Posted by petercruikshank
One of the biggest issues I have come across in writing Fantasy is the timing within the storyline; and in the case of a novel with multiple storylines, how these different storylines relate to each other within the timeline of the overall novel. These problems are not as magnified if you are writing a single storyline from a single Point of View or a very linear storyline, but they still exist nonetheless.
In my first novel, Fire of the Covenant, I didn’t worry about this until after I completed the First Draft. Actually I didn’t think about it at all as I was writing the draft. I went with the philosophy that you just sit and write until you are finished and then go back and fix the crappy draft. The fact that I actually published Fire proves this strategy works. However, I spent a lot of effort fixing timeline problems during Revision that I could have avoided with just a little forethought and minimal effort.
When I was going through Revision on Fire I struggled when I tried to match up the storylines. Now, you have to understand I thought I had created the storylines so they would just fall in line with each other. So you can imagine my surprise, and subsequent depression, when I found that I had a major disaster on my hands. The storylines didn’t line up at all and even the scene sequences within most of the storylines didn’t make sense. The biggest surprise I discovered was that the scene sequence in one storyline could impact the sequence in a different storyline. The end result was that after a lot of fiddling with chapters and timelines, I ended up throwing out ten chapters and created twelve new ones to replace them. I also had to rewrite a number of other chapters once I realigned everything so that the timelines made sense for all the storylines. This little process took me weeks to sort everything out before I could even start writing the new chapters and to revise the mis-aligned ones.
You might be saying to yourself “I only have one storyline so this isn’t a problem”. If you answer yourself then there may be more issues here than I can resolve. I would disagree with you, both the you asking questions and the one answering. Getting the timeline correct early on is just important in the single storyline manuscript as it is in a multiple storyline book. If you are like me you have read a novel where some character does something in one scene then the next thing you read is that the character rode their horse to another location, overnight, and a hundred-and-fifty miles away. Unless it is a magical horse, this would be pretty much absurd. You can pick your own unbelievable location/incident vs time availability, but it happens in all forms of fiction and in every sized book.
The other benefit of having a good understanding of your storyline/timeline relationship is that it helps you grasp where you are in the manuscript and what you still need to write. I know some people like to outline their entire novel before they start writing their first words, what are known as Plotterswhat we call “Pantsers” – you write by the “seat of your pants”, or if you are like me, are somewhere in between. I have one pant leg on when I start writing my First Draft. When I began Fire, I knew some of the main scenes that the manuscript must contain, but many of the intervening scenes were just a wisp of random thoughts floating somewhere in the back of my mind and didn’t come out until I was far into the book.
I had started the draft for Betrayal with the intention of writing it like I had Fire. I just kept writing, going from one scene to the next. Which I admit is a little difficult with multiple storylines, but thought I could untangle any issues during Revision. This worked fine until I had written a big chunk of the draft, then I was having a little trouble figuring out some of the remaining scenes. What exactly did they need to cover and where did they go in the sequencing? I also wondered exactly how much more I needed to finish the draft.
I started going through the scenes and quickly realized that not all the storylines aligned (this created a terrifying flashback to what I encountered during Revision of Fire). I also noticed that there were some holes in the storylines that I had not expected. Looking at my scene list in Scrivener, and trying to juggle the sequencing in my mind, only bewildered and frustrated me. I decided I needed a way to identify the individual scenes in each storyline and align them along the same overall time line. But how?
Writing is such a creative process, as they say “right brained”, but my problem required a “left brain” solution. Luckily I had my past experience to fall back on. Much of my career had been spent in the business world with my forte being in organizing data. So I drew upon this experience to tackle my problem.
I tried to think what could help solve this problem and let my mind drift back to my time as a project manager. I remembered how I tracked the different tasks and the sequencing of the tasks. What I did to manage the tasks was create a Pert Chart. Pert stands for Program (project) Evaluation and Review Technique. These Pert Charts are a standard tool for analyzing a projects progress and also to plan and schedule complex tasks. It relies upon CPM, Critical Path Method, which list of all activities required to complete a project, time duration for each activity and the dependencies between the activities.
Okay, enough business talk. What this all means is that thinking of my scenes as activities, something similar to a Pert Chart would allow me to figure out what scenes I had already written, how they fit within the novels overall time line, and how the scenes interacted with each other.
I used a software program, not one designed for project management, but something I could bastardize to give me what I needed. However, it would be a lot easier, for this post, if I describe what I did as a manual process.
I started by creating 3×5 cards for every chapter/scene I had already written and the ones I thought I still needed to write. Each card contained the tentative chapter name and number, the character(s) whose Point of View is used in the chapter, the storyline it belonged with, and a short description of the scenes in the chapter. Then I laid them out on the floor by storyline so I could check the sequence of each storyline. Next I aligned the 3×5 cards for the different storylines with each other (I have five storylines in this book). The other issue I had to deal with was how did these sequenced 3×5 cards align to the overall timeline for the entire manuscript?
I know some authors who put the timeline day on the top of the 3×5 card and then just put them in order by this date. This provides some degree of alignment, but for me it doesn’t provide the overall big picture of the manuscript and doesn’t provide the necessary relationship between storylines.
