Visit Homepage
Skip to content

Making all the plot threads meet

Posted in Broken Devices, Plot, and The Chained Adept

PlotMaze

My series, The Chained Adept, began as an exploration in overall writing technique, that is, the dreaded divide between writers who outline (plotters) and writers who fly by the seat of their pants (pantsers).

I’m an old software engineer and company builder, so (as you might imagine) I’m a natural outliner. Say what you will about software — in the end, if you didn’t plan (plot) it right, the program won’t run.

Of course, for my first series, I found that as an outlined plot progressed, less and less of the original outline was relevant. In the end, all I was really left with were echoes of the original goals and plot inflection points (the inciting moments, the setbacks, the crises, the resolutions, and so forth). So I thought I might as well start with just that much, or at least the end goal, and try the alternate approach.

The great virtue of writing as a pantser is that, if you don’t know how it’s going to work out as you go along, then neither do your readers, so you’re likely to keep surprising them as you surprise yourself.

KickMachineYou have to trust to your subconscious which has read a lot of books in your genre. It’s very good at putting together the clues you’ve already written (inadvertent or not) and speculating about what might come next. Writing becomes more like reading — you write to see how it’s going to come out.

Each time you pause and add a bit to what’s been written already, your subconscious adds that to the mix and continues to churn. Every now and then, though, I find I have to give my subconscious a good thump — I’ve put the coins in the machine, but nothing’s coming out.

Right now, I’m headed for a big setback in act 3 of Broken Devices. It’s not the final crisis, but it’s significant. I’ve got the villains and at least three other sets of characters all headed for the same general area, with good reasons to be there and serious purposes, and I know what the result will be, but the actual paths that will tie them all together are being a bit… elusive. Like the center of that maze above, you can see the goal but you can’t get there down any of the existing paths.

My subconscious is doing one of those whirr-thunk, whirr-thunk moments you get when you turn the key and the car doesn’t start. I’m going to be stuck here until something shifts. I need some nice mindless tasks so it can churn away and spit out useful choices that don’t depend on implausible coincidences.

Conyers, GA - May 21: The streaks of a rider's headlamp make a winding trail through the woods during the Granny Gear 24 Hours of Conyers 24-hour mountain bike race in Conyers, Georgia.

I’ve been here before and I know it’ll sort itself out, but they don’t call this approach “writing into the dark” for nothing.

 

An observation

Posted in Broken Devices, Heroes, Plot, and The Chained Adept

Put your hero in danger and keep them there
Put your heroes in danger and keep them there

So here I am nearing the middle of Broken Devices, and I’m itching to broaden the scope. I mean, we’re in Yenit Ping, the biggest city in the world, but it’s just not… enough.

Ever notice that if you put your hero in a spot of danger, just a little bit, it has a way of greatly increasing your story options?

We enter the scene with everything all hunky-dory, and we exit… rather differently, as if a wind had blown down all the jackstraws.  Let’s see what our heroes (and villains) are going to do about it.

Audiobook edition of To Carry the Horn

Posted in Release, and To Carry the Horn

ToCarryTheHorn - Audio - Trimmed - 800x800The streaming audiobook edition of To Carry the Horn, the first book of The Hounds of Annwn, is now available at retailers worldwide.

You can find a full (and growing) list of audiobook retailer links here.

I had a lot of fun producing this edition, and every reader who complained about my use of Welsh names should feel gratified that I was forced to say them myself. Repeatedly. Into an unforgiving microphone.

Listen to the first five minutes of the opening:

Mistress of Animals has been released

Posted in Mistress of Animals, Release, and The Chained Adept

Book 2 of The Chained Adept

AN ERRANT CHILD WITH DISASTROUS POWERS AND NO ONE TO STAND IN HER WAY.

Penrys, the wizard with a chain and an unknown past, is drafted to find out what has happened to an entire clan of the nomadic Zannib. Nothing but their empty tents remain, abandoned on the autumn steppe with their herds.

This wasn’t a detour she’d planned on making, but there’s little choice. Winter is coming, and hundreds are missing.

The locals don’t trust her, but that’s nothing new. The question is, can she trust herself, when she discovers what her life might have been? Assuming, of course, that the price of so many dead was worth paying for it.

Order direct from the author, or see the publisher for retail sites.

Mistress of Animals (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Posted in Mistress of Animals, and The Chained Adept

CHAPTER 1

“Demon, I swear I’m going to eat your ears for breakfast.”

