Did You Write Over the Holidays?

I didn’t write on Christmas Day. I had a chance in the afternoon–Christmas breakfast tacos consumed, presents all opened, roast ready to slide into the oven, kids scattered–but I opted to just savor the day instead. However, I did write on both Christmas eve and Boxing Day.

Some would say that makes me a Writing-Discipline Nazi.

Hey! Back off! You have fun your way, I’ll have fun mine. And anyway, you’re not a Writing-Discipline Nazi unless you tell somebody else they’re a bad person doomed to spend their writing carriers as a dilettante because they didn’t write on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

So, I wondered. What do the successful writers do? Well, this is the 21st Century! We have networking! The Internet! Twitter! Let’s just poll them and find out!

So I sent a poll to 100 commercially successful writers to ask them: Do you write over the holidays?

The results may surprise you (or maybe not): not a single one answered me.

Now, your average blogger with low-to-moderate self-esteem might have been hurt by that response. But since my self-esteem hovers on the high-to-celestial side, I knew they weren’t ignoring me. So I took that response to mean that not only were they not writing, they weren’t answering their emails either.

OK, so if you blew off writing over the holidays, you’re not alone. 100% of commercially successful writers did too. Either that or they were so busy knocking out their next best seller that they didn’t have time to respond. But I’m ignoring that group as insignificant.

Happy Holidays. And happy writing in the New Year, or whenever you get back to it. In the meantime, here’s a montage of pictures of Boxing Day celebrations around the world.

boxing day seaborneBoxing Day, Seaborne

boxing day melbourneBoxing Day, Melbourne

52-1312X-Boxing-day-hunt NewburyBoxing Day, Newbury

boxing-dayBoxing Day, USA

Sunderland boxing day dip 083Boxing Day, Sunderland

C4NPMKBoxing Day, my house (without the suit and tie. not to mention all the hair)

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My Characters and their Christmas Celebrations

“So, Rusty. How do your characters celebrate Christmas?”

Curiously, in five novels so far, Christmas has appeared only once.

Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail: begins the last week in March, ends (except for the intervening 35 years) in September.

Return from Avalon (and Points West): begins in May, ends in July.

Strange Bedellows: begins on Walter’s 55th birthday, which is 5/5/10 because he was born on 5/5/55. Ends in September.

**The Adventures of Sir Kay. Begins the week before Pentecost. I’m not sure exactly when it ends, but at 85,000 words it’s approaching the climax and it’s only July. So I think it’s relatively safe to assume there will be no Christmas in Camelot this year. And of course, the weather’s nice, since according to the song,

The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.

Avalon, S.C., the oddball, begins starts in October and ends on Beltane the following year, making it the only novel where Christmas actually takes place.

SO WHY IS THAT, RUSTY?

That’s actually a very good question. I hadn’t thought about it much before today. To the best of my knowledge, it was never much of a conscious decisions when in the year the books started. Return from Avalon originally started in March, until I discovered the places that Arnie was traveling–Yellowstone, for example–were totally snowed in. So I had to move it forward to May.

Here are the reasons I’ve been able to come up with.

1.  COINCIDENCE. Always a dangerous assumption, although it could possibly be correct.

2.  THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS. I am at best a conscientious objector in the widely-proclaimed War on Christmas, at worst a guerrilla fighter. Armed and deadly.

3.  I’M A BASEBALL LOVER.  For the true baseball fan, the year begins with spring training, when hope begins anew, where all teams are tied for first, where there’s always a chance. And it ends in October, where the last dream save one is crushed.

Since this is all subconscious, I’m going with #3. Although if the Astros continue their multi-year slide and I have to become a football-first fan, things might change.

REMIND US RICK AND SABRINA CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

Sabrina: Peckerwoods’ is closed on Christmas, so she gets the whole day off. Usually she and her two kids go to church with her Mama and sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.  “None of that communist bull hockey about opening presents on Christmas Eve for this family.  Of course, that means up no later than 6 on a day off, but it’s OK.  It’s only once a year, and who wants to sleep in on Christmas?  I swear I’m as excited as the kids are.” Sabrina always gets the kids something they can all play with after the together after the presents are all opened.  This year it’s a game where you “build stuff out of rickety blocks and then try to knock them down with rubber band guns.”  Then Mama comes over and makes our traditional Christmas dinner, which is chicken-fried steak with gravy and mashed potatoes and green beans.

