Update #21 - December 30, 2012 (previous updates listed below)
I made it to the end of another productive, yet exhausting writing year. But
as is usually the case, my literary output for December pales in comparison to
other months, what with Christmas and snow shoveling and simply running
low on creative juices. Since my last post, I edited Chapter 100 of my current
project which I finished in late November and am twelve pages into Chapter
101. Yes, only twelve pages. My disciplined writing schedule has been thrown
out for the month, though I did try to keep to it early on in December. I
guess sometimes you just need to take a break from it all. So after New Year's
Day and some first round NFL playoff games, my ambition should return and
I'll get back into my routine and finish up the first draft of this book.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, including Update #17 (August 24, 2012),
I was inspired to write this epic fantasy shortly after reading J. R. R. Tolkien's
novels
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1975 when I was twelve years
old. Just before I began outlining my book in 1978, an animated movie
version of
The Hobbit was shown on television in 1977 which I was excited to
see then. In those days when there were no DVDs or choices of hundreds of
cable channels or round-the-clock TV, a television special wasn't the ho-hum
affair it probably is to children today. The movie was put out by Rankin/Bass,
the same people who brought you
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964.













Coincidentally, as I am nearing the completion of my book, Peter Jackson's
live-action version of
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has just hit the big
screen, the first of three movies. Eager to see it and needing a mental break
from my writing, I went to the theater a few days after it was released locally
and watched it in the 2D version. I enjoyed it very much but will have to wait
another year to see part two. By that time I hope to be working on the final
edit of my book. I particularly liked the song playing over the final credits in
the movie,
Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Finn which I've since
downloaded from Amazon and listened to way too many times in the car.
Take a listen
here. But if it helps get me through this winter and the rest of
my book, well, whatever works.

So until 2013, have a very happy New Year! Take care.

Update #20 - November 30, 2012
With less than an hour to midnight, it's down to the wire again getting this
monthly update posted. Having lots to do with the Thanksgiving and
Christmas season here, coupled with work and my usual end-of-the-year
creative energy depletion, writing always seems to be a challenge in November
and December. Yet still, here I am with the latest.

As I reported last month, I finished writing Part Ten of my current epic
fantasy novel and soon planned to begin Part Eleven which contains the final
four chapters of the book. And between writing at home on my computer and
scribbling away during my lunch hour at work with a pen and paper, I
completed the first two of those chapters. Chapter 99 turned out a little
longer than expected at twenty-six pages, and yesterday I finished Chapter 100
which totaled 27 pages. I still have to edit that chapter which I will do over
this weekend. So that leaves the two remaining chapters to write before the
first draft of this literary monster is finally done. Then sometime early next
year I will take a few months to reedit the
entire book, I process I'm actually
looking forward to since I can let the daily word generating section of my
brain rest for a while.

Now to prevent these postings from being merely dry updates on chapter
numbers and page counts, from time to time I'll open up about my writing
process or details of the book itself. In Update #7 (October 27, 2011), I talked
about how a few chapters in Part Six of my novel were inspired by several
hikes I had taken years ago in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.
I also included a few photographs, though they hardly do justice to the real
thing. I had decided to use an Adirondack-like mountain setting for this part
of my book early on, though not really having any clue initially about what
would happen there. Also, in this same section of the book, another more
specific setting was inspired by a
different Adirondack adventure I had, namely
a camping trip to Eighth Lake.

Eighth Lake is one of the Fulton Chain Lakes in the western part of the
Adirondack Mountains. One summer during my high school years--and I
don't remember the specific year nor have any pictures to jog my memory--I
went camping with my parents and three of my siblings. One afternoon, my
father, older brother and one of my younger sisters and I went for a hike
along a trail on the east side of Eighth Lake. The body of water runs from the
northeast to southwest, stretching about a mile and a half in length and
maybe a third of a mile or so in width at its center.

