Monthly Archives: May 2016

Strange Juxtapositions

nicklebyUpon reflection I find that I’ve been poised between the old and the new a lot in the last few days. For instance, while a passenger on the way to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, I was reading Nicholas Nickleby. Immediately after finishing Nicholas Nickleby I started reading some hard boiled detective short stories from several omnibuses I’ve acquired.

And, of course, I just finished the rough draft of one novel and am getting ready to start work on the slightly less new one I finished a draft of a few months back.

Maybe I could find this kind of old and new parallel every week if I tried, but it struck me as curious. I mean, I guess any Dickens is pretty old, but not as old as the Reniassance, and that the short stories I was reading were at least 50 years old, but not as old as Nicholas Nickelby, so maybe the problem is I’m reading nothing new.

Writing Flurries

hulk computerI finished the rough draft of a new novel, the second in the sequence of three I’m developing. I used the same process I used to write the new sections of the first novel (of this new trilogy) and it worked even better this time:

  1. First, know the characters and what they want
  2. Outline the events I’m most interested in seeing, arising from clashing character motivation
  3. Sketch out the arcs (this book has two major POV and three minor)
  4. Pick an arc and start drafting.

I started my novel career by writing books  deliberately drafted to sound as though one person were sharing a story with you, the listener. It’s been a bit of a shift to write novels with multiple points of view, but I’ve gotten more and more practiced with it. 

Madison and Village Lights

Village LightsTwo Thursdays ago my wife and I headed over to Madison Indiana, where she had a work conference. My son, just finished with his first year of college, tagged along, and while my wife was busy conferencing, the first born and I wandered around the little community.

It was only our second visit and I’d already forgotten just how lovely the main portions of it are. Madison happens to have the largest contiguous National Historic Landmark in the United States — meaning 133 blocks of beautiful, well preserved older buildings. They’re an architectural feast for the eyes, and then there’s the Ohio River just a few blocks south of the downtown, and the steep hills with beautiful greenery ascending to the north and south. A large state park with stunning views, Clifty Falls, provides a lot of great hiking trails as well as campgrounds and even an expansive hotel if you want to come back and relax after you’ve been roughing it in the wilds.

Tough Chicken

james taylor quartetSometimes I’m driving along listening to the radio, and something incredible comes on. The older I get, the less it happens, possibly because I’ve been introduced to more music and possibly because the radio in our primary vehicle usually identifies the music being played even if the disc jockey doesn’t.

Some sixteen years ago, long before we had ANY vehicles with fancy displays, I was driving around Topeka Kansas and for some reason I had the radio on an unfamiliar station. Out from the speakers rolled this skipping, melodic jazz base line. It was enough to get my head nodding instantly. After the organ and drums kicked in the flute arrived and owned the song with a wailing ear worm of a melody.

After the song was over it was still a few minutes from home, but I recall walking into the house, flipping open the phone book  and calling the radio station to politely inquire what that great song was with the lead flute part.

And the disc jockey introduced me to “Tough Chicken” by the James Taylor Quintet, off of the CD Message from the Godfather. I liked the song so much I purchased the CD (again, long before downloading days). The CD is good, although nothing else on it never thrilled me as much as this number. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and maybe you’ll do what I never did and track down more of the band’s music. Hmm…. I see they have numerous additional CDs…

Writing Away

Front 2Once again, you’d be right in thinking that lack of posts means that I’m nose to the grind stone. I’m hoping to get a rough draft of the newest book done before the end of the month, and I think I’ll make it. In this case, some sections are very rough — little more than a few stage directions and some dialogue. Oddly enough, even writing this way sometimes things go slow. For the last few days, for example, it’s been like pulling teeth to get scenes written. On the other hand, once I rough out the scene, I know it’s mostly right — after years of trial and error I am finally better at NOT writing a detailed scene which will later be cut.

