They all cross over each other, you see. You have to see the problem with that. They all cross over. You read one book and you haven’t seen anything. The next fills in more space. The next, more, then four series later you are still neck deep in the world of the first book. It is never ending. The words keep coming. But this was different.
The book was The Great Hall, and I had been building to this one. Seven years earlier I had introduced a character, had created a kid. That kid existed within a series I was calling Tribes of the Mountain. Book 1 had him, book 2, but then I did the most ridiculous thing.
I sent him away.
He left his homeland and wandered off into the world. So I followed him, wrote what he was doing as he traveled, while I was writing more Tribes books about his homeland trying to survive without him. One book, one series, then four, all lined up to tell the story of what this kid was doing while his homeland was embroiled in war and their way of life was failing.
Then he came back. I had written his travels, had written what his people had gone through without him, and then he came back. And the kid and I were at The Great Hall, the final book.
To say this was a big deal is not getting it right. Not getting it right at all. This was monumental. This was the climax of five series. This was the culmination of all my work. This was me setting down the finale, finishing a tale 4 million words in the telling. Literally. All of it came to this book. It was an epic length novel, and I was seven hundred pages in.
We had a party for my son. Birthday full of friends, loved ones. I was sitting in the living room, my mind in a haze and I heard my wife talking to her friend, and her friend asked how the book was going. Everyone was watching. All my loved ones knew this was the book. This was the one we needed to see. This was the finishing of the opus. When that woman asked how the book was going, my wife’s reaction was, “He’ll finish tonight.”
The words hit me like cold water. They froze everything about the day. Every thought, every movement. I had a moment when I could see everyone below me, could witness all of it. Because she is never wrong about these kinds of things. She knows, she can predict. She has her fingers in the swell. She knows the creatures moving below the surface of my waters. She is the only person who has been below. When she speaks on the inner workings of my mind, she does so with perfect knowledge.
But I was far from done. Lifetimes away from finished. I sat there trying to pare it all down. Had a handful of fight scenes. Had three climaxes. A wedding. A funeral. Another wedding. A dread march. An impossible problem I had not figured out yet. And I had the final fight. The boy against the unbeatable foe.
This fight scene alone would take a month to plan for a sane writer. This boy had to use everything he learned in his travels. Had to come to a realization, a truth. He had to overcome what to me was an impossible obstacle and then there was all the cool off.
This was the end of a seven-book series in itself. If we count everything that had gone into telling this story, we are talking about the capstone book to a 25-book collection, all spanning five different series, all telling one massive story.
“He’ll finish tonight.”
The party was not over until 8 that night. When the party trailed off into the haze, I looked at my wife and I hugged her. I kissed my children and I went to my office.
I stood over my desk, staring at it for a long time. See, this was the scene. This was the setting for the greatest feat of work I would ever do. This was where things would come apart. This bit of real estate here would be where I called the story down from the heavens and hammered it into a tale. Like a blacksmith calling down lightning to his hammer to aid him in crafting his master work, this small section of my life would be the landscape where it would all come to a peak.
I woke up that morning from a dream. There were cowboys and a gold mine, and in the end I was on my knees and a revolver was put in my face. When I looked up, the gunman was a blur. Only the barrel of the gun was in focus. In my dream it was all I could see, all that mattered. Then from the haze beyond the barrel, I heard a gunslinger say. “If you can sing Seven Spanish Angels, I’ll let you live.”
So I did the only thing that made any sense to do. I sat at my desk and I pulled up Seven Spanish Angels, Willie Nelson and the unforgettable Ray Charles.
She knew the gun was empty, and she knew she could not win. But her final prayer was answered when the rifles fired again.
There were Seven Spanish Angels at the Altar of the Sun. They were praying for the lovers in the Valley of the Gun.
I pulled it up and I started laying it down, pulled the document on my screen and started laying my story on the Altar of the Sun.
Six hours in, my pinky finger on my left hand started to ache. It started to throb. It started to cramp. I grabbed a roll of medical tape and taped it straight. Ten hours in, the headache came. Twelve, the back started to wail. The wrists, the legs. Fifteen hours in, I saw the first of the tracers out the corner of my eye.
Twenty hours in, I turned off the lights. I had the air conditioner wailing, and a diffuser pouring incense into the air in a mist. Twenty-four hours in, the room had become a harbor. I was near the shore of the story, staring into the blinding light of a lighthouse guiding me home. I was in a fog, the mist in my office making the room humid. The sound of my sons now getting ready to go back to bed came to me like a distant fog horn. The sound of dogs barking, the distant cries of seagulls screaming for a scrap.
I called down lightning for another four hours before it was all over. I saw men and women I had killed standing around my desk glaring down at me. In the corner of the room sat the boy he had been, weeping at the gravity of it all. In the sky above my desk stared down the eye of an angry god I had killed in the telling of my tale. The ground vibrated with the pounding of the battle drums. All around me blood and bile. And the shore, and beyond that the vastness of water. The vastness of the sea that only my wife could predict.
When I finished The Great Hall I headed for the door to tell my wife it was done and I collapsed to my knees in the middle of my office. I wept. I sobbed. It was done. My work had come to an end. The story of Peter Redfist had been told.
I’m not sure how long I knelt on the floor weeping, not sure that I ever got up. I can feel the carpet under my knees now as I sit at my desk writing this blog post.
In the end, she was right. I did finish. It took 24,253 words to finish that book. That shakes out to be about 88 pages. I had written for 28 hours. By the time I went to bed, I had been up for 36.
The story is told. I had to go a little insane to tell it, but Peter’s story is at rest.
I’m not done by a long shot. There is more story to tell. In the end, these books are me setting the world up for a massive climactic eruption. I’m working on that eruption now.
The work has slowed. I’m back to sanity. I’m just a man now. No longer a sea. No longer a blacksmith. I’m just a man hitting a keyboard.
But just out of focus is the haze. Just out of ear shot is the Valley of the Gun.
On the wing are Seven Spanish Angels.