Category Archives: Chronicler- Will Hahn

Reflections on an Epic

Kat has me so happy over on my own site I’ve seldom posted here in the past year or so, but today I’m thinking about a major milestone in a chronicling career, celebrated this week. It’s just another book, I suppose. But The Eye of Kog is that most fabulous of monstrous beasts, that legendary chimera so many seek and never find.

It’s an epic fantasy sequel.

Hooked from the Start… Make that Tangled

jt-full-amazon-webThink about two tales, two seemingly-separate plot lines. That’s what I thought I had, when I finally decided to chronicle the Lands of Hope back in 2008. As I was drawn into Solemn Judgement’s early days, and looked more closely at how he came to Hope and began to influence the history of the Lands, I figured there would be a novel-length tale about his deeds. Other things were happening, there’s always more. But my dull brain couldn’t see beyond the part that was “Judgement’s tale” at first.

It was just the ending that was killing me.

All’s Well, When it Ends with All

By the time Solemn does his best against the worst, I could no longer ignore the fact that there were these other guys around. A whole party of them, candidly. And even more frustrating, the people Judgement met on his journeys, when he walks a circuit of the northern Kingdoms in the second half of the tale, kept popping up and… well, doing things,  things that were important to understanding the stakes, dare I say the theme of the darn thing. Assuming it all belonged in another book somewhere, I kept trying to juggle some excuse to introduce them in the last few pages. Long entries in the Kingdom Chronicle– ahm, no, even the Children of Hope don’t read that thing before Anteris takes it up. I tried for the minimum– no soap, each element of summary and recap just pulled on threads that extended further and further back, into “Judgement’s tale”, but really not separate from it.Created with Nokia Refocus

I broke down at last, of course. Two novels, entwined, telling both stories at once (well even that’s a simplification, telling the whole story in order). Without Treaman, Gareth, Linya, Pol and the others, I would never be able to show the story of Solemn Judgement at all. Sleeves rolled up, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone… just try getting any work done in that position! But then I sat my butt down and started to type. All the threads into one tapestry: and I think the results have been worth it.

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Even today, every time I think to myself “that tale is told” I feel a kind of shock, as if I’ve gone over a hill on a rollercoaster. I re-read the whole thing on the polishes, and again on the edit, and each time I’ve had that wonderful feeling authors get, that strange sense that someone else must have written about your characters. {Oh yeah, that bit where two knights and two squires fight a pair of giants by the salt pool, that was pretty good stuff!} Why did that poor girl in Hollinsfen have to die? You’re telling me she’s a ghost now too? And how ironic, when the Chosen Wanderer is down and wounded, only a grey-clad gate-walker who’s tramped five hundred leagues can get past the knight’s fierce warhorse to help him, because Solemn knows Quester by name.

All here, woven together: the lost city of Oncario, travel through time, the curse of lycanthropy, miracles of restoration in the middle of the chaos-lands, a falling crimson star, warriors who can disappear at will, one king crowned and another going without; and naturally, a desperate race againVuth2.JPGst time and the odds. There’s a lot more than “Judgement’s tale” in The Eye of Kog: Solemn is still there, a bright grey thread that runs through the center. But now he’s in his proper place, sojourning in search of knowledge beyond the world that has not yet adopted him, a drumbeat to the symphony ushering in the Age of Adventure for the Lands of Hope.

With this book, most likely the longest and most complex chain of events that needs to be told about my world is on paper. Hardcover first, for anyone who likes to prop open a fire door after reading. And I dedicated this sequel to you, the readers, because with all my heart I believe that this, reading an epic, is an heroic feat in today’s world. I hope you will attempt it, and believe you will find the effort well rewarded. I know I have.

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The Joys (You Heard Me!) of Revision

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. I’m revising a novel, The Eye of Kog, by which I mean going about it in the same way most other authors do. It’s an incredible feeling: I’m running with “joy” in my title today but I think the best word might be “stunned”. Thought I’d ruminate on why, and see if anyone else has the same feeling.

Not Writing Anymore!

Astonished1That’s the first thing, the breaking of a habit that leaves me feeling as if I’m constantly stumbling forward against a vanished resistance. I was writing this thing for so long. If you work on several WiPs simultaneously, you may not get this, but I dropped my “other” tale long ago. Every day walking around not hearing the first of half of anything my lovely wife says, every time I miss my turn driving to the store because I’m distracted, every half-hour before sleep, every night: the tale, the chapter I was on, where the characters were and what was going to happen next.

Sure, I knew the tale in the sense of the big picture. I knew it intimately in fact: I have for decades. But I don’t outline, or character-map- there’s no bridge between in-the-head and on-the-paper, just a big leap across that space. It’s a little like having seen Star Wars twenty times: you know it, right? But now you have to sit down and replicate the screenplay, shot by shot.

