Story Time: What Power Holds

Today’s Story Time is from Dragon Magazine #209, September 1994, back when Barbara Young was fiction editor and before TSR was bought out by (ugh) Wizards of the Coast. The story itself was the first in the “Laws of Power” universe that eventually led to the novel series.

Treedle was first. The character, like Golden Bell from “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng,” was from a dream. He and Black Kath appeared, along with elements that eventually came together into the very first scene. It was all about Treedle in the beginning, but it was only when Marta showed up that the story came together and I knew it was a series. Treedle’s part was done once the first few stories became part of Black Kath’s Daughter, which, oddly enough is the second book in the series, not the first, because later I figured out that The Long Look was really the first book in the series, and Tymon the Black was in the same universe (yeah, I know. Sometimes I’m a little slow that way). “What Power Holds” remains the actual first story written in that universe.

Confused? Me too. I just go with it, and things usually work out. My subconscious is way smarter than I am.

Standard Note: “What Power Holds” will stay up until next Wednesday, April 4th. And then, not.


Dark Wizards Need Love Too

The beauty of a blog is that you can write whatever you want. The drawback for both me and the reader is the same. Too many days this is just me rambling on about whatever bright or shadowy butterfly has my attention at the moment. Yet, now and again, I can dispense some actual information. About me, of course, but after all this is my blog and—trust me on this–usually it’s better to let my Ego run free rather than my Id.

Ahem. First item of news: the series (still un-named) that began with “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” continues later this month with “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts” in the Ninth Anniversary Double Issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which should be online toward the end of this month, so only a few weeks away. Pan Bao and the crew attempt a good deed, despite his better judgment. No telling what they’ll do next. Frankly, I can’t wait to find out myself. A podcast is also planned.

Now it’s time for the elephant in the room, or rather an explanation for the cover image above. A fan who had heard LeVar Burton’s podcast of “Empty Places” asked me why more of my work (and specifically those featuring Tymon the Black) wasn’t available on another platform, said platform I barely knew existed. So I checked it out and discovered that said platform currently wasn’t accepting new publisher accounts, so placing them there wasn’t possible for now. I also realized that, the two novels aside, the three shorter works starring Tymon had never been put together in one place for the time when it might be possible to make them available. So here they are, together for the first time in The Collected Tymon the Black: “A Time for Heroes,” the original novelette which later grew into The Long Look, “Empty Places,” (3rd episode of LeVar Burton Reads) and “The Devil of Details.” Two novelettes and a long short story, at about 25,000 words. I’ve made it available on the Kindle for now, though with luck it’ll be available Elsewhere later. At least if anyone is looking for Tymon the Black outside the novels, there’s a place to find him.

LeVar Burton Reads

I’ve told this story before, but in the current circumstance it bears repeating:

In an earlier version of the Writer’s Group With No Name we had a member who was working hard on a romance novel. We’d read excerpts and thought it promising, but the story wasn’t coming quickly or easily for her. In the meantime, most of the other members of the group were working on short fiction, getting stuff finished, and a few of us were selling. At times the meetings would turn into gripe sessions about slow markets, slower payments, incomprehensible editorial decisions, the usual. All true and the bane of working writers for practically ever, but our romance writer, working but still with nothing in shape to show an editor, was not impressed with the bitching. Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 13, Part 5 — Conclusion










Chapter 13, Part 5 – Conclusion

“Be Careful,” Marta said.


Bonetapper launched himself off the rock and flew up toward the entrance to the cave. Once he was there he did a quick swoop past the opening, then again. On the third pass the landed on the lip of the entrance and looked into the darkness. After a few moments he called down to them. “No one in sight, but it does go back some distance. There’s a rope ladder anchored here.”

“Throw it down, if you can,” Marta said.

There was some rustling and squawks of complaint which drifted down, but not the ladder.


“Give me a minute. I’m only a raven and this thing is heavy.”

“Stand clear of the edge,” Marta said. “Man.”

“Got it,” said a less harsh and croaky voice from above. “Coming down now.”

