It's been twenty-seven days since I sent off the proposal and first seventy-five pages of The World We Live in to my editor. Not that I'm counting. In fact, until thirty seconds ago, I hadn't counted, and would have sworn it was a lot longer than that.
It's been a complex twenty-seven days.
This morning I forded the river of irritation and entered the welcome land of weekend. No jumping when the phone rings. No constant checking of e-mails. A time for peace and reflection.
Here's what I peacefully reflected. Since writing the dead and the gone, approximately eighteen months ago, I have come up with six different versions of the third book. And in each one, Carlos Morales has met a different fate.
For those of you unfamiliar with d&g, or who have simply forgotten, Carlos is the older brother of Alex, the main character. Carlos exists, not as a plot device, but as a character explainer. I didn't want Alex to be the firstborn. I didn't want him to be comfortable being in charge of his two younger sisters. I wanted, as Shakespeare by way of Preston Sturges put it, to have greatness thrust upon him.
In d&g, Carlos has twelve lines of dialogue (I counted) and is heard from only once more, when a postcard he sent is read on Page 144 (I looked). He's in the Marines, and frankly, from what Alex (not exactly a reliable witness) remembers about him, he's not the nicest guy in the universe.
But there must be something about him that intrigued me, since I worked him into at least five of the possible third books.
Here are the six versions of Carlos's post d&g world:
1. Untitled collection of interconnected short stories that would have followed the Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone characters [nothing put down on paper and rejected by my editor while we chatted at NCTE]: As a Marine, Carlos is assigned the task of forcibly evacuating people from their homes so safe towns can be created.
2. Untitled completely different set of characters third book set roughly the same time as LAWKI/d&g, involving a girl who is forcibly evacuated from her home and has to go on a long march and horrible things happen [I'm not sure if I wrote anything down on that one, but I do recall discussing it with my friend Christy who thought it was awfully dark and didn't seem to like it]: I don't remember Carlos in it, but clearly the idea was inspired by Possibility 1.
3. Starry Night [Outline written and sent to my editor who didn't like it]: The action takes place a few months after the end of d&g. In it, Alex and Julie meet up with Miranda and Jon in an evac center. Alex dies saving Jon's life; Miranda and Jon take on Julie and the three of them make it to Dad and Lisa's. Carlos is dead. I don't remember if Alex already knows that or if he finds it out in the beginning of the novel.
4. Since The End Of The Time Before (aka Caitlin The Drog; aka The Story Of O Without Sex) [written in its entirety, unseen by anyone,and currently residing in my now dead computer]: It's four years after the end of LAWKI/d&g. Alex and Julie had believed Carlos was alive and received certain privileges as a result of having a brother in the Marines. When it was found out he was dead, they were held guilty of defrauding the government and had to go into hiding. All of which Julie reveals to Caitlin the drog for reasons I've kind of forgotten.
5. The Four Hundred Page Saga On The Evils of Capitalism (definitely my favorite title) [nothing written, but much discussed in this blog]: Seventeen years have passed. Dad and Lisa's son Luke has escaped from the coal mines, and is making his way back east, accompanied by a girl named Rachel, to the LAWKI family. Carlos is married with a couple of kids. He does personnel work at the coal mines, and is instrumental in helping Luke escape. He gives Luke Julie's name and address, and when Luke meets Julie, she sends him along to Alex.
6. The World We Live In [outline and seventy-five pages awaiting decision by Harcourt, which, if they say yes, they'll have to send back to me, since the heavily revised version is in my now dead computer, keeping company with Caitlin the drog, etc.]: It's a different seventeen years later, and a different Luke is making his way back to the LAWKI family, where he meets Eden, Miranda's teenage stepdaughter. Jon and Julie are married, and Julie talks to Luke about her brother Carlos, who hasn't been heard from since page 144.
To give you a proper contrast, in the same six possible book threes, Alex is: a novice monk, not a character, martyr, being hidden in monastaries, a priest and a priest.
Will there be a seventh possible book three? Who knows. Well, maybe Harcourt knows and just hasn't told me. Or maybe I'll quit at six and spend many happy years reading and watching dvds and taking my mother to countless doctor appointments and imagining all kinds of different fates for Carlos Morales and the starry end of time evil world he lives in.