On September 28th 2015, I wrote the epilogue to Ghosting the Street. It completed a story nearly two years in the writing. The greatest time-span thus afforded to a single novel in the It Matters series.
Ok, it's also the longest novel of them all to date. But that wasn't what took all the time. In reality, the actual writing could probably be counted in mere weeks. I'd be amazed if they amassed much over an actual month. But there were extended periods wherein the story languished unwritten and abandoned. Sometimes this was my fault - apathy and anxiety each taking huge chunks of the blame. Often it was not - life got in the way or time ran out.
Ghosting the Street was written during a very tumultuous time in my life. You can probably tell.
Between the first scenes penned and the last, everything changed. I'm not even sure it can be said, with all honesty, that the same author wrote them. Merely the same fingers upon the keyboard and brain firing imagination. The mind... well, ah! The mind! If iron will and circumstance continually patches back together that which fractures, shatters and fragments on a regular basis, then can what emerges ever be the same as what went before? Or is it refashioned anew each time? But then, those old imposters - reality and sanity - always were over-rated; the mind, the main culprit there.
I began Ghosting the Street during the time-frame covered by the tale. While weather battered the windows and a trek outdoors was a seriously considered endeavour, I curled up on a friend's settee in Cheshire and typed. Those early chapters flooded from my fingertips. I saw Mello slipping and sliding on his motorbike through the Forest; I watched 'Rush' (the movie) and sent Matt hurling around a race-track. I took them to the edge of Hamburg and stranded them there, while in real time those RPing each of these characters filled Twitter streams with the as-it-happened gossip. And the television showed Aberystwyth being broken into bits by ferocious wind and waves. A road, which Matt, Mello, Fenian and Century had driven down in Annals, now had its tarmac torn down to the archaeology, slabs hurled into sandbagged student houses. You couldn't make this stuff up.
I got stuck in Cheshire. That horrific weather of the first week in 2014 made it unsafe for me to make it home too. So I typed. More chapters pouring out in an absolute frenzy. Twenty chapters or so in about a week of writing.
In between, I read Cory Doctorow's 'Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town'. The latest in a long list of his amazing novels recently devoured. That's what I wanted Ghosting the Street to be - my Cory Doctorow novel. Unfortunately, I'm not Cory. Not even close, in terms of technological knowledge. The story didn't live up to my plan for it, which I still think is a shame. I half want to contact Cory and send him various chapters; ask him to boost the hacker/computing/tech savvy content, because geek as I am, I can't match that.
Though I tried. There is nothing in the gadgetry, Hacktivism and cyberworld awareness in this novel which isn't true of real life too. The history pans out (though you'd be hard pushed to find the likes of Chessman and CrashnBurn actually mentioned in the testimonies of those who lived it, nor even the court records). Even the CCC Congress schedule matches that in the book. Those lovely people streamed Congress live - and archived the videos on their site - so those of us trapped a raging sea away could attend digitally, and describe certain lectures, displays and demonstrations in our stories.
Sareyva was there, as always, agreeing to beta-read the chapters. Spoiled Kitten gave the nod that she would keep pace with me (such a desperately important role, as I've learned to my cost this time around), as she had with all the rest. Unfortunately I then stopped.
For much of 2014 and well into 2015, I didn't touch this novel at all. I had too much going on elsewhere, writing articles for sites and building other on-line sources of revenue. I'd lost my job in the midst of a recession and no local firm wanted to employ me for all my trying. So I made my own opportunities. Working too hard. Paying the price in burn out. Ghosting the Street pretty much forgotten.
Though not Death Note. What began as a hobby (and a way to answer in one blog, rather than dozens of emails or Tweets, the ubiquitous question - are you going to finish the next novel ever?) became a proper concern. Death Note News is now a thriving website in its own right. At the time of writing, it attracts between 1,500 and 2,000 readers a day, which took me aback, I can tell you. Nevertheless, I keep them informed on all things Death Note and even occasionally remember to blog about what I'm writing fan fiction wise too.
Then two major things occurred.
Firstly, Orangepunch came to Britain to study at one of our universities. At least that is her story. Supported somewhat by the fact that she's sitting three feet away from me writing her Masters dissertation, as I gabble this. Really she came to stalk me, steal me from all I knew and loved, then carry me away to our mountain in Wales. Once she'd handed me a Welsh Lovespoon (being au fait with all historical Cymric traditions in the art of Matti Napping), it was pretty much game over. We were engaged on St David's Day. Moved in together on June 13th 2015. And she hasn't killed me yet.
What she has done is encourage me to write Ghosting the Street. Which I half suspect was her plan all along. Now that the end game has been achieved, I'll probably be dumped this time next week.
Secondly, out of seemingly nowhere, the forum here really kicked off. By 'seemingly nowhere', I largely mean that a wild Mistress9 appeared and decided to catch 'em all. The old gang. The refugees scattered after the demise of MangaBullet were all now subject to bat signals sounded the length and breadth of cyberspace. Some returned, answering the call of messages buzzing through word of mouth, or reading my Death Note News blogs telling them it was a thing. Mistress9 was freaking tireless, and that inspired the rest of us too. Suddenly apathy turned to energy and we were chatting like we'd never been away.
Other Mello and Matt fan-fiction writers took up my invitation to upload their stories to my library too. And I began to care about Ghosting the Street again.
Succumbing to the tripartite forces of Orangepunch, Mistress9 and the whole forum community, a tentative read of lost chapters morphed into something more. From mid-May 2015, I was not only familiarising myself with the story, but starting to gather those flotsam snippets together to form a novel's vague shape. Then I wrote. Chapters poured out of me. Part one completed; part two, most of part three, and a substantial amount of part four flooded from my keyboard into my folder within three weeks. Then stopped dead.
I'd moved house. There was so much to do there, and I didn't even have my PC for the first week or two. Nor internet for about a month. Inside my folder, you see everything stop on June 12th 2015. There's a single chapter from July. A few from August, all amounting to less than a handful of days wherein the muse took me. Then nothing until mid September 2015. Then whooosh! Several chapters tumbling one after another, until the whole thing was done.
Not only had I moved house, I'd lost my confidence. Panic brought over-working, which didn't do my head and health much good. I'm not Matt. I've never been addicted to Seroxat and our madness evolves in slightly different ways. But I'd be lying if I said I hadn't plundered my own mentality, anxiety attacks and general state of mind to inform his similar descents of psyche. In many ways, I'm more like Mello - stressed, pushing myself too far, exhausted much of the time. But then mine is nervous exhaustion, so I kind of span them both.
So Ghosting in the Street was cathartic. More than that, it sometimes held the threads of my sanity together.
But there were lots of people in the background chasing after those threads as they zoomed past; collecting and returning them, so they could be glued by Ghosting, thus serving as sanity again. They deserve more thanks than mere words at the bottom of a long-assed waffle awards. Nevertheless, thank you Orangepunch, Bubbles (Brookestardust), Kinofdragons, Mistress9, Alexhliel, Melmat, Renchan, Ethereality, Amaryllis, Lua, Brokenboss, Aaria and AquaCola. And Mello, who often took over the writing, when I was unable. And the divinely reckless Mariomatt - with whom no writer should ever dare to push past the limits of psyche (dude plays to win). Been a pleasure flying over the moon with you, Mail. Especially since you knew how to land.