Since I published Circle of Saints I had a golden rule that I followed to a tee. Anytime I updated the content of the book it would only be to fix grammatical and continuity errors, not to change the content of the story, or the style it was written in. Otherwise I would endlessly go back and endlessly rewrite it, and the book would dissatisfy me for an eternity.
This week I broke my rule.
Spoilers - of course - for the plot, especially the ending, to Circle of Saints.
In the original plot of the book, Carlos and Jordan suffer tragic deaths. Carlos takes a bullet for one of our other main characters, Sam. Jordan, heartbroken by his partner's death, in a moment of heroism, sacrifices life to save Mary and Sadie, by dragging a criminal off the edge of a building with him.
Two years later and I decided this second death didn't fit the bill.
I must apologise to all those who've already read Circle, although I'd like to strongly reassure you that nothing else in the book has changed. And if you'd like to know what's been added, here it is below (taking place in the final chapter between the conversation between Sam and Jim and the section with Sadie (which is then followed by Mary and Sam at the police station, which I had to move for all this to work)):
"Before they left, Sam and Mary were sure to visit the ward next door. Lying in a bed with a neck brace, all his limbs in slings, hooked up to all sorts of painkillers was Jordan. Despite all of this, however, he was smiling.
‘Well look at you!’ Mary remarked. ‘Always the fighter.’
‘I suppose the land of the living isn’t done with me yet,’ he said. ‘Just as well given all the legal cases there are going to be after this fiasco.’
‘Easy, big guy, you only woke up a few days ago,’ said Sam.
‘I know, I know. It just helps to… take my mind off things.’ His eyes started to water.
Mary held his hand. For many minutes nobody spoke. They didn’t need to. They just remembered.
‘I wanted to thank you,’ Mary finally said. ‘For saving us. For saving our lives.’
‘Me too,’ said Sam. ‘I might not have been on the roof but a few seconds later and I’d have been done for. We all owe you one.’
‘Ah, well,’ Jordan grunted. ‘You’d have all done the same. It’s what we do, right? Protect the ones in need? Speaking of, I don’t want to hold either of you from getting to work. I imagine you’ve got a busy few months ahead of you!’
‘You’re telling me,’ Sam remarked. ‘But I don’t know, I think we’re in good hands,’ he nodded to Mary.
‘Hey, no pressure!’ she exclaimed.
Jordan laughed, wincing from the pain it gave him, then continued to laugh on anyway. ‘I know you’ll both smash it. Now go on, don’t let me hold you, I’m not going anywhere.’
Sam and Mary smiled at each other and started to leave, Mary squeezing Jordan’s hand once more before she walked out the room. As Sam reached the doorway he heard Jordan call from behind.
‘One second, Sam,’ he said.
Sam stopped and turned. ‘Of course.’
Jordan sighed. ‘I… I saw him.’
Sam raised an eyebrow. ‘What?’
Jordan shrugged. ‘I don’t know, when they were taking me away in a taxi, when they were operating on me I… I saw him. I saw Carlos. He was still wearing that uniform and… and he was smiling. Smiling like he was proud.’
‘He would be,’ said Sam.
‘No,’ said Jordan, ‘he is.’
Sam pondered on this and then shrugged with a relaxed smile. ‘Yeah… yeah I suppose he is. Did he… you know… say anything?’
Jordan nodded. ‘One thing. He said it would all be okay. He said it wasn’t time for me to join him, but we’d all be okay where we were. Do you believe that, Sam?’
Sam nodded. ‘I do. I’d believe anything Carlos said, living or otherwise.’
Jordan nodded. ‘You know… I think he’s proud of of us both.’
Sam smiled. ‘You think?’
‘Well,’ said Sam. ‘Let’s keep making our boy proud then.’
They both exchanged a nod, and for a moment while he walked out the door, Sam could have sworn he saw a third man in his peripheral vision, smiling."
Not a long extract by any means but one that fundamentally changes aspects of the story's ending. In my defence, I don't change any of the other established continuity - this (and some extra dialogue between Jim and Sam to make this make sense) is something I added to the established narrative, not one that changes or explicitly conflicts with what I wrote before. You may say it's unrealistic for Jordan to have survived such a fall, but this part of the book is one loaded with supernatural and miraculous events on the cusp of our understanding, with our central protagonist Jim even coming back from complete death. Besides, I heavily believe Jordan's survival is far more important to the message of the story I want as an author now than his death would be to the "realism" of it. But it's still and unprecedented thing to do - and one I'm only able to get away with because this is a self-published book.
Why did I do this? You might think it's some cheap publicity thing, and fair play to you for your thorough examination, but in actual fact I'd much rather you read my other books than Circle of Saints (which currently, for those still cynical, make me less money per printed copy). Circle of Saints will always have a place in my heart - it was the book than began my journey as a writer, I still love its story and characters - but I'd be lying to myself and all of you to say it will ever be anything near my best work. While it provided the groundwork for everything else and sets the tone for books to come, it is still the book of a learning writer, and as such I always refer to it as my zeroth work (there's a neat thermodynamics reference in there for all you fellow science nerds). I've always made it a rule (one that I don't plan to break) that I'll keep it published, as all stories have some intrinsic value, no book should ever be burned and it could be educational to read for any aspiring authors out there, but I would no longer wish to do much more to promote it. I'd consider Descendants of the Spear to be my first proper novel that I'm totally proud of as a writer, and that's just as well, because Beasts of the Earth was one of my earliest and strongest book ideas, and I'm now writing two bloody huge sequels to it.
So no, not a promotional gimmick by any stretch of the imagination. The true reason for adding this excerpt, the reason Jordan's death was making me restless, is because fundamentally it was lazy. Carlos's death made sense - the entire arc of the story between him and Sam was about trust, or lack there of, and loyalty, so of course he'd take a bullet for Sam to get Sam to truly learn that lesson - but Jordan didn't have to die. He was only introduced late in the book, and sure, while the love of his life may have been killed, wasn't the whole point of this book about letting go of the ones you've lost and living a good life to honour them? (A theme that arose from several personal experiences in my own life).
Jordan should have gone on to help those in need, fight legal battles for the persecuted, defend those who couldn't defend themselves, help others through their grief, and continue long friendships with Jim, Lynda, Sam, Mary and Sadie. He should have lived to honour Carlos's memory, not die to avenge it. So I changed history. I brought him back. And I don't regret a thing.
So really, I'm not apologising for what I've done, but apologising that it took me so long to do it, but hey, we're all learning as we grow older right? Even if Circle is the book of a younger writer, this older writer can make sure it fits with what he believes his stories should tell. Perhaps one day on some anniversary of its publication I'll make Circle of Saints rewritten, the same story with a wiser writer's eyes, but for now this adjustment will have to do, because right now I've got other exciting new projects like Blood of the Ocean to be getting on with. I also apologise for not bringing you the second part of "Behind the Spear" this week, although I promise we'll be digging into Orville's character and all the other Descendants characters in Sundays to come.
Thanks for reading, and hope you're just as happy as I am that Jordan made it out alive after all!
Until next week!