There were times over the last year when I wondered if this day would ever come. This book was THAT hard to write. I’d built a complicated world with an elaborate backstory, filled with a giant cast of characters who all deserved to have their stories told. How could I possibly create an ending to live up to the first two books AND fit it all into one novel that wouldn’t overwhelm the reader?
Without my incredibly talented and insightful editor, I wouldn’t have. I’d tried so hard, too, and thought I’d nailed it when I hit SEND that first time. What a heart-breaker that first round edit email turned out to be.
In the past, I prided myself on turning in fairly clean manuscripts that needed a good solid polish, maybe a few story changes, but nothing to stress about. With Forever Dusk, however, my good streak would come to an abrupt end.
There are too many story lines, too many characters, and too much going on. You need to simplify.
Translation: I needed to kill my darlings. Cut characters loose despite having built their personalities and backstories with the intent of giving them their redemption, helping them overcome their fears, and to find peace.
How could I do that to them? My creations. I gave them immortal life within the pages, promised to take care of them after all of the tormenting was done, and now I had to abandon them. It didn’t matter that they weren’t real people, other than within my imagination. My heart hurt that I had to let them fade into the background while their companions found their endings.
Even once I’d sorted out what/who had to stay and what/who had to go, it took weeks of intense edits to tear the book into pieces, and if I’m honest, a few tears of frustration. After I was done, my 90,000 word novel sat at 26,000 words, with story gaps large enough to park a semi in. One big, messy puzzle I didn’t yet have all the pieces for, and I had mere weeks to pull a miracle out of that quagmire. I’m normally a fairly linear writer, but I had to throw all of my habits out the window and jump all over the story, rebuilding it one small scene at a time until everything was connected again.
I’d done it. I couldn’t save everyone, and it nearly killed the muse, too, but it was finished.
Thank. Bloody. Hell.
Although I’m sad to say goodbye to the Mortal Machine world, I’m also hugely relieved it’s over, too. I’ve learned so much over the two years I spent with these imagined people, and I’m going to miss them terribly.
BACK OF THE BOOK
Since their last battle, life for the Mortal Machine—the secret-society that protects Earth and its inhabitants from dark outside forces—has become almost…normal. For everyone but Addison. The evil she’s imprisoned in her soul has begun eating away at her sanity, and despite her soul mate Asher’s efforts to hold her together, it’s causing painful and terrifying delusions.
Consequently, nobody believes Addison’s warnings that Marcus, their old enemy, has returned. When Marcus threatens Asher and the Machine, she agrees to find what he seeks—a treasure that, in his hands, could be deadly.
If she relies too much on Asher, she knows he’ll likely imprison her, if only to preserve what’s left of her deteriorating mind. But if she fails this final test, Earth will fall. So Addison is forced to distance herself from her love, to prevent the life she wants with Asher from being over before it truly begins.
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To acknowledge some of the characters who didn’t get their moment in the spotlight, I’ve included one of the scenes I cut from the original book. This story never came to pass, one of the many littering my editing room floor.
“Get out of my way, sentinel,” Asher said with what sounded like forced calm into Kat’s face.
She stood in front of Caine in a battle-ready crouch, her arms held wide to prevent Asher from getting around her. “You so much as lay a finger on him, and I’ll end you. He’s been agitated since you came through the door, so just leave.”
Asher knew how the memory wipe thing worked better than I did, so he was going to try to do a full baseline of him, which was a sort of metaphysical inventory of his soul, including his memories. It required touch between non-conduits, and maybe even a little blood. Maybe I should have made Kat leave before Asher had gotten the ceremonial dagger out, but she’d appeared frantic at the mere mention of leaving Caine alone with us, so I’d let her stay. So much for her promise to behave.
Caine clung to the fireplace, once again lost inside his head despite Samson and Sophia’s attempts to bring him out of it with gentle words. Sophia placed her hand on Caine’s arm and he flinched back, muttering something incoherent. It just about killed me to see him suffering, and after talking at length with Mom about other possibilities, and with no word from the possibly in-danger Izan, I still wasn’t any closer to giving my sentinel peace or unlocking the whereabouts of the swarm.
Sophia shook her head. Her eyes appeared tear-glossed, but she held onto her composure as she returned to where Remy loomed in the doorway. I’d balked at the extra people, but Asher thought it would be a good idea to have some backup in case Caine lost it again.
I came in beside Asher, and without me saying a word, he backed off and shot me a questioning glance. With so much on my mind I’d failed to mention the Kat/Caine situation to him. Asher didn’t have much of a bedside manner with anyone other than me, and if it were up to him, he’d probably have tossed Kat out into a false reality somewhere and dealt with her wrath later. Since I’d come along, he tended to let me handle the delicate situations.
“You care for him, I get that,” I began in my gentlest voice, wincing at my choice of words. Kat being the hardass she was wouldn’t want me pointing out that she had feelings, especially for someone who was emotionally and metaphysically unavailable.
“What? I do not care for him, other than…” She straightened, staring at me as if I’d just spoken pig Latin. While jabbing an accusing finger at me, she added, “He’s my…I’m responsible for him. You gave me this job, to protect him from himself and everything else, so go away and let me do it.”
I considered how to talk her down in a way that would get through to her. Sure, I could order her away or do one of Asher’s nasty tricks, but if I ever wanted to win her trust, I couldn’t do that. She’d always felt invisible, unimportant, and aimed to become better, and I’d used that against her once, but I got the feeling that wouldn’t play this time.
Given her desperate need to protect Caine, and the affection for the guy that had put cracks in her bitch armor that even I could see through, I had another idea. “You’ve taken better care of him than anyone else could have, and we’re all grateful. But it isn’t going to mean much if we don’t find the bugs and make sure they don’t destroy the true reality, the Machine—including Caine—and possibly the other true realities, too. You’re good, but I don’t think you’re good enough to protect him from that, and neither am I. Help me make sure we never have to find out.”
Kat kept staring at me. Her breath quickened as I imagined her playing out that scenario in her head. I’d never lied to her, and her wilting posture said that she believed me and hated it. After glancing back at Caine, and then at Asher, she finally settled her defeated stare on me. “Give me a minute with him.”