Many thanks to all of you who have written me encouraging letters while I’ve been sick.  I really appreciate it!  I’m not yet able to answer each one of you because I’m only allowed up a few minutes each day, but I can answer a few questions.

   I’ve had two operations to try and save my eyesight.  Believe me, this is one activity you definitely want to avoid.  First of all, you have to stay awake the whole time.  You can actually see everything the surgeon does, including him cutting open the eye and sucking out everything inside.  Then you can see teeny weeny tweezers and hooks removing scar tissue.  They do give you medicine to calm your nerves, otherwise I would have been out of that operating room like a shot.  Last of all, the doctor fills up the eye with saline solution and a bubble of air.  You’re supposed to lie face down for weeks with the air bubble pressing up against the back of the eye.  This is supposed to make it heal, but the first time it didn’t work and I had to do it again.  The bubble gradually disappears, but while it’s there you can’t go up above 1,000 elevation or fly in an airplane.  I asked the doctor why and he said, quite cheerfully, “because the bubble will expand and destroy your eye.”

 Like I say, it’s an experience you can do without.

   During this time I have been thinking out the plot to the sequel of House of the Scorpion.  This is what I do before every book, before a single word is put onto paper.  Plot designing goes on constantly, but I never write anything down.  Somehow this works.  The whole novel exists in the subconscious like a piece of music.  When I am ready (and this will be soon) I will sit down and write out the whole thing.  The first draft is very close to the final copy.  The editor marks places where he thinks I’ve been unclear and the copy editor corrects my spelling (a huge job).  These days, with computers, it’s a lot easier and faster to print books.  With luck, the sequel will be out next year.

 I’ve been calling it God’s Ash Tray, which has upset some people.  God’s Ash Tray is what is called “a working title”.  The final title might be completely different.  The House of the Scorpion was originally called Mi Vida.  Ursula le Guin said that sounded dumb and so I changed it.

 Is there going to be a romance between Matt and María?  You betcha.  But I can’t talk much about the book until I write it.  I’ve got a number of nifty surprises up my sleeve.

   As for a sequel to The Islands of the Blessed, that depends on sales.  Unfortunately, publishers only buy sequels to books that do well, and Islands was pretty much ignored.  I don’t know why.  I think people wanted a battle between Good and Evil with lots of bodies piled up.  It seems books are getting a lot more violent and angry.  A lot of them seem like video games with super heroes that bear no resemblance to human beings.  Female characters generally despise the male characters, who are either sadists or wimps.  That’s not my view of the universe.

 For those of you who disapproved of stories about my childhood, let me say this.  I am not a role model.  I made tons of mistakes when I was young, and still make them.  I wake up in the middle of the night and remember awful, mean things I have done and can never undo.  The best I can do is pick myself up and try again.  Good deeds drive out bad ones.

 Again, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has written me.