Anyway, that was an intense level of involvement, and I couldn’t believe how long I went on with it.

Two years.

Of Long Standing

Yes, I was writing The Eye of Kog at that pace for nearly two solid years, and I can prove it. Whenever my author friends and I finish a chapter, we lob it up on our mutual comment Lecturing2board over at Write Stuff Extreme, and then exchange feedback on each others’ work. If you don’t do this, start. Seriously, not one word to me, not one shaken finger about outlining or note-taking or anything. Get a beta group. Don’t make me come over there.

So my first post on the board for EK is dated July 14th 2014. I went back to start my revision and could not believe my eyes. Like Treaman’s party when they first sight the lost city of Oncario, I knew it had to be 2015, at most. Two years? All that time… but this was not a short tale like Fencing Reputation. And it involved several characters whose history I did not know as well as those in Judgement’s Happy2Tale. I bet many of you have felt this, the sense of re-acquaintance with things you wrote, characters introduced, action described. Like a chore you forgot you had done, you walk in and your heart shouts “bonus! winning!”

And then there’s the cousin of that feeling, with the same exultation and none of the recognition.

Really? I Wrote THAT!

I know other authors have felt this way because they’ve told me. Maybe it happens more often when you write longer books, I’m not sure. But there’s that paragraph, the section of 1k or 2k or more that is not yours. It’s just in your book. You know? Oh it’s part of the book alright– carries the plot forward, develops the character, balances dialogue with action. But no way I could have written this.

Usually, I feel that way because it’s good: and when I look at the posting date, more often than not it came out right away, on the next day after the chapter before it. Or even on the same day. That’s really hard for me to do, because I’m a day-job dilettante and can never count on steady time to write. Where did this burst of creativity come from? Too hard to figure out. Much easier for me to assume someone snuck in and tapped on my keyboard while I wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Thanks, whoever you were, for stopping by. Come again.

The Dragon of Perfect

Bumps along the way, though? Oh hell yes.

Thinking1The Perfect Dragon rears her ugly head– well wait, it’s a gorgeous scaly head, the acme of draconic beauty, I’m sure, but the beholder’s eye in this case is mine, and she’s trying to consume me, so… ugly. She rears her head chiefly in two places. One, in the tiny cramped space within her cave, over wording. The other high in the sky as she flies and flames, at the level of chapters.

Different readers trip on different phrases, and you can’t say yes to everyone. I’m so proud of my grammar, my syntax (whatever the hell that is) my idioms and voice and tense-choices. Anyone, absolutely anyone points out a problem and the Dragon Perfect starts to growl and hiss. Did I mention how defensive I am? See, I ALREADY went over the wording. A lot, man! I re-read my chapters out loud, I swap adjectives, I Astonished1bounce out the present-tense verbs that snuck in when I wasn’t looking. And who does anyone else think they are, to post a comment (private board) telling me the way I wrote it was– I can hardly say it– wrong?

Down, Dragon. Every sentence can take one more read-through, where’s the harm. I have spent half an hour in the cave over a single paragraph, and when the smoke cleared I realized my lunging, clawing adversary was my reflection in a mirror. Back-space, tap-tap, fixed. Yeah, more often than not, they were right. Hey, almost like, like they were trying to help me when they posted it.

But up in the air, that’s harder. This is the part of revision where you have to entertain the notion that your chapters are in the wrong order. Or that there are too many. Dragon Perfect swoops in with a full head of steam against such offenders and again it’s Katie bar the door because my Defensive Shield is set to eleven. MY wonderful opus? Rearrange, clarify or even (gaspity-gasp) cut? Don’t you know that’s a three-letter word around here?

Jealous1Long and short, I usually fend off such suggestions. You have to stick up for your work and my brave beta-readers, as loyal as they were, couldn’t possibly hold the themes, the minor characters, the long breaks between visits, in their memory over the course of twenty-four months with clarity. I’m the guy who’s been walking around with this in his head for two years. I have to trust my judgment (inside joke!) on this one. So yeah, those themes, threads, added characters, and chapters pretty much stayed where they were.

One thing, though, I never expected and it even knocked out Dragon Perfect this time.

Add a chapter, my readers said.

And I was like– crazy beta-readers say whaaat?

Add a chapter. Maybe two.

The Creation Unlooked For

To coin Tolkien’s phrase, I could never have expected the result of feedback would be to Horrified2make my chronicles even longer. Maybe deep down I don’t have enough faith in my tales? But my good friends got to the heart of it. I just hate villains, is all. And I don’t show them much: I hint at them, feint and fake and mention them, or have folks find evidence of their passing, stuff like that. This is epic fantasy, it’s not like they have redeeming qualities!

