Behind the Book

Forward from "A Shot in the Dark"

A Shot in the Dark

ďDedications.Ē That word disrupted my world for about a week. Most authors slap a name or two at the beginning of their books to immortalize those who helped make possible the story upon which their readers are about to embark. Their Dedications can be heartfelt, and usually are, or they can be nothing more than an obligatory, last minute addition to the manuscript. I didnít want mine to be obligatory, so I agonized over it. For a week. Did I mention that?

I ran the gamut of people I know who had been inspirational to me in some form or another. All the traditional folks fell into line: My son, my parents, my siblings, both my ex-husbands, my friends, an old high-school English teacher, my college professor aunt. I even had a moment when I landed on the names of my three dogs: Vai, Nuno and Satch. It seemed to me that those three pups sacrificed the most for my craft. With their unconditional, unwavering devotion to me, regardless of the fact that they had to endure my repeated obliviousness to their presence while I wrote this book, they certainly deserved a proper dedication. There were many in the running, but I knew the truth, and it wasnít just a name or two. In the end, I chose to write this Forward-slash-Dedication because this book, and my writing as a whole, was not inspired by any one or two individuals.

Let me explain, since thatís why I chose to drag this part out. The main characters found in this novel were dreamed up, and the first chapter was written, in the mid-1990s and then, after playing around with it for a while and finding myself unable to pinpoint a true direction for it, I tossed it into the slush-pile of full manuscripts that I had never submitted, short-stories that never went anywhere, pages upon pages of poetry that charted my life, and a large collection of conceptual, undirected paragraphs and orphaned first chapters. There it stayed, and like the fate of everything else that stagnated in the cold murkiness of the slush, it was eventually forgotten.

When I began to write again after a long hiatus, I started with a story that had been itching through my head. With it, I was certain that I was on to something. For a month or so I wrote with passion, and then the inevitable happened. I finished the first chapter of that sure-fire story and once again I hit the wall. Blocked. Another first chapter found its way into the slush-pile.

Frustrated with myself, I waded back into the depths of the slush in an attempt to understand my block and it was there that I rediscovered the long-forgotten first chapter of the book that is now before you. Unfinished, raw and directionless as it was, I read through it and found with pleasant surprise, more than fifteen years after I had written it, that it still held weight. The characters were strong, but the chapter itself needed some intense tweaking. Kadyís camera had originally been written as a traditional 35mm, and I had to bring it into the digital age. Cell phones, while present at the time, werenít prevalent as they are now. Texting was unheard of. I had to bring todayís technology in and, once I did, the story began to unfold.

Future scenes I had yet to write waylayed me before I had even finished with the rewrites on the first chapter. Inevitable conflicts emerged in my mind and the ultimate end of the book came charging in to make itself known to me. Suddenly I saw the complete picture. I knew these characters; I had known them for more than fifteen years. But now I knew their story. This same first chapter with which I had been at a loss so many years ago had wallowed in the slush for so long that it had defiantly developed legs, and when I woke it from its slumber, it took off into a full-out run.

I think what had shut me down back when I had first written it was the absence of the time betweenóthe life experiences that I had yet to wade through and the voice that I had yet to develop in my writing style. I now realize that thereís no way I could have written this book fifteen years ago. It took a little more living, a little more understanding of the nuances of people and what drives them, and a little more sideline observation before I could see the whole picture and do these characters justice.

That being said (because Iím a writer and I like to explain things) here is my Dedication-slash-Forward: This book was inspired by every individual who crossed my path between that long-ago time and now. Within these covers is every anonymous person with whom I struck up a conversation in line at the grocery store or the gas station, or who sat next to me at the bar as we bought each other beers. Itís the people with whom I developed relationships, with whom I continued relationships, and with whom I lost relationships. Itís the people I know only in passing and those I know intimately. Itís the people like the nameless woman who, while I was recently serving on jury duty, bummed a cigarette from me outside the courthouse and then sat down next to me and cried while we smoked and she told me her troubles. She just needed to tell someone, and maybe she saw in me an honest desire to listen to what she had to say, to know her, and to understand what was going on in her life that had brought her to the courthouse.

This book is dedicated to everyone out there who has suffered harsh judgment from others for actions that he or she took, or decisions that he or she made, that were only a means of survival. Sometimes we have to break the rules just to survive. Life often boils down to simple self-preservation. The concept of the world as a variety of greys instead of black-and-white is not a new one, but itís one that is often forgotten when the transgressions belong to others. When the transgressions are our own, we can clearly see the grey. As observed by Kady Swann later in this book, those actions or decisions may never be viewed as right, but when they are made for the mere purpose of self-preservation, of survival, it is then that they become forgivable.