He looked down the cliff’s face to the water. It wasn’t the distance that concerned him; he’d gone into water from far higher than the 30 feet it looked to be.
No, what concerned him was the dark surface. It might mean deep water.
It might mean shallow water with a dark bottom.
Even deep water could have jagged rocks, old tree trunks, any manner of solid sharp debris.
If you have no choice but to go in, it doesn’t matter whether the water is deep or shallow, or so he told himself. What matters is that you go in feet first. An injury to one or both legs could be survived. Head injuries, out here in the middle of nowhere, probably not.
The first arrow hit the dirt close enough behind him that he heard it, felt a tiny shock in his feet. They would wait until they were close enough before loosing any more.
And as he went over the edge feet first, one foot snagged in the tangle of a tree root sticking out, flipping him completely, holding for less than an instant before he dropped again.
So, there’s this time-travel fantasy I’ve been working on . . .
Round 1: Too Conservative
Years ago I wrote a book titled (at that point) Anodyne. It was going to be the first in a series of connected stories each with a different protagonist, each telling their story under the pseudonym Jake Calcutta.
Long before the book was finished an author friend pointed out that the artsy intellectual guy in the book was nothing like the name would suggest. Jake Calcutta, he said, is a modern day Indiana Jones.
He was right.
I changed the protagonist’s name to Jesse Donovan and the book’s title to That She Is Made of Truth. It may become a series, but not in the way originally intended.
Round 2: Too Cerebral
… more … “Introducing Rafe Keyn and the Real Jake Calcutta”
I’ve pushed the button on yet another book, both Kindle and paperback versions. That’s the title up there.
Hold on, hold on. Don’t go rushing off to empty your wallets. The paperback isn’t live yet, though Amazon has created a page already. (Update: oh ho, the Kindle version is live.)
Another reason to hold your horses (and wallets.) This is nothing like I’ve ever written before. It is an experimental stream-of-consciousness romantic mystery novella. What’s it about? It’s about 20,000 words oh ho.
Here’s the sample from the back cover:
… more … “Terpsichore Antipodes”
My book of short stories, vignettes, and poetry, Undercurrents, should be ready for public consumption in December. It’s being proofread, mostly to confirm that my compilation and formatting didn’t introduce errors.
Some of it is available online, some has been shared with newsletter readers or members of other forums, but this is the first time I’ve created a compilation like this with it all in one place.
Oh, the poetry part? No, I’m not really a poet. There are some bits from long ago, two real poems, and scads of song lyrics which more than one trusted reader has assured me reads like poetry.
It’ll be my first ever digital only book. A stopgap, in fact, to prevent this from being the first year since I started publishing that I didn’t have a book to release.
If it becomes my bestselling book I promise I’ll have it formatted for print, if that matters to y’all like it does me.
I’ve stayed up past midnight 3 nights in a row to finish Stephen King’s 11.22.63. Yes, it’s that good (and that long; nearly 900 pages.)
Not a fan of horror, but this one is fantasy/scifi rather than his usual genre. It has time travel. It’s a historical novel. It has romance. In the end notes it has a nod to Time and Again which I agree with King is the best time travel book written.
One small but vital character interested me because of a parallel to Rafe Keyn and the Temporal Lisle. It seems guardians of time travel are a common idea. I’m giving a little away here, but you can’t read the first few chapters of King’s book and not realize that the yellow card man is going to be more than a bit player, no matter how few lines he speaks.
So there you have it: Stephen King is starting to write like me because we like the same time travel book.
(Speaking of fantasy . . . )
Reviewed the notes with Best Beloved and it appears that all is well and I can dive into writing Jake’s story.
Monday. Diving happens Monday.
Let’s get this book done, eh?
I printed out James’ notes on Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.
Three pages of small font.
Much of it is rumination in the moment, notes taken as he read it. He had some concerns about this, that, and the other thing, and our usual difference of taste in certain areas.
Today’s task is to go through those notes and determine what needs attention, what could use a little nudge, and what I can leave as it is.