But the reasons piled up, and I bet other authors know the feeling. Something kindles inside, you start to see possibilities. Nobody shows every second of a hero’s life– when they use the bathroom for instance, though I do show a prince and his squires seeking them. There’s a lot of mindless destruction and bad-doings my villains indulge in, before they finally get theirs. Plenty of stuff to draw on. I’m thinking now about how to advance the plot, increase the tension, improve the tale. AND, by the bye, give you all another much-needed glimpse of a powerful character doing what he does, well worst.

Thoughtful2So again, calm down Dragon. I got this.

Revising is a peculiar joy, with twinges of doubt, wonder and regret flavoring it. Maybe letting go of my daughter’s hand on her wedding day will be a bit like it. I might never think the tale is ready. Pretty certain I’m not. But here it goes all the same.

Have you experienced the joys of revision? Did you read something and wish it had another run before you bought it?

Fencing Reputation Now Available in Paperback

The second novella in my series “Shards of Light” is now available as a physical product, right over here.

Shards of Light II - large webI love this plot, this character, this city. For pure joy and fulfillment, nothing in my life beats writing about the Lands of Hope, and there’s no place that’s more true than in Cryssigens, early 2002 ADR. If you read the first novella, The Ring and the Flag, you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about. But not to worry! Captain Justin from that tale starts out at almost the same time as the Stealthic Feldspar in this one, the tales stand alone and you could read them in either order.

Fencing Reputation is heroic fantasy with a flavor of detective noir. Feldspar is the man of a thousand disguises, but no one has seen his real face until today. Including himself. The only thing Feldspar knows for sure is that he won’t let his new, mundane persona take over his life, and he’ll never get involved in politics. Or become attached to any of his new neighbors. Wrong on all counts of course.

 

Some reviews of the e-book format:

An epic fantasy tale with the best qualities of an Errol Flynn swashbuckler. If you enjoy detail-rich settings and mysterious characters, this medieval tale will intrigue you. The anonymous main character’s many faces are fascinating, but none more so than his Feldspar personae, a stealthic of legendary proportions.- Barnes and Noble

I love the way the story mixed humorous scenes with grim ones.– Goodreads

Feldspar is a Stealthic, one of those reckless professional risk-takers like Bildon in Judgement’s Tale and the legendary Trekelny of Three Minutes to Midnight. Like them, when faced with difficult choices, he tie-breaks based on the course of greater risk. {Actually, who ever took a bigger risk than poor Meandar in The Plane of Dreams?} The added wrinkle for Feldspar is that he’s adopted incredible disguises in a city where everyone else is eager to display exactly who they are.

This is a crossover tale, so whichever order you read, the hero in the second book will catch glimpses of someone you’ve already met. And the adventure versus the conspiracy threatening the Southlands will continue in Shards of Light III, “Perilous Embraces” later this year.

I hope you enjoy Fencing Reputation, probably the most suspenseful, and also most humorous tale I have offered to date. Don’t forget to leave a review! I’m ordering a box right now, to use at the Con and other meet-ups this summer: it will be great to have three titles out in paper.

Whatever’s an e-Reader For?

I came into publishing at probably the most misleading time of the last hundred years. Yeah, that sounds like a good excuse.

When I started chronicling in 2008, I was following the pure desire to make something of these tales I had lands-of-hope1bound up inside me. I identified with not just paper pub, but the traditional route to it– getting an agent, breezing through one of the Big 5, the book tour, the fame, the groupies. Forty rejections later I woke up, admitted fantasy was the genre, not the life-path. But I kept chronicling, that’s the thing. If I thought about my future as anything I had control over, it was of course going to be in all media, analog and digital, video and audio. The movie, particularly, I really grooved on that.

By the time I started publishing it was summer of 2011. What we tentatively called Year 4 AK (After Kindle). Remember? People were going to convert completely to e-readers, just a matter of months. Print was DEAD, I tell you, everyone knew that. And I had tablet envy bad. I self-published my first four tales in digital format, and figured I was done. What loser would chase paper? Paper books were supposed to be the new Betamax (yeah, I know) or like 8-tracks, vinyl records. As in, you only saw them in movies. Black and white movies. I read all kinds of stuff on my PC, even on my tiny smartphone. As old as I am, I can say with honesty I’ve gotten used to screen reading, it’s pretty normal for me now. More on that below.print-is-dead

Wha’ Hoppen?

But the revolution I expected, that lack of e-reader I was still so jealous about? Didn’t really happen, did it. Hey, not the first time I’ve been a fool. I did what many of you did, only in my case it involved less time and talent. Flogged my platform, made announcements, kept chronicling, tried new things like a trailer, blog tour, writing about cool stuff. Hoping to catch fire somewhere. But still thinking entirely in digital.

