Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Toad King, Chapter 17. The final chapter. Meanwhile, I've written the first two chapters of "Mother Sali," the third of my Tales of the Thirteen Principalities. I like this world.

17.) The Mirror God Cometh.

The Yellow Prince is gone. Not a shred of him exists, torn into such tiny pieces there is nothing left that is recognizable. Unless he somehow escaped, which seems impossible. If he did escape, there is nowhere for him to go.
Out of the crowd steps Marna, and I realize that the gathering wasn’t completely spontaneous. She is still limping, but appears otherwise well.
“It seems the people have chosen their new Prince,” she says, as she joins me.
“Long ago, that’s how it was done,” I say.
She laughs. “I suppose you were there.”
I don’t answer, instead watch as the people once again lift Quarry and carry him to the Casperi Castle. We follow more slowly, at Marna’s limping pace.
“What will the great Princes of the other principalities say?” she wonders aloud.
“They’ll be delighted, I suspect. Having the Eighth Principality back to trade with will make up for having Quarry as one of them. Along with the wilderness, this realm always had more natural resources than any of the others.”
“They’ll think he’s a barbarian,” she muses.
It’s my turn to laugh, “You haven’t met many Princes! No…I suspect they’ll be more alarmed by his piety than by his earthiness.”
Around us, the soldiers of the Yellow Prince are fleeing. Some are shedding their weapons and uniforms as they run. Others are caught, and I see them buried beneath flailing fists and feet. After depositing Quarry at the entrance of the castle, a part of the unruly crowd follows him inside. Soon, they reappear, carrying loot. I hurry the pace, suddenly remembering the Mirror God mobile standing unprotected in the entrance hallway. I doubt anyone will want it, but they might destroy it out of spite.
As we near the castle, Quarry appears on the balcony above. He has cleaned his face and combed his beard and he looks regal despite merely wearing a plain grey robe. He hold out his hands and the crowd grows silent.
“I ask the soldiers of this principality to accept my ascension. If they do so, they shall be pardoned. They are not to be harmed.”
“Throw them in the cages!” someone shouts.
“The Casperi Cages will be cast down!” Quarry roars, and again the crowd becomes completely still and quiet. “The chains will be broken, the bars melted down. Never again will anyone be incarcerated in such a inhuman place.”
Quarry lets that sink in for a few moments, then, “Go home, my people. Tomorrow we will begin the task of making this place a home where people can live without fear, where what they work for they keep, where no one is punished without cause. We shall live by the Mirror God’s Covenant, each and every day.
“Go home!” he shouts, and his deep voice is joyous. “Tomorrow we join the rest of the Thirteen Principalities and the Mirror God’s blessings!”