The easiest way to resolve the timeline and storyline relationship issue was to lay out big sheets of paper, possibly blank newspaper sheets or poster board. If you have a lot of chapters like me, you might even need to put a couple next to each other to make it big enough. Then I wrote the days for the timeline across the top, then laid out the 3×5 cards, by storyline, under the timeline written at the top. As you would expect, they didn’t quite align and the other big thing I discovered was that there were entire scenes missing. In fact, rather than needing twelve more chapters to finish my book, as I originally thought, I needed twenty-three. So after creating 3×5 cards for the “new” chapters; which I colored in blue to distinguish them from existing chapters, I drew lines between the cards for each storyline and also lines where the storylines interacted. The below image is a digital representation of what this might look like, though I changed some of the information so I don’t give away the story :-)
In contrast to the weeks I spent during Revision with Fire, I did the above in a day-and-a-half. Not only did I complete the process quickly, but having this all mapped out has allowed me to write quickly and with a lot more passion. I knew where I was going and how to get there.
Not that this is a perfect process. I have found that as I continue to write the missing chapters, I am still moving the cards around a little and have added at least one more new chapter… so far.
I could never be an “Plotter”, as I really have no idea exactly how the manuscript will flow when I start it. As I mentioned, I have a few scenes in mind and know where I want the book to end up, but most of the scenes come to me as I write them. Using the above process I was able to use my “Pantser” mentality until I got to a point where I could use my bastardized version of a Pert Chart to figure out how the rest of the manuscript would turn out.
The manual approach I used above was how I figured out the timeline alignment for Fire of the Covenant during Revision. Again, it took a couple of weeks. Not because it was a manual process, but because it was after-the-fact and rather than planning how I was going to finish the First Draft, I had to tear apart work that was already written. I am a digital type of person, so for the current book, Betrayal of the Covenant, I am using a software program to perform this timeline/storyline process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a software program that did exactly what I wanted, so I used a “freeform” program, Scapple, that I made work. Below is a major portion of the timeline I created (manipulated via Scapple).
The outgrowth of being a “Pantser/Plotter” is that I discovered the shortfalls quicker than I did in my last book, and I will be able to cut my Revision time by more than half – remember the ten chapters I wrote that I had to trash and all the rewriting to make a number of other chapters align between the storylines? I already know what chapters I need and as I write them, I will know how they align to the overall timeline.
I am always open to new ideas, so I would be interested in how you deal with timelines and their relationship to the storylines.
Posted by Cat-Gerlach
As you might have noticed, over the summer things have gone a little quiet over here. That’s not due to a loss of interest but to a wave of realife-a-titis. Several of our regular members have been extremely busy or are coping with personal disasters, so much of what we usually do falls to the wayside.
Take Will for example. I hoisted my middle daughter onto him, and now he’s doomed to live with a teen in puberty who can’t even speak the language properly for a fortnight. That’s taxing (although I have to admit, she’s a rather nice teen).
And I’ve been struggling to get my eldest prepared for her first ever job, and my youngest needs to be taken places so she won’t be jealous that she couldn’t fly to America too. Others are struggling with their health or with novel-birthing pains.
However, we will be returning to our regular schedule soon.
Don’t give up on us.
Posted by Will
Will you look at all the dust in this dungeon! How long has it been since the last vict- er, guest author was here? Let me just clear out the worst of it over in this corner, by the sharp things. Gad, if she’s allergic to mites it will be enough just to bring her in here. And by the way, bring her in here.
We are delighted to welcome– yes, that chain around the ankles, fool, have you forgotten your job– Ms. Jamie Marchant, who fell into our clutches during her blog tour for The Soul Stone. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure previously, but we’ll soon get everything we need from her. Just let me find my favorite bullwhip- ah there, covered in grime. Let us begin.
Q: So where do you come from, author-person? Your location in the Alleged Real World is of no consequence here; we want to know your roots as an author. When you were young and still contemplating your life of crime, whose temptations swayed you the most in reading? Was it always fantasy for you, or did you come to the genre late in life?
Jamie: As is often the case, my family first led me astray, especially my older sister who told me fairy tales and encouraged me to write ones of my own. In my teen years, I fell under the influence of Piers Anthony and Stephen R. Donaldson. As an adult, Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher completed my corruption until I was irredeemably a fantasy fan, but as you see, the seeds of fantasy were planted in me before I was old enough to read for myself. I really didn’t have a chance.
Q: I completely understand, blaming others is typical in these cases. Bailiff, fetch us this sister and we shall have a talk next. Tell us a bit about Korthlundia where your tales are set. Your main characters seem neck-deep in royal intrigues, on their guard every minute. Is the world also at war all the time? Do regular folks suffer from whomever it is opposing the goddess who has picked your heroes to help? I mean, what kind of a world are we dealing with here?
Jamie: Korthlundia had enjoyed over fifty years of unbroken peace because of its geographical isolation and the wise rule of Samantha’s father, King Solar. Both the nobles and common people prospered. The troubles in Korthlundia began when Duke Argblutal murdered the king and attempted to usurp the throne. Samantha was only nineteen years old, but she and Robrek put him in his place, six feet under, at the end of my first book, The Goddess’s Choice. However, the nobles aren’t too keen about a young woman and a common young man taking the throne, and the unrest is starting to affect regular folk as well. This is especially true when, in my second book, the Soul Stone breaks loose from its ancient bonds and begins to kill indiscriminately.