Assuming, after a quick scan, there are no gaping plot holes, the next step will be to write out the story I’ve already summarized for his review. I know, that sounds like oversimplification, but at this point, putting the words down is easy part. If I can maintain my old pace of 3,000 words a day I’ll have Jake’s story wrapped up in a month.
Let’s call it “by end of summer” just to be safe. And sane.
While Jake Calcutta is off getting a sanity check, my oldest work in progress is coming out of hiding.
I’ve written over 30,000 words of Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle, including a 1,000-word summary of the latter 2/3 of the story. It’s all in the hands of my fact-and-sanity checker to confirm that the story makes sense as I’ve planned it. Once James has confirmed there are no plot holes big enough to chuck a cat through, I will finish it up and send it out upon the waters.
While I’m hands off that story, I did an experiment to see which of my possible ideas I should start work on. Led by emotional events of the past six months I chose the coming-of-age story I started January 1st, 2010 (for the mathematically challenged, that’s 7 years, 4 months, 1 week, and 2 days ago.)
The blurb, for now:
… more … “Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line”
I know, the phrase is cutting to the chase. But that’s not what’s happening.
Poor Jake Calcutta has been in and out of my top drawer a hundred times the past 6 months. I’ve printed bits and read them, highlighting and underlining. I’ve binder-clipped and folded and organized and shuffled. I’ve enlisted pre-alpha readers.
I’ve ignored it mercilessly for weeks at a time.
A third of the way through, Jake left me. Hid out somewhere in the wilderness of Whatcomesnext and no matter how I coaxed, he wouldn’t talk to me.
… more … “Cutting the Chase”
When a songwriter praises your use of language in a novel, it’s hard not to glow like radium.
Hurry up, get in, let’s go. Two stops to make today.
Ladies first: Elizabeth Kaiser joins me in the post Food, Family, Fear. They’re connected, oh yes indeedy.
Then, my friend and editor and occasional drinking buddy Tom ‘BentGuy’ Bentley interviews me about my books, process, and tastes. And we talk waffles. And whiskey.
Today’s stop on the tour is with Cheryl “Burnt Mountain” Campbell.
Cheryl is the hardest working author I’ve ever met. (And, in fact, we have met, when she drove from Maine to Wisconsin to meet the fam. I was touched and impressed. There was Strongbow Cider involved.)
Her books are good and getting better.
Her comments on my revealing psychological ramblings in the post just make it better.
Go. Read. Comment.
Faith Blum has written a detailed review of the latest Phil Brennan book.
I would have preferred 5 stars. Her review, though, is done right: some opinion, but mostly, details that will help any reader decide whether it’s right for them.
Read and comment, eh?
I’ve been a faithful user of AutoCrit ever since I first heard of it. In my opinion, the best automated editing and feedback tool an author can have.
Jocelyn from AutoCrit interviewed me about my long relationship with them and my writing process. Even if you’re not an author, there’s plenty there about Phil Brennan’s latest shenanigans.
Join friends and I this week on a tour round the web with Phil Brennan’s second story, A Still, Small Voice.
Today, Lia London uses the phrase “flamboyantly unassuming” which I find buoyantly amusing. Give her interview with me a read, and chat in the comments, eh?
The hand on my knee was firm. Then, it was crushing. Then, it started to slide the kneecap right off. Despite the pain, I didn’t cry out; in a bizarre comedic moment I wondered if the thing shoved against my ribs was called a ‘silencer’ for more than one reason.
Another survival tip for you, kiddies: no matter how funny you find yourself, don’t smile when the bad guys are interrogating you under physical duress. They don’t like it, and things go downhill fast.
Mr. Big (as in the leader) gestured vaguely toward the bathroom hallway Siobhan had gone down (where was she??) and Mr. ReallyBig the thug dragged me from the booth and shoved me ahead of him down the hallway toward a greasy door at the end.
I had a little more experience with being meekly led to the slaughter, and I wasn’t walking to my own funeral this time. Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley (or maybe the alleys in Galway aren’t dirty; I didn’t remember) or down by the ocean where they’d never find you.