“It’s time you show me this statue you’ve come so far to steal,” Prince Quarry says to me after a few days.
“Not to steal, but to reclaim.”
He gives me a curious look. “You have always been an honest thief, Toad King. It is what I like about you.”
“Nevertheless, Your Highness, this time I was the victim, not the thief.” It is the way I feel. I truly feel the victim, for I was young and naïve when the blue pilgrim took advantage of me. The knowledge that I stole the statue from Thirteenth Principality in the first place is conveniently buried.  
I can tell the Prince somehow senses there is more to the story, but he doesn’t pursue it.
The castle has been cleaned up, appearing almost bare. The Prince has been busy giving away its riches. He has taken a small room on the ground floor and has invited others to live and work in the castle. I say nothing, knowing it can’t last. A Prince must rule, and to rule he must have a castle.
I lead the way. The Prince has gained a retinue; the most shameless of the nobility is already fawning over him. Quarry ignores them. Jarmel and a few others of his original band protectively surround him, but there is little other outward sign that he is anyone but a common citizen, albeit a very large and regal citizen.
Between the looting and Quarry’s beneficence, the hallway near the entrance is stripped clean, all but one object, too humble for anyone to want. A mobile statue made of twirling mirrors.
Quarry grunts when he sees the statue. I blink my eyes, for it is as if the Prince has disappeared, he has become so still. I can see that it puzzles the nobles, who have never seen this side of their Prince.
My eyes, too, are drawn to the mirrors. The jumbled Oaths rattle through my head, as disjointed and disconcerting as ever. Once again, I am filled with a sense that I don’t understand what the object is trying to tell me, that I should be doing something.
But this time, that sense disappears. I am filled with a feeling of completeness, as if a task long delayed has finally been completed. As I watch the flashing mirrors, they seem to become one large mirror, filling the wall, the castle, the principality, the world.
All that exists is the mirror, and I see that it is the Mirror God and it is reflecting back the true nature of those who stand before it.
One by one, the Oaths flash before me, and I see a toad, a creature out of place, who has struggled to fit in. Then I see a man whose features are so ugly it is almost pleasing. I see a failure and a thief, but someone who has become more human than monster. I see someone who has failed each of the Oaths in his time, and fulfilled them too. I see a flawed man, who has forgotten the Mirror God’s Covenant more often than he has remembered it.
But the Mirror God isn’t reflecting me, except at the verges.
Standing beside me, Quarry is reflected in all his power at the center of the mirror. He has kept to the Covenant, and one by one, the Thirteen Oaths are administered to him, and he passes them all.
They who are last, shall also be first,
They who are stern, shall also be kind,
They who are cursed, shall also be blessed,
They who are mistrusted, shall also be believed,
They who are foolish, shall also be wise,
They who are innocent, shall also see the truth,
They who are weak, shall also be strong,
They who are low, shall also be high,
They who are scorned, shall also be honored,
They who hate, shall also love,
They who are far, shall also be near,
They who forget, shall also remember
They who are first, shall also be last.
A sense of dizziness overcomes me and it is as if I’m falling into the mirror, which I see is the Abyss.
And then, I’m standing in a bare hallway again, a statue made of cheap material before me. The twirling mirrors are dull, having lost most of their reflective surface. I no longer hear the Covenant in my mind.
I look about me at those surrounding the Prince, and it is clear they are puzzled, that they saw none of what I saw.
This is how others have always seen the mobile, I realize, except those few who somehow understood its significance.
“What happened?” I say aloud.
Prince Quarry appears unmoved. “The Mirror God cometh,” he says.
“The Mirror God has been summoned. We must prepare ourselves for his arrival.” With that, Prince Quarry turns and starts back to the throne room.
I’m left alone with the statue. It no longer has the slightest appeal to me. In fact, it’s kind of ugly.
Like me, I suppose. We’ve both done the job we were sent here to do, apparently.
A sense of peace overcomes over me. I no longer have the nagging feeling of something left undone. I am free to be who I want to be—a humble thief, who takes from those who are too rich for their own well-being and gives it to those who can appreciate it.
A worthy occupation, in my estimation.
I lift the statue and carry it to my room, where I carefully take it apart. It may be a humble work of art, but it once had great meaning and I will treat it with respect.
I will take it to Prince Mordrial and collect my reward and not look back, however, for the statue is nothing more than a statue.
After that, I will do as I please…
…until the Mirror God comes.
I feel a stab of fear, for I know I am unready for His arrival. I saw myself in His Mirror, I saw how far I have strayed from the Covenant.
What’s more, I have traveled all the Thirteen Principalities and know that most of them are equally unprepared to be judged.
Gods and monsters, there’s nothing to be done. 
That day will come, but until then…there are riches to be taken.

Monday, February 27, 2017

I reread "Said the Joker, To the Thief" and I'm amazed by how intricate it is. It is by far my most sophisticated work, the melding of character and plot and theme. Came out of nowhere. If I could write like this every time, I'd be pretty impressed with myself.

Coming up on 13 weeks since I sent "Said the Joker, To the Thief" to Kindle Singles. The more time goes on, the more I think it was just a foul-up of some kind. I think if it was an acceptance, I would have heard by now. Up to about 12 weeks I could harbor the illusion. Oh, well. I always knew it was an extreme long shot.

Meanwhile, I have four free days, interrupted by 3 works days, and I want to really concentrate on "Takeover" once I start, so I've decided to start another novella, this one starring Mother Sali. Won't feel bad about interrupting it. Just have fun. A throwaway, either it works or it doesn't. Hell, maybe I'll even try to finish it.

