There can be no doubt that I have never gone so long between books. No doubt that this is the most ambitious novel I've undertaken, and the longest. I think I can safely report that most bookstores have Tennis Shoes Adventure Book 11: Sorcerers and Seers out on the shelves. Most of my book signings so far have been extraordinarily successful. Yesterday, between the two venues, I signed about 200 books for people--some avid fans, and some who were buying the books for the first time. In any case, these kinds of numbers are not particularly common for me. It was, humbly speaking, more attention than usual.
I've gotten positive feedback from fans so far, but I'm sure I'll inevitably get the latter. Yesterday at the Sandy, Costco I had a strange confrontation with a fan who assured me that he "loved my books" but would not purchase any more until the series was totally complete. It was a very love/hate kind of confrontation, but I think I understand the sentiment.
The standard response I always give to folks at signings when they ask if this is the last book is, "No. Right now I'm working on a sequel to Passage to Zarahemla. This sequel will tie-in to the Tennis Shoes series. And when you read the sequel to Passage to Zarahemla (called Escape From Zarahemla), you'll understand why this book had to be written before I could write Book 12 or Thorns of Glory." In a sense that means there will be at least two more novels in the Tennis Shoes "saga." And maybe more beyond that. But my goal is to at least complete the basic storyline currently underway in Book 12.
I realize I've pursued a very strange style of storytelling to end a book on a cliffhanger. It's not such an uncommon style with modern authors, but I know a reader is often tempted to groan in frustration when they reach the last page. However, for any reader who simply loves a great story, and can drink in the plot and words and characters, I'm not sure they should care too much. Many appreciate the complex milieu and are grateful that it isn't the end--that characters they have come to know and appeciate will "be back." Each of my Tennis Shoes novels have successively gotten longer, meaning that I have tried to create greater "value" simply by adding more adventure. That may be the result of addressing the "frustration" sentiment. Will more pages to keep someone on the edge of their seat seem more worth the price? But even a good friend of mine who works for my publisher expressed that she will not read my books until she knows that the series is finally and completely done. Hmm. Unfortunately she may find herself in for a very long wait. Even if I draw to a close the story currently underway that technically began with Warriors of Cumorah, that doesn't mean that I might not pursue the series further and take it another direction.
I had another fan yesterday who came up to me and explained that she will read the storylines out of order. She was just too impatient to find out what happened to Steffanie and Pagag, for example, and then she went back and read the rest of the chapters that she had skipped. I certainly understand this temptation. But I don't advise it. Especially toward the end. Those who have completed the book know that the storylines unexpectedly converge and combine in a way that would spoil certain plot twists if one read the book out of order. Those who have experienced the twist with a certain Jaredite warrioress understand what I'm saying. I'm not sure the surprise or "gestalt" of this would be quite the same if someone read the book out of order. But who can say? To each his/her own. Consume the book however you judge to be best.
My hope is simply that the book is judged to be good writing, strong storytelling, compelling research, and mind-bending plotlines. If a reader doesn't come away with a greater appreciation for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and an understanding of the complexity of the Book of Mormon that they previously did not possess, then the book should not have been written. The end goal with these books remains the same: a person with a flagging testimony should be compelled to get on their knees and reopen a powerful dialogue with their Father in Heaven; a teenager who is vacillating whether or not to go on a mission should find himself bursting at the seams to share the Gospel and play whatever small role they possibly can in building God's magnificent kingdom. Finally, anyone who is experiencing excruciating trials should be comforted to know that others have experienced/are experiencing similar trials, and have/are pulling through. Sure, the trials in this book are fictional. But are they? The majority of us do not have trials related to traveling in time, but beyond that, specific emotions and distress that my characters endure should seem very familiar. The spiritual challenges, physical suffering, and heart-wrenching grief are all part of the human condition. I've personally been through a lot of those. And readers who have the gift to truly immerse themselves in a work of fiction and "become part" of the adventure, I hope, find themselves very much strengthened and comforted with regard to overall theme of the Tennis Shoes series. And what is that theme? I would hope that any of my veteran readers can answer that without hestitation. Simply put: God is at the helm.
I welcome feedback from readers--so long as it doesn't spoil specific plot points. If you can't resist that, then feel free to write me directly at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I've already had my first fans ask me with eagerness, "When's the next book coming out?" So the brief respite and satisfaction that I may have enjoyed relishing the experience of completing such a long and complex novel is officially over. Now I have to get back to work.
I express, once again, my sincere gratitute to fans who have stuck with me, and stuck with the series all these year. My sincere objective is to prove that it is, ever and always, worth the wait. No shortcuts. The books are designed to get better and better as I challenge myself to out-do what I have previously done. I sincerely want to be the creator of some of the best storytelling and novel-writing the LDS market has enjoyed. History will tell if I have successed. But mostly, fans will tell. It will be shown by how long these books actually remain on the shelves of LDS booksellers before the owners finally make room for whatever is the newest trend or "thing." So far this month I seem to have earned a revitalized position on that shelf. Let's hope those days continue for a very long time.
Those who wish to preorder Sorcerors and Seers, or any other Tennis Shoes novel, DVD, etc., can call me directly at 801-495-0555. Yes, I often answer the phone directly. Whatever I become, I hope it's never someone too busy or too "important" to speak directly with fans.