The rope ladder rolled off the edge of the cave. It didn’t quite reach the top of the rockfall, but close enough to grasp. “I’d really like to be a raven again,” said the voice. “This feels very strange and uncomfortable.”

“Done,” Marta said. In another moment Bonetapper flew out of the cave.

“I know he’s really a man,” Sela said. “And yet….”

Marta shrugged. “A raven was the form my mother chose for him, and in that form he’s been the most useful to me. He’s had the chance to rid himself of it before, and yet here he is. Sometimes I think he’s simply a better raven than he ever was a man. Sometimes I think he knows it, too.”

Kian spoke to Loken who then shed his helmet and hauberk. He belted his sword back in place before he took hold of the rope ladder and started to climb up.

“Bonetapper, watch the cave. Warn us if anyone shows themselves,” Marta said.

The raven flew back to the lip of the cave and perched there. “Still clear,” he said.

Kian sighed. “I can see the advantages of having such a one for a scout.”

“I can see the advantages of having a bodyguard who is not easily flummoxed by such things as witches and talking ravens,” Prince Dolan said. Marta thought he was trying not to smile.

“I’m from Lythos, originally,” Kian said. “Such—forgive me—unusual things were not so unusual there, at least by reputation. Though I have to admit that I don’t think I believed even half of what I heard until now.”

“Once you accept the notion of a talking raven, the walls do tend to come down,” Prince Dolan said. Continue reading

Life Could Be a Dream

No, this isn’t a dream diary. Most people’s dreams aren’t as interesting as they think they are, including mine, for the simple reason of perspective. A dream is VR in a way that current VR tech can only envy: Fully immersive. Sight. Sound. Taste. Touch. All that is vivd to the dreamer in a way it’s never going to be to the one hearing about it. “I went flying last night! It was wonderful!” and we all go, “Umm, yeah, that’s nice.” Unless we were the ones doing the flying. Quite often without a plane. Exciting? Sure, to the one doing it. Fun? Likewise. Interesting to others? Not so much. Rather like vacation photos. (Disclaimer: There are exceptions. I did say “most.” No, I’m not going to name them. You can assume I’m talking about you.)

Rather, I’m thinking about dreaming as it relates to the writing process. I’ve dreamed complete, wonderful stories that–see above–turned to complete dross in the morning, rather like fairy gold. Even when I remember one in every detail, by morning I realize they make no sense at all. None. And they don’t work. The unusual thing is when they DO work, and I’ve found that the ONLY time a dream suggests a real, workable story to me is not when it tries to hand me a plot. My dream plots are complete nonsense, and those never work. Sometimes I’ll get a workable image, but only now and then. What does work is when the dream hands me a character. And even that doesn’t happen very often. But I can think of three very — to me — notable exceptions.

1) Treedle. This character appeared in “What Power Holds,” an early story published in Dragon Magazine back in 1994. He only appeared in the first one written, but the series he sparked is still going on. The last short story in the series was “The First Law of Power” in RoF in 2001, but it was also the genesis of The Long Look and Black Kath’s Daughter, and whatever more books may come.

2) Golden Bell. I don’t even remember much of the dream she came from. What I do remember was her standing before me, saying, “I have a malady of music, a fever of poetry that consumes me.” That line made it into the story almost unchanged, which was “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng.” Published in the first issue of Black Gate, and also the first piece of mine to ever make it into a Year’s Best compilation.

3) The Lady Scythe. Dreamed her exactly as she was in the story, down to the no-nonsense work clothes she wore underneath her ceremonial attire. She was the Emperor’s executioner, set in the same universe as A Warrior of Dreams. She looked a lot like a cheerful high-rent tavern wench. In actuality she was a psychopath with a heart of ice. Came with the job.  “Courting the Lady Scythe,” in Paper Cities, said book being the winner of a World Fantasy Award that year in the anthology category.

Only three times so far. And in each case, the character with the dream origin is NOT the main character, even though they are responsible for the story coming into existence. This may mean something. Or not. But it’s fun to think about, at least to me. If not for the rest of you, well, dreams are a tricky subject. 🙂