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Brentsville High School Principal Writes Fantasy, Mystery Novels

Then, something both tragic and fortuitous happened: Scott's father-in-law, Jay Gordon, who happened to be an avid fantasy and science fiction reader, was told in early 2001 that he had Lou Gehrig's disease, which debilitates nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When Scott and his wife, Karen, moved back East to Prince William County to be closer to Gordon, the men forged a bond and decided to churn out an epic novel together.

Without much motor function in his hands, Gordon advised Scott by telephone, and the two collaborated on plotlines and characters. "It was one of the more important things I'll do in my life, but we didn't think about it in this way of 'Oh gosh, this was his dying wish,' " Scott said. "It was something fun and creative. I did all the scribbling, but he dreamt up situations and problems for characters."

The duo spent several years on the first manuscript and titled it "The Hickory Staff," which is about two 20-something bachelors in the Colorado foothills who find an old safe-deposit box in a bank, with a tapestry rolled up inside. It turns out the tapestry is a doorway to an alternative world called Eldarn, and the adventure unfolds from there.

Without a literary agent, the authors shipped the book to one of Gordon's friends in the publishing industry in New York. That friend then shipped the manuscript to Jo Fletcher, associate publisher at Gollancz. Then they waited.

"I was going on holiday, and I took 100 pages with me. And I read 100 pages, and I sat by the pool cursing myself for not having brought the rest," recalled Fletcher, in a phone interview from her London office. "I e-mailed back and said, 'I'd like to make an offer not only for the first book but three books.' I thought these guys were pretty special. They might not be doing anything particularly unusual, but what they are doing is absolutely perfect for the market -- where real life meets fantasy. It's very hard to get characters to behave exactly how you would if you were thrown into a fantasy world."

The two forged ahead with the second Eldarn book, "Lessek's Key." But Gordon continued suffering from his disease. All he wanted to know before he died was: What was going to happen at the end of the second book?

"Two weeks before he died, I read him 'Lessek's Key.' At the time, he had a tube and was communicating with letter boards," Scott recalled. "He was excited. He was pleased to see we had created a level of ambiguity for the reader."

How does the second book end? Like a good teacher, Scott wasn't exactly just going to give out the answer. "It ends," he said, "with a real, unexpected turn of events."

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