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Episode 52 Published

Episode 52 rereads a little like a one-room drama, where there’s a lot of stuff going on outside, but what really matters is what happens in that quiet space.

Reader hint: there is a sentence in this episode in the present tense. There have been a few others in past episodes — the first is in episode 1. Writing the story in first person has its limitations, but those little time bombs make up for a lot.

This episode doesn’t stand strongly on its own; it needs the follow. My work crush will crescendo in the next few days, then I will be all about the Knives.

Another thing about this episode is that it flies against many of the resolutions I have made about embracing serial fiction. Funny thing is, I feel good about that. I slipped back into my “just write” mindset. Unfortunately, most new readers don’t get past the early episodes where I also had that approach — some of the early episodes have voice but are in now way gripping. “I liked it but I I had other things” is the feedback I get. I failed to grip, so I can’t imagine the “fukit Imma writin” ethos now will win me commercial acclaim.

But you know what? Fuckit, Imma writin.

Behind the scenes, I have been working at my geek job an awful lot for the past few months. Shortly, for a while at least, that will change. The biggest single event of my entire geek career will occur a few days from now, and after the inevitable oh-shit-that-broke-how-did-that-break-you-said-it-was-all-cool period, I will be coming up for air.

On my to-do list:

  • Knives — roll the story along, but don’t force my way to the big bloody battle already written. Let the story get there.
  • A short story I haven’t even imagined yet, for Piker Press.
  • Own #selfportraitsunday

Thanks, as always, to my faithful patrons. Y’all are the best!

Enjoy Episode 52!

Episode 51 Published!

In the history of this series, no episode has been rewritten as many times as this one has. There have been three “final” versions that bear no resemblance to the actual final product, and countless drafts to reach those three almost-finals. Body count was all over the map.

Honestly, it’s not even that pivotal of an episode. It’s more of a connect-the-dots moment, when things gotta get done but getting things done needs to be interesting. On the page, it’s a confrontation that is completely out of balance, the outcome not in question, only the price that must be paid. It turned into a chance for Bags to do what he does second-best.

After all that work, I have to say I really like this one. There are even a couple of moments that will pay forward handsomely. There’s even some overt humor. Fans of this story might have a hard time believing that in some writing circles I’m known for my humor. (I also have a hard time believing that.)

Behind the scenes, it feels good to get past this episode. I have a lot written ahead of this, but to be honest not a whole lot of Episode 52. It’s going to be up to Claire to make 52 work.

So please enjoy Episode 51: We Mean You no Harm.

Episode 50 Published!

Welp, it’s been a while, and I’m sorry about that. Things, you know. Stuff. Life.

But I have not abandoned this story, and I believe more than ever in Martin and Elena and the rest. And there’s stuff gonna happen that will blow your socks off.

But we can’t ignore that episodes are slow in coming these days. Episode 50 is supposed to be a payday episode, but let’s just hold off until I can prove I can deliver the sharp and pointy goodness.

This episode has a lot of talking and no killing at all, but it accomplishes some key storytelling points, and Martin sees the future — although a suspect one.

This episode was supposed to be about the arrival of the group at their next stop, but as I built the morning scene it grew into a thing of its own. I spent a little extra time on the small details (meaning I didn’t ignore them), and I like the feel I got.

Behind the scenes, I’m gong to have to accept that perfection is the enemy of progress. I look back and I see a flawed story, but I see a fun story.

On the storytelling front, one of my biggest challenges is my choice of first-person narrative. It means I can’t cut to the Bad Guys In Their Tower when I need a device to increase tension. I have to find a way for Martin to feel what the BGITT are doing. This will get easier now that the Bad Guys understand who he is. But Martin is very good at hiding.

Finally, thank you once more, loyal patrons. You faith will keep this story moving forward.

Please enjoy Episode 50: A Sense of Purpose

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.