This novel is a departure for me. Though I've been a science-fiction fan almost since I was first able to read, I never thought of writing an SF tale. My previous novels (Groovy Kind of Love and Jagged Angel) were, respectively, a nostalgic romance, and a contemporary thriller. But as much as I occasionally enjoy reading SF, the subject didn't seem something about which I wanted to write.

A few years ago, my friend Mark Roeder (author of the popular Gay Youth Chronicles published through iUniverse) graciously allowed me to offer a few suggestions on his 2002 novel Keeper of Secrets. This story's intriguing premise involved a contemporary gay teenager, who lived with his family in a 100 year-old house. The boy learns that over a century ago, two gay teenagers died tragically -- one murdered, one by suicide -- and their ghosts continue to haunt the residence. The story was a two-tiered plot, one dealing with a homophobic delinquent forced through circumstance to live with a family with a gay teen, and then the mystery of several unhappy souls haunting the old mansion.

After assisting with the manuscript, I told Mark, "you know, I think there's a fascinating story here, just in the story of two gay teens from the 1800s. What would their lives be like? What would it be like to be gay in that era? How would their world relate to ours?" Roeder agreed, but pointed out, "it'd take far too much research to tell a story like that." I reluctantly agreed, and put the idea aside for a year or two.

But the idea of these two gay 1800s teens started haunting me (no pun intended). After mulling it over for a year or two, I finally thought: what if the story wasn't about two 1800s teens? What if one was a contemporary 2007 teenager, who fell in love with someone from the past? How would the boy survive with the tumultous events of the 1800s? Could he ever make it back to his own time, and for that matter, would he want to? And the story took off from there.

I greatly admire some of the genre's classic time-travel tales, from H.G. Welles' original Time Machine from 1895 (and the memorable 1960 film produced by George Pal), Richard Matheson's 1976 novel Bid Time Return (and the romantic 1979 film adaptation Somewhere in Time), Karl Alexander's 1979 novel Time After Time (also an excellent film by Nicholas Meyer), my late friend Ken Grimwald's 1987 novel Replay (optioned to 20th Century-Fox for a film that was never made), as well as my friend David Gerrold's superb 1972 novella, The Man Who Folded Himself (expanded and reissued in 2003). Add to these Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale's amazing scripts to the 1980s Back to the Future film series, and they've basically exhausted almost every possible direction in which you can go with time-travel stories. And my short list omits dozens of marvelous time-travel episodes of Twilight Zone (both the original 1960s Rod Serling series and the 1985 revised version), Outer Limits, Star Trek, and too many others to count.

I was determined not to write this novel until I could try something new, or at least attack the plot from an unexpected direction, and try to avoid the usual cliches sometimes found in this sort of story. After spending many weeks of research, I also wanted to avoid the themes I had done before, and this time feature a contemporary "out" gay teenager who had no fear of who he was, and also knew exactly where he was going in life and what he wanted. Despite the historical setting, the story is more about people than it is about events; the reader need not worry that this will turn into a history lesson. There'll be some romance, a dash of adventure, and, yes, a little sex as well. Don't be put off by the initial science-fiction introduction; Pieces of Destiny is intended to be not so much a far-out yarn as it is a heartfelt story about adventure, fate, and the sacrifices one is willing to make, all in the name of love.

Note that this is a revised version of the first three chapters that were originally posted online in early 2007. I have since revised and rewritten certain sections to cover some logistical inconsistencies, and flesh out the story a little more.

My thanks to those who have provided comments on the early drafts of the story, including my longtime partner Roddy, as well as my friends on Awesomedude, including The Dude, Tragic Rabbit, and WriteByMyself. Very special thanks to VWL, for going above and beyond the call of duty. Particular thanks go to Cole Parker, who provided much-needed feedback on the revised version of this story (from the summer of 2007), along with many words of encouragement. I also thank Mark Roeder, for inspiring the story in the first place, as well as Dom Luka (of the Gay Authors Guild) for offering additional thoughts. And of course, my warmest regards to my readers, who continue to help make my efforts worthwhile.


--John Francis

August 2007

Chatsworth, CA