While I’ll decorate this post with some ducks, you’re likely here because you’re a fan of my writing, so here’s some news on that front. Work continues on the third novel. I generally find that my drafting speed really slows down over the middle sections of a book and that I begin to pick up speed near the end of Act II and start of Act III, and that’s holding true for When the Goddess Wakes. As I close on the rough draft of the final sections of Act II, threads are tightening, a few surprises are bringing things into closer focus, and I’m getting more and more excited about the potential of what I’ve written.
Two of my favorite restaurants aren’t answering the phone.
Two weeks ago we wanted to make sure we threw one of them some business. Iwataya, a sushi restaurant, has been part of the Evansville scene before we moved here some 15 years ago. When I walk in to pick up an order or to sit down for a meal the long-time employees greet me like an old friend. But they didn’t answer that evening, and they haven’t answered any evening since. I can’t know what’s happened. I fear the worst.
I’m almost certain the worst has happened to Bombay Spice. Not only are they not answering the phone, their web site is down. They opened only last year, and their Indian cuisine is excellent. Butter chicken dishes in London restaurants with five star reviews couldn’t touch the delicate blend of flavors in the butter chicken recipe from Bombay Spice here in a city most people never hear about, Evansville, Indiana. But I’m pretty sure, now, that they’re gone, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to their talented staff.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to my sister. She’s a nurse working in Arizona for a hospital that had no masks to give their nurses since the nation finally got serious a few weeks ago, and hasn’t had any other kind of protective gear for them either. Earlier this week she and the rest of the staff were triaging patients on the sidewalk in these conditions. Some patients arrived so weak they couldn’t climb from their cars under their own power, and my unmasked sister and her friends were reaching in to help them out.
Still, work is progressing on the third book. I’m deep into Act II, which is usually my least favorite part of any book to write. An informal poll among writer friends over the years has revealed a lot of us feel the same way. In the middle is when your doubts like to gang up, when you’re not sure you’ve got your pacing right, when you’re not sure the characters are acting quite right, etc. But of course pacing trouble and wobbly characters are going to turn up in the first draft. As my buddy E.E. Knight likes to say, give yourself permission to let the first draft suck. You’ve just got to get the story down and do the finesse work in the next drafts.
I don’t have as many doubts as I used to, and I’m not feeling mopey about the work, in part because I’ve done this enough times that I know the routine and in part because out there in the real world a whole lot of people have far more serious things to worry about… As I’ve written there have been some surprises and some changes despite my outline, and I sense another change in what I originally planned may be coming down the pike once I start Act III. After that, the third and final act feels like it’s going to stay about the way I planned. I’m hoping I’ll have a fully working draft by the end of next month.
Writing as a team, usually under their Wade Miller pseudonym, Bob Wade and Bill Miller drafted some engaging thrillers and mysteries for Fawcett Gold Medal and other publishers all through the 1950s and into the early 1960s, before Miller’s untimely early death. Their writing was tight and spare, yet immersive, and they knew how to quickly hook readers into propulsive plots. Their settings sprang vividly to life, and they were capable of subtle and even nuanced character development and dialogue. Ten years ago I’d never heard of them; now I consider them among my very favorite writers.
On my own highlights reel are a number of standalones and the entire Max Thursday series. That’s not to say that each of the hardboiled private eye’s adventures is equally good, but each Max Thursday book is a strong novel and every one of them is different from the others, both in tone and subject matter. They usually fall on the gritty side of things, and are intricately plotted, so don’t go reading online discussions that tend to spoil the whodunnit. Unlike other hardboiled novels from the same era, the Thursday books are best read in order. Thursday starts out the series fighting alcoholism, and his relationships with secondary characters change in succeeding books. In order the Max Thursday novels are: Guilty Bystander, Fatal Step, Uneasy Street, Calamity Fair, Murder Charge, and Shoot to Kill. Here’s a wonderful article over at Thrilling Detective that discusses more details WITHOUT revealing the endings. I can’t guarantee that other discussions will do that.
The unofficial cover copy has been turned over for book three now, and it looks almost certainly like it’s going to be titled When the Goddess Wakes. I’m sure before the end that cover copy will be tweaked a bit, but it’s a milestone on the road to completion.
At this point the first act of the book is pretty solid and act two is getting there. I know what’s going to happen in act three, for the most part, although I’m still undecided about a few points, which means I’m still eager to see what happens to some of the characters. Maybe it’s just the way I work, but if I’m not a little curious to see how things work out I don’t write as well. I imagine that I’ll have a fully working rough no later than the end of April, and it may even be polished by May. I’m not sure what that bodes for the release day, because there can often be a long delay between completion and printing, but I can guarantee you won’t be waiting TOO long.
For those of you who are readers of the magazine I edit, Tales From the Magician’s Skull, issue 4 is in layout right now, and preliminary work is starting on issue 5. I’m also starting to draft material that will be required to open the magazine for submissions — dos and do nots, primers on what sword-and-sorcery is, that sort of thing.
I’ve been keeping my hand in writing more short stories over the last year, as I had hoped. I didn’t manage nearly as many as I had ambitiously planned, but I DID compose two new Dabir and Asim stories and wrote three new Hanuvar stories. I also plotted out even more Hanuvar tales and now know how I want to fill what I eventually hope will be the first of several collections featuring his wanderings. I have numerous ideas for his adventures in the future. As he’s one of my favorite characters, this pleases me. Hopefully fantasy fans and readers will begin to discover him.
Preliminary research and plotting has begun on the book that will follow the ring-sworn trilogy as well. All-in-all, the writing is advancing nicely!