Rick: drives to Augusta, Ga. on Christmas eve to spend Christmas with his sister’s family. His nephew Justin “was the perfect age for Christmas.  Full of wide-eyed wonder at everything; not old enough yet to be greedy nor to have the first doubt that Santa was real.  Christmas was a miracle created just for him.  Plus at four you start to get real toys that are fun for your uncle to play with too.  Well, maybe a little young.  But whatever, we had a blast.” He ends up making chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes with gravy for lunch the day after Christmas. Then some shopping for gifts for Sabrina’s kids which he forgot to do before he left. With all that going on, he got home late. He was sitting with his feet up, enjoying a martini and a good book, when Sabrina’s boyfriend J.D. dropped by and beat him up.

AND MY CHRISTMAS WISH FOR YOU:  Peace, calm, and joy. Time to sit with your feet up to enjoy a martini and a good book. And not to get beaten up. Hey, sounds good to me.
fire 1Pretend the Sprite is a martini

Status Update

“So, Rusty, as we approach the end of the year, where are you in all of your projects?”

Ah, that’s a good question. Thanks for asking.

Strange Bedfellows, (SB) 2nd novel accepted for publication. Just got the first round of edits back from my editor. Much gentler process than with Return from Avalon (and Points West) (RFA). Largely because of a different editor, not that I’m that much better at writing. SB is due to come out in March. We’ll have the editing complete well before then, it looks like. Getting the completed edits on RFA ultimately delayed publication by more than a month. One small problem that has to be fixed: the novel that I’m writing now changes a little of what’s in this book.  So I have to go back and fix it so that all the stories are compatible. Curious problem to have, but shouldn’t be a big deal.

Avalon, South Carolina (ASC). That’s now the official title. It’s due back from my proofreader this weekend.  I finally got around to doing the cover art form Wednesday. I will be using the same editor for ASC as for SB, so looking forward to the process there as well.  ASC does not have a publication date yet, but the pace of the edits may drive an earlier release.

** The Adventures of Sir Kay (*ASK)–NOT the official title. I’ve completed 41 chapters (80,000 words) and released them to my first round readers. To mostly positive reviews. There is a growing sense that I’m dithering and I need to get on with the story. In Chapter 42, which I hope to complete today, Kay is back at the castle where his lady love, Princess Elaine (oldest sister of Morgause and Morgan and half-sister to the king) resides. Kay has taken an oath not to try to steal her, and has no idea what to do next (fortunately, I do). It should also be noted that he has spent less than 2 hours in her presence since he first me her 6 weeks ago, while he’s spent several nights with Morgan le Fay . So, maybe their love at first sight isn’t all that strong? This novel should be ready to start posting here by the end of February.  Incidentally, this is what has to be fixed in SB: Morgan’s relationship with Kay is sort of disparaged in SB but is a lot more intense in ASK.

Return from Avalon (and Points West). Not due out in paperback until March or April. I don’t understand the delay, and will be pursuing that in the next few weeks. I feel like not having an actual object that you can hold in your hand limits marketing opportunities (readings/signings, etc), although a lot of you have read the e-book–thank you very much for that.

Next Project? I think it may be time to revise Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail and add it to the Arthurian cannon. There is a lot that has to be altered in this book so that it doesn’t tell a fundamentally different story than the other novels. In fact, I had to go back and rewrite the “Grail story according to Rusty’s Arthurian Legend” last week to coordinate the different versions . Also, Morgan is a major villainess in BS&HG, and that definitely has to be fixed.

There is also perhaps one more original novel left before I will have exhausted alternative Arthurian fiction and have to go on to something else. Plus there’s some slight (emphasis on the word SLIGHT) chance I may write a sort of grand reunion book that tells Meg’s story (the next Lady of the Lake from RFA). I left a tease in ASC that Sabrina wants to go to Wales to meet the reigning Lady of the Lake. And of course, Morgan would love to join them when she finds out. SusanH wants me to have Oswald, Sir Kay’s squire, go forward in time from Avalon to the island of Avalon, S.C., meet up with Rick and Sabrina, and be a part of that reunion as well. But don’t hold your breath. Seems pretty far-fetched to me (unlike what I normally write).