This was just way too much time without writing. It feels off. I need to use my creative muscles on something.

So just do my fantasy thing, let my subconscious go to work, have some fun with it.

Writing novellas has been a valuable experience. Basically, novellas are plots distilled to the essence. No time for chapters that are inserted just for action. The action has to be in the forward progressing chapters. So if I could manage to do the same for a book two or three times as long, I'd really have something.

In "Said the Joker, To the Thief," Callipe's journey could have taken up at least half the book. Instead, I just cut all the adventures in-between and had her just show up for the ending. It worked as a novella, but if I had included those adventures, it probably would have worked as a book too. (If I ever have a call to extend it, that's what I'd do.)

It's my intention to have all of Callipe's in-between adventures as another novella. So I'm looking at a minimum of four different novellas, and I'm thinking I'll probably do a Lady Lysandra novella as well.

No real endpoint, really. Just any time I want to dive into that world. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Finished "The Toad King" and I like it.

29363 words, versus 29298 words for "Said the Joker, To the Thief." Just under the wire. I doubt I'll submit it to Kindle Singles, though why not? Maybe I will. Once I've heard back on the first submission. It is a little odd that I haven't heard back. Mostly likely, it is lost in the system. I still think the odds are astronomical of it being taken on.

I'd hoped to start writing "Takeover" on the 1st, but Cameron is going to a comic con in Seattle for five days, so that means I have to wait until the 6th, and/or get started earlier. Dylan is too new to throw into the maw yet. I may see how he does on Saturday, since that is a day I'd rather avoid.

I'll see if I'm inspired over the next few days, stare at the screen and see if anything comes to me.

Was able to do my usual 4 mile walk yesterday for the first time in 2 1/2 months. Last winter I was waylaid only a couple of days, same with the year before.

It felt good, was more tired than usual, which makes sense. Heartrate got up to 120, when it usually peaks at 100. I'll have to see how long it takes to go back to normal.

But the great thing was, the ideas for the final chapter of "The Toad King" just started flowing. I sat down on one of the writing stumps and wrote some,  but it felt really clunky. Stopped writing and just gathered glimmers, went home and threw out what I'd written and started over.

Came spilling out and it was a satisfying climax.  Heh.

I like this world and the characters. I'm planning to write more of these novellas. Next up, I think, is the character of "Mother Sali" who is another favorite character.

But first up, the THRILLER.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

No word from my editor on which thriller plot he might like.

No big surprise, there. Our last interaction started off the same way. Apparent interest, then complete ignoring, then me delivering a finished book and him liking it. Took over a year.  I'm hoping the same thing will happen again.  The bigger publishers just operate on a different timeframe.

Meanwhile, it has now been more than 12 weeks since I sent "Said the Joker, To the Thief" to Kindle Singles. I'd love to believe it means something, but it probably doesn't mean anything.

Cohesion Press, the publisher of "Snaked," seems to be making huge strides in the publishing world, with some incipient bestsellers under his belt, so I figure that's all good. Hopefully, by the time "Snaked" comes out (scheduled for October) he'll will have all the publishing kinks with IPG sorted out.

I'm going to be excited to write "Takeover." It has the potential to be a good book. But I'm trying not to put too high expectations on myself, for fear of blocking myself.

I'm just going to write the book.

I wouldn't hurt to put some thought into it first, though. I've learned that. How many characters, what format, the theme, the overall arch of the story and so on. I've been filling that in a little just by osmosis.

I'm really hoping I can start going on long walks again around the same time. I think that would be really helpful to the creative process.

One last chapter to "The Toad King" is going to be written today. I've just been sitting down and writing these last few chapters without further ado. I know what I want from them so I'm going straight there. Probably end up with 1000 to 1500 words to spare, so I have a little wiggle room in the rewrite, which this will need.

Still, having two "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" under my belt makes that world feel real to me.  I'd eventually like to write a couple more, but first I need to write "Takeover."

I need to channel my inner Stephen Hunter, Lee Child, John Sandford, and John Connelly. Heh.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Final Answer.