Q: Excellent! Always good to hear that a villain with an unpronounceable name is dead. Removes so much worry. Coming back to your heroes, you make it clear that Crown Princess Samantha and Robrek, the common-class sorceror, are from very different walks of life. They have very separate talents too. And busy! Saving the world makes for a crowded calendar, I suppose, but if these two are destined to marry, do they happen to see anything in each other along the way? Or is this going to be a marriage of fate and not the heart? (That is, assuming they make it long enough!)
Jamie: As the crown princess, Samantha had always believed that she couldn’t marry for love. This becomes especially difficult for her when she meets and falls for a common peasant boy at a horse fair. Although she comes to learn that Robrek is a powerful sorcerer and nowhere near as common as she first believed, she thinks an unbridgeable gap divides them. Only in bard’s tales do peasants marry princesses. At the end of The Goddess’s Choice, she is overjoyed when the Goddess reveals Robrek to be her choice for her consort. Theirs is very much an affair of the heart as well as of fate. However, in The Soul Stone, it appears that Robrek won’t live long enough for them to enjoy their love.
Q: You mention getting all geared up on literature in school, but then putting the writing itself on hold for a long time before taking up the pen to write about places like Korthlundia. I accuse the Alleged Real World of criminal trespass into your free time! Bailiff, take the ARW into custody, we’ll deal with it later. But what does the victim have to say? Did you not know this was what you wanted, or were you always thinking about it.
Jamie: I knew since I was a young child that I wanted to be a writer, but this ARW you speak of seduced me with the idea of making money. It took a few years for me to realize I was the victim of a con. Yes, one has to eat, but professional success can’t compensate for the absence of the creative muse.
Q: How would you describe your success so far, and what have been the keys to further exposure in your opinion? Are you happy with sales, with new outlets, and professional connections you’ve made? Are you mainly a paper book author, or did you lean on e-book sales early on?
Jamie: I’m not sure that any author, especially one published by a small press, is ever happy with sales. Getting sufficient exposure for my work is difficult, but I’ve been making progress with connecting with other authors and bloggers via the internet. While my books are all available in paperback, it is the e-book sales that make up the greatest portion of my books sales, which seems to be typical.
Enough, we are satisfied for now and hereby order your release. You may keep the manacle as a souvenir. Just leave us your information, where we can find your confessions (I mean, writing) and the proper links to seek you out for further punishment in the future.
Author Bio: Jamie Marchant
From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.
She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.
Links to Jamie’s Books
Contact Jamie Everywhere
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, finishes in this 6th and final installment. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Dani! (Look for information about her NEXT adventure at the end of this post :D )
by Deb Logan
I SPENT THAT EVENING trying to convince myself Warwick James was a scam artist or a serial killer. Anything to erase the exceptionally abnormal future he’d outlined for me. What did I know about demons? Why would I want to hunt them? As far as I knew, no demon had ever harmed me or mine. Wouldn’t Mom counsel me to live and let live?
And what about Mom and Dad? How were they supposed to take the news that their only daughter would never be the epitome of graceful femininity they desired? That she was instead destined to be a warrior charged with protecting the human race? They didn’t want a guard dog; they wanted a pampered Pomeranian.
I stalked from room to room of our comfortable home, unable to settle anywhere. The kitchen taunted me with visions of the girl I’d never be. If I were more like Allie, I’d be warm and welcoming like its terra cotta red walls and pale lemon curtains, nourishing like the contents of its hickory cabinets, accomplished like the woman who ruled the heart of our home: my mother.
The great room, usually my retreat of choice, repelled me tonight. My brothers and their friends had gathered to watch a pre-season football game on Dad’s awesome eighty-inch high-definition television. I could fit in with a roomful of guys, no problem. I’d been fitting in with guys since birth. But tonight I needed to think, and the guys’ rowdy antics would kill higher brain function.
The formal living room mocked me. Every piece of furniture in that room knew its place and function better than I did, same with the elegance of the rarely used dining room. One of the bathrooms? No. Unless I wanted to settle in for a soak, someone would be beating on the door in a matter of moments. Bedrooms? All were off limits except my own, and I felt like a caged animal pacing round and round my bed. I briefly considered sitting on top of the washer in the laundry room, but the white enameled metal looked cold and uncomfortable.
My restless wandering finally drove me outdoors — not far out, I remembered Wick’s warning — onto the wide, covered porch that wrapped three sides of our two-story home. I settled on a cushioned patio chair and stared across the street into the familiar shadows of Loomiller Park.
On an ordinary night, I could’ve stared for hours at the well-known tree shadows, the mirror smooth lake that was really little more than a pond, the winding walkways and seen no more than the outline of an occasional Canada goose. Heard no more than the peaceful chirping of crickets or the breeze sighing through the foliage. But tonight was no ordinary night. Tonight I possessed the senses of a demon hunter, and the normally quiet park teemed with life of a type I hadn’t known existed until yesterday.
Demons of all shapes and sizes crowded the edges of our property. They crawled across the streets, climbed on the kiddie play equipment, splashed in the shallows of the lake, and hung from branches of the evergreens. But mostly, they stared at me. Hundreds of pairs of eyes gleamed in the darkness of the still August night.