So those of you that were worried that retirement might be going to my head and that I would quit writing any day, you don’t have to fret about that for a while, at least.  Although Kate and I will be taking a cruise around the Greek Islands next summer.

retirementThis has it backward.  It should read, “Can Retirement Finally Allow You to Learn How to Write a Book?”

“You Should Write . . . “

I get that a lot. I’d say on average, about once a week someone comes up with a great idea for a novel that I should write.

OK, first let’s do the arithmetic (I never use the popular expression: let’s do the math. How insulting to real math. If it doesn’t involve at least Algebra, you can’t say “Let’s do the math.” Or if you do, I’m going to make fun of you). Let’s say I average 2 books a year. That’s probably a little optimistic, but it makes the arithmetic easier.  And I get 52 suggestions a year of something I “just have to write.” If I write for another 10 years, that’s 500 books left unwritten.

Not only that, for 10 years I NEVER get to pick my own book.

Wait, it gets worse. Nobody except for my insightful writing partner SusanH, EVER suggest that I “just have to write” a book that isn’t serious. OK, that’s not fair (not to mention a lot of negatives in one sentence). Several people have suggested that one of my characters just HAS to have their own story. And by and large, none of those books would be serious. In fact, that’s SusanH’s suggestion: that Oswald, the snarky, resourceful little squire in The Adventures of Sir Kay has to have his own story. But she wants it to be a romance.

But last weeks encounter is more typical. My little miniature Schnauzer of almost 13 years, Destiny, died last week. Yeah, it sucks when the family pet dies. But she just decided that she’d had enough, and quit eating and drinking Tuesday, and on Thursday afternoon died peacefully. So I respect her decision, same way I would a person’s, and it’s OK.

On Sunday, somebody told me, “She was such a sweet little dog. You just have to write her story into your next novel.”

Um. Have you ever actually read what I write? It may not fall under the official category of “humor,” but there’s a comic thread throughout. Somehow I don’t see writing my dead pet’s story as conducive to a comic thread.

“Oh, but you’d be great at it.”

That’s invariably the follow-up line. I’d be great at it.

“Why is that?” I always wonder and occasionally ask if I’m feeling cranky. I’ve never been remotely successful at writing a serious novel. The last time I crashed and burned on a book’s false start, it was because the novel was becoming so serious it stopped being fun to write. That was back between Strange Bedfellows and Avalon, S.C. Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time in it.  Three or four weeks, maybe. Still, that’s three or four weeks of my writing life gone.

So here’s my new stance. I going to either say, “Thanks, I’ll get right on that,” and then promptly forget about it and assume they will too.

OR

I’m going to come back with, “No, you should write that book. Sounds just like you. You’d be great at it. Hey, NaNoWriMo is coming up soon (well, November is less than a year away, so that qualifies, right?). I’ll remind you come October what it is that you’ll be writing about.”

I haven’t actually tried that approach yet. But I’m doing it next time. Promise.

write-your-story

Characters Not Behaving Today!

My characters aren’t behaving today. Admittedly, this happens to me a lot. After all, characters live in the author’s subconscious (maybe–it’s possible that they live in an alternate universe where they frolic with other characters, as in Bruce’s fictional world). And, since I grew up in the 60s, my subconscious is not unexpectedly rebellious at its core. But not usually this bad.

And who is leading the insurrection? No surprisingly, it’s Morgan le Fay.

Morgan has become my favorite character from the Arthurian legends. It didn’t start out that way. In my first book, Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail (which now I’ll have to go back and rewrite, since an evil Morgan is no longer acceptable), she followed the typical party line of the evil half sister trying for her own nefarious purposes to destroy Arthur’s kingdom. But that’s only because I didn’t know her well.

Getting to know her happened in Strange Bedfellows, where Morgan lives on in the 21st century because she’s learned how to jump into a host and co-occupy their brain. So she’s 1500 years old and yet still kicking. Of course, she doesn’t have a body of her own. But she still has all her memories, and much of her former abilities.

