My mother loves to bake, and she bequeathed this love to me. I have so many wonderful memories of licking cookie dough from beaters, nibbling the cores of pears left over from homemade jam, and suffering a burnt tongue from not letting the English jam tarts cool. The smells during the holidays were intoxicating, a mixture of buttery homemade bread, gooey cinnamon rolls, fudge, toffee, homemade caramel, and innumerable types of cookies and cakes. (Chuck says my food descriptions in The Successor are a persistent source of editorial distraction; he wants to eat, not write.) My mother would also spend hours smocking handmade dresses (a lost art form). In short she threw herself completely into being a mother and homemaker and, as often happens, left very little for herself, her private, secretly longing self.
My father commented on this when I was 16; I shall never forget his words. “Naomi, never give up on your dreams, the things that define you. Always remember to keep something for yourself.” He said my mother threw everything into being a homemaker as soon as they were married. But as the years passed she seemed to lose something of herself and became sad. Dad grew increasingly concerned and encouraged her to find an outside interest. She reached into her past and took up piano lessons again. Some of my fondest memories are of lying awake in my bed late at night listening to my mother play the piano. I remember with great fondness her taking me with her to the concert hall when she was assigned to give a recital and to the Bach Festival in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a picturesque village on the coast of California.
My mother’s love of music gave wings to my pursuit of writing. I found something that was my own and invested my life energy in it. When Chuck and I were finishing the book, I saw more clearly than ever how these life lessons and so many more experiences shaped me along my way. I look forward to sharing my story, hidden within the pages of The Successor, with you. I have now passed along my father’s council to my own daughter and to other women I know. Never give up on your dreams. Find something that defines you and refine that definition into a beautiful poem.
- Naomi Lea Sawyer
Charles Leerhsen wrote a book entitled, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. I have not read it, but I did read portions of a speech Mr. Leerhsen delivered about writing this book and about the insidious process that gives birth to lies and sustains them despite all evidence of the truth. Mr. Leerhsen's speech was given at Hillsdale College on March 7, 2016, and published in the March 2016 edition of Imprimus. I encourage all to read it.
I don't know much about baseball, except, as George Will once said, it is a game of chapters. I know even less about Ty Cobb, the first man to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen. I do, however, know something about lies, and was intrigued by two things Leerhsen said in his speech.
"It is easy to understand why this is the prevailing view. People have been told that Cobb was a bad man over and over, all of their lives. The repetition felt like evidence." (Emphasis added.)
I have witnessed this feeling many times, and sometimes I have felt it. I have seen it in science, religion, politics, and the discourse of families. It is seldom recognized, and often goes unchallenged. Repitition can easily be mistaken for truth.
Mr. Leerhsen says the following near the end of his speech:
"I knew going into this project [writing the book]—having been at one time an editor at People magazine—that human beings take delight in the fact that the rich and famous are often worse and more miserable than they are. What I didn’t understand before was the power of repetition to bend the truth. (Emphasis added.) In Ty Cobb’s case, the repetition has not only destroyed a man’s reputation, it has obliterated a real story that is more interesting than the myth."
Truth is stranger--and more interesting--than fiction; however, I think that the best place to tell the truth is in a work of fiction. That is what we have attempted in The Successor.
Charles Arthur Sale
Publication arrangements for The Successor are well underway and on schedule for release this year.
It is like climbing a mountain. There is initial excitement. Hands and feet are cold starting out. The pace is uneven at first but soon settles into something sustainable (one hopes). Clothing is adjusted as the expenditure of energy produces heat. The down jacket comes off. Perhaps a brimmed hat replaces a wool one. Other things are removed or exchanged as progress is made upward. The route becomes obscured, maybe even lost--but never entirely because one knows by map and compass (and these days perhaps GPS) where, high above, the objective awaits. False excitement is supressed (if one has experience in this ridiculous activity) as each false summit is mounted and passed over. On and on. The whole thing becomes a slog--especially the difficult mountains, the ones with long approaches and high summits--but one goes on. Weather threatens. One tries to pick up the pace but exhaustion denies this effort. The air thins. Now the universe is the next step and the next and the next. And then the summit.
Are you hearing the metaphor in all this? Six years Naomi Lea Sawyer and I have been on this mountain. The altimeter says we are close to the summit, but we will believe only when we are standing on it and there is nothing higher in the near distance. We will share it all with you when we arrive. Soon. We will arrive soon.
Every author wishes to be read. But that, dear reader, is not the only, or perhaps even the primary, joy. As those who have climbed many mountains (and wish to climb others) will tell you, the summit is merely a check mark. I have few recollections of summits; I have many of the efforts, including the suffering, to achieve them. From the summit one sees the ridge connecting to the next summit, and feels a new excitement. If one is subject to mission creep (as I am), that ridge can prove dangerously alluring. Yes, the weather is closing in, but we have come this far, we are so close (almost always an illusion), we can make it, we have headlamps... The insanity advances from there.