A paralyzing chill clenched my spine in an icy fist. An impulse to jump and run seized my brain, but my feet and legs refused to act. Like a rabbit charmed by a swaying snake, I stared into their eyes and drowned in fear. I was no demon hunter. I was prey. How could one untrained teenage girl hope to survive when the night teemed with such … such … filth?
Filth? I shook my head, breaking eye contact and laughed. Not a happy giggle, but a terrified, ironic chuckle. Something deep inside had challenged the thought the demon horde had tried to plant. Yes, I was young and untrained, but an unacknowledged spark in my soul recognized them for what they were, filthy vermin to be hunted from the face of the earth.
“Thanks, guys,” I murmured, rising and walking to the door with a newborn calm. “You’ve convinced me. I’m a demon hunter in need of training.” I smiled, waved a salute to the unholy creatures only I could see, and strode to the great room to join my brothers. “See you in the morning, Mr. James,” I murmured to myself as I grabbed a handful of popcorn from Jamie’s bowl.
Settling into my favorite chair, I smiled as the buttery goodness of popcorn melted on my tongue. I finally knew who I was. Never again would I see myself as a clumsy, too-tall imitation of Allie. No, I was exactly who I was meant to be. Dani Heleen Erickson: Demon Hunter Extraordinaire!
Thanks for reading DEMON DAZE!
Want to know more about Dani? Be sure to look for SCHOOL DAZE…
Dani Erickson is a hereditary demon hunter. The seventh child of a seventh child, she was born to battle the nasty monsters she sees infesting her small Colorado town. With the help of her best friend Allie and her sensei Warwick James, she’s getting into fighting trim — just in time for her first day of high school.
Demons beware. Dani’s on the prowl!
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 5th of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
I WANTED TO RIP OPEN the door and run for my life, but I couldn’t. My knees wobbled, my lungs seized, my heart pounded like my brother Seth’s drums, and a series of cold chills played tag on my spine. And you don’t want to know about my stomach. Trust me. Too much information doesn’t begin to cover it.
But sooner than I would’ve expected, my racing brain calmed. A serene acceptance washed through my mind and I knew, absolutely, positively, with no question of doubt, that whoever Warwick James might be, he’d spoken the truth. I was a born and bred Demon Hunter.
I slipped sideways away from the door and leaned against the peeling paint of an interior wall. One by one my pieces parts returned to normal until I found the strength to speak.
“I’m a demon hunter.” A simple statement of fact, and once the words were out, I straightened away from the wall, stronger and more sure of myself than I’d ever been in my life. I made eye contact with Wick and nodded. “I’m a demon hunter.”
Concern fled from his face and he smiled like a proud father presented with his first-born. “Yes, Miss Erickson. You are a demon hunter, and I am your guardian.”
A small frown pulled at my eyebrows. “Why would a demon hunter need a guardian? Besides, I already have a father and six brothers.”
“True, but can they teach you to fight? Can they see demons? Can they watch your back while you learn the skills you’ll need to survive?”
I chewed my lower lip and prowled the room, keeping my new awareness centered on Wick. “You can see demons? You can train me?”
“I can and I will. That is my purpose: to find demon hunters and protect them while I train them to protect mankind.”
“I’m missing something here. If you can see demons and already know how to fight, why do you need me?”
He pivoted slowly on the spot, keeping me squarely in the center of his vision despite my pacing. “I’m not a demon hunter, Miss Erickson. I don’t have your, shall we say built-in radar? I can fight them and make a nuisance of myself, but I cannot kill them. That power is reserved for your kind.” He bowed his head in acknowledgement of my superior abilities.
“I will be your mentor and trainer, but you, Miss Erickson, are the demon hunter.”
I stopped pacing, faced him, and planted my fists on my hips. “What is this place? Why did you bring me here?”
He held out his arms and completed a slow circle. “This is my new business, a martial arts academy. I will teach Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, and Kendo. You will learn a blend of all of them while developing your own unique style.”
“Doesn’t look like much,” I muttered.
He threw back his head and laughed so loud the room echoed with his mirth. When the explosion of sound died back, he wiped his eyes and said, “Give me a chance, Miss Erickson. Madame Simone and I have barely had time to set our plans in motion. She only confirmed your burgeoning power on Saturday night. I think I’ve done well to find a Main Street location on such short notice.”
My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. “Madame Simone? Do you mean that wacko fortune teller from the carnival?”
“Language, Miss Erickson. Madame Simone is a gifted psychic. She and I have been with the carnival for years. The perfect cover for traveling around the country checking up on families that might possibly produce a demon hunter. Now that we’ve found you, we will settle in Longmont and other members of our clan will make the rounds.” He shook his head. “Possibles are far too few these days.”
I filed that comment away for future consideration and wandered back to the door. “Okay. So let’s assume I buy this crazy story,” I said, all too aware of the lie implied. I believed him and he knew it. How could I not? Even now I sensed three demonic entities roaming Longmont’s peaceful streets … and they were just the ones in range of my newly awakened weird-o-meter. “What do you expect me to do?”
He strode to the door, reached for the knob and opened it for me with a small bow. “I expect you to assimilate your new knowledge. Rest tonight. Think about what you’ve learned, and come back tomorrow ready to begin your training.”
