Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stirring the Cauldron

The book used to be called Mnemorphosis, but Gene DeWeese said he didn’t like the title and asked me to come up with something else. We settled on The Cauldron…’cause the tale really involves one. He also asked me to write it with him. Wow. New York Times bestselling SF author Gene DeWeese wanted to share a book with me. Of course I was on board.

I’d met Gene many years ago when I worked for TSR. He’d written a Ravenloft novel, and I called him when I was trying to put together a big author signing at a Barnes & Noble in Racine, WI. He was one of many participants, and we sat next to each other and talked about books and cheeseburgers. His favorite restaurant was Culver’s.

I’d published some of his short stories in various anthologies, and I’d read many of his books, including the Star Trek hardcover novel Probe, which he got credit for on the inside, but not the cover ‘cause it had already been printed. Gene wrote that book. Great Trek book, by the way. His Man From Uncle novelizations were also much fun. I think my favorite of his, however, was a mystery: Murder in the Blood.

Anyway, Gene wanted help with this book. He had a handful of chapters finished, and a great outline, but he was having a helluva time writing. He’d been to doctors on and off, and they couldn’t put that proverbial finger on what was wrong.

I charged ahead. It was a MARVELOUS premise, and I was so yippy-skippy happy to be a part of it. I’d write a chapter, send it to Gene for his approval and comments, and while I was waiting I’d work on the next. He’d call me saying he was having trouble with the file. I saved it rich text, I got an old WordStar program off eBay and used that…as he liked using WordStar. I saved it a half dozen different ways, and I’d talk him through opening files.

He got another computer and had someone set it up for him. It helped a little; he certainly had a much easier time with email. But sometimes I would email the files to his wife, and she’d open them and put them on his computer.

Sometimes I would read him the chapters—he liked chatting on the phone—because he had more computer problems. Toward the end, that’s what I settled on. Calling and reading him the book as I went along. It was more fun that way.

It was AMAZING and WONDERFUL and sometimes admittedly frustrating working with Gene DeWeese, and I thank God I had the opportunity to write with this genius of a fellow. He taught me a lot about science fiction.

And writing.

And life.

Eventually the doctors came up with a diagnosis, and hence all the computer problems he had made sense—Lewy Body Dementia. See…sometimes we’d repeat the same conversation twice in a day or in back-to-back days. And sometimes he’d call me because the world was becoming cruel to him and he wanted to hear about my dogs.

He said to me, as I neared the end of the book: “Jean, my mind is slipping through a sieve.” But there were these glorious brilliant parts of that mind that continued to shine through. I wished I could have sold the book while Gene was alive. It sat for 18 months on a NYC editor’s desk as he “mulled it over.” Finally, I had my agent pull it, and I later approached Kevin J. Anderson and WordFire. A good home for The Cauldron.

The Cauldron is in my not-at-all-humble opinion, a marvelous SF yarn about life, death, and everything in between and after. It is Gene DeWeese’s awesome plot, spiced with an elephant and an enigmatic circus clown.

I’ll tell you more about that circus in the next blog. He insisted on the circus.

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