You can probably see where this is going. My publisher gets me under contract (best piece of paper I’ve signed since my marriage license), and right away she starts talking crazy. How the next book, the big one, the once-trunk novel Judgement’s Tale should come out not only as novellas, but after the e-books, also in paper.

 

And I thought– paper? That dead organic stuff? It was this moment that I woke up (again) and really understood what others were shouting, that the Big 5 weren’t going to fold, and that paper books served a purpose for many people. Um, in fact, the vast majority. The rest is fast becoming history. People responded to JT in print quite viscerally, and my sales are starting to count with people I regard now the way an ERB hero would discovering a lost race. Paper book reader, I presume?

Circling Back to the Future (of Reading)

Definition of irony: I have a tablet now.

JT_at_BetBks_Jul_15

A store shelf. And my book. In the same place!

That e-reader I was always chasing is now in my grasp, every day, and I still do much more reading on it than in any paper form. But I realize it’s not the predestined winner in any near future on this planet. Most of my energy these days, outside of writing the next one, is focused on what’s going to happen to my tales in paper. My publisher is taking good care of that, and this opens up a world of possibilities at libraries, book fairs, maybe signings. Meeting real folks, shaking hands and giving out business cards, letting them thumb through the pages and hearing them ask the Dread Question (“So, what’s this one about?”). Because I have books in paper, no thanks to me.

What’s an e-reader for then? As an author, how to use it to improve your reach or your art?

I have several answers for you, things that have worked for me and which I recommend:

Come to it for the Cheap

Tablets and e-readers are becoming very affordable, and if you play your cards right you can basically steal one. I got my current tablet when we took Genna into the carrier store to get her a smartphone (at long last! she’s 18). We knew that college required her to stay in touch via email, Twitter, etc. so we put her together with an iPhone5. Genna mentions to the clerk the old household joke about how her Dad has tablet envy, and he says “you know, you can get a tablet for ninety-nine cents”. Yeah, it requires a data plan, but Genna and I share 1 Gb apiece and I lock the account so it just stops when we get close. Wi-Fi, we love you. And if you take a Kindle with a year of Amazon Prime, Jeff Bezos will personally fly to your house via drone and buff your toenails, or something pretty close.

Stay for the Stuff

There’s hardly any such thing as an e-reader anymore, everything is multifunctional, including Kindles and even Nooks (though admittedly, not as much). I gauge what to bring when leaving the house, based on how cool-tablet-cartoonmuch idle time I’ll have. Laptop for writing, tablet for reading: the former weighs a couple pounds and goes in a padded case (belongs to my employer), the latter fits in my jacket pocket and I forget I’m carrying it. So what? So check your email, catch up on blog posts and reading related to your work as an improving author. Think of the cyber-things you can’t do because you’re not at your desk; even research for your next book. I have a couple of games too, of course. Because games! No worries– I know my mind is continuing to integrate thoughts on the WiP in the background.

Round Up the Usual Advantages

Just because paper books refused to do the decent thing doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from having a library in your pocket. I have free online e-book copies of everything I’ve done for my “Classics You’ve Never Read” series. A few touches to reach any book, any chapter; I know reading it in a spine is more fun but what if you just want to find that place where Jonathan Harker said goodbye in his last letter to Mina? You seriously going to argue you can do that more easily? A book on tablet has choice of fonts, and you can alter the SIZE (oh boy, that’s key for a guy who forgot to bring his reading glasses) as well as the background light (eye damage? what idiot reads in bed with the setting on daytime brightness? Two taps). You can read seven other books and come right back to where you were (bookmarks), you can tap to define a word (online dictionary), you can Copy and make notes (easier on your PC, but it’s all the same to the Kindle app). You invested a boatload of hours getting used to reading on a PC. It’s like riding a bike, you just have to spend a little time to get used to it. And watch out for trees.

The Occasional Surprise

The tablet has also proved useful to me in one other, rather sneaky way. As I became accustomed to reading on screen, I also realized it was sometimes tough for me to proof, or scan my drafts for polishing purposes. I re-read my stuff repeatedly when I’m drafting, it’s like the bobsled guys rocking back and forth in the track before the next run. But between the time when I THINK it’s ready and when it actually is… I’ve realized I can “self-pre-publish”! Just take the draft in document form and send it to your screenname @ kindle.com, and it shows up in your library!

Honestly, you won’t believe how much more seriously you take your own works when they LOOK like “the real thing”. The Kindle has become so much second-nature to me that I find myself automatically treating the draft like published work. It gives me confidence in what I’ve done well, and exposes what still needs redress even more clearly. And the PC can stay at home until I actually-factually decide to rewrite it.

