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”
This month’s newsletter went out two days ago and included a special offer/request for help with my science fiction adventure work in progress, Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.
If you’d like to hear about that opportunity, sign up for the newsletter before next Wednesday’s blog post (the date will be November 23rd) and I’ll resend the info, just for you.
I have my list of scenes for the first Jake Calcutta scifi action/adventure mystery.
I had a list of scenes I knew I needed, but on the computer, I couldn’t get my head around the process to put them in order. Sure, some scenes are obviously early in the story, others later; some are clearly before this one and after that one.
I finally printed out the list, cut it into 3/4″ X 3″ strips color-coded for beginning, middle, and end, and it all fell into place. That’s them in front of my closet door. Almost as tall as my daughter.
How Do I Know Which Scenes I Need?
Good question. Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid provides one answer.
… more … “Scene List for Jake Calcutta Finished”
After three variations I found myself stumped. The third feels right, but is it?
It’s easy to fly through storytelling, getting my readers to The End with the least fuss.
It’s better to make the critical scenes more than simply the conveyance of information. The deeper I dig into the core scenes, those that turn the story’s direction, the more memorable and emotionally fulfilling they are.
I’ve never done that, pushing myself to rewrite a scene multiple ways, looking for the best version. In the past, I’ve been satisfied to note the scene’s purpose, write a direct sequence of actions fulfilling that purpose, and let my editor tidy it up.
If he tidies brass, you get highly polished brass.
I want my books to be solid gold.
“I have money.”
He didn’t reply. She tried again.
“My owner will pay whatever ransom you want.”
“How much am I worth to you?”
“Stop talking. If you were only a possession to barter with you would already have been sold.”
“Then what am I? Why are you taking me?” She suspected an answer but wondered if he would respond.
“Don’t I have a right to —”
He slapped the back of her head. “Stop talking. I won’t say it again.”
She turned. “I will not. If you intend to drag me through the forest you will hear me every step of the way.”
He had stopped a moment after her, one step too close. As he slid his machete from his belt she kicked him, hard, below that belt.
Before the machete dropped from his hands she was holding it.
“Do not follow me.”
He backed away. She stepped closer and flicked the machete in her two hands. The middle of his tunic split; just a small split, but the tip had touched him.
He continued backing away.
She turned and ran without a backward glance.
“Keep moving.” He shoved her.
Stifling rage, she smiled coyly. “I thought this might be a good place.”
As she stepped closer he raised his arms to either attack or defend depending on what she did next. “A good place for what?”
She softened the smile and tilted her head slightly. “Unless you don’t want to . . .”
That was the look she was expecting. All men everywhere were the same.
He lowered his arms.
She stepped closer and raised her bound hands. “Aren’t you going to untie me first?”
His face reddened and he put one hand on his machete. He leaned and stepped at the same time, his nose nearly touching hers.
As he opened his mouth to shout at her no sound came. Her hands were locked behind his neck, the thick rope pressing against the front and sides.
When he was unconscious she let him fall, took the machete, and fled back down the path. Time enough to free her hands when she was out of his earshot.
Her captor was no match for her in the forest. Any opening was enough for her to slip away.
Every few minutes his pace changed; he slowed, to check behind or to rest or simply because it was how he marched.
She started counting.
The third time, it was almost exactly the same count.
The fourth time, she anticipated, quickened her pace, and was hidden among the trees before he could touch her.
In my latest newsletter I asked for input about which of these works in progress should get my attention after I finish A Still, Small Voice and Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle. (If you want in on stuff like this, sign up for my newsletter.)
- The 3rd Irish adventure — From the Fog (follows Through the Fog and Into the Fog)
- A 3rd Phil Brennan mystery — A Short, Sharp Shock (follows A Long, Hard Look and A Still, Small Voice [not yet published])
- More scifi/adventure — another Jake Calcutta (follows Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle [not yet published])
- More Jesse Donovan (follows That She Is Made of Truth)
- The Village Id — a witty cozy mystery set in a small English village filled with quirky characters; very P. G. Wodehouse. Check out the 1st chapter.
- Coming of age story — a young teen’s life is disrupted when his family has to move in with relatives; he turns to music for comfort
- Anacrusis (a mystery with a female lead) — A woman dumps her unfaithful fiancee and moves to a small town where two men amorously pursue her, while one of them awaits the life insurance payoff from the first wife he murdered.
… more … “And the Winner Is . . . (What I’m Writing Next)”
Sweat staining his leather jerkin and breeches, the old warrior moved quietly through between the potbellied drum trees. Not silently; silence took longer. It was the eternal balance of the predator: silence is slow and speed is not silent.
He knew the balance he needed for any quest. How much speed. How much silence.
It was, after all, how he had become an old warrior rather then finishing his course on earth as many young warriors did: prey rather than predator.
Any creature which noted his passing would be confused, smelling the rottenness of death, the sweetness of overripe fruit, and the encyclopedic scents revealed in the droppings of the largest of the prey animals.
… more … “The Old Warrior (from ‘Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle’)”
No, I’m not publishing the whole thing here. Not this time. But y’all may as well read a sample chapter and tell me whether you’re awaiting it with bated breath so I can hurry and finish it up.
I’m a Fixer, a keeper of the Temporal Lisle, the thread that, literally, holds time together.
It was how Jake Calcutta could have introduced himself to anyone he met. He never would, of course. The Fixers, or more properly Deputies of the Agency for Prevention of Historically Anomalous Events, or APHAE, were the Agency’s most guarded secret.
The only secret guarded more closely was the existence of the Temporal Lisle itself, but that couldn’t rightly be said to be their secret; it was simply the way the universe was bound together.
Time, the founders of APHAE had learned, was not the abstract concept commoners held it to be. It was, in fact, a physical construct, a real and literal thing which could be seen, observed, touched. … more … “Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle, Chapter 1”
All that free space in my brain erupted today.
After spending the morning list all 64 scenes for A Still, Small Voice (14% written!) I sat down this afternoon and slashed the fat grease pencils all over 8 or 9 pages of legal paper and outlined (fanfare!)
I can barely contain myself.