Cover Art Saga

I hesitated to write this blog at all. Once you hear how great my publisher is, well, everybody will want one.

I love Soul Mate Publishing.  They may not be the biggest, but they have to be the easiest to work with.

Remember back on January 14th when I got my new cover? I liked it a lot, and so did you. Here’s the email I sent back.

I absolutely love it, Debby. Is this the same artist as before? Her vision is spectacular, as well as translating a weak concept into a strong cover.

 I have one request and one suggestion/consideration.

 REQUEST:  The love potion is in too big a container (a ‘flask’ instead of a vial). There should only be enough for a single use. It’s distilled down, so it should look thick.  Here’s my vision of a vial, although I’m definitely not hard core about this (think the neck adds more interest than just a straight glass vial).  I like the cork a lot, so it could go in the vial.

SUGGESTION/CONSIDERATION: The author’s name is so high as to appear mildly unbalanced. I would lower it another half inch. But that may wash out the “D” without making significant changes to the color scheme. Can’t tell if the outline will carry it or not. Bottom line: if it can’t be done without altering the overall look, don’t do it. It’s not that big a deal to me.

Along with the email I sent a simple image of a straight-sided glass vial.

The reply back included a new cover with the author’s name (that would be my name; sorry for the 3rd person) lowered. And also with the line, “She couldn’t find a vial but I think this works very well to convey your theme.”

To which I answered:

Like the name location. Not quite ready to give up on the vial yet.  Any small bottle of any sort and description would be OK, comparatively. Where does she look? Can I help?

I guess in a pinch we could shrink down the flask to maybe half its size. Turn the name tag sideways if necessary.

By now, I’m wondering if I’m being a prima donna pain in the ass. But back comes a URL for a graphics site, along with:

This is where she gets the pictures. If you can’t find something you like better, I’ll suggest the alternative.

I get to look and suggest what I like? Um, I think I can do that.

So I go to this site and there’s about a billion images available. A search on “Old Bottle” offers 11,085 choices. A feast of choices, and so I indulge. After a half hour, I realize that 1) I’m never going to be able to look at everything, and 2) this isn’t going to be done on the spot. So I send off this note, along with a couple of the really cool options that I’ve found.

depositphotos_11235869-Old-sealed-bottle-of-white-wineOoh. Ooh.  So many delicious choices.

I’m going to assume she can’t fill the bottle and so it needs to come with liquid.  And that she can modify an existing blank label. If these aren’t true, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll have some favorite choices to you by Monday morning if that suits your timetable.

I didn’t expect a reply back–Debby is a very busy person and I’ve already soaked up more of her time than my little rat killing deserves. But I get one back later that night (another late night for Debby, I’m thinking).

I’m so glad you found some! I think she can make those changes but she takes a while to reply to I’m going to say just pass along your favorites to me so I can let her know.

Carte blanche, sounds like to me. You know me: I spent a solid hour (probably an hour and a half, but who’s counting?) searching for the perfect bottle. In the end I send back 7 choices (4 shown below), with the pros and cons of each. Just your usual Rusty overkill. They’re waiting in her in-box on Monday morning, as promised.

4 bottlesOK, here’s my suggestions. Any of these work for me. Want to make sure that the artist has choices that she feels coordinate well with the look of the cover.  Hopefully I’ve given enough information so that they’re easy to find.

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute. Have a great week.

Debby fires back:

I sent your suggestions along to Ramona. You did find a lot! I’m sure she was thinking about a beaker not a vial so this will help her create the cover you want.

Ramona agrees with my favorite of the 7 choices, does her magic, and back comes Rev 3, which is proudly on display below. All I can answer back is:

Perfect, Debby. Thanks for the extra effort making it happen. Assume you’re passing along to Ramona how pleased I am.

You people are such a delight to work with. Appreciate you all.

Strange Bedfellows #3 copy


What’s that Strange Quiet?

You ever notice how when you’re around an intrusive noise–the washing machine out of balance and thumping, your neighbor using a chainsaw next door, the kid in the airplane in front of you screaming nonstop because his ears hurt–that when it stops, the silence is loud?