I'm going to do the book about the takeover at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

In fact, the title will be "Takeover."

I think I've figured out a way to neutralize the political part, in fact use it to my benefit.

First thing I need to do is have alternate chapters between occupiers and occupied, so that both views are presented. (The views of the characters, not pushed, but explaining motivations.)

Then, a major plot development -- much more radical, violent extremists come in and takeover, and now the original guys have to band together with the hostages to save the situation. I figure no one is going to be on the side of murderous radicals, no matter what side.

It may be a mistake, but ultimately, this is the story that interests me the most, that is the most unique, and which has plenty of ideas to play with.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A guest post, from Shawn Hoge Remfrey.

Gratifying to know I'm infesting my friend's minds.

The Toad King is Stalking Me.

“Mom!  There’s a frog in the pool!”

It all started off so innocently.  The ice over the pool had melted, but the odds of it being an actual frog instead of a leaf or something else innocuous were pretty good.  I trudged outside and looked all over.  No frog.  I was in the clear.

Then the pointing began.  Then I SAW it!  It wasn’t just a frog.  This thing was massive!  It was easily the size of both of my chubby toddler hands!  And it was dead! D.E.A.D.  How did I know?  I looked at it.  It was an odd grey and slimy and looked like it was one of those foam grow animals that you plunge into water.  Oh the horror!

Of course, I pretended I still couldn’t see it.  Admitting I saw it meant that I’d have to do something about it.  Nope.

An hour later, I went back out to look at it.  Just to see if it would still stare at me with it’s cold, beady little eyes.  It was gone!!  

At that moment, I realized The Toad King was out to get me.  I blame McGeary for this.  I’ve been following his progress on The  Toad King so it was already in the back of my mind.

Everywhere I’ve gone, all day, at the slightest hint of movement, I’ve jumped back, sure that he was about to strike.  Air current in the curtains?  It’s The Toad King!  A  fluttering piece of paper?  It’s The Toad King!  I’m even scared of my own feet at the moment!  They’re under the desk and every time I feel a tickle, I’m sure it’s The Toad King, coming to suck my soul!!!

Monday, February 20, 2017

I have the opportunity I wanted, now it's up to me to write a good book.

Not just a book good enough to win over a publisher, but one which will have a broad appeal to readers. I do believe that my writing is somehow attractive to editors, though I'm not sure it always  works the same with agents or readers who apparently have different requirements.

Why the difference?

I think that the agent's main focus is looking for a "money-maker" while the publishers' main focus is looking for a good book.

They aren't necessarily the same thing. Of course, there is a lot of grey between those two goals, and of course there are agents who support authors who they think are good writers regardless of saleability and there are publishers who pass on authors they think are good because of the lack of commercial possibilities.

But I think it holds up as a general observation.

The readers want yet other things. Either a rip-roaring fun read or a thought-provoking read or one that takes them someplace they've never been. Again, most books are a blend of those things.

The question of quality is an interesting one. I believe every writer is trying his best, however there are choices about how much revision a writer is willing to do, how much time they spend.

Mostly it comes down to intent. Do I want a quick book or a more thought out book?

Even that isn't always true though. A more drawn out process doesn't necessarily result in a better book. I personally believe that there is a qualitative "zone" that a writer inhabits, where most of their books will reside, though I also believe it is possible to occasionally break out of that zone through a fortuitous string of circumstances--or fall well below.

At this point in my career, I don't have as much doubt in the competence of my writing as I do in what to write.

In the end, I'll write the book I want to write, regardless. But a little rumination isn't a bad thing, though it probably seems pretty wish-washy to everyone else (especially the editor to whom I keep throwing half-baked ideas.)

A big discovery has been that the writing isn't what people notice--it's the underlying premise. That seems to be the most important thing. Of course, as a writer, I can't take that too seriously because I believe the quality of the writing sells the premise or doesn't. But it's interesting to me that the criticism is more about the content than about the way the content is presented.

I'm going to start my thriller on March 1. But I'm still undecided about which idea to pursue. I was leaning toward my "takeover" book, but now I'm leaning toward my "outdoor journalist on the run from city slickers" idea.