I stared at him for a moment and then stepped out into the late August sunshine. “I’ve got to meet my brother.”
“I’ll look for you around ten,” he said, joining me on the sidewalk. He glanced up and down the street before continuing, “I’ll shadow you back to your brother. For your own safety, go straight home and stay there. The home of a hunter is sacrosanct. You will always be safe there, as will anyone else within its walls. Be vigilant, Miss Erickson. You are now aware of demons; they are also aware of you.”
With that cheery thought, I headed north to meet Jamie, Warwick James following at a discreet distance.
Thanks for reading! The 6th and final scene will be posted on 7/27/15.
Posted by Cat-Gerlach
I worked like mad to set up the full omnibus of William L. Hahn’s “Judgement’s Tale” in time for July 4th. Unfortunately I didn’t get it done due to some unforeseen difficulties with font sizes and POD-supliers. It might take another week before the book will finally be available in stores all over the world since we’re trying a new printing service: Ingram Spark.
So what are my impressions when I compare Ingram Spark and Createspace (keeping in mind that I haven’t even finished setting up the first title yet)?
+ With IngramSpark the price for printing a book is very low which means it will be possible to keep the selling price as low as POD allows.
+ Also, in contrast to Createspace, it is possible to set up hardcover books which I will need to do for an Early Reader story I’ve planned.
+ Regular bookshops prefer buying books from Ingram for their customers since Amazon is such a big competitor.
+ With Ingram Spark, it is possible to decide how big a margin the bookshops will get which directly influences the final selling price (naturally, the higher the margin the more likely bookshops will stock the book).
+ Ingram Sparks distributes to places where Createspace doesn’t get to, although I’ve read that CS’s expanded distribution is the same as Ingram Sparks. If I find confirmation, this point gets cancelled. :D
– Setting up a title costs $49 in Ingram and if I need to make changes, it will be an additional $25 per file (cover or book block). So I need to be extra vigilant with spotting mistakes and errors. It can become costly easily if I’d have to change things often. Createspace is completely free.
– From the second year on, distributing your books will cost an additional $12 per title per year. Depending on the margin I calculate for my imprint (usually $1 per title sold), I will need to sell at least 12 copies every year to make this worthwhile. With Createspace this doesn’t cost a thing.
o Both setup processes are simple and straightforward. It’s fairly easy to understand what needs to be done next.
So all in all, using Ingram is as easy as using Createspace. Whether we’ll sell more printed books that way remains to be seen. I’ll keep you posted.
Posted in or browse all books
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 4th of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
THE NEXT MORNING I hitched a ride downtown with Jamie. That sounds a lot more exciting than it was. Downtown Longmont was a nicely renovated street of Mom and Pop stores, but most of the action was on the west edge of town at the mall. However, the piece of paper Warwick James had slipped me the day before specified a Main Street address, so that’s where I headed.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Jamie asked for about the forty-fourth time. “Maybe I should stay with you.”
“Jamie, please. Do you think Mom would’ve let me out of the house if there was anything to worry about?” That stopped him. Mom was one of those old-fashioned women whose career was home and family. Nothing slipped past her where her children were concerned.
“Okay. You win. I’ll pick you up in front of Perks A Plenty at noon. Don’t be late.”
I slammed the car door, leaned back in the open window, and blew him a kiss. “Not to worry. I’ll be there.”
He shook his head, waved me off the car, and pulled away from the curb.
I glanced at the slip of paper and strode south down the wide sidewalk. The address was about a block south of the renovated portion of Main Street. Not yet to the train tracks, but beyond the well-groomed shopping district. I halted in front of what appeared to be an abandoned storefront. Wide display windows covered with brown paper stared back at me. Chipped white paint above and below the windows shouted the building’s need for repair. A small, hand-lettered placard announced a budding business:
Longmont’s Own Martial Arts Academy.
Classes Enrolling Now!
I shivered, but reached for the doorknob. What choice did I have? Warwick James had promised to explain things, and I desperately wanted information. I hadn’t seen any more monsters, but my newly acquired weird-o-meter told me they were still there, lurking just beyond my field of vision. I wanted them gone. I didn’t want to know that the monster under the bed was real or that his cousin really was hiding in the closet.
Pushing open the door, I stepped into a large, dimly lit room. My footsteps rang against ancient linoleum floors and echoed off walls in need of a fresh coat of paint. The paper-covered windows washed the room with a diffused amber glow, causing the glare of an electric bulb from a half-open door in the back wall to stand out like a flashing neon sign.
“Hello. Is anyone here? Mr. James?” I listened as the echoes of my voice died away. No response. Much as I wanted answers, my sense of self-preservation refused to allow me to walk to the back of the room and step into that well-lit doorway. I turned toward the front door. Warwick James had found me once; he could find me again.
“I’m glad you came, Miss Erickson.”
I nearly gave myself whiplash, jumping and turning in a less than smooth movement. Warwick James stood just a few feet from me. How had he gotten so close so fast? I frowned and studied the strange man who had appeared out of nowhere to release me from yesterday’s spasm. Tall, trim, with good muscle tone. Definitely not a guy who lived on pizza and beer. Short brown hair and neatly trimmed mustache and beard, his blue-green eyes sparkled with humor. All in all, a good-looking guy, if you’re interested in middle-aged men. I’m not.