Many of my readers weren’t fond of Morgan. They thought that occupying the mind of another is an inherently evil action, and to occupy the mind of the heroine, Amy the former stripper–why that was just too much. But I loved her. I mean, you have to forgive a few minor indiscretions. She’s Morgan le Fay, for Pete’s sake!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MORGAN IN THE ARTHURIAN LEGENDS

When Morgan first made an appearance, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini (c. 1150), she wasn’t very different than her predecessors in Welsh mythology. A wise woman, a healer, certainly not evil. Even as late as the romances of Chrétien de Troyes (late 12th century), Morgan is described as a giver of healing ointments, and sometimes even Arthur’s healer.  But by the time of Malory’s definitive Le Morte d’Arthur, she had completed the conversion into evil witch. One common opinion is that she was transformed by the Cistercian monks who wrote the stories in the The Vulgate Cycle (1215 to 1235).  The monks would have been prejudiced by the earlier concepts of the Welsh demigoddess Morrighan, while considering the idea of a non-religious female healer as blasphemy.

Morgan’s evil reputation stayed pretty well intact until the 20th century, which began to revive her earlier personna. She is the leading character in The Mists of Avalon (1979), where she is recast as a pagan high priestess, trying to stay true to the old religion despite the inroads of Christianity into Britain.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MORGAN IN RUSTY’S VERSION OF THE ARTHURIAN LEGENDS

Morgan, the youngest of Arthur’s 3 half sisters, was sent to a nunnery to protect her from the lecherous advances of her step-father, Uther (Arthur’s dad). She escapes to spend 17 years in Faerie, where time stops so she didn’t physically age, and some more in Avalon; in both places she studies sorcery. By the time she comes to court, she appears younger and more beautiful than Guinevere. Guinevere is jealous, and gets Arthur to marry her off to the elderly King Uriens, who abuses her sexually and emotionally. When she finally escapes his clutches (by seducing his Captain of Arms who insults Uriens and kills him in a duel), she goes quietly about the business of running the kingdom and raising her son, Yvain. But when Arthur summons Yvain to Camelot so he can meet the young king (he’s 8), Guinevere talks him into appointing a regent to rule Gore on Yvain’s behalf, since Morgan can’t be trusted with such an important post. That is the last straw. Morgan sets up her little “Valley of No Return,” where she enchants any Knight of the Round Table who passes by, eventually releasing them to return to Camelot with enchanted instructions to find evidence that Guinevere is sleeping with Lancelot.

So Morgan’s not really evil, even though her actions are not beneficial to Arthur’s realm. After all, in her value system (and mine, I confess), he deserves it.

OK, SO WHAT HAPPENED TODAY?

Morgan is a key character in the novel I’m working on, working title The Adventures of Sir Kay. This story takes place in Arthurian times, and so we get to see Morgan in her original body. She has enchanted and seduced Sir Kay earlier in the story, although he’s in love with her older sister Elaine (which totally pissed off my writing partner, SusanH). But Morgan and Kay have become old friends through the course of the novel.

In today’s chapter, Kay is at Morgan’s manor, which is between Camelot and the castle where Elaine lives. Kay has stopped to talk to Morgan because he’s all tied in knots trying to figure out how he’s going to win his lady love, is puzzled by a new concept that the legend of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is going to live on for 1500 years, and wants her opinion on the Holy Grail. Today, they’re supposed to be talking about the Holy Grail.

So what does Morgan do? She professes her love for Kay!

And weeps!

Good grief. Morgan, get a grip. You’re supposed to be cold as ice, utterly self-confident, and in total command of yourself and your emotions. This is so not like you!

So I’ve paused for the nonce. I’m going to let this new direction simmer in the back of my mind for a while, see what I really think of it. Maybe Morgan will behave herself on Monday.

cam3 cropedPictures of Morgan alternate as my wallpaper. Here is the current one.

 

More Trouble with Waitresses

Waitresses played a big role in Return from Avalon (and Points West). I didn’t intend it that way. It all started innocently enough, with a little waitress named Tina up in Crescent City, California, suggesting to Arnie that he go east and not north.

“East, definitely. There’s lots of cool stuff that direction. Seattle’s pretty neat too, but after that it’s mostly ice and outhouses and Canucks.”

Pretty soon Arnie got where anytime he wanted to know something, he sought out a waitress to ask. Ended up sleeping with one, Moonglow from the Indigo Cosmos restaurant. Another, the earthy Maggie in southern England, helped him find the farmhouse he’d been dreaming about (she propositioned him, but he turned her down). And up in Hay-on-Wye, on the England-Wales border, the ageless waitress Vivianne turned out to be the lady of the lake.

