Don’t worry, I hear you.
One camp doesn’t want to reread, so this causes problems, because the rewrites demand a reread of the series. If not, all new books will make absolutely no sense. I’ve lost fans due to this, and I did so with the understanding that this would happen.
Another camp was eager for new books, and they didn’t want to have to wait for me to rewrite thousands of pages. They waited patiently for a long time, but have since lost interest as the rewrites are coming at a snail’s pace.
Then there is the new camp, brand-new readers who are waiting for the next installment, not realizing it’s a rewrite.
Lastly, are the countless readers who pass over my books due to ratings- rating reflecting the original copies, which were light-years different than the final editions published today.
I take full responsibility for all the above. This was a decision I didn’t make lightly, and I already foresaw the consequences before I acted.
As a writer, my sole responsibility is to my craft. My story comes first. I owe it to my characters and the world I’ve created for them to inhabit to do them justice. This translates over into giving the reader the best possible finished product.
When I first started writing, it was addictive. Fans were contacting me nonstop, wanting more. I was cranking out words as quickly as possible, yet it wasn’t fast enough. My first year writing, I sold more books than I have in the rest of my career.
During that year, the books were coming so quickly, I was too new and ‘young’ in the craft, that I was only thinking like a writer who wanted to give her fans what they wanted, and as quickly as possible in our instant gratification world.
This speed translated into proof that I wasn’t yet an editor or publisher, both of which are important aspects in the literary world.
I’d grown up, deciding three years ago it was more important to be proud of my work, to give my characters the respect they deserve, than it was to make money, doing so with the knowledge that I could lose a large portion of my fanbase in the process.
The story comes first.
In the past three years, I’ve re-released 7 M&M novels, while actively writing two other series. This has also been a point of contention with my fans, because they feel I should be concentrating on M&M, and every book I release is an insult to them, refusing to read those other stories on principle.
Rewrites are an entirely different beast than writing a book from scratch. I’m not talking about editing a book- completely overhauling it. Last night, as I tried to explain it to my mother. “It’s like a finished puzzle that no longer fits- the type that has no outside border. Someone knocks all the pieces to the ground, so you’re struggling to put it back together. Suddenly, the cat runs in, and you’re finding pieces scattered around the house for months. You’re always worried you missed a piece, but you can’t tell because it’s the type without a solid border, and this freezes you into inaction.”
You can’t just sit down and organically write, allowing the words to flow, because changes you make in book 2 affect book 3, 4, 5… 17. You have to weigh the choices, more so than if you were just writing a new book.
It’s stressful. There’s a lot of pressure put on me to perform. The muse isn’t pleased, as she wants to create new stories. Not that she doesn’t want to create more in M&M’s universe, just not spend time focusing on a rewrite.
Writing a book is about creativity. Rewriting a book is in the absence of creativity. It doesn’t feed that need, and that compounds the problem. This is how Rusty Knob was born, believe it or not. I needed to create, because I’m a writer. Rewriting is about editing and publishing, and I couldn’t sit down and rewrite 12 books in a row, completely devoid of creativity.
That’s why I will write in M&M for so long, and then you’ll see another book and another. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been ‘trying’ to rewrite the books. I have to be in a good mindset, I have to have my creativity topped off, to be able to function during a rewrite, because my brain has to be firing on all cylinders to remember what happened in book 1 to connect it to book 13, and how it affects the book I’m actively rewriting.
It’s highly complicated, and not just remembering grammar and punctuation rules.
Last night, as I started chapter two of King, I took a long bath to relax. It took me eight hours to rewrite one short chapter, when ordinarily I can do that in less than an hour when properly inspired. Now, imagine doing that for 40+ chapters each over 12 books.
There are times where I will highlight and delete several chapters in a row, and just start over fresh, as this saves me considerable time.
Last night, I was so stressed out, I got out of the bathtub and wrote a plot outline and three chapters of a standalone title, in less than two hours.
You read that right. It took me eight hours working on turning four pages into a seven-page rewritten chapter, but only two hours to write three chapters of a brand-new book, with brand-new characters, not attached to any series of mine.
I woke to write this blog post and will be continuing onto chapter two of King when I’m done. (we have no satellite tv or internet thanks to a storm, so you won’t be seeing this for a bit after I’m done)
I will continue to use this new novel to spark creativity while I work on King and beyond. Hopefully this will relieve some of the pressure. I chose a standalone, as this will make sure I don’t get too involved in a series of mine and end up writing several books in a row. A small cast of characters, and what may become a novella.
