Hot Steaming Mess

Welcome back and whew, let me tell you. This week has been a practice in dreams meeting reality. Let me get the personal out of the way first: the weather has sucked, our cat may be sick, work is absolutely ball-bustingly busy, and the culture shock of moving halfway across the country has set in. That’s not even getting into the bug that’s been going around the office, which laid me low at the end of last week and ensured that I didn’t get back into In the Pines until Monday. What I’m saying is that your trusted narrator is currently a Hot Mess, but I am striving for better. Trying to get better at my job and at my writing. It’s an ongoing process.

Speaking of writing, let’s talk about it, shall we? Last week I stated an intention to kick off proper drafting of In the Pines on December 1st and I think I can still meet the spirit of that goal, but a review of the first seven chapters reveals at least two that will need a further outlining pass. The good news is that the other chapters are in really good shape and I think further outlining would be pointless – I need to drill down into the details of the scenes and really let them live and breathe to get to the next step. I’m already seriously loving the two main characters. There are echoes of Corridors of the Dead in this book, to be certain, but I think it’s different enough to be thematic.

Anyway, let me elaborate at boring length about how I envision the process going. There will be one more outlining pass, which will be the fifth draft of the outline, but in this version I will take the “narrative-ready” chapters and start breaking down descriptions of scenes into actual narration and dialogue. For example, going from something like this:

The “camera” pans to her mother, hopefully surprising the reader. Now we set the scene: smells, sights. A tidy table, everything in its right place. Her mother drinks coffee and reads from an iPad, but frowns and looks up. Of course she’s not okay, she says, her daughter got attacked the night before.

To something like this (and again, keep in mind that this is a first draft and will be further refined because yuck):

Though Morgan’s mother sat on the opposite side of their tiny dining room table, in their tiny breakfast nook, she seemed to be a million miles away. Morgan’s words died somewhere in the middle of the neatly-arranged wasteland of artificial sweetener packets, honey bears, and napkins.

After a long moment, Morgan spoke again. “I asked if you’re okay.”

“I heard you,” Wendy said, but her eyes seemed unable to leave her iPad. What would she be reading? Work emails? The Wall Street Journal? Family Circle?

“Then can you answer me? Kind of rude to just sit there…”

Wendy sighed and lowered her coffee cup. At last she lowered her reading glasses and stared across the table at her daughter. Morgan would normally welcome this gaze, but now she couldn’t help seeing her own eyes staring back at her.

“Of course I’m not okay,” Wendy said. “My daughter got attacked last night.”

So you can see how nuance develops; though it’s not mentioned in the outline or in her character description, we learn that Morgan’s mother, Wendy, is cold, prim, and proper, but also has a Martha Stewart side. This will play into a subplot that comes up later.

I can do this kind of elaboration for each of the “narrative-ready” chapters while simultaneously working the chapters that still need outline massaging. I don’t know what to call this phase of the process, exactly. It’s a hybrid approach, for sure, but I think it will help me keep the overall plot in mind while I work on those straggling chapters.

My goal at the moment, however, is to finish plot outline Version 4.0 and then take another week off to work on the third act of the Elkmont story treatment because that bad boy will go in a drawer until the first draft of Pines is finished. Still to be determined on how long that first draft might take.

So, roughly, my current take on the process is to keep switching off between stories; Elkmont story treatment followed by first draft of Pines followed by Elkmont outline version 1. At some indeterminate point I’ll start workshopping the next novel in this merry-go-round, as it’s already starting to take some shape in the basement of my subconscious. Going to be quite the ride to see how this all plays out.

Of course, wouldn’t be a blog entry without the photos. Not as much to go on this week because of illness and general Hot Mess status, but here’s what I have.

This is Broemmelsiek Park in St. Charles County. As you can see, the fall colors were quite choice. This is very late in the year to see this kind of color for an East Coaster.

We were drawn to Broemmelsiek Park for its astronomy center. Really need to go star-gazing there one night.

A moment that felt tailor-made for a shot.

The park has several ponds. This one was probably my favorite.

