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I’m glad you decided to drop by to read Knives. You should know that there is violence ahead, and profanity that sometimes verges on gleeful. But if you don’t mind those things, and if maybe you find “good” and “evil” too rigid of concepts to actually apply in the real world, then you might enjoy Knives. I know I do.

This page is where you will find news and updates about the story. The whole story is here, or you can dive right into episode one. Each episode links to the next, so you can bump right along.

Don’t be shy about leaving comments! I would enjoy hearing what you thought. The spam-blocker might get you at first, but be sure I will find your comment and free it for the world to see.

Start reading!

Episode 49 Published

I suppose as I work on Episode 50 that I should tell you that I published Episode 49 a couple of weeks ago.

There is a shorthand phrase in the novel biz, the “campfire scene.” It’s a valuable storytelling moment, a time when the characters huddle around some focus, maybe the TV or the edge of a cliff or maybe an actual campfire, and the folks in the story take a breath and make telling remarks. “Campfire scene” is often used derogatorily, implying it is a cheap and clumsy fallback when more exposition is needed. Often it is.

This scene takes place around a campfire, and while there is a lot of exposition, I think it’s pretty darn interesting exposition. Maybe something that changes what you think about what’s already happened.

In other news, I’ve been studying other episodic fiction to answer the question, “what keeps people coming back for more?” Because let’s face it, I need more people coming back for more. Quality of writing is of course important, but even more important is the ability to have each episode end with a reason to read the next. A tangible promise to the reader. I have read some really shitty prose that still somehow gets me to load the next episode.

I need to embrace the secrets of the shitty writers. So far I have ended a lot of episodes on satisfying moments, but that’s the opposite of what successful serial fiction writers do. Even my own previous ironically-shitty serial fiction has embraced the idea that episodes don’t end on endings.

From a marketing standpoint, maybe I shouldn’t be discussing the weaknesses of the early chapters of Knives right out here in the open — but we’re pals, right? We can speak honestly.

As I keep forging ahead, I’m devoting some time now to going back and figuring out how to fix those early episodes — not rewriting them wholesale but adjusting the flow so I can break in moments of tension, rather than on moments of release. I’ll probably add some details I later came to regret not filling in. Martin will be picking up a new quirk I hinted at in later episodes.

But what won’t change is the story. It might be enriched a bit, but it’s still the same tale. I like this story, and I intend to do right by it.

So enjoy Episode 49: Love

Episode 48 Published

What’s Epic Fantasy without an epic cast?

That’s a trick question; I prefer my stories tightly wrapped around just a few people, no matter how grand the setting of the story might become. Nonetheless, here in episode 48 we meet Claire. She’s all right. She represents a different aspect of the Wanderers — Martin is about death, and Old Robert is about not dying. Claire is about deception. She’s good enough at her game that it’s hard to trust her.

It seems maybe she has had some dealings with Martin before.

Behind the scenes, we still haven’t reached the motherlode that was my Kansas output. Claire arrived in that version of the story as well, but there wasn’t as much misery. This episode happened in kind of a rush, and that’s why I waited to announce it — I actually pushed it a few days ago but I wanted another read from a distance before I told anyone. I still like it.

Pulling against my progress bridging the gap to the motherlode of words already written is a big chunk of day job. I spend a lot of time fixing problems caused by bad decisions made by those who came before me; now I have the opportunity to rebuild the system. It’s not that I must devote extra time to getting it done, it’s that I know many lives will be improved when I do. It’s hard to let go of that, even when I’m trying to sleep.

But seriously, there are some great episodes coming up.

Please, everyone, enjoy Episode 48: Claire

Episode 47 Published

This episode could have had several titles: “Patience”, perhaps, or “Quicksand”. In the end I called it “The Voice of Command” because that is what will echo the most as our little history unfolds. It draws your attention to the thing that shifts in this episode.

Behind the scenes, the next episode is already roughed out, along with several following, thanks to my Kansas sojourn. There is some connective tissue to work out, but a reasonable cadence of new episodes is a reasonable expectation. Whatever that means.

Thanks, always, to my noble patrons. It’s not your pledges that drive me, it’s your faith. I take that seriously.

Please enjoy Episode 47: The Voice of Command

Episode 46 Published

I like this episode rather a lot. It went through some pretty major revisions to reach this exalted state, but for the first time we see Elena actively influencing the world. And she does it in a way only Elena could.

Just so you know, there’s a lot of swearing in this episode.

Behind the scenes, I have a lot of episodes roughed out going forward, something I haven’t had for a while. The thing is there’s an episode between where we are now and that roughed-out sequence that I need to do first. The end of this episode spells out exactly what has to happen next; I’m just on the fence about how loud that action will be.

Probably pretty loud.

Thanks as always to my awesome patrons! You’re why I keep doing this.

Now, enjoy Episode 46: Strings

A Quick Progress Update

Episodes haven’t been coming out that quickly lately, and for that I apologize. However, I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks at summer camp with (among others) the incomparable Kij Johnson roughing out the next few episodes, bringing us to a Big Moment in the story. Smoke and confusion and pain and death. Soon(ish). A few other episodes first.