Monday was the first day in months that I had time and space to write but didn’t.

Boy, was it a lazy day. I kept wondering why I had so much time to get things done.

“So,” you ask, “after all the shit you’ve given us about writing every day, what are you doing not writing?”

Well, I have an excuse. It’s part of “the process.”

On Friday, I finished the first draft of Sir Kay. Now it has to sit for at least a week before I pick it up again. Get a little distance. Then I will read it critically with a red pen, marking everything that needs changing. Content–errors in the plot line, low tension, boring sections–as well as noticeable weakness of wordcraft (I don’t do all the polishing during the read by any means. Just mark the places that need it). Then begins the 1st rewrite.

Before then, I have only 2 tasks to accomplish:

  1. Get a copy ready to read. That means amassing all the comment’s I’ve received in one document and printing it out. With Avalon, S.C. I started with SusanH’s infamous ‘green edits’ and typed in Kate’s comments plus everything I’d gotten back from writers’ groups and first draft readers into that document. Plan to do the same thing this time. However, I can’t really do it this week.  I’d be evaluating the comments, which DOES NOT qualify as getting some distance. So that will be the first chore next Monday.
  2. Deciding what I’m going to write next.

I don’t really have a hard deadline to finish #2, but I should be starting outlines and character sketches for the next book next week. So it’s a pretty high priority.

I have it down to two choices, I think. One is to revise Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail and make it available for publication. It needs a rethink with my current “state of the writing art.” I’m simply better as a writer than I was when I touched it last. But an ever bigger problem is that it doesn’t gibe with the last 3 books. Halfway through Sir Kay, I had to rewrite the “History of the Holy Grail according to Rusty” so I could use it in that book and not destroy the entire premise of Bradley Schuster. Now I have the itch to get it done.

The other novel has been simmering in the back of my mind for months. The heroine (yes, she’s female) was the narrator of the book that I began before Avalon, S.C. and abandoned because it was far too serious and I wasn’t having fun writing it. You may have noticed that I don’t do serious all that well. But I really like the character. In the meantime she’s gotten mixed up with the Arthurian legend (I warned her, but typically she paid no attention) and acquired a pet.

Can I write a 1st Person novel with a female narrator? I have nightmares about having it seem authentic. Stella is phlegmatic (or maybe she is merely being encouraging). “You wrote Amy and Morgan 1st person in Strange Bedfellows. What’s the big deal?”

Here was the opening for that novel, by the way.

Call me Ishmael.

That’s not my name, of course.  But when you’re writing the Great American Novel and you’re not sure how to start, stealing a successful opening from somebody else is better than writing your own lame opening line.  And it seems more appropriate than “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” even if my name isn’t Ishmael.

If this weren’t supposed to be the Great American Novel and I was more like Emily Dickinson and less like Herman Melville–not that I could be much less like Herman Melville if I had a radical Melvillectomy–and writing a chapter in my memoir that would only be read by people who loved me and not literary critics looking for something new and insightful to poke a hole or two in the Great American Novel, I’d just start off by saying: I remember just like it was yesterday the first time I saw Joan.

That much at least is true.  I remember just like it was yesterday.

My name is Gwen, by the way.

Hopefully my subconscious is working dutifully on this problem. That’s where all the big decisions get made.

And no, she probably can’t keep the name ‘Gwen’ in an Arthurian-linked novel. That name’s taken (plus it was used sort of in Return from Avalon (and Points West).

call me ishmael2call me ishmael4

That Troublesome Last Chapter

Unless my characters rise up in revolt today, I’m finishing up the last chapter in my latest novel, for which SusanH has suggested the title, Sir Kay’s Last Quest. The question for me always is: how the-end-is-heremany loose ends to tie up?