We have completed The Successor, and nearly completed its sequal, The Culling. But there are more books to come in the Chronicles of the Two Worlds.
We can make it; we have headlamps.
On and on it goes.
I was eating out with some girlfriends last night when the topic of books came up. One of my friends asked what led me to write. Instantly, everyone’s attention was on me. I could see in their eyes the perennial question: What is the secret path to happiness and self-fulfillment—and to the few dollars we’ll need to pay for the Lear jet and monthly sojourns to Paris.
I paused and remembered the moment my story began seven years ago. I looked back further at the events that led up to that moment. I was the second of five girls in our family. For as far back as I can remember, my parents had a Christmas tradition that required all of us to write a Christmas story or poem and deliver it on Christmas Eve after donning our new pajamas. (The annual gift of new pajamas was part of the storytelling tradition.) I remember the stories told by the glowing lights of the Christmas tree as the listeners nestled together comfortably on the living room floor. I remember how I invariably procrastinated writing my story until the very last minute (usually a day or two before Christmas). I look back now and I remember how much I enjoyed writing those stories, how the words seemed to pour onto the paper, and how proud I felt reading them aloud to my family. When it was my turn to read, my sisters would grab a pillow and blanket and get really comfortable because my stories were always the longest. After the last story was read, my parents would present each of us with a special ornament they had purchased to honor our literary efforts.
This tradition stuck into adulthood. During a Christmas season around seven years ago, I sat down and once again began to compose my annual Christmas story to present at the family reading. I don’t remember much about the story, but I do remember it being about an orphan boy. (I was going for tears. Orphans usually work.) I remember quite clearly that in one of the scenes in my story, the boy was being chased through a wintry forest during a savage snowstorm. The boy became very cold and lay down in a forest glade and fell asleep. As his breathing became shallow and death drew near, two arms reached out, gathered him up, and took him into the Netherworld. I stopped my writing at that moment. I had the strong impression that this scene was part of another story, a much larger story--one I had to write. I did write it soon after. Charles Arthur Sale later joined me in a writing partnership, and we crafted the story into our first novel, The Successor.
I never did finish my Christmas story that year. For the first time ever, I delivered a poem instead. I have no recollection of it. I’m sure it was awful. But in my family that didn’t matter. We were together. That was enough.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all the great traditions. Thank you for fostering in me the passion and persistence that led to creation of the Chronicles of the Two Worlds. The Successor, Book One of the Chronicles, will be published this year, and Book Two, The Culling, is in progress.
--Naomi Lea Sawyer
Naomi Lea Sawyer and I became a writing team on 25 August 2010. She had begun work on The Successor much earlier. We met, held discussions, and soon entertained the strong suspicion that together as writers we would be more than the sum of our parts.
The writing began over the top of Naomi’s earlier work, and the final manuscript, completed nearly six years later, retained the essence of her original work, both in plot and theme. Some elements were added. Others were tossed aside. Some characters proved elusive. Others came forward in a rush, whether we wanted them to or not. We edited, wrote, edited again, rewrote, cut here, added there, rewrote—and on and on in the seemingly endless cycle that novelists must endure.
In the meantime, we discovered we had other interests in common. We climbed mountains in the warm sun and bitter cold, forded streams flooded by spring runoff, and followed uncertain routes to even less certain destinations in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Superstition Wilderness of Southern Arizona, and the red rocks of Sedona to the north. I re-engaged an old hobby—ham radio—and she took it up with a passion, pushing us both to the highest rating in amateur radio and requiring us to assemble and disassemble many antenna arrays on many summits. She, a humble pianist, and I, a humble cellist, also played music together. And, of course, we were photographers and journalists of everything we experienced.
All of this was plowed into the book, often in most unexpected ways. The Successor is a fantasy novel, but the characters in it and the trials they endure are quite real to us—and we think they will be to you as well. You will search in vain for us in the book because we are not there in any one character or relationship. You may, however, find yourself.
--Charles Arthur Sale
Sometimes it is helpful to stand back and look at your whole life, all of it, all at once. See where you are, where you have been, and where you are headed. That is the beauty of maps. Maps tell us a little about ourselves--where we have travelled and what our goals are. If you can locate yourself on a map you can find where you have been, where you have zigged when you should have zagged, what peaks you have scaled and valleys you have dropped low into. Seeing all this can help you plan for your future. I look back on my life and see how all my experiences brought me to this day, this very moment. They shaped and influenced me in innumerable ways to help me become a better writer, a better person, a better friend. It is a pleasure to share with all of you, through our book, The Successor, a piece of us and our journey through life. Enjoy, and good luck on your own journey.
--Naomi Lea Sawyer