Print is Dead-Egon

 

So long live paper. And get a tablet anyway.

New Release: Will Hahn’s “The Ring and the Flag” in Paperback

Ring&Flag-big-hi-resI could not be happier at this happy season, than to announce the first novella in the Shards of Light series is now available in paperback via Amazon. Captain Justin is one of three amazing heroes who start in very different places and are set against the same dread conspiracy. He’s already tried his best but failed, and is headed now to disgrace with a heavy heart. Little does he know what his commander has in mind for him. Little does anyone know the threat that faces the Argensian Empire, too soon after a costly civil war.

If you’re new to the Lands of Hope this is a great place to get started, and if you are wondering what to send the reader on your shopping list, here’s the perfect answer– The Ring and the Flag is a standalone adventure you can give to please a friend, and leaves them free to investigate the rest of the series if they like.

The Ring and the Flag

Newly-graduated imperial officer Justin is convinced he has no future, and hearing the details of the secret mission he’s assigned for the Emperor won’t change his mind. Civil War threatens the North Mark. Justin must race against time to form a company, and lead his men into the center of the web; but what happens when his loyalty to the Empire means the death of those who follow him?
In 2002 ADR, the Empire of Argens is still reeling from the usurpation of its centuries-old throne by a landless adventurer. A ferocious dwarven warrior named Yula and his sorcerous human allies not only defeated the flower of elvish knighthood, but exposed the former dynasty as nothing less than demons in disguise. Now a young captain, ruined by his loyalty to the old regime, has one last chance to redeem his family name in the officer training corps being established by the hated new emperor.
Captain Justin gets much more than he bargained for, however, as he is sent on a secret mission to the North Mark, hotbed of disloyalty even in the old days and now on a trip-wire for revolt. Given only days to assemble a company, march north and defuse the conspiracy, the new captain will be tested too often, too hard and far too soon.
“The Ring and the Flag” is the first story in the Shards of Light saga set in the Lands of Hope, the creation of Wm. L. Hahn. More than twenty years in the making, the Lands hold tremendous adventure, a sense of history, and a strong theme of the difficult choices heroes must make when faced by the power of Despair.

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Will Hahn serves as Chronicler of The Lands of Hope, you can find all of his current tales online here, or sample his thoughts about the Lands, Life and Everything on his website.

Judgement’s Tale Climax: “Clash of Wills” is Now Available

Created with Nokia RefocusEven when I knew him, I didn’t know his story.

Once I knew the story, I never dreamed I’d chronicle it.

Now I can hardly imagine doing anything else with my spare time (I know, a fantasy writer for sure if he thinks THAT exists). But now at the release of this fourth volume, the novel I originally envisioned in Judgement’s Tale will be before the readers. Rest? Heck no, that’s for the weary- I can’t wait for the engine to crank up again so I can move the world along.

Clash of Wills: It All Comes Together

It’s a little hard to discuss the book itself because so much has happened in the preceding volumes. Solemn Judgement has carefully studied a couple of problems in his newly-adopted home while staying at the Sages Guild of Conar. One involves a young knight who kneels at the foot of the Hopelord’s statue constantly, and the mortal LoHI_JT_CoW_webdanger Judgement stubbornly believes him to be in. His other puzzle involves a forbidden book, a mystic time-scrying mirror, the ancient sage it drove mad, and a threat to the entire Lands of Hope. Meanwhile, his tutor Natasha has sanctioned him from further study, her friend the actor Alendic spends his every moment teasing the youth, and the patient Elvish Sage Cedrith  can only guess the depths of Judgement’s ambition or the danger he’s courting. In this story, they band together to rescue a comrade and face an ancient foe beyond their worst imaginings.

Meanwhile the Woodsman Treaman has begun to unlock the secrets of navigating the cursed Percentalion and befriended the young dragon Hallah. But his adventuring party falls into a worse escapade than ever before, a series of calamities which leaves them by turns wounded, naked, and finally imprisoned with priceless treasure in the face of a hellstorm of Chaos.

LoH_kg_1_map northern lands

But is it Ever Really Over?

Yes, it’s all starting to heat up in the northern kingdoms of the Lands of Hope. The draft I wrote up several years ago, coming after nearly thirty years of observation and note-taking, Clash of Wills will be in front of you. And the tale is not done. I’m working hard on The Eye of Kog, in which we’ll see the final confrontation involving Judgement, Treaman, prince Gareth, the Chosen Wanderer Renan Altrindur, young Anteris the scribe and many more. Never fear, dear readers, I wouldn’t leave you hanging- for long! Look for more of this epic tale later this year.

And if you want to remain apprised of developments in my chronicling journey, sign up on my website and get a free e-book with two Tales of Hope.