Then I went back to wrap up the episode that was almost ready for release two weeks ago when I started the workshop, and I realized why I had been reluctant to push the “publish” button: at the end of the episode our little band was exactly where they were at the start. It was interesting, and kind of fun, but nothing moved.

I fixed that problem in a way that really pleases me, but with all the new prose I need a little more time to make sure the people are human and the places feel real (my constant struggle). I also now need another episode between this one and the following roughed-out ones. It’s not about the destination; it’s about killing the assholes who don’t want you to get there.

But hang in there, my friends. Pain and death and smoke and confusion are right around the corner.

Episode 45 Published

Dang… it’s been a while. I’ve been noodling on this episode, tweaking it, trying to find the right voice, and time just kept on slippin’ into the future.

The part that held me up was a constant refining process on the subject of evil. I have prided myself on not making this story good-guys-vs-bad-guys, but there comes a moment when even the worst guy decides he is a good guy. Only those who write the history will decide whether that person was actually good. So while I might still be uncommitted on questions of good and evil, Martin has made a choice.

If you’ve followed the narrative from the beginning, you might think Martin is speaking to the historians. Or maybe to himself. There’s someone he’s trying to convince.

Behind the scenes, I’ve done a terrible job freeing up the mind space to push this forward. Some of that can be traced to uncertainty over what “forward” actually means, but that’s a cop-out. Martin has a story to tell, and it’s my job to tell it.

But soon there will be Emily. I don’t like her, but you might. She certainly provides juice to my writing.

And now, please enjoy Episode 45: Evil.

Episode 44 Published

Today we learn something about the Soul Thieves that might just Change Everything. The Wanderers in the group seem to be hit the hardest by the events, and Martin most of all.

From a writing standpoint this episode developed differently than most I write. I had been looking forward to this episode for a while, but after I laid out the Big Event I looked back and thought, “Huh. That seemed bigger in my head.” Of course what that meant was I had faithfully recorded a set of facts, but I had not told a story. As I did several editing passes, the prose got wider. I suppose that happens with every episode to some extent, but this was a very exaggerated version of the process.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I’m trying to figure out why comments are not enabled at the ends of the episodes. I’m pretty sure I intentionally disabled them, thinking conversation could be here on the announcement posts, but I have come to realize that the comments belong with the material being commented upon. Somewhere is the code I wrote to stop them from happening.

“Why is the banner at the top of every announcement now?” I hear you ask. The sharing thingie I use to post this to Facebook assumes there will be an image, and leaves a big empty rectangle if there isn’t one. Technology! Gotta love it.

Anyway, enjoy Episode 44: Liberated by Fire.

Episode 43 Published

Apparently I accidentally hit the “publish” button already, but now the episode is actually finished, with a title and everything. The core of the little group is perhaps strengthened a bit, but Martin has some bad news for the others.

This episode contained a lot of connective tissue for the story, but honestly not as much meat as I like to offer in each serving. Still, some of the things here may come to matter a great deal later on.

Behind the scenes Episode 44 is moving along; unless something crazy happens the wait for it should be (relatively) short.

Enjoy Episode 43!

Episode 42 Published! And, um… episode 41.

If you remember back to Episode 40, we had an ally of dubious value named Worm. Worm was badly messed up by a rival Soul Thief. Episode 41 deals with the immediate aftermath: Worm is dying; perhaps the wisest course of action is no action at all. But Worm could teach Elena serious killin’ skills, if he doesn’t get her killed first. Elena just has to accept that she will not be fixing what’s wrong with Martin. Which means she has to accept that Martin may die sooner than either of them would like.

Episode 42 finds Worm without a hand and Elena with a clearer understanding of the wish that’s moving her. I’d like to say more, but she says it better than I ever could. This might be an episode you think about in the long term.

Behind the scenes, it would appear that I neglected to announce episode 41. Sorry about that. Momentum has been precious to me, and when I push an episode I throw myself at the next one with full fury. I actually published Episode 42 a few days ago. I’m dancing at the edge of chaos, letting the moment carry perhaps too much weight against the master plan for the story, but even so each episode goes through a lot of revisions before I inflict it on you.

Please enjoy Episode 41 and Episode 42.

Episode 40 Published!

Seemingly out of nowhere, we have Worm. He might be a problem. He might be a solution to problems. Most likely, he’s some of each. But today we learn that no matter what Martin thinks of him, there are other folks who have strong opinions about the Soul Thief.

So, it’s been a little while since I’ve published an episode. It might be hard to believe, but this episode was actually pretty easy to write — once I wrote the right episode. I wrote the wrong episode about five times, and spent a lot of time trying to fix each one. Then I wrote the right episode, which was way more fun and landed quite naturally in the right spot.

I especially wanted this episode to be right, because here we are at a payday. To my patrons, I can only return humble thanks for your faith and your support. It means a lot to me.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I’m trying to figure out why it’s not possible to comment on the episodes themselves. At one time I thought comments should go on the announcements of the episodes, but that was dumb. I just can’t remember how to undo it.

If you want to review where we were, here’s Episode 39. If your memory is better than mine, you can dive right into Episode 40.