In the editing process of Return from Avalon (and Points West), my editor “suggested” that I get to the end quicker after the climax of the story. When I went back to work on it, I discovered that there were 21,000 words after what most people would regard as the climax. Holy crap, that’s 20% of the book! I painstakingly cut 7,000 words. 7,000 very good words that I’d lovingly crafted in the first place. If I ever become rich and famous as a writer, after I die somebody may be going through my papers and discover those missing 7,000 words. Then there will be a big brouhaha over them and a new edition published with the “lost words,” sort of like they do with long-dead TV series, and then everybody will have to buy a new copy and of course you can’t get that one signed by the author since I’ll be dead. Maybe I should sign a bunch of labels in advance and store them with the lost words. Except that nobody keeps papers anymore, just 40 different versions of manuscripts in digital form. And who would be going through that!

In Strange Bedfellows, you’ll remember (well, probably you won’t. But I’m reminding you so you’ll remember), there were 4 final chapters, one from each characters’ point of view. A tidy little 5500 words. During which we got the happy family moved to the Caribbean, engaged, J.G.’s little girlfriend confirmed to have extra-sensory powers and still around, a messy threesome with Morgan/Tig’noire, etc.

In Avalon, S.C. there weren’t that many loose ends. J.D had been left on the island; Rick and Sabrina had moved from semi-platonic to fully-lubricant lovers. What more was there to wrap up? Adeline offered Rick the job of staying at the cottage as caretaker, they agreed on their story to tell the Sheriff about J.D., Sabrina wasn’t pregnant, plus a nice teaser that ties in with Return from Avalon (and Points West) and sets up a potential novel where Sabrina goes to Wales and meets Vivian and Meg. 1,948 words and we were outta there.

Sir Kay’s Last Quest  has a lot more loose ends. I’m just not sure how many of them to tie up and how many to leave loose. Like the Holy Grail: touch on, or leave hanging? Morgan’s redemption? The upcoming discovery of Lancelot and Guinevere tryst by Aggravaine and company?

Sometimes books have an epilogue where they list the major characters and tell what happened to them. This is a frequent device in military books where a platoon fights together, then disbands after the war (or in the case of Vietnam, rotate home). Curiously, everybody is a success at something; nobody ever lives a life of bleak mediocrity where they lose the house due to mortgage foreclosure. But using that device for an Arthurian book would be even worse:

  • King Arthur: dies in the battle of Camlan
  • Sir Kay: dies in the battle of Camlan
  • Sir Gawain: dies in the battle of Camlan
  • Sir Aggravaine: dies in the battle of Camlan
  • Sir . . .

Hey, I didn’t write the original story. And some things you just can’t up and change. At least with Morgan, we’d have a different fate.

  • Morgan le Fay: learned how to jump into the bodies of “special nieces” to avoid death. Last seen in the 21st century in the body of an 18th century voodoo priestess.


First Draft Readers

My writing partner just made the HUGE step of sending out copies of her first draft to a small number of first draft readers. Well done, SusanH.

“So what exactly is a first draft?” you may ask. “And why do I need first draft readers?”

If you follow the Rusty Rhoad school of writing, the first draft is where you get the story down. The characters should be virtually complete, the plot lines tight, and story compelling. Oh, there will still be a lot of work to do. Things inevitably change as you write, and you’ll have to fix all of those. You never want to go back and rework the beginning of a book while you’re working on the first draft–that’s negative progress. So you’ll have all that to be cleaned up. Plus the language still needs to be polished. As you rewrite, you’ll find better ways to say a lot of things. Probably 25% of your words will change, maybe even half. But the story will be mostly done.

So why would anybody want readers at that stage of the process? Shouldn’t you wait until it’s as good as it can get?

Absolutely not.

Beginning writers in particular need a lot of feedback. Ideally, a little bit of that should be critical. Someone who can (and will, so probably not your mother) tell you if your story is dragging, if it’s not believable, if they hate everybody in the book and just want them to all die. But more than that, beginning writers need support. Their number one problem is typically a lack of confidence; hence, their number one need is someone to tell them that they’re doing good. Someone to help inspire them to keep going when it gets rough. Plus someone the writer feels responsible to. Someone who will ask what’s going on if they haven’t seen a new chapter in a week.