After our journey we went to the Fireside Bar and Grill in New Melle. They didn’t have a ton of gluten-free options, but I can heartily recommend the bacon-cheese dip. Just make sure you have someone to share it.

We also happened to find the home of the Addams family in New Melle. Talk about a highlight! Hope you have a great weekend and week.

Ground Control: Five Proponents (and Theories) of Ancient Astronauts Pt 1

Welcome back once again! This is a particularly interesting week for me, as I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. I’m still aiming to have the revised version of Corridors of the Dead out in the next two weeks (at least the eBook version) and editing is ongoing with Pathways of the Dead. Did I also mention I’m participating in a short story contest in September? Whew.

But here’s the big thing: I’ll be participating in a writing marathon this coming weekend. Four straight days of writing 10 to 11 hours a day. The goal? Finish a 50,000-word “novel” in four days. I have a concept, I have the majority of an outline (another goal for this week), and I have a detailed schedule. We’ll see if I can make it through, as this is typically a month’s worth of output, but I’m determined. Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and Nootropics will see me through, which reminds me, I really should talk about writing supplmements someday…

Anyway! Today we’re here to start the discussion on Ancient Astronauts. It’s a fascinating theory that’s pretty much completely bullshit but underlies the Among the Dead series. In my novels, the Watchers were extra-dimensional beings sent by the Aetelia (now known as angels) to help guide humanity’s evolution. This stuff is pretty much directly based on ancient astronaut theory, specifically the Anakim or Annunaki, often associated with the “historical” Watchers. It’s a lot to untangle, so let’s take a look at some of the proponents and their theories before talking about the underpinnings of the novels.


1. Eric Von Daniken. Dude is completely out of his mind, but insanity is a plus here. Von Daniken is kind of the grandaddy of the movement and has been pushing his theories since the 60s. You may be familiar with his most famous work, Chariots of the Gods? In his view, buildings such as the pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Moai of Easter Island stand as evidence of extraterrestrial
visitation and exchange of technology. He has also famously claimed that much ancient art depicts alien visitors, the most famous of which is the Sarcophagus lid of Pacal the Great:


He claims that this depicts an ancient astronaut in his spaceship and I suppose I can see it, but I also see some of the more common motifs that gave rise to ideas like the Tree of Life. He also believed that religions arose as a way of explaining/recording these ancient contacts. I could write an entire entry just about the guy, but if you’re at all familiar with the concept of ancient astronauts, you’ve encountered his ideas, since they underlie so much of the “movement”. They’re so fundamental that I’ve never read a single Von Daniken book and yet a lot of his theories form the basis of my novels. Do I believe it? Hell no, but it’s fascinating to think about.


2.  Zecharia Sitchin. You have to admire this guy’s dedication. Originally an editor and journalist in Israel, he moved to New York in the 50s and became a shipping executive. While working there he taught himself Sumerian cuneiform. Who the hell does that? Anyway, Zecharia became convinced that the solar system held a hidden planet beyond Neptune. This planet, which he called Nibiru, allegedly follows an insanely long orbit and only passes within the range of the rest of the planets every 3600 years. Riiiight. It gets better, though; he believes that Nibiru once collided with a planet he called Tiamat, which once laid between Mars and Jupiter. This collision formed Earth, the asteroid belt, and all of the comets. I’m guessing the Van Oort cloud.

But wait, there’s more! Nibiru is home to an advanced alien race known as…drumroll please…the Anunaki. Also known as the Nephilim (or, as I call them in Among the Dead, Nephil, the half-breeds of Aetelia and humans). These “gods” came to Earth 450,000 years ago to mine natural resources and were the worker bees of the Nibiru colonization efforts. After some time one of the Nibiru, Enki, realized that they were getting screwed over on this deal so they would use SCIENCE to create a race of workers. And those workers…well, humans of course, the result of crossing their genes with homo erectus. Things went great up until 2,000 BC or so, at which point a nuclear war broke out and conveniently wiped away all traces of the old regime of Annunaki. I strongly suspect this whole thing serves as the basis for the Assassins Creed video game series, but only time will tell for certain.

