It is with great sadness and no small amount of consternation that I must report “The Forgotten Adventures of Dolley Madison” will not be completed by November of 2011.
Whatever disappointment you might be feeling cannot compare to my own, for now I shall have to go out and buy real Christmas gifts for my family and friends instead of presenting them with an autographed copy of a book whose cost to me is a tiny fraction of the cover’s Suggested Retail Price.
Some explanation for the delay is in order.
My previous books and articles were non-fiction, written for United States Army Soldiers and Marines who desired additional information on various aspects of warfare. Each was carefully researched, cleverly composed, widely read and internationally plagiarized. I wanted to do something different, so decided to write a fictional action-adventure novel, naively assuming fiction is just non-fiction with falsified facts.
This assumption was, I discovered a year into the project, wrong.
The real difference is that fiction has characters, and characters add an unbelievable level of complexity.
My characters are lazy, every one of them! I must tell them where to stand, what to do and say, even what to think. Perhaps they believe, having lived through the story once before, they are absolved of further effort–until after a scene is completed, at which time they proclaim (with righteous indignation!) they would never say or think or do whatever it was I wrote.
The main characters, confident I cannot kill them off, each present unique challenges.
Mrs. Madison complains my writing adds ten pounds to her weight, and insists on being described wearing fashionable clothing and colorful turbans, even when engaged in hand-to-hand combat on the muddy New Orleans battlefield.
Mr. Madison demands additional love scenes with Mrs. Madison, but is unwilling to accompany her through the wilds of Tennessee and Alabama, insisting instead on passionate flashbacks, naughty dream sequences, and increasingly risqué correspondence. Mrs. Madison was quite enthusiastic about this until she realized these explicit excursions into the marital arts were read by everyone; she now censors both frequency and detail–afterwards, of course.
Their young nephew, Bobby, keeps pestering me to include pals Tommy Jackson and Nate Forrest to defeat the enemy invasion, sometimes referring to these invaders as “Yankees”, a slip which invariably elicits howls of indignation from my host of British antagonists.
Sukey, Mrs. Madison’s servant, continues to find exotic weapons of increasing lethality for her many combat scenes, and I must verify each existed in 1814 or risk shifting the book’s genre to Steam Punk: the Girandoni compressed-air assault rifle checked out, but I’m pretty sure she forged Fulton’s signature on the flamethrower blueprints.
Minutes ago my editor informed me that during crucial dialog between Mr. and Mrs. Madison, the rest of the characters are visible in the background, helping the British Army burn the Capitol building, undoubtedly infuriated by something they saw on CSPAN’s coverage of Congress. Another scene rewrite, another week lost.
Spielberg and Lucas have the right idea: replace them all with digital replications, as in a graphic novel.
Well, enough of this self-indulgent commiserating.
Expect “The Forgotten Adventures of Dolley Madison” to be published prior to the two-hundredth anniversary of the start of the War of 1812: 18 June 2012.