As you mature as a writer, your needs change. I no longer need the confidence injection–at least, most of the time (occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I can still write. But usually that’s because I ate too much chili and beer too late the night before). Now I mostly need high level feedback: how much (or how little) they’re enjoying the story and where the weak points are.

But I still have my first draft readers, and I treasure their opinions.

So, if you’re asked to be a first draft reader, what should you do?

  • Be supportive.
  • Be honest.
  • Don’t let your writer get away with slovenly work habits.

Think that just about sums it up.

writing partners2



A Perfect Summary of the Year So Far

At one of my writers’ groups last night, member Jeanne Edmonds shared this piece with us. It’s a perfect example of pacing–a semi-stream of consciousness flow driving the piece. Plus it neatly wraps up the year so far. So I thought I’d share it with you.

* * * * *

Treatise on Football Bowl Games

There are thirty-five bowl games that end the 2013 season. Actually, twelve of those are in 2014. Leonard, the football nut, pointed that out. Who cares? Anyway, he said it was all about money, the big bucks. One game, the BCS, that means Bowl Championship Series, is for all the marbles, as they say, and winning means being the best college team in the country, after everybody plays all those games and beats each other up, broken legs, concussions, etc., with coaches then fired because they lost too many games, which I don’t understand because they didn’t play one second, just stood around with mean looks on their faces and screamed and cussed and spit. Well, back to the games. In the Sugar Bowl, I love that name, it’s so sweet, ha, ha, Oklahoma plays the ex-number one team in the country, Alabama, who lost one dumb game in the last minute to Auburn, who also lost one dumb game but came out ranked better. Go figure. My sister loves Oklahoma because she lives there. Mercy, she was born in Texas! So she wants “her boys” to whip the Crimson Tide. Leonard says “no way” and Oklahoma ought to just forfeit and go back to Norman. Then Texas is playing Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, where else? Gosh, Texas has an 8-4 record, big deal, but Leonard says they needed a Texas team to play there and they have a big steer following, you know, that ‘Hook ‘em Horns’ thing with the fingers stuck out. And Texas Tech meets Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, that makes sense, and between them they have eight loses! I guess that bowl was hard up. Mr. Football, that Texas A&M player who is rich and wild, will be running around in the Chick-fil-A bowl game. I told Leonard I was going to call a bunch of those games the “Geography Bowls”—the New Mexico, the Las Vegas, New Orleans, Hawaii, Texas, Heart of Dallas, in Dallas, of course. Now get this, there come the food bowls! We have the Potato Bowl—fried? mashed? baked? who knows?—and the Orange Bowl, my favorite the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Little Caesars, I like pepperoni and olives, the Gator (yeah, people eat that, ugh!) and does the Fight Hunger bowl count? Don’t forget the flowers—the really big one with the parade and the floats that go on forever for over a hundred years, not the parade. I mean the tradition, of course. That’s the Rose Bowl, and there’s the Poinsettia Bowl. And does the Cotton Bowl qualify? It’s fluffy and grows on a stem, doesn’t it? We must add the bank bowls, those bastions of integrity, like money bins, Capital One and BBVA Compass. How could they miss the chance to show all those commercials, so people will forget how they got robbed and mortgages went underwater? Gee, I left out Pinstripe and Russell Athletic and Musk City and Sun and Liberty and Outback and Fiesta and and Armed Force and . . . I’m tired of this. I don’t even want to watch the games and all those silly players crawling around and knocking each other down in piles and trying to catch the ball and dropping it. The bands are good and the marching. Leonard can sit all day and all night, while he drinks beer and eats chips and yells at the T.V. I’m going to read a good book.

Bob Stoops

I Resolve . . .

2013 was a remarkable year for me, and for many of you as well.  I confess to being a little sad to see it go, but like somebody once said (I think it was Chaucer’s wife, but experts are of mixed opinions), “Time and Tide wait for no man.” So, bye 2013.

Welcome, 2014. Wonder what you’re gonna be like? Can hardly wait to read the headlines.

“Congress Republicans and Democrats Agree, pass long-needed legislation!”

“Peace treaty signed between Israel and Pakistan!” 

“Scientist explains what makes women tick!”

