My only mountain left to climb in this life (taking into account that my health problems prevent me from climbing literal mountains) is to write that one final masterpiece that defines me as a writer.
The book on the left is definitely not going to be the one. It takes something more than a mere comic science fiction novel. It has to be a serious masterpiece. Like how A Tale of Two Cities defines the writing career of Charles Dickens. Or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn defines Mark Twain. Or Ernest Hemingway is best displayed in the pages of The Sun Also Rises. Or William Faulkner is at the pinnacle of his writing power in The Sound and the Fury. Or Michael Crichton entered the Pantheon of the Writing Gods with Jurassic Park. Or Saul Bellow mastered it with Henderson the Rain King.
By the way, if you add Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native and Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) to the list of masterpiece novels, you now possess Mickey’s List of novels you absolutely have to read to have any hope of becoming a really great novelist yourself… or a list of the books you have to read to know “what in the ever-loving heck” Mickey is talking about when he talks about novel-writing.
I believe, and several nudists agree, that Recipes for Gingerbread Children is one of the best things that I have written. It is not something that attracts readers like moths to a candle-flame, though. It does have naked twin teenage girls in it who unapologetically practice nudism at home and with their willing friends whenever and wherever possible. That turns some readers off. But it is a novel about a story-teller telling fairy tales until she finally has to face the story of her own survival in the Nazi death camps in World War II. The story has power and a theme of how love conquers fear and terrible loss. But I don’t believe that book is the best that I can do.
My novel The Baby Werewolf is among the best writing I have done. I think it definitely shows what skills I have at organizing a fiction story told entirely in first person, creating believable characters in a B-Movie world, satirizing the horror genre, and at the same time dealing with my own personal demons surrounding being the survivor of a sexual assault by a sexual predator.
It shares plot and characters and even events with Recipes, and the two books should be read in tandem. That and other small drawbacks prevent it from really being my masterpiece.
Magical Miss Morgan contains all the fictionalized versions of my teacher stories based on my thirty-one years as a teacher, working with some teachers who were far better than I ever was, and some really incredible kids.
I think, as semi-autobiographical fiction goes, it is one of my best novels, but won’t end up being the best that I have written when all things are said and done.
I also think Sing Sad Songs and A Field Guide to Fauns are among my very best endeavors. But neither one of those is the best work I have done either.
I would have to say that at this moment, Snow Babies is the best novel I have already written. More actual human beings have read and fallen in love with this story than anything else I have written. Is it my masterpiece? I hope not. I hope that I still have one more in me that will be even better. Right now my work in progress is The Boy Who Rose on a Golden Wing. At 4,000 words, it feels like a good one. Will it be my very best? I don’t know. But as long as there is breath in me, I will keep on writing and hoping.