Numbers and the way things work out sometimes amazes me. Reorganizing UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to make it wrap around UNDER PRESSURE proved to do so after I had moved and renumbered chapters and pages to make the plots coincide. The way things worked out made me feel I had indeed created a Masterpiece, a true work of art. I love how it turned out and will share an unusual aspect of the writing process with you for entertainment purposes. I don’t know what any of it means, or if it means anything, other than just the way the numbers fell.
What I experienced during the reorganization process falls into the categories of numerology and synchronicity, with synchronicity being defined by Merriam Webster as the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seems related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of casualty — used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung.
I wrote UNKNOWN INNOCENCE in five parts; some parts I wrote about Big Bobby as a prequel to UNDER PRESSURE and the other parts as the sequel. UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D contained four untitled parts and fourteen titled chapters, whereas UNKNOWN INNOCENCE contained five titled parts (Part I: Ladies & Lust; Part II: Ten Years After; Part III: Innocence Jailed; Part IV: Betrayal; Part V: Justice Delayed), and twenty-five titled chapters. (Read the two chapter teaser at the home page of StraightFromthePen.com.)
CHANGES: The logical sequence of events required Parts I and III of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to go before the plot in UNDER PRESSURE, and for Parts II, IV and V to follow the four Parts of UNDER PRESSURE for me to create a happy ending.
In the writing stage I did not envision doing as I have done. That thought sprouted and blossomed into what has surely become the making of a masterpiece. As I was doing the final touches on the manuscript to submit it the publisher, the thought occurred that lead to the change. A mental image of a thicker and better novel flashed inside my brain. I saw a different cover with Wayne T. Dowdy on it and an opportunity to make a better product by improving on the plot by combining the two stories. (The paperback cover did not have my name on it.) Word count was another factor. Thirty-five thousand words versus eighty-five thousand, for a modest price increase seemed a better value for my readers and a prime opportunity for me to do what I had wanted to do for months: change the most popular part of UNDER PRESSURE, the synopsis and opening chapter.
WHY CHANGE? The story begins hard, too hard for some, I imagine, with the protagonist (Stan Mason) sitting in the United States Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, plotting the murder of another prisoner, Jake Stephens. The synopsis leads one to believe the book about prison, as does the Prelude and opening chapter (“The Shank”). The opening scene and setting is in prison and captures the true essence of life inside some of the most dangerous ones, but the story contains much more than prison scenes: love, companionship, life on the outside, legal issues, politics, living in a dysfunctional family, etc.
THE COVER & CONTENT: Given that everyone who read it said it was a page turner and kept them wanting to find out what would happen next, I knew I had a good story. But when sales figures indicated that 1) it lacked something; 2) needed more marketing, or 3), that I needed to find a way to put it in the hands of more readers, I started looking into other areas to identify possible factors interfering with sales. The cover elicited numerous favorable comments, so I didn’t think cover design was the problem. Then I discussed the issue with fellow writer, Jeffery Frye, who suggested I change the synopsis on the paperback. Then with some of my more “saintly” readers commenting on the violence and profanity, I thought about how it began and then identified that as another potential source that hindered sales. Knowing that the start is substantially different than the rest of the story, I concluded that the synopsis and opening chapter gave a false impression about what was contained between the covers. I assumed that the free preview on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com left potential customers with the wrong impression. At that point, I began thinking about combining UNDER PRESSURE with UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, which was completed but needed reviewed again to make sure it was publication ready. Within three weeks of focusing on it, I knew I was onto a worthwhile project, and so here I am today wondering just what is really going on with this mysterious adventure I found myself playing the lead role in. This is where it gets weird.
WORKSHEET: I do not have a typical computer to work with (read “The Story Behind the Novel” in UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D, which you can do for free on Smashwords.com or Amazon.com or by purchasing the magazine, and you will understand my situation). Because I do not have an electronic file, I kept a typewritten table of contents (TOC) to make notes on and to help me organize the structure by listing chapters, page numbers, and the parts I named as I constructed the novel. The TOC became my worksheet for the reconstruction project. I will ask the publisher to post a copy of the worksheet in this blog. These are the current chapter titles in UNDER PRESSURE since the book is still pending processing:
PART I: 1) The Shank; 2) The Oasis; 3) Enough; 4) Temporary Absolution;
PART II: 5) Wendy; 6) Let It Go; 7) Big Bobby; 8) Stan; 9) Jake;
PART III: 10) Vengeance; 11) Deceit; 12) Mercy; 13) Karma;
PART IV: Freedom.