So there you go, two of the Ancient Astronaut theories. Join us next time when we’ll dive in and get really crazy.


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Outtatime: Five Characters Who Are Older Than They Appear Pt. 2

Hey everybody, welcome back to my ongoing series about Characters Who Are Older Than They Appear ™. Quick recap for those who might have missed last week’s entry, this list is about fictional Peter Pans, characters who are…well, older than they appear for any number of reasons. Typically, Vampires.



As I stated last week, this series is inspired by my very own character, Tommy, a 9,000-year-old man in an 8-year-old’s body, put there by a glitch in the Multiverse.  Last week, we looked at #5 and #4 on the list, respectively Claudia from Interview with the Vampire and Eli from Let the Right One In. To continue with a theme…


3. Esther, from Orphan. Right away, let me say that her inclusion here is a spoiler, so apologies for that, but the movie is, what, four years old now? I think it should be safe to talk about it. For those folks who haven’t seen the movie (and I’m sure there are quite a few), Esther is adopted from an orphanage by a loving family who are looking for a child to love after a tragic miscarriage. Right away Esther shows some odd behaviors, heavily favoring the father while trying to push the mother out of the picture. It all culminates in an intensely weird and controversial twist in which it’s revealed that…okay, here’s the spoiler:

Esther is actually an adult woman with a growth disorder who poses as a child to gain access to families and ends up killing them, making it look like accidents. She doesn’t kill them intentionally, but as you can guess from her MO she’s very unstable and it almost always ends badly, especially after she makes advances toward the fathers. At the time I thought the twist sucked, but something about the story brings me back now and then so it had some lasting effect.

One of the creepiest angles about the “forever young” character is the full-blown sexuality of an adult in the body of a child. It unsettles us, and for good reason. It’s also almost impossible to ignore when writing a character like this, so even Tommy has some (rather tame) moments like this that creep out the other characters.


2. Wolverine/Logan in eight million pieces of fiction. Wolverine might actually have been my first exposure to the trope, right around age nine or ten. It seemed such a magical premise at the time: imagine a man who was still young and vital despite having experienced the early 1900s. I’m sure it had something to do with creating characters like Tommy, some connection way back in the dusty recesses of the subconscious.

Anyway, if you don’t know Wolverine’s story, he was born with a healing factor that allows him to rally from just about any injury. One of the most important side-effects is that it significantly slows his aging process to the point that he should be well over 100 years old but only appears to be about 40. The factor doesn’t make him immortal or even eternally youthful. He will die. In fact, he’s akin to a shorter-lived version of my own Aetelia, who remain youthful and vibrant to a very old age and are extremely difficult to kill. I hadn’t made the connection until this moment. Hmmm…

So let’s review where that leaves us:

5. Claudia, Interview With the Vampire
4. Eli, Let the Right One In
3. Esther, Orphan
2. Wolverine, X-Men

One more entry to go, one more post to go. Who could it be? Hmmm…


See you next time.

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Judge Me By My Age: Five Characters Who Are Older Than They Appear Pt. 1

Welcome, welcome. I’m kicking off a new set of features for the site, kind of marrying the old style of Muse features with the new focus on the fiction itself. Tip of the hat to fellow author Marie Loughin for inspiration on that front and helping kick my butt into gear.

For the next few entries (roughly until the middle of next week), we’ll look at five characters in pop culture – mostly movies and novels – who are much older than they appear. This topic centers around one of the main characters of the Among the Dead cycle, Tommy. Born 9,000 years ago in a very different-looking version of the fertile crescent, Tammuz got his start as a scholar in pursuit of the knowledge of the really ancients. The Station tells the story of his discovery and how he ended up trapped in a child’s body, providing vital impetus to the story of City of the Dead, but we’ll get to that later.

For now, let’s start at the bottom.