“How do you know my name?”
“I know your family well, Miss Erickson.” He raised an eyebrow and waved an arm in the direction of the back room. “Would you join me in the back? We can sit down and discuss this in more comfort there.”
“No thanks. I’d prefer to stay near the door.” I glanced over my shoulder, gauging the distance to the sidewalk outside. Not far. I could sprint it easily. Exit plan decided, I turned back to Mr. James. “How do you know my family? I’ve never seen you before.”
“As you wish,” he said with a shrug, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You misunderstand. I said I know your family well. I didn’t say I was a family friend or even an acquaintance. You see, Miss Erickson, yesterday was the first time I’ve ever spoken to a member of your family, though I’ve been studying them for years.”
A shiver ran down my spine and I backed a step closer to the front door.
“Please don’t run away. You need to understand what’s happening to you and why.”
“So get to the point,” I said continuing back until the doorknob was within easy reach. To my immense relief, Warwick James remained in the middle of the room.
“You had, shall we say, visions, yesterday. You saw things that can’t possibly exist. Things no one else in your family saw. Am I correct?”
“That ability is the reason I’ve been observing your family. I’ve been watching, waiting for your power to manifest.”
Silence descended on the room. A heartbeat, two … fifteen or twenty passed. Neither of us spoke. Finally, when the pressure of words waiting to be released was palpable, I caved.
“You were watching … me?”
“Not at first. Your father’s family first drew our attention. Thirteen children is uncommon in this day and age. The stage was set, the potential for your ability to manifest existed. So we waited, checking back each year. Noting new members, new births. Updating the genealogical records. Do you know what we were waiting for?”
My shoulders relaxed, the knot in my stomach eased, and I snorted. “Don’t tell me. You’re one of those ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ fanatics. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but one: I’m a girl; two: you’ve got the wrong branch of the family. Uncle Gus is the seventh son, and unfortunately for you, he and Aunt Ellen can’t have kids.”
The jerk had the nerve to smile.
“I’m not disappointed Miss Erickson, not in the least. Your family’s understanding of the ability is incomplete. Yes, a seventh-seventh is required, but gender is not an issue. We were never interested in your Uncle Gus — though we were amused by your family’s delight in producing a seventh son. Your father was always the object of our study.”
I jumped and grabbed the doorknob for support. “My father?”
“Yes. Your father. The seventh child in his family. Only the fifth son, but the seventh child. And you, Miss Erickson, what does that make you?”
I swallowed and tried to speak, but my tongue felt swollen and the inside of my mouth was too dry to function.
He nodded. “That’s right. You, Dani Heleen Erickson, are the seventh child of a seventh child. You are the hereditary Demon Hunter.”
Thanks for reading! Part 5 will be posted on 7/13/15.
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 3rd of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
BOULDER RESERVOIR SPARKLED in the afternoon sun, inviting the people on shore to step into its cool water. Our extended family’s annual end of the summer bash was underway. Partly my birthday party, partly an excuse to barbecue, swim, and laze in the sun before everyone went back to school. And I do mean everyone. Several of Dad’s brothers and sisters were teachers, everything from preschool to university professors, but not Dad. My dad was an architect, a partner at one of Boulder’s most prestigious firms. Mountain lodges designed to withstand Rocky Mountain snow loads were his specialty. Too bad we lived down on the flats.
One of the great things about family gatherings was that they grounded me in reality. Sometimes being the youngest of seven weighed on me. I mean, none of my friends came from such humongous families. Two, three, even four kids, that was normal, but seven? What were Mom and Dad thinking? Then we’d have a family gathering and I’d realize that in Dad’s world, a family of seven kids was kind of minimalistic. Dad fell right smack in the middle of thirteen — seven boys and six girls. Now that’s a family!
Anyhow, I was lazing under a tree with a couple of my cousins, having had enough sugar and exercise for my lifetime, when my vision went wonky. Everything kind of twisted and blurred. I rubbed my forehead, blinked a few times, and focused on Jamie. My youngest brother — who was still three years my senior — was entertaining some of the younger boys by walking on his hands. I could see him, right down to the goofy grin on his face, but he was encased in a deep purple haze.
I blinked again and shifted my gaze to Mike. The doctor-in-training sprawled in a lawn chair a few yards away, a cell phone held to his ear and surrounded by a pale blue fog. Though the hand touching the phone glowed lime green. I closed my eyes and stretched out on the tartan picnic blanket.
I’d obviously had too much sun. A few minutes’ rest would put me right as rain.
I could say something to Mom, but who wanted to be treated like an invalid on her birthday? Certainly not me! Sure, fourteen wasn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t be getting my driver’s license or even a learner’s permit, but still … a birthday is a birthday. You take your celebrations where you find them. Especially when you’re the youngest of seven, and the only girl.
“What’s wrong, squirt? You look a little green.”
I squinted up to find Jamie peering at me. He knelt beside me, looking all buff and tan from a summer of lifeguarding at the local pool, but he was still covered in that weird purple haze which was quickly modifying to a rich blue. Actually looked quite good with his ice-blue eyes and sun-bleached chestnut hair.
“Gee, thanks!” the corners of my mouth twitched, but it was hard to smile when your brother looked like he’d been cocooned in blue silk. “It’s nothing. Something’s weird with my eyes. Stuff is … hazy.”