Classics You’ve Never Read: Inside Story

It’s been awhile and I’m ashamed to say, my obligations to the Alleged Real World impelled me to return to this series. But any shot that goes in, as my basketball coach used to say. Especially when I took a shot that went in. Return with me now to take a closer look at a tale that you immediately know, but in all likelihood never turned a page of. What can we see as authors to help us in our craft?

Which tale? Of course it’s the classic that takes you deep inside, RL Stevenson’s seminal Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Why not before now? Because I have always felt such a deep reluctance around this tale. I know, in the end, it’s about all of us. It’s about me.

Sizing a Monster

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Jason Flemyng, in both roles

Let me back up and start with the way the tale is usually portrayed nowadays in remakes. Mr. Hyde, most say, is the side of us we feel tempted to cut loose; and if even Dr. Jekyll couldn’t resist, we can’t expect better of Hollywood. So of course the result of drinking Jekyll’s potion is a misshapen, enormous leviathan, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the big-screen’s most recent version in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s enormous fun in the most literal sense. We’ll come back to the movie but note for now the first, most important missed turning the remakes commit. They create a Hyde who’s bigger than Jekyll. In the story, RLS makes it quite clear that Hyde is smaller: wizened and a bit hunching, yes, but nothing near the upright, straight-backed good doctor he seems to have his hooks into. It’s a Christian point, if I may say so- the evil part that comes out of us is not only wicked, it’s puny. Lethal, yes, especially to our souls, but we shouldn’t indulge our ego to believe that it’s large in the scheme of things. We should simply be ashamed.

Hyde also appears to be younger than Jekyll, whereas in most of the remakes I’ve seen age is a non-factor. He’s got a spring in his step, you could say, a sign of the freedom he feels. Jekyll theorizes that since Hyde’s been so little used he hasn’t aged as far. It’s a window on the Victorian society where this tale is set and about which Stevenson was no doubt commenting. After all Jekyll feels The-Strange-Case-of-Dr-Jekyll-Mr-Hyde-image-682x1024buttoned-up and straitjacketed by his position and obligations to society. Contrary to the movies, he’s not originally trying to resolve the question of evil in man, or attempting to rid himself of it. He wants to sever his halves, enjoy two unimpeded lives; the sin is original to him. I can’t force my fingers to type much more down this line, I feel the cut too keenly. I’ll say this- every once in a while my lovely wife and I play the Powerball lottery (the prize is always scores of millions of dollars) and I love to dream of all the wonderful, charitable things I’d do with the money. Like I’d be the same person. Like I could be trusted.

But I think I know, there’s a reason I don’t get to win it.

It’s the Thought That Counts

While lots of features impressed me about the original story– no female characters, lots of news-by-letter and an interesting feature that the tale ends with a written flashback– I must say the thing that really jumped out was the simple, almost pristine horror Stevenson managed to conjure in the opening act J-H_coverof Hyde’s evil. The narrator, Jekyll’s good friend and lawyer Utterson, is apprised by a mutual acquaintance of this ugly fellow’s first outrage and begins to investigate. Can you guess what the crime must have been? Murder surely, that was my thought before I first read the book. In movies and television, Hyde is usually a city-wrecker, committing loud and brazen assaults, destroying stone cornices with his bare hands and strewing a wrack of police and prostitutes in his wake.

In the story itself? He’s trampled a little girl.

It took a moment for the image to settle in on me. Imagine being out for a walk (it was ALWAYS a foggy night, this is Victorian London after all). Hyde was seen by multiple witnesses, as a little girl runs from a side-street into his path. And. He. Just. Keeps. Walking. You show me any scene with guns or knives, and the opponent a grown-up however helpless, and I won’t flinch. But think– a child runs in your path a moment, and you don’t have the one drop of human sympathy required to turn, or even pause. You don’t shout or rebuke the child or her mother– those things would show you care. Hyde just stomps her underfoot like a weed, same pace, same stride, a machine. And when Utterson’s friend runs him down and the gathered folk scream their outrage, Hyde is slightly amused, as if puzzled what the fuss is all about.

You’d never do it. You’d rather lick a car battery than feel the body of a girl writhing under your shoes. From the story itself, Hyde seemed genuinely unaware of what had happened. Pay a hundred pounds to the girl’s family? Fine, no matter to me, let me get my checkbook… well, actually it’s my friend’s book. That single act has never ceased to haunt me. Can you imagine what strangulation of every good instinct would have to happen before you would act that way? Give me a Hyderampaging, angry, lustful beast– far better than this unruffled, self-interested golem. I think I hit on it when I realized,

Hyde is comfortable with himself.

And he’s the same man as the good doctor. Rather, he’s a smaller part of him.

Who Writes This Stuff?