Also, in the mornings before I wake the family, when I usually write blog posts, I’ve been playing Lock ‘N Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy, a World War II tactical board game. Even though it’s a two person game I’ve been having a lot of fun running it against myself. It deserves a post on its own, and I’ll probably get to that later this week.

I wish I could tell you when the newest series will debut. The first book has some great feedback from my beta readers that I’m dying to implement, but I’m really waiting to hear from editorial before I do anything. When I finish this second book, though, I’ll probably place it on the window sill to cool a little and go back and edit book one for a couple of weeks. Then, fingers crossed, I can whip book two into shape and hopefully write and revise book three before the end of the year.

At some point there I hope to know when it will be in print, which is news I’ll happily share with you.

Skelos Magazine

raidersSo here’s a cool thing: a kickstarter for a brand new sword-and-sorcery e-zine from some real sword-and-sorcery experts. The mag’s going to be called Skelos, and it’s masterminded by none other than Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks, Robert E. Howard scholars all. Hearing that these three are behind it fills me with glee — I look forward to reading whatever treasures they unearth, and, heck, I look forward to submitting some day as well.

I hope you’ll join me in backing this one.

In other news, I’m closing on the conclusion of the second major arc of my new book. It seems hard for me to believe, but I might actually be finished with the rough draft for the whole thing by the end of the month. This arc should conclude no later than early next week, and then I’ve got a couple of chapters from minor arcs to draft. This is pretty rough still, and some of it is mostly framework with dialogue, but it feels solid. I suppose I’ll know how solid after I let it sit unread for a few weeks and return to it. A writer’s fear is always that it’s much, much worse than you think it is…

Return to Evenmere

The High HouseJust last week I discovered from an interview Nick Ozment held with the talented James Stoddard that there’s a third Evenmere book. I also learned that Stoddard had revised the second of the two previous books (The False House) to raise it to the standards of the first.

The first meaning The High House, which is among my favorite novels. It’s a house that sort of contains the universe in its myriad passages, attics, and hidden ways, and is a loving homage to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series from the late ’60s and early ’70s. (And no, you wags, not THAT kind of adult. Once upon a time it had to be stressed to readers that fantasy wasn’t just for kids.)

The High House is a wonderful men’s coming of age story. It’s not a child’s story of a boy learning to grow up, it’s a man learning to stand on his own. Main character Carter Anderson has to come to grips with his vanished father, learn how the world works, seek wisdom, overcome heartbreak, find common ground with his estranged brother, etc. And it all happens under a backdrop of mystery with wondrous places and fantastic scenery and beautiful writing and amazing magical tools. I love it.


HJ Sagan TreeSometimes I think it’s interesting to chart your life by your interests/obsessions. I suppose for a lot of men my age it starts with dinosaurs or indian tribes or trains, or maybe all three, then branches out into differences depending upon where we grew up, what toys we had, who we played with, etc.

The other day I started thinking about who introduced me to which things that have had a huge and lasting impact upon me, which is perhaps a healthier way to think about all of it.

For instance, my mom introduced me to The Beatles and fantasy fiction, and my father introduced me to sports and gentlemanly behavior. The sports never stuck until I found karate about twelve years ago, but I’ve tried to be gentlemanly. Both had a love of music and reading, and had a wonderfully empathic way to look at the world. Boy, did I love talking story theory with my father. They made sure to introduce me to the playing of musical instruments as well. 


beyondpoolstarsI generally put a little thought into each book dedication I write, but yesterday the one I drafted stopped me cold and left a very long shadow through the rest of the day.

As I’d hoped, I finished revising my fourth Pathfinder novel last week and sent it back in first thing Monday morning. The only part left on its to-do list when I got up was to draft the acknowledgments and dedication. The acknowledgments were simple enough — I was grateful to several people who’d provided guided and feedback, and thanked them accordingly.

But the dedication… When I sat down to write this book two summers ago, my friend Kris was alive and well. And last summer, when I revised it, he was doing fine. Last fall he passed away on an operating procedure after a perfectly normal minor surgery went terribly wrong. And so the book is now dedicated to his memory.