5. Claudia (Interview with the Vampire). I can’t point to one character as the “inspiration” for Tommy, but Claudia sure had a lot to do with his existence. For those few who haven’t read the series, Claudia was a six-year-old girl (twelve in the movie) turned into a vampire by Lestat in a particularly horrific turn of hubris and a desire to hold onto Louis. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of her character was the development of human female desires and traits in the body of a child. Tommy’s case is a little different, as he begins a man and ends up in a child’s body, but there are echoes of Claudia’s feelings for Louis in the relationship between Omarosa and Tommy. I tried to avoid the squick factor. I really did. But those characters practically insisted that they be lovers. Anyway, divorced of the ickiness, Claudia’s tale is actually quite fascinating. She’s a slave to others’ perception of her as a child, and it’s something that Tommy struggles with over the course of the series as well.


4. Eli (Let the Right One In). I guess it was inevitable that this list contain a lot of vampires, though Tommy himself ended up in his predicament through a strange glitch in the system that maintains the Multiverse. Eli shows up suddenly as a mysterious neighbor in this movie and the boy next door is immediately fascinated with her. As she explains once he learns her secret, “I’m twelve…. but I’ve been twelve for a long time.” Eli is conflicted by her place in the world in a very different manner from Claudia. Where Claudia and Tommy struggle with others’ perception of them, Eli has more directly embraced being both a “child” and the nature of being a vampire, but seems to suffer loneliness from living inside of that world that is only alleviated by the arrival of the protagonist, who struggles to understand her world. It’s an interesting angle, and one that could work well for a future story with Tommy.

And that’s it for this entry. Watch over for two more entries in this series over the next few weeks. Your hint for next time:

Hint Hint

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Hey Guess What!

I’m still out here. No real excuses for the lack of updates of late. I realize it’s almost been a month since the last blog post and I think things might be ready to ramp up soon.

You see, I’ve been busy writing a book. Imagine that! Okay, well, the book is written, but I’ve been honing the shit out of it with the critique group and my front-line editor. I’m giving a wild-ass guess of mid-to-late October release for Pathways of the Dead, but that could slip a few weeks depending on how quickly my beta readers and the editor get things back to me. I’m about 70% through with my self-edit pass at the moment, after which the beta readers get unleashed to feast upon the words, along with the front line editor. Mix and match their suggestions and changes with a few more of my own changes and ship it off to my final editor. Can we get that all done in 8-10 weeks? I guess we’ll see, but I’m not going to rush it.

For those handful who care, I actually think it’s a decent book and I’m my own harshest critic when it comes to these things. As with any book, there will be issues in the final version, no doubt, but for the first time I feel like I have a command view of what’s going on and how to steer it correctly. I guess I could still steer things into an iceberg, but I’m not about to sit here worrying over it.

Along with all of this loveliness I’m also wrapping up the revisions for a Corridors of the Dead re-release that fixes some of the most egregious problems with the prose. That’s right, I’ll admit it, two years on and I’m not satisfied with the book. I love it for what it represents, but it needs some TLC to get the rest of the way there. That one should be around the first week of September, and it includes the first chapter of Pathways along with a new forward to entice you into taking the plunge. For those folks who purchased the original edition on Kindle, I’m going to ping Amazon about sending the updates, but rest assured that nothing too major has changed. I’ll have a more detailed post ready to go about those changes as we approach launch.

Last, I just want to say that I appreciate the folks who have stuck with me for the last few months. This book has been nowhere near as difficult as Room 3, but it’s had its challenges. That’s why I’ve been MIA for so long.

I’m going to try my best to keep you guys updated. At the very least, a book is surely coming.

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Progress Quest: A Busy Week

Hi again everybody, hope you had a happy and healthy week. Things have been busy as ever over here at Qwendellonia HQ. First, the stats to match up with last week:

  • I am roughly 39% into the first revision of Pathways, up from 30% last week. I’m in the middle of editing Chapter 11 and expect to have “Book 1” (aka the first section) finished this week.
  • Corridors re-release is now 75% finished.
  • Still waiting on the covers, but we had some cash flow problems that slowed the process on that end. These things happen. Still on track for a cover reveal next month, I think.