As we hiked among the trees along the eastern shoreline, I noticed a small
island across the lake near the center of the opposite side. I believe we had a
pair of binoculars with us though I don't recall noting anything special about
the island when looking at it through them. Yet for some reason or other, I
was fascinated by the sight. Maybe since it was so far away, I attributed
mysterious characteristics to it because of my always active imagination. But
whatever the reason, I remember deciding there on the spot that I would use
this setting in my book idea that was still floating about in my mind. I even
planned to have a wizard living on that island, though I had no inkling as to
who he might be or why he was there.

But sure enough, when I completed my story outline years later, that then
unnamed wizard was living on the island, only now with an interesting
background story and an important link to one of the plot lines in my novel.
The only changes I made to the setting in my book were to have it be a larger
lake and to locate the island closer to the side of the shoreline my characters
were approaching. And Eighth Lake, in my book, is not called Eighth Lake.
I've given it the name Wolf Lake.

And though I haven't provided any real specifics about my story in these
updates since it isn't yet completed, I've decided today to give you a few
sample paragraphs from the book that depicts this island setting. However, I
will not be giving any key plot points away nor will I reveal any of the names
of the three characters mentioned, nor the wizard's name either. Too early for
that! I'll leave the names as numbered blank sections and let you fill in your
own names for now. Consider this an early Christmas present.

After a hasty meal, they continued moving through the bare trees with the
lapping waters of Wolf Lake to their right. A veil of fine snow flurries swirled
through the air and dusted the decaying leaves upon the forest floor. They
had hiked for less than an hour as the light began to fade, their pace slowing
due to 1------’s sluggish steps. But eventually the island increased in size as they
drew closer until they were at a point on the shoreline directly opposite the
wizard’s home located about a quarter mile from the water’s edge. Suddenly
2------ voiced exactly what 1------ and 3------ were both thinking.
“How are we supposed to get
over there?” He scratched the back of his neck, a
slight grin upon his face. “To tell you the truth, I never really thought about
it until now.”
“Doesn’t say much for our planning ahead,” 1------ added with a smirk, gently
rubbing his sore shoulder with his right hand. His left arm was still in its
sling.
“We’ll construct a small raft,” 3------ decided as if it were a minor
inconvenience at best. “I’ll start first thing in the morning. I have a small axe
in my pack and there are plenty of trees.”
“What about rope to lash the pieces together?” 2------ asked.
“No need,” he replied. “A few deep, well placed notches here and there will
do the trick. It’ll be nothing fancy, mind you, but it’ll float us over to that
island.” 3------ wandered a few yards deeper into the woods with 2------,
examining some of the smaller trees and pointing out which ones they might
use, eagerly anticipating how to attack this new project.
“We’ve come all this way and now we’re stuck right on the water’s edge,”
2------ complained with an exasperated sigh. “Maybe I should just swim over
there, 3------.”
“Uh, I don’t think that will be necessary,” 1------ called out, gazing
suspiciously across the water as 2------ and 3------ turned around and wandered
back to shore.
“Why not?” 2------ asked as he and 3------ emerged through the trees.
1------ pointed across the surface of the lake, now dusted with twilight as the
snow began to subside. “
Look.”
2------ and 3------ shifted their gazes to the spot 1------ had indicated, and after
their eyes adjusted to the dimming light, their mouths were instantly agape.
Slowly, and no doubt magically, a small, wooden canoe was floating across the
water from the island toward their location on shore with no one inside the
craft to propel it forward. It moved in a straight, steady line, unaffected by
the mild wind and the choppy waves. The three men glanced at one another,
each dumbfounded yet delighted at the same time.
“So I guess this means that the wizard 4------ is alive and well and home after
all,” 2------ softly said. “And apparently he wants us to pay him a visit.”

I hope you enjoyed that little excerpt despite the missing character names. So
until next month, take care!

Update #19 - October 25, 2012
The final four. No, that isn't an early reference to March Madness, but instead
a description of the work remaining to complete the first draft of my current
novel. Now that I have finished editing Part Ten of the book which I talked
about in my last post, I have four chapters left to write which will comprise
Part Eleven. I edited the nearly 500 pages in Part Ten over the last three
weeks or so, eliminating about 27 pages in the process, bringing the book to
the 2400 page mark, give or take.