I'm thinking it might be wise to avoid the politics on my first book because it is an unnecessary complication. So the straight-ahead chase book is both easier and less problematic. It also has plenty of reader-pleasing possibilities, which is what I'm after the most.

Like I said, making the choice is the hard part. The actual writing will be a relief.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Out of the blue I started writing a story about a fictional takeover of a wildlife refuge. Before I knew it, I'd written 2500 words, and they were good.

What the Hell? Where did that come from? I still have to finish "The Toad King." I have a thriller to write!

Wrestled with the concept last night, and realized that this could be the thriller I was looking for. Just change it slightly--make it about the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which I've been to and can visit again.

Add a murder or two, and I've got myself a thriller.

It's a political mindfield, but I figure I can have both viewpoints, (which will probably offend everyone.)

I think a really pleasing plot turn would be to have both the occupiers and the occupied banning together to fight an outside threat. Maybe some foreign terrorists who tries to take advantage of the situation. Something like that.

Or simply, like I said, some murders. (Or maybe both scenarios, if it isn't too much.)

Lots of possibilities, but I like the premise.

Not sure how I'm going to make my outdoor journalist character the main protagonist, but he can be part of the mix. (I want to build a series around a single hero.)

I still like the other ideas I had for a thriller, but those ideas are still out there.

My subconscious obviously wants to work on this first.

Linda says, "Enough with the foreign terrorists already."

I agree. Maybe a more extreme faction takes over, starts threatening to kill the rangers, who have stayed behind to protect the place. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I have a working title, because I know the editor will probably have his own title, or something better may occur to me. But rather than call it the WIP, I came up with "Lava Lake."

I finally went for a walk yesterday. My favorite path is still pretty bad, but a mile of another path is clear, so I might just walk that route 4 times. Didn't really get many ideas, unfortunately. I'm still trying to figure out who the protagonist is, and who his friends are, and so on.

I think rather than get in trouble pretending to be an expert, I should have him be a wilderness journalist, not a guide. I don't want him to be either McGyver or Rambo, but a smidgen of both.

I thought of having him be a traditionalist. A single shot hunting rifle kind of guy, doesn't even own a pistol or shotgun, prefers catch-and-release fishing to killing things. Wouldn't be an expert on ordinance. Just an ordinary outdoorsman, like I was raised to be. Prefers to be outdoors, on hikes or camping trips.

I fished and hunted throughout Central Oregon in my youth, but I would never claim to be an expert. So I'll have him have friends who are experts. I'm thinking of a real back-to-nature guy who lives in the woods as his silent but deadly friend.

(Linda says, then HE becomes the hero. Nah, I'll kill him off...or some other reason he doesn't step to the fore; helps out but doesn't take over the story.)

I figure a wilderness journalist gives just enough expertise to be credible. Also allows for future stories.  As far as him getting out of trouble, I'd like that to be something that a guy like me would come up with a solution, rather than research about wilderness tricks and traps and ambushes or such. (Well, maybe a little.)

If I'm going to write a thriller, I'd rather not get bogged down by research, so I need to design the premise as something I can easily do. Besides, having a Rambo or McGyver has been done by everyone. (Super cops, detectives, spies...)I'd rather have a "everyman" hero, even if that isn't the preferred mode of protagonist.

I want to design this whole thing as something that works and is something I want to do.  This is for the long haul, a kind of different level of doing things. I may not get there, but I have to try. I usually come up with a premise for a book that I think is strong enough and just start writing.

I'm putting more pre-thought into this than normal, to hopefully save me future problems. Giving myself a couple of weeks to just think of ideas.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I proposed a Western to my new publisher, thinking that's what he wanted.

He wrote back to say: "I'll tell you, Dunc--the last thing I need are westerns! What I need are thrillers. Come up with a slam-bang idea and shit, I'll publish it... How's that?"

Well...that seems like an engraved invitation. You know...all I have to do is write a "slam-bang" book and all.

But kidding aside, I do feel like I have an "in" with this publisher if I can produce something decent. Having a receptive audience is half the battle, maybe more.

