Firstly, I would like to apologise to everyone who waited for the final book in the Dark Desires series on 31 May and was disappointed when it wasn’t released.
I also give my sincere apologies to the people who signed up to the mailing list and received a delayed response with their free copy of The Impaler (not automated because MailChimp is a fuckwad when it comes to mail attachments).
There were extenuating circumstances that ended up affecting me personally, and I just didn’t have the heart to push through the final week before publication.
A good friend and colleague (Pav) lost his brother on 21 May. Usually, death doesn’t affect me because I’ve learned to accept it as a part of life. I lost two friends I went to high school with due to a car accident and cancer – didn’t attend their funerals because I don’t handle grief well. I learnt that the hard way – how overwhelming it can be – when my best friend lost her mother, who was also a mother figure to me, in 9th grade.
What made this situation difficult to detach myself from was that Pav had invited me to stay in his family home during my stay in Durban. It was an empty nest, and his mother ended up treated me like her daughter, who currently works in Dubai. She would regularly make references to my behaviour patterns and say, “you’re just like TJ”. She’d also set me up in her youngest son’s old bedroom as he’d moved out and didn’t visit that often.
When we got the call from the paramedics regarding the motorbike accident her son had been in at around 2 AM on Saturday morning, I sat with her as she waited to hear whether he’d make it. We prayed together – she’s Hindu, and I’m Christian – and I was there when Pav returned from the scene and told her that his younger brother was gone. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around losing a child (I have none of my own) even three weeks on; I still cannot comprehend her sense of loss. What I do remember is that at times she would remember him fondly and others she just broke down in disbelief.
One thing I can say about her is that she is a remarkable woman who shared many stories with me of her youth; from marriage to parenting and working. The day before the funeral, I was somehow in her thoughts, and she presented me with one of her daughter’s Punjabi’s to wear (almost dressed in all black but Hindus wear white or colour at funerals). I was honoured that even in her loss she thought of me fondly when I had only known her for a week. Meanwhile, I felt like a stranger that was encroaching on her family and son’s space.
I hadn’t shed a tear during that time because I didn’t have a right to. I’d only met him that Friday afternoon, and beyond the “hello” he gave me as I reworked a chapter and him going into his old room (a room I was now staying in) to get his helmet, we never got to know one another. So I did my best to comfort his immediate family or stay out of the way as extended family members and friends came to pay their respects.
In taking time away from this creative space I share with my characters, I was able to be present in the moment with the people around me going through this difficult time. Randomly his sister or brother or an aunt or friend would start talking to me about this person I never knew. All I could do was listen seeing that I had nothing to share, and that’s what people sometimes need the most – a willing ear. Although his immediate family had lost an integral part of their unit, there were so many others who had lost this individual that had a significant impact on their lives.
The greatest sense of loss that I felt to my core was that of his girlfriend. As she picked out his funeral garments, she spoke about the King sized bed that they had fought over, the type of cutlery that he wanted, and the lack of furniture in their home because he was so indecisive without her. Even though they seemed to argue about everything that should go into the apartment, he was incapable of making a confident decision without her. I am the eternal optimist when it comes to love, but here she was staring at pieces of a life that no longer existed, looking at the belongings of the man she was one day going to marry and that future was now a gaping hole. Her cries were heart wrenching and a switch just flipped that broke me down.
It was the most beautiful funeral I have attended. Instead of the all black affair I’m used to, it was colourful. The clubs he rode with preceded the hearse, and the speeches from his former employees and girlfriend were the culmination of a life lived so fully even though it was cut short. 13 days of prayer followed the funeral, and that was a highly emotional time. Every one of those days the prayer reaffirmed their loss.
Writing is my happy place, but with the grief I was surrounded by Redemption became work that I had to get done even if I had mentally and emotionally checked out. Everything became mechanical. I was crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on a cognitive level instead of a passionate one. Eventually, I just decided to wait until I got back to Joburg where I was in the right headspace to produce the kind of book I could be proud of, and I’m glad that I did.
Only on our drive back up this past Friday, could we acknowledge that he died doing something he loved – riding his dream bike, a BWM 1100RR. He’d ridden since he was 16, fixed bikes, modded his own and even worked at Harley Davidson’s. That’s not something many people can say.
Only after taking these three days off once I was home and spending time with my family, have I been able to shake off the dark cloud and get back to writing. I am changing certain aspects of the story because I look at life differently now. I lamented with Pav in our 6-hour drive that this is why I hate getting too emotionally involved with people because it does become taxing.
I shared my dream of moving to an island and only when it was necessary would I hop on a boat and visit civilisation. To this, his simple reply was, “For fear of the night you shall never see the stars”. It’s a powerful testament to the endurance of the human spirit. Even after suffering loss Pav can still look at the beauty of life.
So for now, all I can do is continue to write – something I’m not afraid of and something I’m passionate about
Currently, I’m working towards a release date of 19 June, and I will keep updating this post as everything runs its course through editing.
ETA: Redemption is live on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HNK0PVS (sorry for the week lag – Murphey has chosen to sit with me through this process :/)