I also spent a few more days correcting a long list of edits I had compiled last
January (see Update #10) after reading the entire manuscript I'd written up to
that point to refamiliarize myself with the story as a whole. And now that I've
completed those monumental tasks and breathed a deep sigh, I will take a few
well deserved days off until Monday when I will begin Chapter 99. I can't
believe I've made it this far, but as I near the finish line, I know that I will
have to edit the
entire book one more time before I pass it on to some readers
to get their input before I make another
final edit. Ah, the joy of writing.

And now a bit of sad news. Clarence, a Wheaten Terrier, whose picture is
below, was the inspiration for the dog named Magic in two of my books,
The
Sword and the Crown and The Saving Light, books 2 and 3 in my Endora
Trilogy series. Magic played a pivotal role at the end of book 2, which I won't
divulge here, and earlier this month I was informed that Clarence had passed
away in his home in Georgia where he resided for the past seven years.









When I moved into a new apartment in July 2002, Clarence, almost three at
the time, greeted me in the driveway with a lot of suspicious barking, but no
bites, though we quickly became the best of friends over the next three years
which I discuss in more detail
here. Other pictures of Clarence are posted on
the
Origin of the Timedoor page as well. Until next month.

Update #18 - September 25, 2012
One year and seven days. Thirteen chapters. Four hundred and ninety-eight
pages. Those three descriptions can be applied to Part Ten of my novel which
I'm happy to announce that I finished today, though I never expected it to
take so long. It could stand as a book by itself.

As you know from previous posts, the fantasy novel I'm currently writing is
divided into eleven parts with a short prologue. Part Ten turned out to be the
longest section by far, spanning thirteen chapters and totaling 498 pages. But
that page number will be reduced slightly after I begin editing Part Ten
tomorrow. I started writing this part of the book on September 19, 2011,
imagining then that I would finish it sometime the following spring. I was off
only by two seasons. Chapters 97 and 98, the last two chapters in this part that
I wrote since my last post, totaled 31 and 25 pages, respectively, neither being
as short as I first thought. But then they never are it seems. Thankfully, both
are done, and the most burdensome part of the book (yet still enjoyable to
write) is finally behind me.

So now I shall take two or three weeks to edit Part Ten and then move on to
Part Eleven, the last section of the book which contains just four chapters.
That will seem like a breeze compared to this! Here's how the latest chapter
outline looks for those of you curious about such technical tidbits.

  • Prologue (finished)
  • Part One - Chapters 1 - 10 (finished)
  • Part Two - Chapters 11 - 20 (finished)
  • Part Three - Chapters 21 - 27 (finished)
  • Part Four - Chapters 28 - 39 (finished)
  • Part Five - Chapters 40 - 47 (finished)
  • Part Six - Chapters 48 - 59 (finished)
  • Part Seven - Chapters 60 - 70 (finished)
  • Part Eight - Chapters 71 - 78 (finished)
  • Part Nine - Chapters 79 - 85 (finished)
  • Part Ten - Chapters 86 - 98 (finished)
  • Part Eleven - Chapters 99 - 102 (to be written)

A happy autumn to all. See you in October.

Update #17 - August 24, 2012
I'm particularly happy to be writing this update today for two reasons. One,
it's not the last day of the month, which too many times I found myself nearly
breaking my rule to post one update per month. Two, and more importantly,
I'm delighted to report that I completed Chapter 96 a few days ago and
finished editing it on Wednesday. This chapter, along with Chapters 92-95,
are what the storyline has been building to and where many plot points are
finally resolved. These five chapters together run 215 pages, more than I first
anticipated, but it was well worth the effort to reshape my original ideas over
the last few months and produce a better story than I once imagined in my
teens and twenties. The total page number right now stands at just a bit over
2300, not including what I've already completed for Chapter 97 which I
started writing three days ago. Now just six chapters to go!