So it's got my head churning. Trying to figure out what I can do. I'm going to try to run some ideas past him, get some kind of approval for the premise at least in advance.

My favorite reads these days are Lee Child, John Sandford, Micheal Connelly, that kind of thing. But I've stayed away from trying to write them because of the technical demands of the story. Knowing about police procedures or weapons or martial arts or military--all these books have that in common.

I could maybe do them if I researched enough. But...frankly, that just seems both difficult and boring to me. Lots of places I can go wrong. "Hey, a Glock has no safety, nimrod!"

There is one book I really liked--A Simple Plan--which had normal people in it a dangerous situation. It was a simple premise and simply explicated in a realistic way. I've always thought that was the kind of book I'd like to try.

I have a little bit of an idea, but I don't know if it's slam-bang.

Writing what you know? Well, I know running a comic book store, so there's that. But really, is that the world I want to write about? It might be fun, but others have done it, and I just don't seem to have a knack for it.

But I would be inclined to write about Bend and Central Oregon if possible. There are some great locations around here.

Thing is...a single thriller, written to specifications, wouldn't do much. I'd really like to write something I can continue, a character who is impressive enough to carry a series, that I know something about, that I can be proud of.

So I need a slam-bang idea for a single book, but with a character who could continue in a series.

So...that's where my head is going to be for awhile.

Later: I made a quick sketchy proposal, with the thought that now is the time to strike. I like the idea, though it would require a whole lot of research, and even more vetting to get the facts correct. I think I have people who have the expertise to vet the story, if they are willing. I suppose since I'm being paid, I'd be willing to pay them, so that might help.

I'm pretty sure I'll have to do this on spec. In fact, I think I'd prefer to write it on spec.

Also, much more thought needs to go into this before I start. Not an outline, per se, but a lot of ideas assembled in advance.

There is a window of opportunity here, so I want to get it right.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

For purposes of shorthand, I call idea generation, "glimmers."

I call them "glimmers' because it is best to keep them vague and shimmering at first, before they calcify into something I can't change.

They come in two types.

First, the plot generation glimmers, which is the overall direction, theme, character development I'm shooting for. "Premise" feels like too solid a word for this, but I need to have strong glimmers of these things before I start a book. If the underlying ideas aren't strong enough, they won't carry the day and the story will peter out. That happens occasionally, though I'm pretty careful these days not to just go off half-cocked.

"The Toad King" was a little bit under-cooked before I started it, because I figured the character was interesting enough to carry the story and because I meant it as a novella. As it happens, the character was strong enough for about 2/3rds the story, but came up a little short in overall story generation, so I've struggled a bit.

I've got it now, so that's good. I have a glimmer of how I want the plot to go.

Secondly, the specific glimmers that bring the scenes alive. So for instance, in this current chapter I've come up with the idea of the Toad King robbing the main temple, with the help of Quarry and Marna.

However, that's all I had.

What I needed was "how" and "when" and "why" and "what" happens. I need telling detail, character actions, scene-setting, all of that.

Again, just as it is dangerous to start a book without strong enough premises,  it is dangerous to start a chapter without sufficient visual and auditory glimmers. I mean, I can do it with just single glimmer sometimes, but the story always seems thin to me when I do that. I've learned to gather a dozen or more glimmers before I'd actually start the chapter. (My walks were especially useful for that--but I haven't walked for two months...)

Yesterday, I sat down to write the robbery chapter, and nothing came. Nothing at all.

Rather than force the issue, I didn't start.

Just before bed, I had two glimmers. One--that the good guys harness a Monster of the Abyss to be the diversion, and Two--they rob in the daytime.

Today, I've come up with about a dozen more glimmers, enough to start the chapter.

Usually I come up with a dozen more glimmers in the course of writing, along with the business at hand, hopefully for a fully fleshed-out story. This process hasn't been as smooth as usual lately, but I've had lots of distractions. But little by little, it's coming together.

As long as the glimmers keep coming, I can keep writing. It scares me to death sometimes that the glimmers feel so fragile and vulnerable.