And, of course, Room 3 made an appearance on Kindle Nation Daily last week. Particularly proud of that one, as it received a great write-up and sold pretty well. You can definitely expect more of that going forward.

Things have been crazy. Pathways is really eating up most of my time, to the point that I dream about the story and characters. Speaking of which, I want to give you guys a write-up on the new characters very soon, along with information on where the old familiar characters are at the beginning of this novel.

Things are in motion.

Let’s Catch Up

So obviously it’s been quite some time since my last update; unfortunately, this may be the new normal for awhile. Biggest problem is that I realized how many cycles ended up spent on blog posts rather than actual fiction. One or the other had to give, and the fiction won out. I’d love to be able to give you weekly updates on status, though, and will try to do better on that front.

This is the opposite of bleak news, however; it means that not only have I been deep in the grind on my next few novels, but that the overall quality of the series will be higher. So what have I been up to? Quick update:

  • After my first revision (incorporating notes from my critique group along with some of my own changes), the first three chapters and prologue of Pathways of the Dead were handed over to my front-line editor, who will be examining structure, internal consistency, and plotting. Once she’s done, it’s updates again then off to the beta readers.
  • I am roughly 30% into my first revision now, which translates to wrapping up Chapter 6 yesterday. Some threads have been removed for future novels, while others are being pumped up. The work is always slower at this point, but the future for the novel is very exciting and I really believe in this one.
  • I have been reviewing Corridors of the Dead not only to ensure consistency between the series but also for an upcoming revised edition. Mea culpa, the book is not exactly what I would have wanted. The story is not changing, but some of the words most certainly are, as it’s not up to my current standards. For those folks who have already read the book or have a copy, you’re not missing out on anything new. Promise.
  • City of the Dead is well under way. A good portion of the plot is set in stone and I’m already deep into Chapter Two on the first draft.
  • Notes have begun for Portal of the Dead. I can’t say too much more about that one since it’s still very fluid at this stage, but the key elements remain what they always have been.
  • The cover for City of the Dead eBook is ready; the artist is working on the Pathways cover for both eBook and print, along with print versions of Corridors and City. Once the Pathways cover is ready, we’ll be setting up a tour for the cover reveal, which sort of kicks off this phase of pre-release marketing.
  • Speaking of pre-release marketing, expect to see a WHOLE lot more about Pathways on this blog in the ramp-up to release. Previews, snippets, cut scenes, character profiles, and more. As with last time, this world is a joy to play in and I’ve grown to like it more and more throughout the drafting process. So much to share with you.

I’m still a little hazy on release date for Pathways, but if I had to pin it down, I would say early-to-mid October at this point. Just about a year after Room 3’s release. If nothing else, my release dates seem to consistently hit in the Autumn. Wish I could get you guys more than one book a year, but for at least the next three books this seems to be my lot in life. I guess I can either do quality or quantity, not both, as some writers manage. I’ll take quality.

Catch you soon.

It’s Been a Long Time…New Cover, Winners, and Other Matters

Welcome back, folks. Apologies once again for the delay in posting, but real life has been pulling me away not only from the blog but writing in general. Never fear, though, City of the Dead is practically writing itself (already it’s at 10,000 words and I can see the clear path from Point A to Point Z) and Pathways is entering the editing phase just as soon as I can shake the funk of just finishing a project. That’s an odd thing when you’re a writer, you often just want to get away from a project for awhile – let the subconscious kind of work on the next steps, you know?

So yeah, as I said, in the meantime City of the Dead (book 3 of the series) is roaring along. Things end at a very interesting place in Pathways, and the beginning of City is turning out to be an intriguing, dreamlike experience. Even knowing exactly where everything fits and how it plays out, I’m still fascinated with pushing it forward, which makes Pathways feel a little dull at the moment. That’s the natural course of things for me, anyway. Doesn’t make Pathways inferior or fated to be inferior. It just means that I need time. Besides, I like the idea of having book 3 very close to ready when book 2 launches. This may mean that I leave some space between Room 3 and the Pathways release, but in the end I believe it will be worth it. Honest!

