This year was a milestone in my life's work, completing the Blackridge Saga. It marked 30 years of effort since I first sat down to create it long, long ago. It's not to say that it took me all that time to write it ... no. I already had it planned out. Instead, I kept it with me for a long time. I put it back on the "shelf" for a few years and then took it back out again. That sort of thing.
It's very different from The Double Club series, because I wrote all 9 of those books in a year and a half. That was an amazing thing. The Double Club came alive and took on that life of its own for sure. The characters are vivid, real, and believable. The things that happen in that series are perfect for their world. It's quite the LGBT soap opera, which is what I intended when I created it. I plan to have a blog post about it at a later time, similar to this one.
Blackridge took planning because, as a self-taught author, the saga grew and changed with me. It was a living work of its own, but very different from the coming alive of the Double Club.
Blackridge was a major part of my youthful, creative self. There were people a part of it who are gone now. Some have passed away and some are just no longer a part of my life. That is how life is. People come and go. You keep them with you individually as they were. Each person is unique in life and thus, what you keep with you of them is also as unique, like memories and things you see that remind you of them.
As I've said before, the major influences to my work were Agatha Christie, Robert E. Howard, Margaret Weis, and Tracy Hickman. Agatha Christie taught me to write about life, Robert E. Howard was dark, crazy, funny, witty, and brilliant (total mad genius author way ahead of his time with an amazing writing style) and I liked the flowing writing style of Weis and Hickman. I learned to be the kind of writer that does not bog down readers with excessive detail. I don't like that. It slows down the work in my opinion. I like to keep the story flowing. There are ways to put in the detail that you need and that is what I did for the Blackridge Saga.
It was always planned as a 9 book series because the story was structured long ago that way.
Normally, being a Gemini 😎 I change my mind frequently, but Blackridge kept to a certain format that didn't really change. There was no need for it to. As a writer, when you come up with a narrative that you want to write, you write it the way you envision/outline and/or plan it. This is the way it was with Blackridge. The story was complete, but the way I released it at first was not the direction I wanted to take it in.
Shadow Foes came first and then Reprisals. I actually planned to just make it a trilogy, but there was far too much back story to just write three books. I had a lot to share with my readers and so the recent advancements in self-publishing and self-promotion were a big factor in the restructuring of the novels release. The world is a much, much better place for authors now than it was in the past.
Yes, there are lots of books out there and yes, it can feel very overwhelming, but I don't let it bother me. When it comes to my work, I don't stress. That's not the point. Blackridge was never about stressing out. It was far more giving readers what they would enjoy and still keeping the story the same way as I had planned. Things changed and things happened in my life, but I never wavered in writing what I wanted to write. For one thing, I kept Blackridge clean. No profanity. No sex. I did that on purpose to make it appealing to a wider range of readers.
I had hoped for it to appeal to young adults just as much as older adults. I took a lesson from my grandmother with Blackridge. She hated books or shows with excessive profanity and overt sexuality. She was old school. Yes, she could sometimes swear like a sailor as they say, but when it came to books and shows, she liked the story instead of the smut. I learned to write that way for Blackridge. It was about the story and the adventure, not language and sex. The Double Club is my adult series. That is more the reality of the characters. Blackridge is more like my work of art, if I could call it that. I've often compared writing to sculpting, painting, music, or any other form of art, because that is exactly what it is. It's art.
The one thing that caused me to struggle with Blackridge was when my Aunt Betty passed away. I wrote about her in an earlier blog post called "Remembering Betty" and one of the pauses that came in my Life's Work was because of her passing. She was a big part of Blackridge. It was difficult to work on the Saga after she died, but she had lived a full life and saw almost ninety years in her time on the world with us. Her loss was a struggle. I admit that. I knew I had to press on, though. She got as far as reading up to Past Is Present in the story. The only books that she did not get to read were Next Exit (8) and Dead End (9), but that's okay, because she was happy to be a part of it and I dedicated Past Is Present to her because she loved that book and it was her favorite.