(I know, I don’t have to tell you these things. You’ve just finished rereading Return from Avalon (and Points West) for the 3rd time last week).

There were no waitresses of note in Strange Bedfellows. But lo and behold, in Avalon, S.C., a waitress appeared casually and ended up taking over the part as the romantic partner of our hero, Rick Whittaker.

I honestly don’t know what it is about waitresses. I don’t think I’ve ever personally known a waitress in real life, other than friends who worked an occasional odd job as a waitress.

So now, in **working title only!** The Adventures of Sir Kay, here’s another one trying to take over the book.

OK–or “Oh, Kay” as they say in the Old Boar’s Head, Kay’s favorite pub outside Camelot–not really. That’s where Gilda works as a barmaid, incidentally. And that’s all she was, just a nondescript early 6th century working woman who brought pitchers of ale to the drinkers. But she refused to stay nondescript.

Here’s the first time she gives us a glimpse that there’s more to her than just a simple barmaid. In this scene, Sir Kay is questioning the bard, Cambry, to try to find out what he can about the Holy Grail. *** Warning! Gilda uses earthy language. ***

“How did Jesus come by such a thing?  Wasn’t he a poor carpenter?  That would be like you owning a bejeweled gold cup.”

Cambry scratched his head.  I nodded at Gilda who slipped off and brought back a pitcher.

“Well, m’lord, I guess I never thought of that.  Maybe it turned to gold when Joseph held it up to the dying god’s side to catch his blood.”

“Why did Joseph want to catch his blood?”

“Why?  M’lord, stories don’t say why, they merely tell what.  Why did the gods create men in the first place?  Why did Tristan drink from the drugged wine?  Why did Merlin not do something when he knew that love would be the death of him?  Why does man die without ever figuring anything out?  Why, why, why?”  He looked over at Gilda spinning her silver coin on the table.  “Why do men have most of the lust while women have all of the cunny?  Who knows the why of anything?”

“Even I know that, and I’m just a dumb waitress,” Gilda answered.  “If men had half the cunny, they’d do nothing but fuck themselves the entire day until half of them starved and the rest were bored with it all, and then there wouldn’t be any more people.”

“A perfect explanation, I must say. Well played, Gilda. Maybe there was once a whole country of folk like that, but if there was, they all died off.”

“Well, there you go,” Cambry stared down into his ale.  “If you want to know what, ask a bard.  If you want to know why, ask a barmaid.”

“Gilda, why would Joseph of Arimathea catch Jesus’ blood in a cup?”

“Because blood is the most powerful substance known to man.  That’s why women, who are supposedly the weaker sex, are really the strongest: because we bleed.  The blood of a dead god would contain great power.  It could cure or kill, and in the hands of a sorcerer, could probably crack the earth.  Men only bleed when they’re dying, and then it comes as a big fucking surprise to them.  Women know they are dying because they bleed, and so they make the most of living.”

 Wow! That from a “simple” barmaid. Obviously, much more than than initially meets the eye. Kay is also impressed and thinks about teaching her to read, but decides that is too intimate. Incidentally, Gilda is not a prostitute; she only sleeps with fighting men.

So yesterday she showed up again and attempted to steal another scene. Kay and I kept her from being totally successful, but it was a near thing. In this chapter, the innocent Galahad is all confused about his purpose in life, since the Holy Grail that he found turned out to be a fake. Kay is speaking as we take up the story.

“Gilda. If I told you that Galahad was the chosen knight, what would you say he was chosen for?”

“Him? Chosen to succeed his father as the greatest knight in the world, maybe? Chosen to find the Holy Grail, and that first little adventure was just a warm up to make the story better?” She ran her fingers through Galahad’s hair. “Or how about this? He was chosen to make Gilda the barmaid bounce and thrash around in her bed and feel like a young maiden again?” She bent over and gave Galahad a sloppy kiss full on the mouth, rendering him beet-red and speechless in one fell stroke.

