Years ago, I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It was the historical account of Christopher McCandless, a young man who graduated to great promise from Emory University in the early 1990s only to abandon any semblance of identity (he literally burned all forms of identification) and left his home and family behind to hit the road on a cross-country trip. Chris ultimately ended up living out of an abandoned bus through a snowy Alaskan winter north of Denali National Park and, while incredibly resourceful, he ended up making one tactical mistake–he ate poisonous berries–and ended up perishing shortly before the spring thaw. His journey, both physically and psychologically, was introspective and meditative.
The publication of my next novel, Green Bay Outsiders, is only a few months away, and I have decided to share the first scene with you. Read on for the link.
As with any shared scene released before the publication of the novel, a few items may change here and there. But the overall themes about growing up and struggling to learn how to be an adult will remain.
Life is full of disappointments and this is especially true, in the novel Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, of Hector Maddox, father of the novel’s protagonist, Billy Maddox. Hector collapses in an existential fit of grief and disbelief when his youngest son, Matthew, is killed in a gun battle between drug mules and Border Patrol agents on the Maddox family ranch in Cochise County, Arizona.
The death of a family member can be devastating beyond belief but, as many a life coach has been known to say, it is a measure of our success in life to determine how we respond to tragedies.
This blog post is the third in a series that examines the major themes in Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. Check out the reader’s guide on this website to learn more.
Back in college, usually after my English major friends and I had had a little too much to drink, we liked to wax about the idea that “man is alone in the universe”. It is a topic often explored by literature. When friendship rears its head, as a kind of salve to isolation, that friendship often turns to betrayal or abandonment.
Hamlet is betrayed by Rosencrantz and Guidenstern. Gene shakes the tree and Phineas falls out in John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. The film, Good Will Hunting, shows Chuckie (played by Ben Affleck) opining pretty directly that his friend Will (Matt Damon’s character), will eventually leave their blue-collar friendship because he is a math genius who will eventually be sought after by some huge corporate or government interest.
If you’ve been on my mailing list for any amount of time, you know I’ve been working on a collection of stories intended to be compiled into a book-length collection entitled Three Billy Maddox Stories. The second story in particular, “Green Bay Outsiders”, has been in progress for some time. I just wrapped up my first draft the other day, and the thing clocks in at over 300 pages. That’s novella-length material, boys and girls, which wasn’t exactly what I was intending.
Still, the subsequent good news means that Three Billy Maddox Stories, when it’s finally published, will be a decent length. The first story, “Billy and Darla”, is around 70 pages and I just banged out the first 800 words of the third story, which is tentatively entitled “God’s Fiery Touch”.
This final story won’t be as long as “Green Bay Outsiders”. I’ve written an outline and envision five major scenes to the story. So I know what’s going to happen. As a result, I am now in a position to begin some of the planning activities for the book launch. When will Three Billy Maddox Stories publish? I expect sometime in late fall.
My long short story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, is coming along. Yes, I know I’ve been at work on it for a while and it’s dangerously close to turning into a novella, truth be told. I converted the manuscript into Microsoft Word the other day just to see how long it was, and it had reached 170 pages. When did that happen?
In any case, one of the fun things about writing a story that turns long is that new themes emerge, or existing themes take on depth or nuance you originally didn’t expect. I posted my first post about “Green Bay Outsiders” back in September when the only thing I really knew was that one of the main characters, Jack Billings, was a Vietnam vet who had fought in Khe Sanh in 1968.