Penrys halted her horse, dismounted, and stomped back past her three pack horses to the beginning of the string of seven donkeys, the first of which had dug in his feet on the trail of the High Pass and was bawling like three demons instead of one.

The other donkeys fidgeted nervously and seemed inclined to join him, so Penrys probed to see if there was anything more than a fit of donkey sulks responsible.

Demon’s dominant mode was generally offended pride, but this time his mind showed her something different.

*Najud, something’s wrong. I think he’s afraid of something.*

Her companions mental voice chuckled. *Sure it’s not you he’s afraid of, Destroyer of Demons?*

After three weeks, the joke had worn thin to her. Perhaps the wizard they had destroyed had deserved the name, and maybe this donkey did, too, but she found the full title, applied to her, both ridiculous and embarrassing.

Guess Najud’s not going to bother to dismount and leave his own string to take a look.

She ran her hands over Demon and scratched under his chin in the spot he liked, and gradually he calmed down, placated by the attention. The others took their cue from him and settled.

She looked down their back trail. The view of the southern part of Neshilik, laid out below them, had been lost two days ago. Now only the steep scrambling slopes on either side were visible, along with the winding trail itself.

Footsteps behind her made her turn. Najud had come back to check on the donkeys, after all.

“Is he all right?”

“See for yourself.”

Najud had been making progress on his mind-probes of animals. He was cautious about relying on it—as he said, “I can see the start of a pack sore before the beast begins to feel it.”

“He’s calmer now, but you’re right, I think. Something alarmed him,” he said. “You can see why many clans put donkeys with the sheep herds, to act as guards against wolves.”

“Do they fight the wolves, or is it just the braying that makes them run away?”

Najud snorted.

Read More Mistress of Animals (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Mistress of Animals — manuscript finished

Posted in Broken Devices, Mistress of Animals, Publishing, Release, and The Chained Adept

Little_Gray_Mouse_-_The_EndWell, I wrote the last scene of Mistress of Animals this morning. Yippee!

Just a good bit of editing, then formatting and the usual distribution headaches. Everything’s on schedule for a publication date of April 2.

Broken Devices, Book 3 of The Chained Adept, begins tomorrow. I’ve discovered I like writing absolutely every day, highest priority. Not until that’s done do I look at any other necessary work. So right now, that means I will begin work on the next book, and do the edits on this one after the day’s writing is over.

Perkunas

Posted in A Writer's Desk, and Language

perkunas(triumverate)My books are published by Perkunas Press, and every now and then someone asks about the origin of the name “Perkunas”.

In the picture above, he’s the guy in the middle: Perkunas, the Baltic god of, well, many things. In this instance, he represents maturity and power, vs age and death on the left, and youth and fertility on the right.

More commonly, Perkunas is shown with a thunderbolt.  He is the champion of good, feared by all evil spirits. He rights wrongs, and upholds the balance of the world.

PerkunasminiHis clear counterpart in the Nordic countries is Thor, and there is a long and tangled relationship between them. The details are buried in lost history and intriguingly suggestive Indo-European etymology.

The root for “oak” in Indo-European is *perku (the “*” indicates a reconstructed form, IE being unattested except by its daughter languages). We see that word reflected in Latin: quercus (oak), and there is a general association of oak trees and lightning in Indo-European mythologies. Gods of oak trees are gods of thunder, and they wield thunderbolts (with emphasis on the pounding aspect of lightning rather than the flash).

perkunas_In Norse mythology, there are two tantalizingly references to obscure gods: Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn. The former (female) is mentioned briefly as the wife of Odin and mother of Thor, and the second (male) is mentioned as a byname for Odin. Etymologically, Fjörgyn is related to the same Indo-European word and seems to be another form of Perkunas. Lots of speculation exists about what this means in the relationship of the Norse with their Baltic neighbors.

Read More Perkunas

Cover reveal for Mistress of Animals

Posted in Artwork, Mistress of Animals, and The Chained Adept

I thought you might like to see how the cover came out for Mistress of Animals, book 2 of The Chained Adept.

Once again, my cover artist, Jake Bullock, did an excellent job. I sent him a scene from the book which I can’t share with you because of spoilers, but the “Mistress of Animals” is a young teenage girl, another chained wizard, and not one of the good guys.

He came up with two entirely different treatments, of which I liked this one best.

Mistress-of-Animals-Sketches-1
Read More Cover reveal for Mistress of Animals