I say I had experience with the concept. I had none with the execution of it. I jerked away from Mr. ReallyBig and ran for the door. Which was locked. I think. I don’t know; it wouldn’t open.
The pain in the back of my head was amazing. At first I thought he’d shot me; then I realized he’d just slugged me with the gun. Not enough to knock me out; contrary to what you see in the movies, that takes more than a light tap. But enough to make me reconsider my flight and, instead, bend over with my head between my hands. I’m no tough guy, I’m an academic, remember?
The apartment was bigger than it looked in the photos online. Real estate must be cheaper in a small town than in the cities. I didn’t know. I’d never lived anywhere but one big city and apartments were even more expensive than renting a small house. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I guess if you’re willing to pay for the benefit of not having a lawn to mow, someone might as well take your money.
I also wasn’t used to having the super live offsite. Though she wasn’t the super, she was the apartment manager. Or owner. I should get that straight. She and her husband lived down the street in a nice little house by the lake.
“Right up the road if pipes burst or you lock yourself out,” Mrs. Wright had said. Mr. Wright was housebound so she had taken care of our business arrangements.
“Now, there’s lots of young men for neighbors, dear, but they’re polite and well-behaved or I wouldn’t have them. So you just make yourself at home.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Wright. I’m not worried about them.”
One eyebrow twitched, and she smiled.
“No, I supposed you’re not. I’m off, then.”
Maybe her intuition works better than mine. Maybe I was advertising more than I realized.
No young man was getting anywhere near me until my heart grew back in the hole left by the young man I’d just left forever.
This is an excerpt from next year’s romantic mystery Anacrusis.
Never believed in situational ethics. While I sympathize with Jean Valjean, he was still a thief. There are plenty of grey areas in life. Honesty isn’t one of them. Honesty is binary: anything you do is honest, or it’s not.
People make mistakes, sure, but if someone steals, and then all they do about it afterward is feel badly, they’re a thief. It’s a fundamental character defect.
A half-penny candy becomes Enron. I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating. Bend the twig and get a crooked tree.
Someone who’ll steal is bent. Bent is bent. Thieves aren’t known for veracity.
Bent is bent.
So when I say “it’s been bothering me,” what I really mean is that you can directly attribute some of this blathering and confusion to the severely disrupted emotional condition I’ve been in since I discovered that someone I feel strongly about, and could feel more strongly about with only a hint of a nudge, didn’t share my rigid moral character.
If that doesn’t make sense to you I suggest you don’t waste any more time on this tale than you already have.
If it does, you’ll know what it costs me to admit I stole something once, and why I’ve locked the memory away.
This is an excerpt from That She is Made of Truth.
To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon
The next Phil Brennan book, A Still, Small Voice, will be published digitally by year end. (The print version won’t be ready until January.)
Here’s a few ways you can be involved, and get cool stuff:
- Sign up for the newsletter before the next edition (it goes out Thursday, December 15th) and you can request a free advance review digital copy when it’s ready. This free offer is only for folks already on the newsletter list before it goes out.
- Preorder the print version, and get the digital version free.
- Share my newsletter link with anyone you know who likes my kind of writing. Copy this link, and paste it in an email, on Facebook, Twitter, wherever:
The preorder page will be ready before the newsletter goes out, but you can preorder any time at all by simply sending $12 to PayPal@Spinhead.com (or for international orders, $25) and tell me it’s for the new Phil Brennan book, A Still, Small Voice.
The door to the large storage room was unlocked, which seemed odd, but perhaps it was intentional. Perhaps Dubin’s plan involved accidental stumblings.
Knob turned, I listened for any sounds.
In the absolute still of the church Niall’s breathing behind me was louder than anything behind the door.
I pushed it open and stepped into the dark.
Accidental stumblings indeed.
As the lights blinded me, I don’t know who was more startled when we collided, me, or Conor Dubin.
I whipped around as the church door slammed. My glimpse of the spot where Niall had been standing was now a glimpse of a heavy wooden door.
Then, it was the inside of the storeroom door, and I was on the wrong side of it with some people I desperately wanted not to see.
This is an excerpt from Into the Fog.
To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon