Shannon here: When Western Romance author, Stephen Bly went to be with the Lord, he left an unfinished novel. His wife and sons decided to finish it for him. Here’s the story, plus winner’s choice of three of Stephen’s novels: It’s Your Misfortune & None of My Own or Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot or The Lost Manuscript of Martin Taylor Harrison. If each post gets 10 comments or more, three different winners will each get a book. Comment on any post dated Jan 22 – 27. Deadline: Feb 8th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Janet:
CALLED TOGETHER, FORCED APART by Janet Chester Bly – Copyright©2012:
I started the writing craze. Then I got my husband Stephen Bly involved. We combined as a writing team for over thirty years. Then his fiction got so prolific that it consumed us both, to keep up with the process before and promotion afterward.
In early January 2011 Steve resolved to do three jobs by summer: prune the pines in our yard; re-roof the house; complete his contracted 106th novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot.
A few weeks later he played eighteen holes of golf. The next day, he could hardly stand for more than a few minutes, breathing hard. His almost five-year battle with prostate cancer finally took its toll. The next four months he spent more days in the hospital than out and he passed away June 9th.
Determined to finish his list of projects, I hired a tree trimmer. I found a roofer. Meanwhile, our three sons said to me, “Let’s get that book done.”
Can a committee of four create fiction? We had the passion and a four-month deadline to find out. So began a different kind of love story.
Steve left us 7,000 words, a synopsis and some character names. I had never written adult fiction alone, although I had authored children’s books and co-authored adult cozy mysteries with Steve. But I was determined that somehow we’d do this final task for him, as much his way as possible, with a story to make him proud. I tore into our writing books for some quick tips and printed out excerpts for the sons: Russell, Michael and Aaron.
I sensed the wisdom and God’s own purpose for including them. For one thing, to incorporate Steve’s input throughout. Some of that I knew by coming alongside him all those years. But our sons possessed a part of his personality and thought process genes. They also knew about golf swings and poker hands. All three were movie buffs. They had a passion for analyzing characters and storylines. They had to be involved.
So I joined another partnership.
Any suggestion could be made, but I had the power of last edit and control of the ‘send’ button.
I had to find my rhythm in Steve’s story. And how to write from a man’s point of view. Westerns were Steve’s genre. He knew the geography, history, facts about guns and horses, the language and the lifestyle. We had to play catch up on all fronts. This story had to read like a Stuart Brannon character and a Stephen Bly novel.
My goal had been to pour out at least 5,000 words per day, like Steve did with ease. I couldn’t do it. I had to downsize to about 2,000. That frustrated me and caused panic that we’d never get it done in time. Then I realized I self-edited as I wrote, which took more effort. When several of the boys crafted scenes of their own, the total count jumped and I knew we’d make our goal.
Our women readers would wonder if Brannon, a long-time widower, would find romance. This plagued us for some weeks until the true lovers emerged.
The last scenes Steve dictated to me in a quarantined hospital room. I wore a sweaty yellow synthetic gown and acrylic gloves, while typing as fast as I could.
When read aloud, the sons commented, “Doesn’t flow with the rest of the story.”
In order to include these vignettes, we devised dream sequences for Brannon.
Keaton Tanglewood, a young Indian says, “The old chiefs dream many dreams.”
Brannon ponders, “Am I like an old chief? Are we getting so close to the next world that this one and the other start to blur together?”
That tied it in.
With the time crunch, there wasn’t space to give the manuscript a rest, to put it aside so we could come back to it fresh one last time. Instead, we turned it in after frantic days of rewrites.
I didn’t get overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task or the inevitable comparisons on the quality by my peer group. I stayed steady because I knew without a doubt this must get done. Looking back, I’m astounded that we accomplished this daunting task. To God be the glory.
The most enjoyable aspect was working with my sons. We labored on behalf of someone we dearly loved and missed. In the midst of the occasional stab of tears, we grieved together. The fiction crafting process itself proved therapeutic.
The intimate look into Steve’s favorite character, this journey along the frontier of this man’s soul was like peering into Steve’s.
This stanza is adapted from one of my husband’s poems.
The preacher was wrong years ago when he said,
‘It’ll last ‘til death do you part.’
It’s an Idaho sunrise, my latté’s all gone,
and I still got that guy in my heart.
Janet Chester Bly has authored 31 nonfiction and fiction books, 19 she co-authored with her late husband Christy Award winning author Stephen Bly. Her titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder and The Heart of a Runaway. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons–Russell, Michael and Aaron–live down the mountain in Lewiston, ID with their families.
Russell Bly is married to Lois, father of Zachary and Miranda (married to Chris Ross), and grandfather of Alayah (2) and Jason (5 months). He is manager of Deranleau’s department store in Moscow, Idaho.
Michael Bly is married to Michelle and is Director of Business Operations for Inland Cellular in Lewiston, Idaho.
Aaron Bly is married to Rina, father of Keaton (5) and Deckard (2). He’s Manufacturing Supervisor for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Lewiston, Idaho.
To find out more info about authors Stephen Bly and Janet Chester Bly, check out website: http://blybooks.com/
Or On A Western Trail blog: http://blybooks.blogspot.com/
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Come back Jan 24 for Janet’s interview!