[interplay here with other characters giving their opinion about Galahad. We resume with Father Gascon]

“I think God chose you to remind us that the His ways are done in His time and not when it’s convenient for us. Even those of us who wear the clerical garb and think it makes us better than other men. And I thank you for that, Galahad. Now that you’ve accomplished His first purpose, I think you will yet find the Holy Grail, when God wills it.”

“Y-y-you think I’ll find the Holy Grail, Father?”

“I do, son. Because you have humility, and innocence, and a purity of spirit that the rest of us seem to have lost. But,” he reached across the table and ruffled Galahad’s hair as Gilda had done, “if you plan to keep that innocence and purity of spirit long enough to succeed, you’re going to have to stay out of Gilda’s clutches.”

The pub exploded with laughter.

“So, twice chosen knight.” Gilda plopped herself down in Galahad’s lap with her arm around him and her lips close to his ear. “What’s it gonna be? Some old cup that nobody knows if it’s real or not, or the best cunny this side of the English Channel?”

Galahad leapt up out of his seat, almost dumping Gilda on the floor. But her arm around his neck allowed her to keep her feet until his reflexes kicked in and he caught her in time. Which put his hands in places he clearly hadn’t intended, deepening his blush until I feared that he might burst blood vessels. But innocent, pure of spirit, and overly susceptible to the debilitating effects of alcohol or not, Galahad was first and foremost noble to the core. He stepped back out of Gilda’s embrace, picked up his almost-full mug of ale, and upended it over his own head. Then, shaking his head to clear his thoughts—or perhaps to rid his hair of excess ale—he knelt down and took Gilda’s hand.

“Nay, fair lady. I am deeply honored by thy offer, but alas, it cannot be.”

Gilda looked down at Galahad with astonishment—and undisguised admiration. If I were a betting man, I would have laid down two gold pieces that she would be the ultimate victor in this contest.

But innocence and purity of spirit are so rare in my world. So I stepped up on the bench, placing my fingers on my temple and closing my eyes as Oswald and Garcon had done, before speaking.

“She offered her honor, he honored her offer, and all night long he was off her and on her.”

That effectively ended the seriousness of the evening. Galahad scurried out the door and fled into the night. Gilda swatted me half-heartedly.

“Oh, Kay! Having robbed me of my game and spooked my prey, are you volunteering to take his place?”

My thoughts turned back to the night before Oswald and I had left on our own Grail quest. Back to when Gilda revealed the normally-hidden delights of her intellect. And I thought it only fair to at least consider her offer for a moment. But I didn’t have enough purity of spirit that I could afford to squander any.

So, with a touch more reluctance than I expected, I got down on my knee and took her hand as Galahad had done.

“Nay, fair lady. I too am deeply honored by thy offer, but alas, it also cannot be.”

“Sweet puppies of Arawn. What does a girl have to do to get laid around here? Father?”

Gascon got as far as one knee before Gilda threw up her hands and stormed back to the bar.

Sweet puppies of Arawn! Am I destined to be plagued by waitresses my entire writing career? Fortunately, we’re leaving Camelot and going back out on the road today, so  Gilda is going to have to bide her time and wait for another opportunity to demand a larger role in the novel. But I’m not ruling her out by a long shot.

GERMANY OKTOBERFEST 2012

It’s December . . .

It’s December, and you all know what that means:

  • Millions of Americans are frantically packing the malls, trying desperately to find the perfect gift for their family and friends who functionally have everything.
  • You can’t go out in public without hearing Christmas music. By now, almost a week into December, you have to take Prozac just to keep from barfing when Mannheim Steamroller plays Winter Wonderland for the 17th time today.
  • There’s a chance you won’t be comfortable going outside in shorts and a T-shirt, even in Texas (today, for example)

But none of that is what I’m talking about, actually. No lecture on the true meaning of Christmas. I seldom venture into malls and so far, I’ve not heard ONE SINGLE CHRISTMAS SONG! So my Prozac consumption is under control.

What I was saying is that it’s December, and that means that (drum roll, please):

THERE ARE 42,008 NEW NOVELS WRITTEN DURING NANOWRIMO.

The counter on the Official NaNoWriMo Site tells us that 312,843 people signed up with the intention of writing a novel of at least 50,000 words. 42,008, or 13% of them, ACTUALLY DID IT!