I feel as if I have climbed over a high wall to get to this point in my book,
with only a few minor hurdles left to complete. So I thought I'd write about
how and why I decided to take on this enormous literary effort. In my first
post (April 17, 2011), I mentioned how in the spring of 1975 when I was
twelve years old I had read J. R. R. Tolkien's
The Lord of the Rings, and then
later
The Hobbit, which inspired me to write my own epic fantasy novel.

In that post I had written:
Besides the interesting characters and events in
Tolkien's story, I was greatly impressed by the grand narrative sweep of the work,
so much so that I reread it several times in my youth (along with The Hobbit) and
a few more times since. After reading the three volumes the first time, I felt as if I
had taken the journey myself, often thinking back to particular sections of the book
and consulting his maps as if they represented a real place. It wasn't long after my
first couple of readings
[in the fall of 1978] that I began to imagine snippets of my
own narrative, some more developed than others, and many not even connected to
one another in a proper storyline. But I knew then that I wanted to write my own
grand narrative someday. And nearly thirty-three years later, I'm almost there.

Let's now make that thirty-four years later. And when I think about how I
first stumbled upon Tolkien's works in 1975, it was, like Bilbo Baggins
finding the One Ring of power, just a matter of chance.

While in sixth grade, the textbook series that I was using in my reading class
contained some stories that were chapters from various novels, though no
mention of the novels themselves was provided as I recall. One of the stories
was titled
Riddles in the Dark, which Tolkien fans know is Chapter Five from
The Hobbit, a key chapter where Bilbo Baggins finds the One Ring. I
remember reading that story in April of 1975, not realizing it was an excerpt
from a novel, and then plowing through the rest of the volume since I liked
to read ahead even before the stories were assigned as homework.

One afternoon shortly afterward, during a free period where students were
allowed to work on their own and talk quietly, I was seated at my desk doing
some homework when a classmate in the next row to my right began telling
another student about a book he had read. I couldn't help but overhear the
conversation about someone named Frodo who inherited a magic ring and
had to drop it in the Cracks of Doom to destroy it. I didn't know who this
Frodo character was or where exactly the Cracks of Doom were located, but I
had heard something about a magic ring and quickly realized that my
classmate was referring to the One Ring mentioned in
Riddles in the Dark.

As my interest was piqued, I later asked him about what book he had been
discussing. He told me that the story we had read was a chapter lifted from a
novel called
The Hobbit. I was further intrigued when he mentioned there
was a three-part sequel called
The Lord of the Rings which recounted the
journey to destroy the One Ring. I was immediately hooked by his
description, and so after school that day, we went to the public library just
down the block to find the book. Unfortunately, when we got there, the book
had already been checked out. And worse, there was a waiting list.

It seems around that time,
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were quite
popular, being the
Harry Potter of its time. And that was before the Internet
and 24-hour news. So I put my name on the waiting list, disappointed that I
couldn't take the book home. But my classmate suggested that I check out the
first volume of
The Lord of the Rings instead since I had already read the key
chapter about the ring in
The Hobbit. So I did, eager to get on with this
literary adventure. But after reading the first few pages of Chapter One of
The Fellowship of the Ring, I set the book aside and remember it sitting on the
second shelf of the small desk my brother and I shared in our bedroom.

As I recall the stretch of weather at the time being warm and sunny, I can
only guess that I was more drawn to play outdoors than flip through the
pages of a book, though I was a voracious reader during those years. But each
time I walked past my desk, I always noticed the book and felt a tinge of guilt
for not reading it because of all the help offered from my classmate. So as the
book's May due date drew closer and closer, I again picked it up and started
from the beginning, only this time I never put the book down and flew
through the pages. Soon I was back in the library to check out
The Two
Towers
, and later, The Return of the King. I was enthralled with the story,
feeling as if I had gone on that journey myself.

Then one sunny day in August, I received a telephone call from the library
informing me that
The Hobbit had been returned and that I was next on the
list to check it out. In a flash, I walked down to the library (or possibly ran, I
can't remember), signed out the book and hurried home. I
do remember how
excited I was to finally be able to read this novel and recall pouring myself a
tall glass of iced tea, grabbing a lawn chair and unfolding it the backyard and
then plopping down and losing myself in its pages. And though I can't
remember the book cover illustration for the volumes of
The Lord of the Rings
that I first read (even an online search didn't jog my memory), I clearly recall
the tan cloth hardcover edition of
The Hobbit that I read containing a small,
red, bowing hobbit impression on the upper right hand side.