It was difficult for me to recover from the loss of Aunt Betty because she was the only person I shared the stories with before they were published. Blackridge is a suspenseful story about people who are like family to each other dealing with a sinister, shadowy villain. We all know how that kind of story both fascinates, because of the exciting events, and frustrates, because ya really wanna know what's going on! I reworked the release of the books because I wanted my readers to become invested in the characters I had created. Now that I can do as I please with my art, it's very rewarding. I know I've probably covered these thoughts in previous posts, but I felt it was time to write about Blackridge because even though I haven't released all of the books yet (there are still 2 more to publish as of this writing) the story is done.
I was asked by one of my life friends recently how it felt to be done with it ...
That was an interesting question. I didn't feel as bad as I thought I would after keeping Blackridge with me for so long. I have a lot of other works planned that are going to keep me busy and one of the main reasons that I am so sparse on social media is because (1) I expend a great deal of mental energy in planning and writing, (2) I have a busy day job, and (3) I'm really a very quiet, low-key person. Social media is an insane realm. Put the whole world in one place? (the internet) Yeah. Ya feel me? Right, so ... that's why I don't flood my accounts with posts. I'm pretty much writing and gaming most days, truth be told. I like quality posts and I'm pretty sure I'll continue to do things that way. I'm genuine like that. With me, what you see is what you get. Anyone who knows me knows that I am like that. It's a good way to be. Just be yourself. Be good to people. Most of my own family have no idea what my life's work is all about because they don't care to read it, but that's fine. I have plenty of friends and even some fans that encourage me and have always been there for me. There is a lot of kindness in the world, believe it or not. Treat everyone with respect and it will come back to you. People never forget when you are good to them.
But, yes ... Blackridge provided a creative outlet for many, many years. I worked on it because it was a really nice place to be. I had taken all of what I had learned about life and I put it into that story. There is a lot of me in that work, just like there would be in a painting, a sculpture, or a dance. One could say, "Well of course there is, you wrote it!" but you know what I mean. The thing that I feel most about Blackridge now that it's done is satisfaction. I am pleased with it. I did well, and I got my Aunt Betty's stamp of approval on that. There was a time when that was all I thought I needed. Then, my husband, Kevin, came along and read it. He was at a part where he said his hands were sweating while he was holding the book because it was that intense. He loved my work so much he became my cover designer so he could be a part of it with me. My best friend has been reading it and she is enthralled because she's always been on the outside looking in as far as Blackridge was concerned because even though it wasn't done, I would talk to her about things or characters.
Now that she has the books, she is loving the Saga. I am happy to get the reactions from both friends and fans that I do. People have been very kind about the Saga and I am thankful. I am the kind of person who is an extremely perceptive judge of character. I know people very well. I know those who bullshit you and those who are genuine. The Blackridge Saga was enjoyable to write. I never struggled. That's not what art is about. Art is expression. Art is life. It's your soul in whatever medium you put it in. If you are a dancer, dance to your heart's content. If you are a painter, paint upon that canvas until those colors become your dream. If you are a sculptor, carve away at your substance until your dream takes on the form you need it to be.
Things are really, really difficult in the world right now. We are facing a plague, unemployment, and some psychotic world leaders dominating the headlines and social media. These things will always be with us, in one way or another. Finding an art or a way to escape is very good for you. I think everyone should have something. If you don't, then come and read Blackridge. Come and find your way into the story that has been a part of my life since I was a young man, full of typos, awful plots, and pages of typed copy. You'll be pleased to see what an amazing Saga developed from days long passed and how the work has matured.
And if you do? Let me know. I hope you enjoy Blackridge as much as I've enjoyed writing it because I wrote it for you. My reader. I care a great deal about your entertainment and your enjoyment. I worked for it and yes, I'm really glad that people think it works. The world is wacky, so don't worry. We'll get through all this together. We just need something to help. I was motivated by a desire to write a story that people would love and to create characters that people would care about. My "imaginary people" have always been one of the strongest things about my writing. In all things, my characters stand out and they are very distinct. They are their own people and both friends as well as professionals in the world have commented on my characters by telling me how vivid they are and how much they love this one or that one. For me, that's what it's all about. I like it when people identify with a particular character. That is why I went back and wrote the Blackridge Saga the way that I did. I wanted investment from my readers and I gave them what they needed to love my characters as if they were real people ... because in the world that I have created for them, they are real people. They have hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. That is the magic of writing. If you can do that, you have created just as much beauty as that masterpiece painting or sculpture ... or the dance that could take your breath away.