Stevenson composed this tale in a fit of inspiration– the idea came to him in a nightmare, and he dashed out the first draft in just a few days, then burned his manuscript in a passion, and redrafted it in only three weeks. Perhaps you’ve had such an experience. For me, the aftermath is marked by a kind of delight that I usually feel when reading someone else’s work, liking it and wishing I had been

the author. Except that I am the author! Don’t shrink into false modesty on me, fellow writer, I wager you know this feeling. You wrote it so quickly, and it seems to need little polish. It just… came out of you when you weren’t there. So with Stevenson and Jekyll and Hyde.

“Louis came downstairs in a fever; read nearly half the book aloud; and then, while we were still gasping, he was away again, and busy writing. I doubt if the first draft took so long as three days.”
-Lloyd Osbourne, family friend

 Yet it’s the things he refuses to describe that get you about this tale. Hyde is ugly, but no one can say how. People want him dead, but can’t explain why. And folks who have long kept their noses out of other people’s business, given every chance to keep doing so, can’t stay away. Utterson HAS to investigate– the signature of his good friend on Hyde’s cheque, the will naming this monster Dr. Jekyll’s heir, hearsay and conjecture whose only virtue is how perfectly it aligns with his intuition. Step by tiny step, Utterson is drawn in– and we only see the horror second-hand, in letters and accounts, like a glance at the mirrored Medusa. Dr. Lanyon once saw Mr. Hyde transform, and is already dead when we read his letter– struck down by a sight not yet ours.

My life is shaken to its roots; sleep has left me; the deadliest terror sits by me at all hours of the day and night; and I feel that my days are numbered, and that I must die; and yet I shall die incredulous.

So, What’s In It, For Me?

As short as it is, the story spends its final third in post-mortem. Much like Invisible Man, the narrator spends a lot longer than you do trying to figure out what happened. Give that a shot with your current tale if you’re feeling brave!

But it fits uniquely well in this case, because when Utterson the dependable,

Careful how you look at yourself!

Careful how you look at yourself!

sane, reserved lawyer doesn’t want to look, you know the reader feels the same way. Not about Hyde, we can’t wait to watch this happen to somebody else. But sooner or later it comes back to that mirror. I think Perseus, when he dared to use it once at an angle, saw a part of himself.

Who is that, in there inside ourselves? Is it simply  “evil”? Is it the animal side, or anger and rage like you see with The Hulk? You can’t have more fun than to curl up with an hour of William Shatner gloriously over-acting as two sides of himself in “The Enemy Within”: here’s four quick minutes capturing all the epic-ness.

The writers of ST took a view of active/impulsive versus contemplative/rational. The good-guy Kirk is just the one that can get along– he won’t attack Yeoman Rand, he can hear you without getting angry, but he can’t decide what to do. The other guy is a beast, but he can make decisions– keeps outwitting the crew, covers his scars. He starts the fights, but only his calmer twin shows courage.

Anger-Danger

Remember? “Anger-Danger”. A show’s plot with one added letter. Genius

What if it’s like that? Is this a better deal than what Stevenson proposed? I always loved Bill Bixby’s version of The Incredible Hulk– he NEVER let go on purpose, spent his last ounce of energy trying to avoid all trouble while seeking his cure. And whenever “the beast within him” got out, he always seemed pointed in the direction of the bad guys. Was that just luck? I thought it was kind of karmic– David Banner reaped a small reward for so resolutely trying to avoid temptation, and I found it very uplifting.

Maybe an echo of this, in the cool turn of events from that FX-romp mentioned above, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. When Hyde is first captured by Quartermain and the gang, he’s classic evil/animal/ “id” and Jekyll is barely containing his desires (for women, mostly). In the movie, you can see Hyde in any mirror Jekyll passes. But when the Nautilus nearly sinks, it is Hyde who not only saves them all, but urges Jekyll to trust him with the attempt. I loved it, a real step toward superhero-dom for a truly interesting character. “Bravo, Edward”

Go As Far In as You Like, or Dare

You can maybe write autobiography and talk only about yourself; there might not be any more consequence and interest than the words themselves and the one person they tell the reader about. But in genre fiction, we can’t stop there. When we explore character, and inner conflict, we innately put on display our own philosophy of what people are like. We can use omniscient third person, or flashbacks, or magic spells or potions to peel back the layers, but we can’t try to pretend this is an exception. Our world, our rules, our consequences. Because if this isn’t about everyone, then who cares?

Bixby-HulkDo we believe there’s inner evil? Is life a long struggle spent holding back this animal side? Are heroes just furiously trying to distract everyone including themselves from lust, or greed, or the will to harm others? Did the villains ever really have a chance to be good; could one selfish choice have doomed them for all time? What do we as writers really believe about the human being?