I guess why I remember these minor details with such clarity is because they
are important to
me and helped formed who I am in part as a writer. I think
it's important that everyone have a passion of one sort or another. Mine is
writing, and more specifically, writing this current book. And whether one's
passion is grand or simple, or provides you with a living or not, hopefully it
will give you joy and sustain you through life's ups and downs, inspire you
and possibly others, and ultimately make you a better person.

As you can see, this has been one of my longest posts, so why stop now? I'll
leave you with one more interesting nugget (to me, anyway) about my first
encounter with
The Hobbit. When first thinking about writing this post
several months ago, I suddenly remembered that reading the
Riddles in the
Dark
chapter was not the first time I had heard about The Hobbit. I had
actually seen the book many times before but never knew anything about it.

In the grade school I attended, the fifth through eighth grades were located
on the second floor and shared a small, one-room library at the end of the
hallway. I remember often scanning the wall on the left side of the room after
entering the library to find a book to read, and while doing so, one book
spine always caught my attention. Perhaps it was the bold blue, green, black
and white colors that jumped out at me, since being colorblind, the stark color
contrasts probably appealed to me more than subtler shades. Or maybe the
unusual title
The Hobbit intrigued me as well. What was a hobbit, I probably
asked myself.











But what surprises me most in retrospect is that, one, I don't specifically recall
noting the titles of
any of the other books on that shelf, only The Hobbit, and
two, not once did I ever pull the book down to take a look at it. Go figure! I
guess the creative writer part of me would like to think that whenever my eye
caught sight of that book and for some reason never took it off the shelf, it
was a sign of some sort, as if the book were quietly telling me that it would be
an important part of my writing life, but not just yet. I'd still have to wait a
while longer before I should read it.

But the funny thing I only realized a short time ago when thinking about
writing this post was that it never occurred to me to check out
this edition of
The Hobbit when my classmate and I went to the public library to find the
book. Events in life though, whether large or small, happen as they do. And
if I had read
The Hobbit earlier, I would have missed out waiting for that
telephone call all summer, racing to the library to see the return date stamped
inside as I checked out the book, and then enjoying a cold, iced tea in my
backyard on a warm August afternoon while I savored each page.

So I guess it
was worth the wait. And for those of you waiting for me to
finish this book as well, I hope it's worth it for you too. Back in September.

Update #16 - July 31, 2012
Here we are again, another month and another book post, and as too often,
I'm cutting it close to the very end. And as I have to leave for work in a
couple of hours, I'll have to type this one fast.

In my post from a year ago (Update #4 - July 26, 2011), I mentioned how I
twice ran the 15k
Boilermaker Road Race in Utica, NY (held annually 17
miles east of here) in July 1993 and 1997. It was a grueling experience near the
end for me both times, but I made it through. As I finished another chapter
of my book earlier this month, I was reminded of that experience again and
the effort it took, one time running with a toe blister and the other time after
recovering from shin splints. And for a brief moment after having finished
that latest chapter, I thought to myself--
I'd rather run the race again instead!
But I thought that
only for a moment. The exhilaration I experienced shortly
thereafter upon completing another key chapter (a writer's high?) made the
effort all worth while. So here's where everything now stands.

In my last update, I was working on Chapter 94, a key chapter in the book
that brings many story lines to an exciting conclusion. I had outlined this
chapter into twelve scenes before I started writing it because I was juggling so
many characters and events all at once. At the end of June, I completed five of
those scenes which amounted to nearly fifty pages, and as has often been the
case, I made that its own chapter since it contained a proper conclusion. I
planned to incorporate the remaining seven scenes into Chapter 95.