Jamie scowled. He turned to Mike. “Hey, lover-boy! Get off the phone and come over here. Something’s wrong with Dani.”
Mike turned, eyes dark and irritable, ready to yell at Jamie … and stopped. His jaw slackened and his eyes widened. He mumbled a few words, snapped the phone shut, and sprinted to my side.
“What’s wrong, Dani? Did you eat something bad?” Mike scrutinized my face, his eyes narrowing. Cool fingers encircled my wrist as the physician-to-be assessed his little sister. He dropped my hand and scowled. “Tell me you’re not stupid enough to be messing with drugs!”
“Wha-” That was the extent of my snappy comeback. My jaw locked and no further sound passed my lips.
My heart slammed against my ribcage like a passenger in a speeding car that had braked too suddenly. Panic clawed at my throat, but not a sound escaped. I was locked inside my own skull looking at everyone through silky gauze layers. Could Mike be right? Had someone drugged my potato salad?
“MOM!” Jamie scrambled to his feet and fled to the pavilion on the other side of the park.
Mike moved into Jamie’s position, a worried frown replacing the scowl. His pale blue fog deepened to purple and pulsed in a rapid beat. The visual assault dizzied me, so I closed my eyes again. At least my eyelids still obeyed.
A flurry of voices rode the wind off the reservoir, alerting me to the imminent arrival of my parents, buoyed by a wave of aunts and uncles. With the familiar chatter of family came a decidedly unfamiliar sensation: awareness. Each person who approached was heralded by a distinct bubble pushing against the boundary of my conscious mind. Though my eyes remained closed, I could identify each and every person in our quadrant of the park. I knew exactly where they stood in relation to me, could judge their level of agitation by the color of the bubble. Worse yet, other blips appeared on my psychedelic radar. Not the comfortable, concerned, well-rounded bubbles of my extended family, but twisted, dark blips that oozed like malignant wounds.
My eyes popped open. Each family member stood right where I expected, but the blips weren’t visible. No. That wasn’t true. The air shimmered where the blips should be.
“What is it, Dani?” asked Mom, her voice soft and soothing. She slipped to the ground beside me and searched my face with a concerned gaze. “Tell me where it hurts.”
A shimmer intensified and I shifted my gaze from Mom to the anomaly. Maybe if I squinted…
A creature sprang into existence and eyed me with curiosity.
I recoiled, horrified by its scaly maroon skin, long filthy claws, and sharp, protruding teeth. The vaguely humanoid being stood erect and wore a torn, brown tunic. Its eyes, black and dangerous, glittered with intelligence, and something else — some dark amusement.
I shuddered and closed my eyes, but my awareness only heightened. More blips accumulated, surrounding my family. Drawn like sharks to blood. But what drew them? And why could I see them when my family obviously couldn’t?
“She started to say something,” Mike explained, “then, I don’t know. It’s like she seized. I think we should call an ambulance. I don’t want to move her, but she needs help.”
Mom stroked my hair and murmured reassurances while my brain scrambled to make sense of the unbelievable. What was happening to me?
A new bubble converged upon my family and drifted to my side, a shining white beacon tinged with radiant gold. Warmth and comfort emanated from the newcomer.
“Excuse me,” the being said in a voice filled with authority. “May I have a look at her?”
My family drew back, except for Mom. The stranger laid cool hands on my head, one covering my forehead, the other supporting the nape of my neck. “Relax, child. Don’t fight it,” he murmured. “Acceptance is the key. I can and will explain, but not now. Right now, you must accept the unacceptable.”
He continued to cradle my head and energy poured through my mind. I haven’t got a clue how to explain what happened, but synapses fired, my emotions sorted, my understanding cleared, and my body relaxed. I opened my eyes and stared into the face of the man who had promised to explain my destiny to me. Blue-green eyes stared back at me from a hard, chiseled face. A mustache and short, well-trimmed beard provided the only softening to the planes of his face.
He released me, extended his hand, and helped me sit up. I shivered in the late afternoon heat and glanced from family member to family member. “I’m okay now.”
A collective sigh of relief whispered through the ranks, but I knew the next indrawn breath would release a barrage of questions. My self-proclaimed mentor forestalled them.
“Nothing to worry about,” he said, rubbing his hands together and backing away from the tartan blanket. “Just a bit too much sun and exercise. Happens all the time around here.”
Jamie frowned and glanced at me, eyebrows lifted. My lifeguard brother knew something was up.
I shook my head, and he shrugged. We’d talk later.
Dad was shaking the man’s hand. “I don’t know what you did, but thank you, Mister…”
“James. Warwick James, but everyone calls me Wick. Don’t think a thing of it, sir. I’m just glad I could be of service.” He looked at me, and our gazes locked. He smiled, and I nodded and closed my fist around the slip of paper he’d palmed me when he helped me sit up.
I was still aware of creatures that shouldn’t exist, but the members of my family were no longer shrouded in colored fog. Whatever was happening, I could deal with the remnants for the rest of the day, but tomorrow Mr. Warwick James and I were going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting.
Thanks for reading! Part 4 will be posted on 6/29/15.