I’m not asking for sympathy– I’m trying to explain the process, explain why it’s been like pulling teeth.
I LOVE M&M. It’s my baby. Katya and Ezra were the first characters I put on paper and brought to life that I knew would see the light of day. I’d written other stories, but I knew no one would ever read them.
After writing twelve books in the series, then going back to Restraint, the side characters were no longer side characters. They had enriched lives, major backstories, and they connected to each and every other character.
When writing new, these side characters are one-dimensional. Flat. They are created to push the main character into situations and scenarios, and I don’t want to be ‘that’ type of writer. I want my side characters to be as vividly real as the main character.
Upon the rewrite, knowing every facet of these ‘side’ characters, the motivations changed. The reasoning as to why they act/react to one another shifts.
As I rewrite, I breathe life into otherwise flat characters. I give them a voice. I alter who gets to release what information. Does that information belong to our current narrator? Who best to voice this? What is this character going through at this time that needs to be addressed and not written away in a later book? What doesn’t the narrator know, as they are not a mind-reader in this first-person perspective voice?
That’s the theme of every book I’ve ever written, why I use first-person. In our daily lives, we are all unreliable narrators in the wide scope view. We only know what we know. We only see what we see. We only bring to the table our experiences and how they shaped us. Our view will vastly differ from another, even if we share the experience together. This I’ve tried to get across. So upon the rewrite, I’ve found this a challenge, voicing motivations that weren’t present the first time around.
My re-readers will understand. The best way to show this (for new readers) is Dexter’s perception of Dalton, and then our perception of Dalton as we read his book. We do this to people every day of our lives, only seeing them from our perspective. Case in point, Katya is a heroine, until Regina and Faith’s jealous view of Katya shifts our opinions. We do this in real life, every day, unable to recognize we all take on the view of the person we are interacting with, instead of seeing someone clearly.
I have to have that in my mind at all times during a rewrite, and it’s stressful to say the least. Hundreds of characters and their motivations, as to why they ask and do specific things, to ensure there is no shock-value writing, character trait lobotomies, or characters acting out of character.
As my New Year's Resolution, I made a promise to complete the rewrites and release a brand-new M&M book during 2018. This promise wasn't to myself. This promise wasn't to my readers or fans. This promise was to my characters and the universe I created for them to dwell within.
Below, I will show you the difference a rewrite makes. The original edition of King vs the final edition. You’ll see what I mean, and as to why it is such a struggle for me to make this happen.
I will show the differences between passages, then I will post the first chapter of the final edition. I’d like to hear your opinions about the changes.
Thank you, and I appreciate you listening to me release some of the pressure in this vent.
KING: Chapter One FINAL
The excitement is palpable and completely choking me– suffocating me with anxiety. Dalton’s fingers turn white under the onslaught of my nervous, sweaty grip.
“Shh…” Dalton whispers into my ear, fingers squeezing back, doing his damnedest to even me out. “This is the right thing to do.”
I want to scream, but right for whom?!
Reading me as only a lover could, he says in English that is heavily accented with French, “You. You’re doing the right thing for you. This isn’t just about your family. This is the event that has culminated since the very beginning of your life.”
Sucking in a fortifying breath, I close my eyes. I want to cover my ears and release the primal scream of a caged predator, the guttural sound reverberating off the walls of the bus. The excited murmurs and sharp conversation around me drill into my skull. As we sit, crammed on the bus, I question every decision I’ve ever made in life– every choice, every crossroads I’ve come to pass.
I’m only twenty-four as of this morning. Am I old enough to head a family? Do I have the ability to take on the responsibility for all these people? How will my grandfather react? What of my aunt and father? Should I let them into our family home, when it’s better if they stay where they are?
Even the guy holding my hand is brand-new to me, and I fear the truth will upset what we’re trying to build. I’ve stood by and plotted, brooded, been bitter while showing the outside world this happy-go-lucky man I am not.
Is this what I really wanted after all, or did I play into their hands somehow?
The Gates has been a ghost town since we were hit by the media frenzy, everyone I love has been trapped in hiding. Something has to change– someone has to take charge. This is my part to play, and I instinctively know we’re all puppets in the larger scheme of things.
The only person I know who can take on the responsibility of our family is Queen, with the tenacity of a marching general. As if sensing I’m thinking about her, she seeks me out, flashing me a sad half-smile. That smile and its following look of encouragement fills me with confidence that only Queen can infuse within me.
I can do this, I repeat to myself for the billionth time today.
