Friday Snippet: The Preface to Abe’s Turn

Getting back into the groove after months of furious editing. Don’t worry; I’ve learned a lot from the experience, and it’ll go much faster next time. (At least that’s the plan.)

Just putting the finishing touches on The Conscience of Abe’s Turn. Already posted the ARC version of the text. Now, I’m finishing up the extra chapters.

So I thought I might post something unusual for a Friday Snippet, the Preface, one of those extra chapters that everybody seems to skip, but which sometimes can be interesting and informative. (Whether my Preface is interesting and informative is yet to be seen.)


I knew I was onto something when I started getting angry, disparaging emails. “Beyond improbable.” “Pointless crap!” From someone I’d never met. This person actually read a few chapters—I checked—and was so incensed, went through the trouble to send me an email. 

A scathing, negative review: Abe’s Turn is beyond-improbable, pointless crap. That’s my paraphrase, of course. As everybody knows (or so I’m told), cops and other government agents never trump up charges, never get the wrong end of the stick, never arrest the wrong guy, never take bribes, and never let their prejudices or personal feelings interfere with justice. And even if they did, they would never get away with it. And that is why (or so I’m told) law-abiding citizens like you and me never need to defend themselves. And by the way, drug laws are good for America.

Meanwhile, everything you see on TV actually could happen, especially the stuff in dramas like Alias, Boston Legal, and Lost. Not to mention everything you read in the daily newspaper.

Abe’s Turn actually has a modest premise. The story’s premise can’t be the real reason for such vitriol. But this story says something. And throughout history, stories that say something have been those lambasted, denounced, and banned. Stories that say things both in the themes they address and in their portrayal of those themes. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Color Purple. The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Brave New World. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Slaughterhouse-Five. The Martian Chronicles. The Catcher in the Rye. Lord of the Flies. The Lorax (by Dr. Seuss). Heather Has Two Mommies. Death of a Salesman. Of Mice and Men. Ulysses. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. All of these have been banned somewhere in the United States. The Harry Potter books have been the most attacked of the 21’st century.

This first volume of Abe’s Turn is the culmination of a decade of change. Its story brings together ideas from government politics, libertarian ideology, romance fiction, and Internet technology. I noted before that the story “says something.” It says that if you give someone enough power, no matter how good a person that someone appears to be, he will abuse it. I talk more about the inspiration and motivation behind Abe’s Turn in “Whatever Happened to Zorro?” a retrospective essay in the “Bonus Extras” section of this book. For now, the basic premise behind the story is summed up in two points: (1) Government officials have power. (2) Government officials are only human, just like the rest of us.

But Abe’s Turn is more than just its story, because this story as I envisioned it could not be told within the confines of the traditional novel. Rather, it’s an epic story made up of a series of smaller ones, because that reflects life. Just as none of us is converted by any single chapter, just as each of us is the culmination of all the stories he has lived, the story of the Conscience of Abe’s Turn is a series of challenges, triumphs, and failures.

This story will, if all goes well, span 24 episodes over 3 years, 3 seasons, like the seasons of a television program, each season of Abe’s Turn consisting of 8 novelette-length episodes. This volume contains only the first 4 of those episodes, the first half-season. The first of these seasons (the first 8 episodes) is entitled “The Birth of the Conscience,” because it is the story of how the Conscience of Abe’s Turn came into being.

By way of acknowledgment, I must thank my parents, my wife, and the rest of my family for their encouragement. More specifically: my father, who by writing his own book of memoirs unwittingly coaxed me to finish mine; my wife, who bore with me through months of reduced income, so that I could slog through innumerable hours of writing, editing, and marketing, instead of billing those hours to paying clients, the curse of the first-novelist; my mother, who joined my father and daughters in incessantly bugging me for news on “my novel,” thereby forcing me to keep working on it, so that I would have some news to share. 

Then there is Holly Lisle, a wonderful fantasy-romance author, who through her writing books, advice, and personal encouragement filled with been-there-done-that wisdom has done more for my writing than anyone else on Earth. And Perry Marshall, a shrewd and practical marketing consultant, who—unbeknown to him—with his newsletter and emails managed to convince me that this project is worth trying (even if it ultimately fails), that my passion is worth pursuing, and that I am worth every dollar I earn. 

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the late Harry Browne, who at the age of 61 decided to run for president of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket. Whatever the merits of this quixotic quest, without his authentic, straightforward, reasoned, honorable, peaceable case for liberty, during my own time of inner political turmoil, I perhaps still would not know where I stand or what I believe in. 

Many others: The numerous writers who have read snippets of Abe’s Turn and have reassured me that it does have its good parts. All my friends who promised to “buy a copy” of this book, even after I warned them what it’s about. Tom Metro, one of my oldest friends and colleagues, who patiently listened while I droned on about writing and marketing and the book industry, and who picked up the slack when I couldn’t put in the hours on our shared software-development projects. Regular acquaintances from church and from synagogue, who when I said I was “a writer,” took me seriously, even though I couldn’t.

I must, however, emphasize that despite the support, advice, and encouragement I have received, I am solely responsible for everything in this book. The people I acknowledge above had nothing to do with it. Yes, they provided me love and inspiration. But if I am in the wrong, I—and only I—chose to corrupt that love and inspiration. If I am a demented, disturbed man, be assured that my parents raised me in a upright, loving home. If my characters are unlovable, be assured that my wife and children do love me. If my prose falls flat, be assured that Holly Lisle wrote not even a syllable of it. If this project turns out to be a business failure, be assured that I did not actually follow all of Perry Marshall’s advice. And if my politics seem reprehensible, be assured that I will never be able to explain them as well Harry Browne did.