All right. Where was I? I was going to tell you a story. Here goes.
A long, long time ago—I think the early 70s—I was totally into C.S. Lewis’ writing. I read all of his books back then in this kind of fanatical rush. Two in particular captured me in a way that very few others ever have. Maybe it was my age, the times. I don’t know. The first was The Great Divorce, probably my all-time Lewis favorite. I still go back periodically to reread it. I needn’t tell you about its structure, setting, or its characters, but I will comment on its theme. Salvation. Now, I’m not a Christian, although back then I guess I was. But it always amazed me—knocked me out—his view on forgiveness and entering Heaven. “We” can go at any time. At least that’s how I interpret the theme. We can enter. It’s our choice; not God’s or Jesus’ or Mary’s or Saint Peter’s (lol). The gates are open, but there’s a catch to getting in. We have to relinquish all our “rights” to ourselves in favor of God’s knowledge of what we were created to be, and what it’s possible for us to be. We simply cannot be in His presence as we exist in our present states of spirit.
The man who loves theological books and discourse for the sake of books and discourse. His self-obsession that ruled (they’re all dead, you know) his life and will rule his afterlife. The man who carries the demon (dragon) of lust on his shoulder. He wants badly to give it up; let the angel slay it, but it is so “dear” to him, so in control whenever it whispers in his ear.
Who in the crowd will become real at last?
The other book was “The Screwtape Letters”. A marvelous communication between Lucifer and one of his demons sent to ensnare a soul on earth. Clever spirit! Paraphrasing; “If cards will do the trick, use cards!”
In both books, it isn’t what we believe so much as it is what consumes us, that mortally harms our spirits, that will not enable us to enter into God’s presence. Looking through the glass darkly.
The upshot of this as far as my writing goes is this :) I wrote a book back then, sometime in the 70s. A pure knock-off of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters...although at the time I structured it differently, and really didn’t realize I was trying so hard to mimic his profound apologetics. I failed miserably, of course. He was a brilliant mind and a first-rate writer. I wasn’t, lol.
But, I completed it. I still have the draft, typed on my old Underwood typewriter. It’s kitschy and charming in its way. Terence is sentenced to hell. While there he sends letters “back home” to his father. Terence wants badly to get out, and so takes off on a journey to find Lucifer at the center of hell and demand his release. To make a long story short, he makes it out in the end, although I don’t remember if he finally confronted his moral dilemma in order to accomplish it. I don’t even recall where I had him winding up, if anywhere!
I set the story aside for years and years, and gave it little thought until a contest was announced at Bookrix last year. "Compose a story in diary form. Anything you want, but it has to be structured in thirty separate daily entries." It hit me as I pondered what I could write that a revamp of my earlier story--a resurrection of the original “Letters From Hell”--could be rewritten in diary form instead of letters. And so I began. I kept Terence, and added Teresa. I started the story in a very humorous vein, but quickly settled into writing about the journey itself that Terence and Teresa make…their back stories, a bit, too. Terence has no idea why he was sent to hell...but he will discover the reason at the end of his stay.
Coming to the Enlightened City. The choices both he and Teresa make. The festivals honoring the seven deadly sins. The Cathedral of Lust. I ripped through the last half, the images coming swiftly and clearly into my writer’s head, and onto the screen. Thank God for Word! I was extremely happy with it when I wrote "The End", and entered it into the contest, positive it would win first place. In a moment of “conscience”, I pulled it from the contest (thank you Laz). Perhaps it was arrogance on my part—allowing lesser-known, younger writers, a chance to get into the top ten, go on to the independent judging, and then win the prize. I hope it was truly only a moment of altruism. Anyway, it remained visible at my book page at Bookrix until recently.
In late November something new struck me. Screw publishers, put it up at Amazon. Val had several of hers listed there, and they were doing well. I swallowed my pride (is pride the first of the deadly sins?:) I created the “book”, hoping someone would read it, beyond my wife, my mother and father and Aunt Bessie. I had been writing all these years and had only one story published…that by a very small, obscure magazine. I received $12.00 in payment, lol. I have never cashed the check.
Sales were slow at first, and I thought, “Yeah, that makes sense. Just another dumb dream of succeeding in my writing.” But by mid-December something strange began to happen. Dear Diary, a Journal From Hell began to take off. Thirty-three downloads on Christmas Eve alone. Okay, lots of people got e-readers for Christmas. But, sales were consistent, and growing by the day. It is still going strong, and I’m actually going to get a fairly decent check from Amazon one of these days. That isn’t the really good thing, though. The REALLY good thing is that many, many people have bought it, and I assume enjoyed it. Enjoyed my story. It isn’t Hemingway, Tolstoy, Maugham. It might not even be “Joe Smith” who writes marvelous thrillers and is selling the hell out of them at Amazon. But, I think Dear Diary is good; very good, and I’m proud of it. Maybe I’m gaining an audience, even lacking totally in marketing expertise. I’m so stoked and thankful. If there are few other things I’ve succeeded at in my life, I’m going to succeed at creating stories, and that means not looking at what is, but rather at what can be if I don’t give up.
Thanks everyone, and I guess, thank you, God. Maybe you read it and liked it, too.