Then, in October of 2005, the circumstances that had been turning my mind into a cesspool of despair abruptly changed. Emerging from that darkness, I became brighter, happier, almost immediately. I started doing things I hadn't been doing for far too long. Perhaps most importantly, I started reading again.
In mid October, I read a couple of parody novels produced by National Lampoon. One tackled the Star Wars trilogy, the other tackled The Matrix. And, sad to say, I did not particularly enjoy them. I finished the second book, put it down, and said aloud to myself: "That was rubbish. I could do better than that!"
And the voice in my head said: go on, then. I dare you!
And I realised it was the 2nd of November!
Of course, I didn't have the title right away. In fact, seven or eight chapters in, I realised I was doing nothing more than retelling Star Wars with funny names. My plan had been to produce a Star Wars/Matrix crossover parody, and so far there was very little evidence of anything Matrix-y. ("Plagiarism" is such an ugly word, but it does make writing so much easier to follow a well-known story that closely!) So I did a little brain-storming, and the link between the two stories suddenly clicked into place. It was so obvious. All I needed to do to make it work was go back and tweak a few words I'd already written, and presto-chango, you have an uncle named Bob!
At this point, I was still writing in a text editor, and still running my script to generate my nightly wordcount. Having to go back and revise existing text, however, made it very clear that my long-ago decision not to upload into a public space on a daily basis had been the right one.
I think that was also the point at which I realised, to make the whole thing truly work, I would have to write the trilogy. The first would follow the story of Star Wars fairly closely; the second would start to vary from Empire; the third would resemble Jedi but differ significantly as the Matrix storyline began to dominate. Thus "Array Wars" was born.
I said earlier that NaNoWriMo is a "competition", but in truth, the only person you are competing against is yourself. The only prize for reaching the "50,000 words in 30 days" goal is that, hey, you've done the impossible: you've written 50,000 words in 30 days. This seems to be a point that people who haven't attempted such a task cannot truly appreciate. Let me tell you, though: if the year before had been the low point of my life, the evening of the 27th of November, 2005—when I finished writing and ran my script to discover that my wordcount was 50,030—was definitely one of the high points!
Of course, I was still three days out from the end of the month—and I knew I was about a week out from actually finishing the story—but none of that mattered. I knew I would finish it—and I knew that what I'd written was good. Sure enough, when I read back through it, there were a few errors that had crept in, but very little that I felt needed changing. I fixed it up and, in a moment of insanity, decided I would hand-bind twenty numbered A4 copies of my manuscript!
I cobbled together a cover image (which actually became an inside cover image) and, using strong thread, a hand drill, and black cloth tape, I made the 20 copies I'd threatened to make, and I gave them away to family and friends. They were very well received—but I decided that, at 45 minutes each (plus printing) there had to be an easier way!
But that could wait.
Still high on the buzz of having written an honest-to-goodness novel—and one which seemed to be quite well received, at least among my loyal cadre of fans—I started toying with the idea of doing my own, out-of-season "WriMo". I picked June because it was also 30 days. I wanted to leave the second Array Wars novel for November, but I had another idea that seemed worth exploring.
Inspired by the story (as told in video games, and later in movies) of BloodRayne, I came up with the concept of BlooDrayne—a male version, who looked remarkably like Rick Moranis and was the polar opposite of the assured, dangerous killer that was BloodRayne. (Clearly I came up with the concept before the movie came out; I figured she would be played by either Milla or Angelina!)
When I started writing, though, my tale quickly became a cross between Interview with a Vampire and American Werewolf in London—neither of which I know particularly well. At the same time, my lycanthrope acquired an Armenian background and the name "Radek" (as in The Chronicles of Radek...) Clearly I thought I could go somewhere with these characters—but I couldn't pull the story together on the fly, and the attempt fizzled after 6500 words.
It seems worth mentioning at this point that I still have great hopes for all of my failed attempts. The ideas have potential, and the characters have stories to tell. One day, I shall tell them. Some of what I wrote back then is actually pretty good; when I look back on it now, I don't cringe!
With June's attempt behind me, and with November growing ever closer, I started thinking about what I would do once I'd finished book 2 of my trilogy. I would need to print it for my fans (all 15-16 of them) but I didn't particularly want to hand-stitch another batch. I remembered a site that had been mentioned in dispatches the previous November, and turned toward Lulu. Pretty soon, the idea of turning my first novel into an actual paperback book that could sit on my shelf with other real books became impossible to resist. I imported the HTML version of the novel into Word, spent a week messing with the formatting until I had something I liked, stretched my Gimp skills to the limit to put together some actual cover-art (retaining my original attempt as an inside-cover line-art image), added the "Lurk will return in Episode 2.0" promise on the back page, and sent away for a preview copy.
Do I have to tell you how excited I was to receive that in the post?!
The only thing I didn't entirely love was the size. I had picked "6x9" (inches) because that had seemed the best available option—but it was too big to sit comfortably on my shelf next to the paperbacks. Nonetheless, I went back to the site to order a box-load—and discovered that they had a "pocketbook" size which was exactly what I wanted!
I swear it hadn't been available the last time I'd looked!
So I reformatted my Word document to suit that size, scaled down the cover art—and, for some reason, completely changed the blurb on the back—and ordered a new copy.
When I placed that book on my shelf, it was as though a choir of angels descended from on high to provide trumpet accompaniment!
By now, of course, it was November.