I just have to keep the faith they're there waiting when I'm ready.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Started to tell  Linda about the ending of The Toad King, of which I had a hazy view. In telling it to her, it more or less came together, with a couple of crucial improvements.

I think I've got this.

I've decided I like novellas (20 or 30K words.) They require a plot, but not too much of a plot. They require characterization, but I can also play with themes and mood. A bunch of novellas put together can make a pretty good novel.

I don't usually read short stories or novellas, but I've seen them done well in books. A couple of great examples is Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin, which is a series of short stories about an intergalactic trader. Another example is The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. I liked the first book, Hyperion, but I liked this collection of novellas even better. (It may have been long short stories, I'm not sure.)

Anyway, I have in mind a whole series of these stories for my "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities," with a common book design. Not the huge commitment of a novel, but also without the difficulty of a short story. (I'm not sure I know how to write short stories.)

At least for now, novellas seems to be a length that is comfortable, now that I've gotten busy with other things.

I do love the fantasy. Always have. So I still have an ambition to write an Epic Fantasy, but I just don't want it to be another quest, or mimic Martin, Tolkien, Jordan, or any of the others. I wanted it to be something which really captures me, because I'm probably going to live with it for a long while.

I have too many ideas, I think.

An Epic fantasy consisting of Novellas may actually be the way to go.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Toad King is unpredictable. He's strange and funny and a little alien. He's is full of braggadocio and doubt and empathy and greed.

His voice should be unique and fun, especially since his story is being told in first person/present tense.

For the last couple of chapters, the Toad King has been just your normal adventure narrator. It's not completely wrong, because the story needed to move in a adventure direction and that required him doing things that were somewhat predictable.

But no more. The Toad King controls this story, not the plot!

I need to really nail down the Toad King's voice for the rest of the book. He needs to be quirky and surprising and a little bit alien.

So that's my goal for the day. To find that strangely smiling voice. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Worked on the problem chapter all day and I think I made it much better. Enough for me to comfortably continue with the story.

Have about 12K words to write, or about 8 to 10 chapters. So I think it's time to work out the rest of the plot before I go on. Or at least have a clue.

I'm feeling confident it will come together somehow, but I'm waiting for that aha moment. I feel the elements starting to come together, but they aren't there yet.  I have "Said the Joker, To the Thief" to draw upon. The Mirror God Covenant provides lots of material.

I'm pretty sure what the overall purpose of the Toad King's journey is-- the McGuffin of the story is the Mirror God statue. It's a key, somehow, to unleash the Mirror God. Other than that, I'm a little hazy.

But the subconscious is working on it, I hope. I trust it is.

Monday, February 6, 2017

I'm struggling a little with my writing, which is rare. My routines have been totally disrupted over the last couple months. The weather has been the worst problem. I tied my writing process a little too closely to my daily walks in the desert. I haven't been able to walk for months and it's been hard to establish a new routine.

Selling Linda's store was complicated and stressful. I've had to work at my own store more, and that will probably continue. Selling a book to a major publisher was very stressful. After the acceptance, I was so charged up I couldn't do anything for a few days. Linda very much wants to move to a new house this spring, and that will probably be the most stressful and disruptive of all.

All of these things have been "Hurry up and wait."

I had a good string of four years of writing, especially the first two years. The last two years have been fruitful too, and I'm probably a better writer these days.

Anyway, rather than tackle a full novel,  I decided to write another novella in the "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities." ("Said the Joker, to the Thief" was the first novella.) I decided to write about the Toad King because I liked him so much as a character.

However, I didn't think it out much more than that. So I've hit the halfway point and I'm feeling stuck, like it isn't going where I want it to go.

I'm throwing out yesterday's chapter and trying something new. I introduced a character called Scoundrel, but he's just a stock fantasy character, a strong and silent warrior, Conan-like. I thought it over last night and decided to change him to a physically weak guy, so honorable he's almost simple-minded, but incredibly brave. I'm calling him Quarry.

"Because he is hunted?" I ask.
Marna snorts. "No...because he's a rock. You ever tried talking to a rock?"

In other words, I'm trying to feel my way. Inspiration isn't coming to me, so I need to be sure I don't just put out something bland.

