Plot Bombs

I don’t remember where I first heard the term “plot bombs,” but I immediately understood what they were. They’re sort of like land mines, laid down in either a previous text or an earlier point in the current one. And then the reader hits them and perhaps stop for a moment to think, “Oh, so THAT’S what <blank> was all about.”

It can be a little more refined than that, but it’s the same principle, which I just ran across from the writer’s perspective. One of those multiple cases where my subconscious is clearly smarter than the rest of me. Those who have read Black Kath’s Daughter may remember a rather unpleasant creature called a craja. Marta thought she understood what they are, and the future danger she was in of becoming one.

In the scene I’m writing now, I was going to show Marta that she was entirely wrong about the craja. In preparation for writing it, I was referring back to their original appearance to make sure I was getting the details of my own creation right (happens all the time in a series).

So what did I find? I find that, way back then, the Power Amaet had already told her what a craja really was, and Marta, perhaps partly due to her loathing of Amaet, just wasn’t listening. In short, she’s about to find out what she already should have known from the beginning. All that worry…not exactly for nothing. Definitely something, but not the something Marta thought it was. Sure, I knew what they were, but I had no memory of the fact that Marta should also have known.

Will be something of a shock to her when she realizes this.

Something of a shock to me already.

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Where It’s At

All right, full disclosure. If it isn’t already obvious, the fourth and final volume of The Laws of Power series is taking longer than it probably should have. I’ve written some books in as little as three months, which is blazing speed for me. A year or less is more normal. Then again, I know some people who can write one in a week. On the other hand, the first novel I ever wrote took about five years. Maybe because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I still don’t know what I’m doing, but have since learned this is not an obstacle. You learn as you go, and by the time you’re done, you know how to write that book or that story. Then there’s the next one.

All by way of saying I’ve been going by fits and starts, and sometimes there were days when I couldn’t even look at the thing. For the sake of my own sanity, I finally had to ask myself why, and the answer was obvious:

I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The first story that eventually became the Laws of Power series was “What Power Holds,” published way back in 1994 in Dragon. These characters have been with me for a long time, even when I was writing other books and hundreds (yes, by now it is hundreds) of short stories. It was well past time to close the loop. I was able to do it (mostly) with Yamada, and Marta and company deserve the same consideration.

I will get there, assuming I’m not scheduled to drop dead beforehand. I am finally making progress at a more sustainable rate, losing the mental block. I appreciate those who haven’t lost patience just yet. I hope I can finish before that happens.

PS: I had done an excerpt or two here, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea. I was thinking of moving any future episodes to the more private mailing list. If you have an opinion on that, let me hear it.

On the Road to Shalas

Lots going on in the world, but nothing I want to talk about. So instead I’m offering a snippet of the WIP. Marta is returning to Shalas after the events of Power’s Shadow, and the vague “he” referenced is a person she doesn’t know she knows, and that’s all the context you’re going to get, because that’s what the book’s for.

The next morning Marta reclaimed her horse and set out on the road south. Dessera had tucked herself out of the sun and into some quiet crevice of the saddle bag. Bonetapper rode on Marta’s shoulder, sound asleep. He’d spent the night scouting the southern road until it reached the sea and turned east toward Shalas and didn’t return until just before dawn.

“Didn’t see anything or anyone at all until I reached the sea road,” he reported. “Traveling merchants, one or two wandering priests. Not much else. Either he didn’t go that way or he’s better at hiding than I am at looking.”

“Interesting, but not very reassuring. No matter; we have to take this route if we’re going to reach Shalas before winter.”

That was the end of the discussion and Bonetapper nodded off soon after. Marta rode on, enjoying the silence. She was tempted to turn west when she reached the sea road; it was the most direct route to Lyksos and home. Yet circumstances had dictated that she leave her cart and pony in Shalas, and she was not inclined to abandon either. As for home…was there really any point in going there at all? She would only have to leave again when the Arrow Path relented and showed her the path to the Seventh Law.

Assuming it ever did.

This possibility was one Marta did not enjoy considering. The Arrow Path asked a great deal, whether you were the witch following it or the one who incurred the Debt because of it. Those who accepted the bargain an Arrow Path witch offered did so freely if not always wisely. They weighed the value of what they received against what they gave up, and for them the scales balanced. For those who followed the Arrow Path, the bargain, both in terms of value and loss, was not so clear. Yes, it led them to the Laws of Power without which they would be unable to meet their obligations, with the promise of both power and the freedom to use it however one saw fit at the end of it all. That was the lure that brought so many to it. But was this ‘promise and hope of mist and smoke,’ as the child’s rhyme went?