Posted by petercruikshank
I couldn’t imagine how it took George R.R. Martin SEVEN years, after the fourth book in his Song of Ice & Fire series (Game of Thrones), before he published the fifth one. It was inconceivable to me that, if you were a professional author, it would take SEVEN years to publish the next book in the series. I know he was busy with all the success of his books and the HBO series, but seriously SEVEN years.
I remember thinking this when the fifth book had come out in 2013. I had just published the first book in my series and thought myself so superior. After all, for my series I had produced the first book, Fire of the Covenant, in just over 18 months… and I was a rookie. My thoughts went something like, “Evidently Martin was no longer dedicated to his writing. He was probably spending all his time speaking at conventions, making the rounds of talk shows, partying in Hollywood, and all the other stuff that was non-writing.”
With this egotistical knowledge I charged full-speed ahead writing the next book in my series, Betrayal of the Covenant. I was so cocky that after a couple of months I started another series, the first book The Dragon Whisperer. It would only be about 80,000 words, half that of Betrayal, so no problem. I cruised along thinking I could get both books out by year end.
Everything was progressing better than I expected. I was writing over 10,000 words a week. Then my high-speed race toward completing both books, by the end of 2014, ran smack into a wall called Life Interruptus. Moving twice and sorting through 19 years of stuff, family illnesses, and a few other normal daily life issues brought my writing to a halt.
I have heard from many of my author friends how they have also suffered from Life Interruptus. We all had good intentions, we diligently kept to our daily writing schedule, we attacked our novels with all the passion and dedication we could muster. Yet, all this good will means little to the monster called Life Interruptus.
I know this sounds depressing, but have faith. For most people Life Interruptus is only a temporary condition. Yes, it may be a condition that can linger for a year or two or longer, but there is hope. In the meantime, as an author, I wrote here and there, even if only for a few moments and days apart. It helped me to remember the joy that writing always brought me. And the memory of this joy can kept the fire burning long enough for Life Interruptus to fade. After more than a year, I find myself writing more each day and getting back into the beginning of a writing routine. With any luck I will get Betrayal out by year end and can also start shopping The Dragon Whisperer around to an agent or publisher.
Given what I know now, I would apologize to Mr. Martin… If I could get past his secretary, publicist, agent, and bodyguards. I would tell him that I can easily understand how it took him seven years to write, revise, edit, and then publish the fifth book.
I have weathered my experience with Life Interruptus and realize that regardless of what comes, I will continue to write my books and feel the joy that it brings. No matter what happens I will survive this condition in the future.
How do I know I will encounter this condition again? I recently found out that the doctors are going to remove one of my kidneys. How do I know I will survive this new bout of Life Interruptus? Because I did it once, and know I can do it again.
What has been your Life Interruptus?
Posted in or browse all books
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 2nd of six installments. (Part One is here, if you need to catch up :D ) I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
The Big Day Begins
FISTS POUNDING ON MY BEDROOM DOOR startled me awake. I lunged upright, glanced wildly around the room, and managed to comprehend the chorus of, “Wake up, Birthday Girl!” that echoed from the hall.
Brothers! You gotta love ‘em. It’s the law; at least it is in my family. From the sound reverberating through my skull all six of them must have come home for the big celebration. Flattering…except it meant I’d have to spend my big day pretending I was Allie.
I grabbed a shoe from the floor and hurled it at the already besieged door. “All right, already. I’m up! Give it a rest.”
Chortles sounded on the far side of the barrier, followed by a deeper bass shushing.
“Get a move on, Kitten,” Mike commanded. The eldest of seven and a medical student to boot, Mike was accustomed to seizing control of a situation. “Mom’s making French toast for breakfast. If these guys devour it all before you make it downstairs, she’ll be in a mood all day.”
I sprang from bed, leaped the intervening distance, and jerked the door open. Half a dozen boys in various states of early morning dishevelment blocked my path, while the sweet scent of maple syrup and frying bacon wafted through the air. “Outta my way!” I bellowed, elbowing my way into the hall. “No one’s eating my birthday breakfast.”
A race for the sugar erupted. We scrambled across the hall and down the stairs, barely making it to the kitchen with everyone still on their feet.
“Halt!” Dad’s shout brought us all to attention, a ragged line of teens and twenty-somethings with straight backs and squared shoulders.
“Happy birthday, Dani,” said Mom, turning from the griddle with a spatula in her hand. “Now, if all of you would be so kind as to march back up the stairs, wash faces and hands, and comb your hair, we’ll have a civilized breakfast in a few minutes.”
As one, the Ericksons deflated. We turned and my brothers tromped back up the stairs.
“Dani,” called Dad, halting me in mid-step. “A moment, please.”
I turned around wondering what I could’ve done. I couldn’t be in trouble yet, I’d just woken up. Besides, it was my birthday.
Dad crossed the sunlit kitchen and wrapped me in a bear hug. He ruffled my still messy hair and smiled down at me. “Happy birthday, kiddo. Take your time in the bathroom. Nobody’s eating ’til you get back.”
I grinned, wriggled out of his arms and raced back upstairs. French toast! And the guys had to wait for me. Maybe I should take my time. Get dressed. Fix my hair. Would make-up be too over the top? I sniffed again, savoring the delicious aromas of non-store-bought delicacies. Nah. Not worth the wait. My mouth watered for French toast NOW!
Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be posted on 6/15/15.