Congratulations to all of you, those who completed your novel and those who didn’t but gave it your best shot and plan to try again next year.  Especially to those of you who read this blog often enough that you will actually see my kudos. I personally know 2 of you, Heather and Bruce, who reached 50,000 words. Yeah for both of you. Anyone else?

OK, so now it’s a week later. If you overindulged in celebratory champagne, the hangover’s gone. So now what?

By the miracle of the 21st Century magic of Amazon, you can self-publish your novel for free! We had a presentation at our Monday Writer’s Group by our resident guru who has done exactly that with two books. He estimates that you can upload your novel, select a cover, and publish in about 2 hours. That includes a “print on demand” version, so you can even have copies for all your friends for Christmas presents.

I beg of you, don’t do that. Not yet.

You’re now a novelist. Take a moment to savor that. It’s a label you share with me and J.K. Rowling and Charles Dickens and Ian Fleming and Earnest Hemingway. You can wear the label with pride. Even Shakespeare, who’s supposed to be one of the greatest writers in the entire canon of English literature, never wrote a novel.

But with pride comes responsibility to your craft. To OUR craft.

Take your time with your new offspring. Polish with care; edit with love and a discerning eye.

I look forward to reading your novel sometime this spring.

tee shirt

Writing Sequels

Writing fiction that doesn’t fit neatly into any category, I don’t have a quick answer when people ask me, “Oh. What do you write?” So when I stumble and stutter my way through an answer of sorts, the next question is invariably, “Do you write sequels?”

At least I have an easy answer to that one. “No.” If they ask why, I explain. “My characters start flawed at the beginning, and grow throughout the book. At the end, they have realized a life-changing experience. If I write a sequel, where do they go from there?”

But one definition of sequels is books that share the same characters. And so far, 3 of the 4 books I’ve written and the one I’m working on share the character Morgan le Fay (she makes not even a token appearance in Return from Avalon (and Points West), hereafter abbreviated as RFA. If I’d known this trend then, I’ve have given her at least a cameo appearance). I guess that sort of qualifies as a sequel.

Still, there are characters in books I’ve written that deserve their own story. SusanH is a big Oswald fan (Sir Kay’s squire in The Life and Adventures of Sir Kay) and is openly campaigning for him to have his own story.  My favorite character to consider writing a sequel about is Meg from RFA. But so far these are all just idle musings.

But (and there’s always that but, isn’t there?).

At the end of Avalon, S.C., I threw in a gratis reference to RFA.

Sabrina laughed.  “Of course not, silly.  That only applies to the Lady of the Lake.  There’s one of those already.  She lives in Wales.  We have to go meet her sometime soon and pay our respects.”

Now, if I ever decide to write Meg’s story, there will be an opportunity for Sabrina (and Rick? will they still be together then?) to visit Vivian and the heir-designate, Meg.

Today I made an ever closer tie between books. Actually, I started it a couple of chapters ago. Nimue came to Camelot to visit the court of King Arthur in the year 512, 8-9 years after Merlin died.  She brings with her two young girls, one around 8, the other maybe 2.  And is accompanied by a strange man who looks a lot like Merlin.

(cue eerie music)

And today the strange man had his first speaking part. We pick up the action at the Old Boar’s Head. Kay is being feted for winning a trial by combat to prove that the so-called Holy Grail was a fake. Everybody is pretty wasted by this time.

“Speech,” someone called from the back of the room, and everyone quickly took up the cry. “Speech, speech.” Then they were clapping and stomping again and nothing would do except for me to get up and say something. And for once in my life I couldn’t think of a single fucking thing to say.

“My friends. You’ve all been sitting there so politely. Listening to Cambry’s magnificent song. Drinking toasts in my honor. Making me proud to be your friend. But just looking at you I know that, deep down inside, you’ve all been wondering the same thing: Suppose good old Sir Kay left Camelot at eight in the morning riding three miles an hour, and you didn’t get started until ten but you were riding four miles an hour. How long would it take for you to catch up with him so you could tell him what a great guy he was?”

As people recognized what I was asking there was an undercurrent of low chuckles. Good ol’ Sir Kay. He’s a hopeless geek, but at least he’s our geek. But when I finished my question and paused, it got quiet. That made it easy to hear the answer from a table over on the far right.

“Six hours.”

And yes, I’m having a great time writing this book. Thanks for asking.

mathPhobic