If anyone has any suggestions for names of the four Parts in UNDER PRESSURE, please send your suggestion before October 15, 2015, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are the chapter titles for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. The number to the left of the title is current. The one in parenthesis is the former. All of Part I remained the same. The five Parts are as they will now appear.
PART I, Ladies & Lust: 1) Sheila; 2) The Feds; 3) Life In a Jail Cell; 4) Initial Appearance; 5) Zachariah Zambroski; 6) Looking for Ladies; 7) Delilah;
PART II, Innocence Jailed: 8 (11) Plea for Your Life; 9 (12) What Now?; 10 (13) Disappearing Witness; 11 (14) Morality; 12 (15) On the Road; 13 (16) The Trial;
PART III, Betrayal: 14 (17) Sting An Attorney; 15 (18) Working It Off; 16 (19) Dirty Deeds.
UNDER PRESSURE now comprises PARTS IV-VII (chapters 17-30 and pages 134-280) of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE.
PART VIII, Ten Years After: 31 (8) Romance on the Wire; 32 (9) Looking for Sheila; 33 (10) Trouble with Ladies;
PART IX, Justice Delayed: 34 (20) The Hunt; 35 (21) The Visit; 36 (22) Perfect Timing; 37 (23) Going Home; 38 (24) Things Change; 39 (25) Justice.
Now for the significance of all the above. Notice the “8s” in the numbers. After the Reconstruction era, I saw how the former chapter sixteen (page 112) had become chapter thirteen and began on page 88. The title: “The Trial.” I went to trial on November 7-10, 1988. The jury found me guilty of all four counts alleged in the indictment for armed bank robbery and associated charges. The former chapter eight that began on page 88 was “Plea for Your Life.” I refused to plead guilty for 120-months with a consecutive 60-months. The court sentenced me to 420-months after I went to trial and lost while exercising my right to a trial by a jury.
Okay, seeing all of that got my attention. Then on August 31st, my case manager called me in to get a financial form that the United States Pardon Attorney wanted me to complete. In June of 2014, I had applied to the President of the United States for a commutation of the remainder of my sentence and $25,000.00 restitution order. My older brother’s birthday is 08/31/53. He died from a drug overdose on August 6, 1978, twenty-five days before he turned twenty-five. Many years later, his death become a motivating factor for me to help others live without using drugs and alcohol. (After his death I was arrested in Lebanon, Kentucky on 08/28/78, for robbing three drug stores at gunpoint.) On this sentence I was arrested on 08/18/88, and was in pretrial status for 188-days before the Judge pronounced my sentence on February 22, 1989.
Two days before I turned thirty-seven, I stopped using mind-altering substance and started trying to regain control of my life to become a better human being. When I saw my case manager on Stanley’s birthday, I requested an updated progress report. A few hours later, I noticed the 188-jail credits and that the title of Chapter Thirty-seven was “Going Home,” which had previously began on page 188.
GOING HOME: Now I “know” I will be going home before my tentative release date of April 24, 2019; I don’t know if it will be due to legislative changes, receiving the commutation of sentence or what, but I am sure I will be released early. In 1983, while serving time in the State of Georgia, I told my fellow prisoners I would make parole. “You’re crazier than hell,” was typical response. All of them knew I used to be rowdy and disruptive. In 1981 I was convicted of Mutiny in a Penal Institute, before being involved in taking over a prison to escape with ten others. I miraculously paroled on August 1, 1985. (Read “Fence Rows & The Price of Change” ($0.99) if you want to know about those incidents. Individual essay only available in eBook from all major eBook retailers. For the print version, please purchase ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, $10.95, USD.)
I read something years ago that claimed the number “8” was a lucky number for me due to the day I was born. To be arrested and denied important important motions filed in court, and to have experienced so much pain and agony during the eighth month did not make me feel eight was a lucky number. But, the truth is, that if I had not been arrested and locked away in a box for decades of my life, I would not have a life today and you would not be reading about the making of my masterpiece, or this strange telling of how the numbers fell.
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