Treasured Memories – The Longest Night Watch
A few months ago, my good friend, Janet Gershen-Siegel, invited me to participate in a charity anthology she was writing a short story for. The anthology was to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of fantasy scribe Terry Pratchett. The proposition immediately sparked my interest because of my grandparents. Although neither of them suffered from Alzheimer’s, they each struggled with a similar neurological disorder that that made me want to contribute to this project.
Janet added me to the secret Facebook group that the project’s editor, Lacey D. Sutton had created for all of the contributors to communicate, collaborate, and encourage each other. It is also where I learned more about The Longest Night Watch. The stories and poems curated for the project were going to appear in the anthology’s second volume. Like its predecessor, it was going to honor the work and life of Terry Pratchett after he lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease in March of 2015 and all proceeds would benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and their efforts to rid the world of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The theme for this year’s anthology was Revolution, Secrets, and Conspiracies. Initially, I didn’t know what I was going to do with that, but I had a few ideas of things I wanted to include in my story, such as a bowl of hard candies or a bag of marbles that could be used to represent specific memories. I only needed to figure out how I would fit it into the story once I had settled on an idea. The story was due in a few weeks, so I didn’t have a lot of time to waste.
I spent the next couple of days tossing around ideas and even started writing the story a couple of times. I thought the story of a child going to see a grandparent for the last time before the disease stole all of their memories away would be interesting, but I struggled to find the right perspective to tell the story. Ultimately, I scrapped the idea and settled on another with buried treasure at the heart of the story.
I wanted to challenge myself for this particular project. To that end, I did a couple of things that I have not done before. My genre of choice is science fiction. For this story, I decided to step away from comfort zone and write something a little more contemporary. There are no space ships, no aliens, no miracle cures, or even some funky doo-hickey gadget to save the day. The story was about three people, a small family, and of course the disease.
The other thing that I did with this story that I found challenging was that the characters in the story were bilingual. I grew up in a bilingual household. My grandparents only spoke Portuguese; my parents after a time, learned to speak English though they still preferred Portuguese; while my brothers and I preferred to speak English. I knew that the disease manifested in some unique ways in people that were bilingual and I wanted to illustrate some of those struggles with my characters. Dusting off some of my high school Spanish text books and hitting various online translators and websites, I was able to translate key lines to create what I hoped was an authentic feel to these people.
With the general ideas of the story worked out, I set about putting them to paper to determine if the story would work at all. I produced a nearly 500 word outline that did not include a dish of hard candies, but rather a bag of marbles.
The next few days was spent hammering out the story itself. When the dust cleared, I had a little over 6000 words, which was less than the maximum word count for the anthology. I was pleased that the story not only was completed, but that I wouldn’t have to cut very much for it to make the cut. In fact, I had plenty of room to expand the story if I thought it needed it. It didn’t.
I ran through the story several times, fixing issues, and tightening things up. When it was finished, I asked Janet to look it over for me. She agreed, if I looked at her story. We exchanged stories and was thoroughly pleased by her entry. I don’t recall if I offered any constructive criticism to it or not, but I did get plenty of it from her about my story. Most of which was in regards to finding a proper balance in the bilingual elements of the story to make sure that non-spanish speakers could understand what was going on from context. We exchanged drafts of the story a couple more times until we were both pleased with the result. That night I submitted my story to Lacey, the project’s editor, ahead of the deadline, and proceeded to forget about the story and move on to my next project.
When the submissions deadline arrived and extensions were issued for a few key contributors, the stories were sent to a small army of copy-editors with new deadlines set for revisions. Weeks went by and I had not heard anything back. During an inquiry, I had been told that Janet had been my editor, which meant that my story was ready to go. However, as the editing deadline approached, I discovered that someone else had also been assigned my story for editing.
Cayleigh Stickler provided me with a detailed list of word choice and grammar issues that Janet and I had missed during our exchanges of the draft. After looking them over, I implemented most of them and quickly submitted the story, once again before the new deadline.
A few weeks later, Lacey contacted us once again asking for bios and photos for the book. She was hard at work getting everything finalized. Courtesy of my website, I had both ready at hand and sent them to her without delay. I don’t recall at what point it was, but I believe it was right around this time that the book’s artwork made an appearance for the first time, and which can be seen at the top of this post. And, a preliminary release date of late September was given.
Here we are in late September and just this morning, we were informed that the anthology: The Longest Night Watch, Volume 2: A Charity Anthology for Alzheimer’s Disease is now available on Amazon for pre-order with an expected release date of October 20th. To say that all of the contributors to the project was pleased with the news is an understatement. Everyone began the process of spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else.
I got another surprise today as well. My good friend, Janet, created an author page on Good Reads for me linked directly to the book, making it all official. I am a soon to be published author and contributor to an anthology.
I can’t express enough how grateful I am to everyone involved with this project that they allowed me to contribute to it. I want to personally thank Janet, Lacey, Cayleigh, and everyone else that I had met through the secret Facebook group for helping and supporting one another in this worthy endeavor. I am both honored and thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you.
Finally, to everyone reading this lengthy blog post. I humbly ask you to help the Alzheimer’s Association find a cure to these neurological disorders that plague so many people. Families are strained and fractured by the collateral damage inflicted by these diseases. You can do that by buying our book; donating directly to the Alzheimer’s Association; or getting involved with your local chapter. The links for these are below.