In Jekyll’s posthumous confession, he cries foul on his own world as I think Stevenson did. Jekyll claims his worst fault was just “a certain gaity of disposition”, which his education and high position forbade him to indulge.

Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection… I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of me… It was thus rather the exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my faults, that made me what I was, and, with even a deeper trench than in the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which divide and compound man’s dual nature.

Wait. He means, his good side was responsible for making him evil? We must be in Victorian times. But do the times make enough of a difference to excuse us? These are the questions we must answer. And it makes me pause a bit before I do, because while I’m busy dissecting the lives and habits of the heroes of the Lands StarTrek-Enemy-Withinof Hope, I can’t shake the notion that the speck in their eyes doesn’t quite measure up to the plank in mine. I wonder if it would even take the Powerball jackpot to let the ugly loose in me. Remember, the day before the evil queen ordered the huntsman to cut out Snow White’s heart, her mirror had told her she was the fairest in the land.

Of course, the young ladies I courted in my youth seemed to think my ugly was already loose. Maybe I could just blame them! Or maybe I’ll hold it together another few decades, see if I can work out some accommodation with that part of me that is willful and selfish, intemperate and mean. If you really want the Evil-Queen-mirrorcraziness, I’ll give it. I believe that writing about the Lands of Hope, of heroism and evil in that incredible world, is my version of polishing a mirror. I know somewhat of what’s inside me: I pray it’s still smaller and younger, and if I time my glances just right, I’ll learn how to behead the thing and bring it under my control. There are times you need it– strong, almost angry willpower to persevere, to resist criticism, to stay on track in your story or your life. By herself and still free, the Medusa would never have slain the Kraken. Jekyll never learned to let the goddess of wisdom keep it for him.

In Stevenson’s tale, the narrator Utterson kept away as far and as long as he could. Maybe I’ve already said too much on the subject.

“I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer to this again.” “With all my heart,” said the lawyer. “I shake hands on that”

For us writers, that won’t do. I have faith that God will help me to train this inner fire, so I can forge interesting tales and keep learning about the Lands, and myself. There’s something inside your heroes and your villains– inside you. Writing about it will bring it closer to the surface, where it’s dangerous (and also useful). You can’t let it out to run the show, because then it becomes what evil really is in the end. A habit.

But you can’t do nothing, and you can’t wait forever.

So take a shot. It might go in.

 

One Click, Three Minutes, Everyone Wins

The Tale of Hope Three Minutes to Midnight is now FREE in the Kindle Unlimited Library!

{And darn cheap otherwise}

I offer this simple, standing challenge to one and all. If you’ve never read a Tale of Created with Nokia RefocusHope, make this one your first. This novelette is under 15 thousand words, in which a Stealthic sets out to do the impossible, then doubles down on danger half-way through.

Here’s the really cool part- if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you pay a set price each month for unrestricted access to books in the Kindle library. Read as many as you like. And here’s a secret:

:: looks both ways, whispers ::

If you read just 10 percent of a book you’re looking at, the author still gets paid!

Ten percent of TMM is FIVE PAGE-TURNS! And it costs you nothing once you’re a member. You could finish that on your commute, even if you worked in the kitchen.

I did the calculation- any way you slice it, by the time you’ve reached these words:

“The beast stayed at striking distance the entire time, which made the back of Trekelny’s legs tingle with peril.”

Three Minutes to Midnight (Kindle Locations 76-77). Wm. L. Hahn.

… You’ve made it, ten percent read. Good deed done, starving author (well, hungry) supported.

And I dare you to stop reading then anyway!

Indie authors are always trying new ways to get folks quickly and easily interested in their work. But how can you do better than 10 percent of a short FREE book?

So KU members, take my challenge. Read slightly more than the number of words

{From Assassins Creed, but looks startlingly like Trekelny's ascent!}

{From Assassins Creed, but looks startlingly like Trekelny’s ascent!}

in the Declaration of Independence (about 1,450), and who knows what Liberty and Life you may discover (while painlessly helping me earn a little more property). It would be unAmerican not to.

And if you’ve decided not to try KU yet, Three Minutes to Midnight is a spanking fun sword-and-sorcery cliffhanger for just 99 cents. You can read the whole thing if you like, and with half the words of Romeo and Juliet you get just as many deaths, more daring escapes, and I guarantee a hotter love story. Trust me, when Trekelny climbs to the balcony of the High Priestess of Khoirah, he’s going to give her the kiss of a lifetime.

 

LoH_logoTell your friends, share this post and spread the word– anyone you meet who mentions Kindle Unlimited, or e-books, or who says they’re in a hurry, just lean in and whisper “Three Minutes to Midnight”. No matter the rush, you’ve got time for that.

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