. This past year, my family and I camped there several times and it now has become one of our favorite pastimes.
There is something primal in it, something that harkens back to a lost time.
I love waking up and smelling the early morning air in the woods. Much to my surprise, my children love it just as much.
They love to hike the ridge that lines the gulf, which when seen from the peak, leaves those who are frightened of heights a bit wobbly in the knees.
They also love to swim in the cool water that flows through the park, which I must admit is bit cool for me.
They love to get ice cream from the gatehouse. They love to ride their bikes around the campground. They love to eat over an open fire.
Do you see the trend? They love…
And I love that we get to spend time together as a family away from the modern world (for the most part).
So, as we wait in expectation for springing time to return, we wait in hope that another summer will begin with those same words: They love…
If I can begin a sentence with that, it is a sentence worth writing.
I’ve changed over the years and, as I look at myself more closely, I see that I’m still changing. Now, the changes that have taken place have not always been huge, dramatic changes. In fact, most of them have been incremental, infinitesimal, so minute in some cases that they weren’t noticed until years later. In short, I am not the man I was yesterday, nor will be tomorrow. Yet, I am still the same. Strange, isn’t it?
This blog post isn’t going to be a deep, philosophical treatise on this topic, but I did think it was important to mention.
There is an inevitable question that most undoubtedly is running through people’s head as they read this: how have I changed (according to myself)? Well, I will give you three examples that I’ve observed in my own life.
I don’t feel as happy as I once did. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to confess that I’m deeply depressed nor that the life has gone out of me now that I’m 40. And maybe “happy” isn’t the right word. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lived through a decade of cynicism in my own life and this just may be the byproduct of that outlook. Lewis himself states, “A man whose mind was formed in a period of cynicism and disillusion, cannot teach hope or fortitude.” I would put an addendum to this and say, “A man whose mind spent a time in a period of cynicism and disillusion, must find hope and fortitude again.” I, however, don’t like this change in me. God has blessed me with a good life and I don’t want to express an ungrateful attitude toward Him over that. It’s just that things that once excited me have lost their flair. I see it in my writing and things that once inspired me.
Perhaps it is not that I’ve lost happiness as much as it is that the way I’ve seen the world has changed. OR, perhaps the way I now see the world has contributed to this perceived loss of happiness. (This is not to say that I’m not happy. I’m just saying that I don’t feel AS happy as I did in my twenties.) Maybe this is a part of growing older, coming to grips with one’s mortality. (Wow! I know. It just took a dark and depressing turn.) Oh well, whatever I’m feeling and whatever the cause may be, it is one minor change that has grown on top of another over the years. Perhaps this why a portion of the books in the Scar of the Downer series center on finding hope in the darkness.
One more thought, which was brought to my attention by my wife. Now the meaning was in the words I’ve written, but the word itself wasn’t. Words are important, however, so I should not fail to mention. Contentment. That is the true goal, not happiness, since happiness is circumstantial and fleeting – a truly difficult, intangible element to hold on to for very long.
The second change I’ve noticed sort of ties in with number one. When I would write in my late twenties, I would wait until my wife and daughter were asleep before I sat down at my desk and typed away. Throw in a few years and some gray hair, I don’t find myself writing at night that much anymore. If truth be told, I find myself falling asleep on the couch. Back then, I didn’t need much inspiration to sit me down and write. I had drive. That, alone, was its own motivation. As the years went on, however, the drive had lessened. But I was in luck. I found the thing to motivate me – two things actually: movie trailers and music. Weird, right?
Well, as the years progressed even further, I discovered that the trailers and music are losing their inspiration. I sometimes find myself stuck staring at a blank page. I know where the story is going, but I’m not so sure anymore how to get there. Even after having two books published, I sometimes find it is more difficult to write now than ever before. See! More incremental changes that have taken place. My creativity could be waning. More pressing matters in life could be pushing it out of my mind. I don’t know. I do know it’s been a struggle as of late.
A third change is the gray hair in my beard and on the side of my head. There’s really nothing more to say on that.
I’m sure if I looked more closely, I could find more incremental changes. Now, all of these changes do not have to be permanent. Even the gray hair can be colored if I so desire. Perhaps some of these are nothing more than then the normal fluctuations of life. We’ll see. Who knows? Maybe this time next year I’ll be writing how I’ve changed again, but with a darker head of hair.
It's been three and a half months since I posted here. It's a shame that I've let things get so "out-of-control." But, it's a new year, so we can begin again.
Just recently, I turned forty, leaving my cynical thirties (read about them by clicking on the link) and entering the curmudgeon forties (I have yet found a true name for this decade of my life.) This got me thinking about a lot of things, which I am about to share with you:
“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” C.S. Lewis
There’s a lot of pretentiousness that goes into not liking “superhero” movies. I’ve heard a lot of the reasons and complaints: they’re childish, superficial, too much CGI, not enough story. I’ve even read several articles recently where a number of actors/directors have warned that these movies will bring about the doom of all other movies, which, of course, is utter nonsense.
Now, I get it if someone doesn’t like that genre of film. I understand that. There are several film genres that I tend to avoid more than others.
I’m going to put all the cards on the table. I like superhero movies.
I have watched most of the Marvel movies and television shows (several on Netflix I’ve particularly enjoyed). I have seen most of the DC Superhero movies as well.
On a sidenote, I am really looking forward to this one.
But I’m not going to stop there. I liked the Lord of the Rings movies as well, and the Hobbit trilogy too, but to a lesser extent.
I enjoy watching Star Wars and many other science fiction/fantasy movies that are out there. This is my thing. These are the stories that I enjoy. Now, people may think liking such films is childish and immature. This brings me to my first obvious question. What sort of films should mature adults like? Do the films have to be filled with language or sexual situations? Must they not deal with the supernatural or the fantastical? Do they have to be based on real life?
Having turned 40 this past year, I have noticed something about myself.
The older I get, the less interested I am in seeing movies that show the “real” world. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t watch other types of movies. Because I do. I liked “The Impossible”; I liked “Dunkirk,” and many other movies. But where I put most of my money in terms of movie watching is the previously mentioned genres.
Why is that?
For one, if I want the real world I don’t have to pay to see it. It’s everywhere, and it’s depressing! Turn on the television, read a newspaper (or website). That, however, is not the only reason.
These fantasy/science fiction films bring to the public some very important elements that our society has lost in this postmodern age – valor, self-sacrifice, bravery, the idea of right and wrong, good and evil. While many people in film like to play in the gray areas, no one in the real world lives there. We all believe that actions are either right or wrong (especially if they are done to or against us.)
That’s why I like these types of films. There is a right and a wrong, a good and an evil. I still believe in that.
They also take me on an adventure to other worlds, other possibilities. It puts the real-life petty arguments in my life on the backburner and reminds me that there are bigger things to fight for. (And yes, Thanos isn’t one of them.) You see, a part of me is tired of the mundane aspect of life. I believe many other people are as well, which is another article entirely.
As I am now 40, I have very little time for that. I want to be inspired, and these films do that for me for whatever reason. These are new “fairy tales” and I’m not ashamed to like them. No longer do I have to pretend to be grown-up. The specks of gray hair in my beard won’t allow that. I’ve now reached the point in my life that I can say, “I am man enough to like these films.” If others think that makes me childish, well, at least some aspect of me is still young.
(If you're interested in buying my book, you can click on this link or this one. Or this one and this one!)
Scott Keen is the author of two young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers and Rise of the Branded. His third and final book of the Scar of the Downer Series should be released sometime next year.