We’re all on a bus, driving through The Gates, because it made more sense to travel in a singular vehicle, one in which the media would think beneath us, versus creating an easily divided procession. Most of us will be staying at Misery Castle indefinitely, with the others wishing me a happy birthday– most of whom are my relatives that don’t realize I know they are.
So many secrets, and I vow to myself to be the one who reveals the truth.
I can’t look away from my wife, even knowing I should, especially as I hold onto Dalton’s hand like a lifeline. I’m barely holding on to either of them. Queen is getting closer to Marcus and my sire, emotionally distancing herself for what’s to come. Life and lies have built walls between Dalton and me. I can’t truly have either as long as I hold onto both. There is no having my cake and eating it too with Queen and Dalton.
Queen’s emerald gaze captivates me– her hold over me is infinitely stronger than the delicate fingers entwined with mine. Since I met her when I was only five, my entire life narrowed down to focus on getting her. Now that I have her as my wife, there’s no way I can keep her.
Today marks the end of that dream, and I don’t want to let it go.
Queen is the ultimate mother. An unexpected surprise for those who don’t know her as well as I do. She is engulfed in the loving embrace of children– hers and those she’s adopted in the depths of her heart. Children, and adults alike, instinctively know Queen is a safe haven that harbors you from the violent nature of life’s storm.
A tiny Marcus Zane is cradled to her chest, a breathtaking woman-child is fused to her left side, while my soft baby sister is leaning on her right shoulder. My brother, his girlfriend, and my dainty cousin sit in the seat in front of Queen. Turned around, Azrael crawls from her big sister’s arms, wanting to cuddle with her twin against Queen’s chest.
I find Whitney with a scowl on her face, glaring at Ava. I nod to the small space on our seat, not wanting my blood to sit with strangers. Strangers to her, not me– Kayla is one of the nicest women I know. Whitney’s next to us in a flash, leaving a scant inch between Dalton and herself. She only cuddles with her mom, with our grandmother, and Queen. Whitney will be all over Adelaide when she sees her again. But the rest of us, she holds herself apart from.
“I just ask one thing of you, Whitt,” Whitney implores me, leaning around my boyfriend so she can look me dead-on. She reminds me of the Adelaide I knew before she went off the deep end– completely self-contained and sure.
Whitney’s light blonde hair is in a perfect ponytail. Her feminine business suit makes her look way beyond her years, not the girl who hasn’t even reached eighteen yet. Dalton’s vivid green eyes quizzically inspect the girl. Seeing the two of them so closely packed together brings a smile to my lips. My effeminate, Emo boyfriend next to my Harvard-bound cousin, it’s amusing in the extreme.
“What’s your request, doll?”
“Just hear him out, okay?” I give a slight tilt to my head in ascent. No need to ask who Whitney’s asking about. “I’m sure he has his reasons.”
“I’m not sure I want to know what they are, though,” I murmur in the din of the bus. My voice washes out as the occupants’ combined voices overpower mine.
“Whitt,” flows as a shrill hiss, Whitney used to always getting her way. “He’s your father,” she states, not knowing the truth of my parentage yet. “Grandfather loves us. We’re all he has left– Grandmother is staying with Mommy and Daddy on the campaign trail. Whitt, don’t do this to us. To him,” she stresses. “I agree that you should be our patriarch, but don’t take his family away along with his home and business. He needs us more than we need him, and we need him a lot!”
“Whitney, have I ever been the vindictive sort?” I think back to how nasty I’ve been to my cowardly sire, the man I miss more than anyone, and feel a pang of regret. I’ve treated my grandfather even worse, always knowing there was something else riding beneath the surface. “Don’t you realize I have reservations and doubts plaguing me?”
Resentful isn’t a strong enough word to embody how I feel about the men in my family. My grandfather lied to me for life, by saying I was his son, while treating me as lesser. My sire treated me as his baby brother, attentive and affectionate, actually giving a shit about my hopes and dreams, then he unexpectedly died and left us behind.
I spent my childhood raising my abandoned brother, while aching to be with Queen and my baby sister, putting plans in place for us to be a whole family again… only to discover that my father is alive, a cowardly rat who’s lived half a city away from me all this time.
As for my birth mother and my many siblings and their children, I drove by their houses several times per day, just as I am now, never knowing they were related to me, believing the lie that Daniel and Priscilla Whittenhower were my birth parents. My siblings looked me in the eye, took me places and spent time with me, but they never once admitted I was their brother.