The place they meet Quarry is on top of a mountain, but again it felt kind of generic. I'm rethinking that as well. I decided that my model should be Frodo and Sam meeting Faramir. Those were some great scenes in LOTR. I need to be more original.

I'm hoping my process will come back to me, that it's just because I've been interrupted so much lately, not because I've lost it. But I don't want to force it, even if what I write is 80% of the way there. Eventually, if I have to, I will do that.

But for now, I'd like to have that feeling of inspiration I've mostly had over the last few years. I'd like that flow to return, and I need to find ways to incubate it, despite all the disruptions.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nice article in the Bulletin about Josh and Heidi Spencer, the couple who bought our used bookstore, The Bookmark.

I have been very impressed by them. Smart and energetic.

There was one line in the story that made me wince. About how they were undecided about whether to carry on our "no frills" approach.

It was interesting in talking to Josh, that there was almost a checklist in my head of things that I had considered doing and then decided not to, but which he had done or was going to do.

After thinking about it for a few days, I decided that neither of us are wrong. It's just that I've had the Bend experience of the last 30 years, which is somewhat unique and probably taught me lessons different from other places.

Most towns don't grow as fast as Bend has in our tenure here. Most towns don't go bust quite as often or as deeply.

There was a very good reason I was "no frills." Because that's what allowed us to survive in this environment.

So businesses come to Bend all the time, and they do it "right." That is, they do all the frills, they do all the accoutrements, they do it "big time." Which is just great as long as business continues to be good. But...when things are tight, those extra things drag them down.

It isn't that they aren't doing a good job, that they don't know their stuff, that they aren't hard working or smart. Usually, they're smarter than me. But they make the fundamental mistake of not calibrating their business to what Bend will actually provide over the long run.

I'm not worried about Josh and Heidi. I think they have the right approach for this time and environment, plus they have plenty of resources that I never had.

But that doesn't mean my approach was wrong either.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"I Live Among You" is now "Live" on Amazon.

It costs 2.99, or free on Kindle Unlimited (I get paid for every page read).

I think it's a bright fast read you'll enjoy.

I know it is probably undignified to ask you guys to buy it, but...well, I've been writing this blog for 10 years and I'd like to believe that those of you who read it are on my side. So please support my efforts if you can.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Went out to the Badlands to see if there was any possibility of walking on my usual routes. Not a chance. Not only heavy snow, but where there wasn't snow were puddles and slush.

Damn. I really, really miss walking.

Meanwhile, it started snowing tonight.

Linda is a woman of leisure as of an hour ago. I was the one who was all sentimental about leaving the Bookmark. We handed over the keys and left Josh in there at 6:00 and drove away. I told Linda, "That's exactly what I would have done. Lock the doors and explore."

So it looks like I sold a book to a major publisher. I'm not allowed to say anything more. I've been excited about that for several days. Along with selling the store and having to do all the moving stuff out and changing and all, I haven't even attempted to write in the last week.

The book I sold to the publisher is going to be a long term project, (the editor has warned of changes and traditional publishing takes more than a year anyway) so I can't put things on hold waiting. I'm going to keep writing my novellas that I'm calling, "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities." I'm halfway through The Toad King, and I'm going to start back up on Friday.

Tomorrow, (today as you read this), I'm going to start putting my book, "I Live Among You" on Amazon. Don't know if I'll get it done in one day, but it will be up soon. Followed in the next couple of months by an "Audio" version by Cameron.

I'm probably going to publish either "Gargoyle Dreams" or "The Last Fedora" around May. "Tuskers IV" should come out this summer from Ragnarok, and "Snaked" this fall from Cohesion.

So things are progressing nicely. I'm hoping this new publisher will be an opportunity, but I'm going to have to think of premises they might like, instead of just going off and writing whatever comes to me. (I mean, I'll probably do both.)

My routines have been totally disrupted. The weather, the sale of the Bookmark, Matt quitting, the publisher...and Linda wants to move to a one-story house, so that is going to happen sometime before summer.

But I had almost 5 good years to do nothing but write, and that is way longer than I'd thought I have, and this is just one of those transitional phases we all go through.