I’m guessing, probably not. But hey, you never know.

So . . . made any resolutions? I mean besides losing some weight, working out more, spending quality time with family and friends, those old standbys. Looking for some ideas? Here are a few.

1.  Read more.  Used to be, people who had to wait read. Airports, doctors’ waiting rooms, waiting in cars for their kids to get out of school. Now the mobile device has rendered that obsolete. Now in your average airport waiting area, 99% of the travelers are staring at their phones. Yes, I understand, Candy Crush is so compelling. But that’s so 2013.

2.  Read something different.  It’s easy to get into a reading rut. 41 straight Sci-Fi novels, and picking #42. Try something different for a change. Maybe set a goal for 4 during the year.

3.  Write.  If you’ve never indulged in the dark arts, set a modest goal.  A short story by Easter, a poem for your significant other’s birthday, and a 4-page memoir to send out with your Christmas cards. What the heck, you’ve always wanted to. 2014 may be the year.

4.  Finish that novel.  Bruce, this Bud’s for you. And SusanH. And Heather. Lisa and Nick. And a lot more of you I don’t know about. You’ve all positioned yourself to meet this astonishing goal. 2014’s your year. I can’t wait to celebrate with you. I’ll even bring the champagne.

I intend to finish 2 novels in 2014, although there’s a 50-50 chance that one is a rewrite. The first is a no-brainer: I finished Chapter 46 this morning, and the word count eased up over 89,000. Not sure what’s coming next, but I have a novel waiting to get out plus a hankering to rework Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail and get it out there.

I resolve that my next novel is going to have a pet in it. Probably a dog, but it could be a cat. Not sure if they will have their own internal dialog or not; have to wait and see.

My friends, it’s gonna be a great year.


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.


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.


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.


A Case of Two Villains

I have been working toward writing better villains.  In my last novel, Avalon, S.C., we have JD who is an OK but not a great villain.  Since he’s not really “the antagonist” of the novel, it’s hard for him to be a great villain.  But he’s in there swinging.  To be truthful, he tried out for the part of the antagonist but blew the audition.

So, determined to do better in The Adventures of Sir Kay (NOT! the real title), I created an antagonist.  Count Maleagans.  He has awful taste–his colors are babyshit brown, and his great hall features the amateurish tapestries of his ex-wife–but his real fault is that he’s stuck in the “past.”  He believes that Uther was a great king; Arthur not so much because of that whole “might doesn’t make right” thing.  A noble should be able to do anything he wants.  So far he’s foiled Kay’s quest for true love just by being ornery.

OK, admittedly: Maleagans is not the sheriff of Nottingham.  But I’m at least claiming small progress.

By the way, Morgan le Fay is around again.  SusanH considers her the villain after she committed the unpardonable sin of sleeping with her sister’s beau.  but I’m still sympathetic toward her.  I guess we’ll have to see how things turns out.

So then this other villain shows up: Father Ignatius.  He started off as a very minor character–a caricature of the overzealous priest/missionary, forerunner of the priests of the Inquisition, etc.–but somewhere along the way decided to pull off a masterful scam.  He elevated the Grail story from just a rumor to a full-fledged legend.  Preached repeatedly his visions of seeing the Grail, which he described in detail.  Got the Knights of the Round Table off looking (again! they’d done this once unsuccessfully before).  Planted a goblet that he’d brought from Rome, then told Galahad where he dreamed it was.

Oh, the fiend!  Messing with true love is one thing, but messing with one of our greatest legends?  Why, that’s just going too far!

Fortunately, with Sir Kay on the job, such a scam has no chance of success.  But what self-respecting villain is dispatched 60% through the novel?  I guess Maleagans better step up his game.

On a curious side-note:  JD was given to Nimue, where he was “sentenced” to a year of pampering with his every desire catered to before being sacrificed for the good of the land.  I’m considering giving Father Ignatius to Morgan.  Maybe that’s my problem with villains: they always end up getting better than they deserve.

chicago_exhibitA “false Grail,” alongside a more realistic depiction of what the Grail might look like