I am the son of Grant Whittenhower and Gwendolyn Meyers. The biological grandson of Jackson Whittenhower, which is why the claim to everything Whittenhower is mine, because my father threw it all away. Katie and Ade are not my sisters as everyone was led to believe, but rather both my aunts and my cousins, as my grandmother had children with a pair of brothers and lied about it– Jackson and Daniel.
I am the brother to Fate Simpson, Boyd Spencer, Faith Simpson, Bianca Green, Niel Whittenhower, and Ella Whittenhower. The uncle to Torian Spencer and Zane Zeitler. The brother-in-law to Gretchen Spencer, Levi Wilson, and Dalton Fontaine. The cousin to Whitney and Priscilla Preston.
I am the husband to Regina Regal, adopting my biological brother and sister as my own children.
My namesake, Daniel Whittenhower is not my father, as it states on my false birth certificate. He’s not my grandfather, as it states on my sire’s false birth certificate.
Daniel Whittenhower is my great-uncle and my step-grandfather, sitting in my seat as the Whittenhower patriarch, that position is owed to me by law of primogeniture, since the death of my birth father. As long as the resurrected James Atwater doesn’t stake his claim, it’s all mine… and I don’t know if I’m ready for it.
Now I’m keeping secrets from Dalton, never naming those siblings, because of secrets that aren’t mine to keep. When he finds out how I kept him at arm’s length, didn’t trust him with the truth, as he poured out his past to me… finds out his ex-wife is my sister.
My boyfriend is my unknown ex-brother-in-law… Dalton almost broke up with me when he discovered he had sex with my wife in the dungeon at Restraint so many months ago.
My fingers tighten around Dalton’s, terrified he’s about to disappear from my life.
“Just go easy on Grandfather,” Whitney murmurs, then sits back against the seat, effectively cutting off the conversation, using Dalton to hide from my view.
Queen catches my eye again, and I know she’s eavesdropped on our conversation. She holds no judgment on anyone– she’s a forgiver to my grudge-holder. Once a week for years, she sat with her enemies and found a common ground. If she can forgive my grandfather for the heinous acts he perpetrated against her, maybe I can forgive what he’s done to me, but I’ll never forgive what he’s done to Queen. Never.
No matter what, a point of contention in our relationship is the one I refuse to forgive, the one Queen defends even when her heart bleeds bitter blood. Grant is the one I refuse to forgive, and it makes me respect Queen less and less as she continues to defend and love that spineless rat.
We’ll see when I set foot off this bus where it comes to my sire’s false sire…
“I’ll try with Daniel,” I answer Whitney, but it’s for my wife’s ears.
Queen smiles back at me, rubbing her cheek on the fiery hair on top of Azrael’s head. She just wants us to be happy and together, and to hell with the past. But if someone disrespects Queen by betraying her second chances, she’ll be the first one to cut them from our lives.
Once we pass the first of three gates to my familial estate, the excitement ratchets up by several degrees. Everyone is excited, save me. The anxiety hits me out of nowhere. Sweat beads on my spine, bumps well up on my skin. My heartrate accelerates to the point I can feel my blood rushing through my veins. My chest rapidly rises and falls, pulling me toward hyperventilation. I rub moisture-slicked palms on my pant legs, the charcoal gray fabric darkening.
Closing my eyes tightly, I draw in a deep breath, one I don’t release until I finally open my eyes. Watching the scenery of my estate flash past me from the bus window, I’m thoroughly entranced by the vividly green, heavily wooded landscape that the three-mile drive winds through.
I’ve always felt a sense of pride overwhelm me when I gazed over the land that was always meant to be mine, and eventually that pride would transform into resentment as the lies surrounding my birth hit me.
With Daniel stating I was fourth-born, none of this was to be mine.
Jackson was the first born. Even though he had no legal children, I was always confused as to why Grant was the heir apparent, and not Daniel. Daniel is an honorable, ethical person, loving his brother so fiercely he would never begrudge Grant of his legacy.
As the first son of the first son, all of this was promised to Niel’s from his conception, because Grant never expected to become our patriarch.
I’m not the fourth-born of the second-born– I’m the first of the first, Niel is the second, and this estate is MINE!
As is the way of my kind– the elite –the land, the castle, and the businesses my great-grandfather built, passes from eldest son to eldest son.
Rich asshole entitlement aside, nothing is more infuriating than knowing a billion-dollar legacy was torn from me as surely as I was torn from the family tree, no matter how much I love the Whittenhower heir apparent.
Now I look over the landscape and know without a shadow of a doubt that this property is mine. I feel it to the core of my soul– the rightness of it. My sire took himself out of the legacy, leaving me the opportunity to lead my family as the eldest male.