I also have some exciting news to share with you: we have a winner! Well, several of them, actually. The last few weeks have been the tour for Room 3, courtesy of Dark World Book Tours, and we’ve had quite a response.  Lots of entries, but only a handful of winners. I won’t name all the winners here out of respect to their privacy, but congrats to all of you folks. Expect your prizes very soon!

One more bit of news before I check out to work on other things: the covers are coming.

Oh yes, they are coming.

For those eagle-eyed folks who know me on Facebook, they may have seen the latest (and, truly, final) cover of Corridors of the Dead cross in a special sneak peek. Here it is for all you regular readers!

corridors_cover_1800x2700Pretty slick, huh? There’s a coded symbolism at work on this cover, one of a woman who resists the entreaties to turn herself into a weapon and finds herself in the midst of a crumbling world. And here’s the thing: the reason that I’m fairly confident this will be the last cover is that we’re working on the remaining covers in the series and they all align with the themes on this cover. So yes, a City of the Dead cover exists, and Pathways is coming along. Expect a reveal tour sometime in August as things begin to ramp up for Pathways.

In the meantime, thanks for all the support. Hope I can communicate more with folks as things go forward. Just hope for a quieter Summer than the one I’ve had so far.


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My Next Novel? Yeah, That’s Finished.

Had a long weekend out of town so this is my first chance to share with you, the reader, but Thursday evening I nailed down the first draft of the second book in the Among the Dead series, Pathways of the Dead. Even now I can scarcely believe that it’s happened; I began what would become known as Pathways last summer and pushed through it even during the Room 3 publication process. I had anticipated the finished first draft in March or April. May is acceptable enough, but it had begun to feel like it just wasn’t going to happen.

Of course, this is far from the finish line. The book is still working its way through the various layers of critiques and editors (TWO editors on this one in addition to the critique group and beta readers). The next stage of the voyage begins on the 24th, when I send a first draft that’s been altered with critique comments to my content editor. She’ll sanity-check the thing and make sure that I haven’t somehow put a character’s pants on his head, that sort of thing. Common errors. From there I incorporate her changes and get it out to my lovely, dedicated beta readers. All of this goes on while the critique group continues to read through the evolving drafts until they reach the end. Once ALL of that’s done, it goes to my final editor for final say.

This is a change. While the editing process on the last two books have not been solely on my shoulders, there have been phases that were nothing but my own changes. If all goes well, this book will see nothing like that. I’ll make my own changes in tandem with suggestions from other authors, readers, and editors, making for a far more polished reading experience.

In the meantime, you can expect to see a new cover for Corridors to accompany a revised edition (no major cheats, just some cleaning-up of the text) that feeds right into Pathways. Pathways cover reveal will be done about a month prior to release, so watch this space for more information.

In the meantime, a quick FAQ for folks who read the first book. This will evolve over time and sit on the Among the Dead page.

1. What is this Pathways nonsense? I thought the sequel was called City of the Dead. I wanted that to be so, but the version of City that I had crafted would have been north of 200K+ words. A thematic split also became apparent during the drafting process, and so it only felt natural to split the two books. City of the Dead is still coming, it’s just book 3.

2. What do you mean by a thematic split? Among the Dead is a series that incorporates elements of many different genres. Book 1, Corridors of the Dead, was an urban fantasy-cum-coming-of-age tale. Pathways is more of an action film with some mystery elements. Book 3, City of the Dead, is a cross between a fantasy and a mystery with some elements of a metaphysical journey. Book 4, Portal of the Dead, is a fantasy thriller. Now imagine trying to maintain some thematic consistency between an action film and a slower mystery novel and you see why City had to be split.

3. Is it still a trilogy? No. Among the Dead is now four books.

4. Are you going to be one of those authors who just keeps going and going with the series? Given the ultimate ending of this series, it would be pretty difficult to keep going. I do have a few ideas for prequels under my vest, but those would be far, far off and only for a good reason. I do think that some of the characters introduced over the course of the series would constitute that good reason, such as Omarosa and Anushka.

