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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 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 37 Published

What happens to a society whose order depends on stone walls when those walls don’t work anymore? Old Robert has some theories, and a lot of what he says makes sense. Sometimes the dispassionate view of an outside observer can add clarity. That doesn’t mean he’s omniscient, though. I mean, what are the odds that everything he says is correct?

At first Episode 37 was too short. Then it was too long. Now… maybe a touch long. In the end, there’s a lot of exposition as the folks have a chance to consider the implications of the events up until now.

Behind the scenes, this episode was a long time coming, and I apologize. There were two factors: 1) I did a lot of writing but on a different story, and 2) Keeping any sort of flow with this much exposition is challenging. I felt it was time, though, for the people in the story to consider the big picture rather than stumble around blindly, lest they fall too far behind the reader in putting things together and become annoying.

But now please enjoy Episode 37: Lessons and Questions.

Not my finest hour naming chapters. If you have a better suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

Episode 36 Published

A quiet place, relatively safe. Physical wounds can be tended to, but perhaps those are not the only injuries our little band of heroes has suffered. It is, at last, a moment to pause, and to decide how to act rather than merely react. Which begs the question “Just what is it we want to accomplish?”

I like this episode for a few reasons. The last sentence is the biggest of those. A big moment for Katherine.

Anyway, enjoy Episode 36: People Like Us.

Behind the scenes, I didn’t get as many actual words written as I had hoped to while in Kansas. The reasons for that are complex, but with the help of the Repeat Offenders I came to a couple of significant decisions, story-wise. One of those changes is particularly scary (for me), and will be challenging to get right. To be honest, it paralyzed me for a bit. I have taken on a new tactic as I make my way to the big change: Try not to think about it too much.

Episode 35 Published

“We shall always be.” It’s a compelling slogan, a good chorus to a song, as long as you don’t think too hard about “Who is we?” and “Be what?” Elena, perhaps, answers those questions differently than the rest of the group.

But we shall always be.

Behind the scenes, this chapter is special in a couple of ways: It’s long overdue, and it has been published from the steps of a residence hall in Lawrence, Kansas. I arrived this afternoon and for the next two weeks I will be devoting myself entirely to the written word. I plan to write two more episodes (along with other stuff), but I’ll probably not publish them both while I’m here.

It’s kind of funny; I have a lot of stuff going on, but when I sit down to write this story it flows. Just gotta do that more. I like the four people in this group, and I vow to devote myself to reinforcing their individuality. As a tease: who ever heard of an even-numbered party of heroes?

Episode 34 Published

Knives Episode 34 is out! A bit of travel, a campfire, and a look at the thing from the well.

I was sorely tempted to put a stinger on the end of this episode, but boy would that have messed with my plans. You can’t just put every shiny idea you get into a story, no matter how well it would have rounded out this episode. So, no fireworks this time.

On the writing side, I’ve discovered that the way to make money on Patreon as a writer is to write porn. I’m just going to stick with hoping my patrons see fit to spread the word about Knives, however.

In other news, the chicken that lives next door just laid an egg. Life in a trailer park is nothing if not glamorous.

Anyway, enjoy Episode 34: The Prize!