One day, I will step down and pass the responsibility to my adopted son, my blooded-brother, Niel. At seventeen, he isn’t ready, but a few years from now, he might be. If he isn’t, I will break the line– I will pass it to whomever is most capable, male or female. Any children I have in the future, grandchildren, cousins, or nieces or nephews– anyone with Whittenhower blood running through their veins. It’s time to start a new generation of Whittenhowers– a new legacy built on honor and respect, not primogeniture.
The millions of dollars’ worth of property don’t fill me with the pride, but that single thought alone does. I’m about to instigate change. This is for the betterment and health of my family. I can do this. I need to do this. Not because I am the only one capable, but because I want it– I crave it.
The anxiety bleeds out of me as we crest the knoll that takes the bus through the final gate– large and looming, stone-walled with a black iron, ornate double gate opening electronically. Revealed is the foreboding Misery Castle with its flying buttresses and guard gargoyles.
A sharp gasp emanates from my companions– all who have never been here before and some who are frequent visitors. My family lights up with pride and the thrill of homecoming.
As of late, the Whittenhowers weren’t as wealthy as the Holdens and Zeitlers, our equivalent in Dominion society. But that was until my grandfather pulled Regina into our family through coercion, intimidations, and threats. Almost twenty years ago, he saw the potential of a young woman who would irrevocably change our lives.
Misery Castle was built well over a hundred and fifty years ago when the Whittenhowers were at their peak– revolutionaries, innovators who influenced the direction of our great nation. The city of Dominion, New York was founded by several families who settled in this area, using their old money and power to create the world we live in today, reaching every branch of government.
The bus follows the circular driveway, giving its passengers a slow view of the large, sprawling manse. Whittenhower Estates, known to me as Misery Castle– a moniker Queen aptly created –looms four stories overhead.
One of the largest privately-owned homes in our country. Its stone masonry and arched leaded-glass windows lend to a gothic, gloomy appearance. But not as much as the gargoyles that sinisterly hang from the eaves and line the walk to the entrance of the estate. Double doors, each nearly four feet in width and heavier than a bastard, rise almost ten feet on the front of the familial castle.
This castle was erected as a fortification during the construction of Dominion. The three most powerful families took point. Misery Castle looms over Dominion itself. Shadow Haven Estates watches over Crestview, which we call The Gates. Serenity Lake, the Zeitler property, was the first to be erected, used during the construction of the castle, but has since burned to the ground. Dexter rebuilt a smaller facsimile at the head of The Gates.
Pride at being a large part of history– whether it was for the greater good or to our detriment remains to be seen –infuses me, lending me the confidence to pull on the mask of the entitled rich pretty boy who can do anything and everything he sets his mind to. Unlike who I am– the boy who is about to shit his pants out of pure terror.
I pause for a moment as the bus idles at the walkway to the limestone staircase, leading to the main entrance to the castle. My eyes linger on the malevolent splendor, drinking in my home.
Expectant gazes draw me from my confusion. Dalton squeezes my hand– oh, right, it’s my home now, so I’m the one in charge. I have to lead them. I have to invite them inside.
As I stand with my shoulders drawn back, pretending I’m more confident than I truly am, all sound ceases, even breath from our lungs. My boyfriend and cousin stand to allow my exit. On my way by, I kiss my cousin on her cheek, and she freezes in surprise. Whitney and I were never close growing up, closer now that Queen demands it, but we never bonded. Whitney follows me as I’d hoped.
I pause at the seat where Ella sits with Queen. Catching on, Queen hands the twins off to Ava and Spyder. Mother and daughter join Whitney and me in the aisle. Niel instinctively knows what to do, grabbing for our youngest cousin’s hand. Priscilla, delicate Prissy, who at fifteen looks like a tiny sprite or faerie.
As I step from the bus, I sense his presence just as strongly as I did that first day back at the brownstone. The man who now calls himself Jamie sits in a car behind the bus. I wonder if he’s having second thoughts, as this was meant to be his. When Grant gave up his legacy, he abandoned us too, which is unforgivable in my book.
As my family and I exit the bus, I change my mind. I refuse to storm my own home. I have no need to take by force that which is rightfully mine. I don’t know where this revelation is coming from, but intuitively I know the Whittenhowers are already mine, without ever having to fight for them.
My companions empty from the bus, all staring upward at the imposing manse. As if sensing the change in me, they all stand back– no one will enter the great doors until I offer the invitation. They won’t pass its threshold until I am the King of Misery Castle.