5. Omarosa? Isn’t she that woman from the Apprentice? The name Omarosa is actually Babylonian; it referred to a mistress of the universe, probably meaning “the sea.” The name is highly appropriate for the character devoid of any popular connections. Besides, I like the name. We’re taking it back.

6. Who are some of the new characters? Well, you know about Omarosa. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll meet the creator of the robot, Jazshael, from Corridors of the Dead (and oh boy will you meet him). He’s a very interesting, complex character who will pop up again and again through the rest of the series. The original founder of the Acolytes, Alma, will appear. Two characters from Room 3 make appearances as well – see if you can spot them. Both have prominent roles, though one is a younger version of himself.

7. How many characters die this time? Will your blood lust ever be satisfied? ALL OF THE CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM. AND NEVER.

8. Where does Room 3 fit into all of this? Room 3 is a side-story to the series. You wouldn’t need to read it to understand what happens in Among the Dead, but some of the issues that pop up make a whole lot more sense when you understand just what the Watchers were up to in London in the late aughts. In time, I’ll fill in the gaps for folks who might have missed these connections.

9. Are you going to write about magick and fantasy all your life? No, sheesh, MOM. I actually have three literary books in the pipeline and am toying with the idea of using the whole Labor Day Rush method to write one of them. Crazy? Oh, probably, but it’s the best way I can think of to give myself the breathing room necessary to get one of those books out.

10. Okay, I’m interested. When can I buy it? Patience. Good work takes time…I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

Bottom line? STAY TUNED….

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The Trail of Bread Crumbs

Hey everybody, just a few quick things that I wanted to write about this morning, some general thoughts that have been banging around inside my skull. The first is just how strange it is to go back and re-read something that you wrote two years ago. I think this is generally an issue, though a pleasant one, for every writer; each work should make you stretch and learn new things. That process makes you into a different writer, and going back to read earlier works can be like returning to a childhood home. It all feels familiar, but without the original context it leaves you feeling kind of weird and empty. Sometimes the words don’t feel like ones that I even wrote.

I’m talking about this because, as Pathways of the Dead draws to a close, I’m going back through and reading Corridors to ensure that Pathways answers the most important questions from that novel. So far I’m pleasantly surprised. The original plan covered the broadest questions, and those are all either answered or advanced in Pathways. Sure, there are a few “color” details that are missing from the first draft of Pathways, such as certain nicknames, but it’s actually pretty interesting to see how well my plan worked out, especially when it came to unforeseen eventualities like the death of a certain character.

And that brings me to the topic that’s really on my mind: the trail of bread crumbs. When you build a series like this, with so many intricate, interlocking parts, you have to go into the thing aware of how it plays out on a general scale – the largest A to B to C points. I’ve known the ending of the series from the beginning, and I had a vague idea of the large beats that got to that point. I also built a series bible of sorts that lays out the different groups involved, their motivations, and major players from those groups. During the creation of Corridors, I kept a running list of major questions that were posed and the answers to those questions. Not all had to be answered in that book (in fact, three major dangling questions are very important to the books that follow), but they needed to at least be acknowledged.

So why talk about all this? Well, first, I firmly believe that this is all you really need to create a successful series, but I also think this is the best way to build a world with lasting appeal. Even as the author, I’m finding a lot of interesting little tidbits in Book 1 that foreshadow events in Book 2. One character, for example, causes signature events in the world whenever he appears. A reader who has finished the series and understands the whole thing could then go back and find the hints hidden in Book 1 regarding the nature of that character. They’re not necessary to understanding the story overall, but it adds a secondary layer to the story once the bigger picture is understood.

The early seasons of Lost did this very well, but I think they may have overreached by the end. It’s part of what built the sense of mystery and kept it going; even now the series is eminently rewatchable just to catch those little moments. That is the “trail of breadcrumbs” of which I speak – the little nods to the readers who know what’s going on, to show them a larger story on the second go-through. Fun stuff, and I hope that someone catches these one day.

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