Has anyone ever found all Seven Laws?

Perhaps her mother had done so. She was, after all, widely regarded as the most powerful witch in the Seven Kingdoms. But if she had found it, why had nothing changed for her, in all the time Marta had known her? And then there was the undeniable fact that Marta’s own discovery of the Sixth Law owed more to dumb luck than guidance and she did not feel any pull from the direction of the Seventh Law at all.

We had a bargain, Amaet. Me, my mother, and every Arrow Path sorceress who ever lived. Are you going to honor it? Or have I, after all I’ve been through, misunderstood everything the Arrow Path was supposed to be?

It was a careless thought which Marta regretted immediately when the voice echoed through her skull like a bad memory.

“Smart girl,” said the familiar voice. “Would you be surprised to know your mother asked the same question? It’s true. And she had her answer. Will you have yours? The anticipation is delicious.”

“And when will I know?” Marta asked. “Will you tell me that much at least?”

“Certainly, because it’s something I need you to understand when the time comes.  You will have your answer,” Amaet said, “When you find the Seventh Law of Power.”

“But—” Marta didn’t bother to finish. The silence in her mind told her not to waste her time.

(c) 2021 Richard Parks

Alarums and Excursions

Since both First Reader and I were going a little stir-crazy, we drove up to the covered bridge at Salisbury Center and took a stroll around Spruce Creek. Sometimes it just feels good to get your feet on the ground, and it was a lovely day for it.

We’ve having what I guess they still call an Indian Summer. Close to 70 degrees and sunny, and has been for the last few days. This picture was taken on a previous visit, as I didn’t get a clear shot of the bridge this time.

Spruce Creek splits here. Part goes off to the right, part toward where I was standing, meeting again just after it flows under the bridge. Which meant we were essentially standing on an island, socially distanced from anyone else by several hundred feet. We had the place to ourselves, which was even better. It did us good to get out, even if just for a little while.

So we’ve had the excursions, now on to the alarums. I’ll be running a countdown deal on All the Gates of Hell (affiliate links) and a separate promotion on the 15th. However, assuming Azon has it together, the deal will actually start on the 14th, which is Saturday. The price will be .99 to start, then after a day or two (vague, I know) will go up to 1.99, then back to regular. The deal will only be good in the US and UK. Azon’s rules, not mine.

On that previous note, since Australia, Canada, and All Else were excluded from the last special, I manually put the price of The Long Look down to .99 US. That will end this Friday, so if you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time.

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Always in Motion, the Future

This is now the cover to The Long Look, first in The Laws of Power series. Those following the series might recall that the first cover was a bit different. It used the same artwork as the original Five Star hardcover which I still like, but subsequent books in the series went in a different direction by necessity, making the first book appear less and less like it belonged with the others. Which it does, even if there is a 500 year disconnect between the first and second. Thus the change. It also connects nicely with The Collected Tymon the Black, so that’s a plus.

The cover for the eventual release of The Seventh Law of Power should coordinate with the first three. So that, you know, it does sort of look like a series.

A few years ago I wrote a couple of stories about a fictional University attended by mythical creatures, monsters, and the occasional human. I thought they were fun. Other people whose opinion I respected thought I could certainly sell them but they were too different from what I was writing at the time (there is a strong element of the romantic) and best not put them out under my own name. I listened. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. Since I was adverse to shopping them around under a pseudonym, I just put them on Azon myself…under a pseudonym. There they rested until someone who knows my work outed me as the author.

I’m not upset about it. Rather the opposite. I’m glad the secret’s out because I don’t think I did right by them. Both were available as short reads and I have since de-listed them. My plan is to re-list them with a better cover, revised text, and together as a two-fer, under my own name this time. Tales of Bergstryker U, or something of the sort. Maybe I’ll even continue the series. You know, in my abundant free time.

I’m also pondering the future of this blog I’ve been doing since my Livejournal days. I said earlier that the blog will continue and I stand by that, but in planning revisions to this web site I’ve been considering a slight change in emphasis, which might entail moving the blog to an occasional subject of the Newsletter while the web site shifts to other duties. Still considering, but if ya’ll have an opinion I’d love to hear it.

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