After completing four more of the twelve scenes (another 40 pages), I decided
to incorporate those into Chapter 95 since it ended at such a moving moment.
That left three scenes to be completed as Chapter 96, though I'm sixteen pages
into the tenth scene and plan to finish it today at work on my lunch hour or
by tomorrow morning at the latest. After that, only two more scenes to go
which should be finished by mid August. I wish I were a faster writer, and
sometimes I am, but I want to make the ending as exciting and memorable as
possible. Now the new Chapters 97 and 98, both of which are mercifully short
wrapping-up type chapters, will complete Part Ten of this massive book. Part
Eleven, the last section, will now contain Chapters 99 - 102.

So I'm almost at the finish line, though only about a year and a half later
than I had first anticipated. But as they say, better late than never. Enjoy the
rest of the summer and I'll talk to you in August.

Update #15 - June 28, 2012
I'll begin this update with an unusual question. What does a November 1979
meeting that occurred between Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch
Dimitrios have to do with my current book in progress? (You might be
thinking
Huh? at this point.) The answer to follow. But first a quick summary
on where the book now stands.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had just begun working on Chapter 94,
one of the pivotal chapters in the novel, but before I started to write it, I had
extensively outlined the chapter into twelve scenes. As of this moment, I am
near the end of the fifth scene which I will finish later today, having added
another 47 pages to the total so far. Though I am enjoying writing this
chapter, it is taking and
running much longer than I thought. But since there
are several story lines that must be resolved, and I want to do justice to them
and the characters, I'll simply have to continue pumping out the words until
the chapter is properly finished. What I originally thought would be a
month's work on this key chapter will probably stretch into three. (That
includes the month of May that it took to write Chapter 93 which was, for a
time, part of this current chapter.)

Now back to my original question which I posed to give you a bit of insight
into the origins of this novel. In Update #9 (December 2011), I mentioned
how I started developing ideas for this story back in the fall of 1978. I wrote
in December of these ideas that:
Most were unrelated bits of plot and setting and
a few vaguely developed characters, all of which swirled around in my mind for
about a year like bits of space debris that hadn't yet coalesced into a star or a
planet, or in my case, a proper story idea. Finally, and by chance, there was one
particularly interesting spark that started me on the road to laying out a viable
storyline which I'll get into in more detail in a later post when I'm ready to reveal
some of the specific plot points.
Now, since I am closer to finishing this book,
I'll tell you a little more about one of those ideas and the "spark" that helped
me start getting this novel into shape.

I had a main character in mind as I began to create my story and considered
various ways to pepper his world with interesting challenges and adventures.
For whatever reason, I decided there would be a war raging between two
kingdoms far from his home when the story began, though not quite
knowing how that conflict would involve him or even knowing the reason
for the war itself. It was to be an important subplot of the novel, but not its
focus. That idea, along with many others, rattled around in my mind for
about a year, waiting for the moment when some or all of them would finally
come together in a logical way as the beginning of a story. That moment
arrived on November 29, 1979.

I was sixteen and a junior in high school then, and I recall walking down the
stairs early one evening at home and going through the dining room on the
way to the kitchen (no doubt for an after-dinner snack). My parents were
watching the national news in the adjoining living room at the time, the
television being visible through an archway. As I passed by the table toward
the kitchen, my ear caught a snippet of the news report and immediately
grabbed my attention, drawing be back into the dining room where I stood
and watched the broadcast through the archway. At once, I knew I had found
the literary spark I was seeking and eagerly began to connect the dots between
my scattered ideas.

The TV story being reported that night was a meeting in Turkey between the
heads of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, Pope John Paul II and
Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, respectively. I don't remember much else
about the report other than it referenced the "great schism" that first split the
Churches apart in 1054. I
do remember latching onto that historical fact with
much excitement and overlaying it on my skeleton of an idea. Though all the
particulars still had to be developed and nourished, I now could imagine an
interesting
cause for that war I'd dreamed up. It wasn't simply a war between
two neighboring kingdoms, but an instigated war of reunification between
two kingdoms that used to be
one many years past. And then all at once, ideas
began spilling like water over a falls as I found a way to connect this war to
both my main character
and my antagonist. And from those few links, other
threads of the story began to shoot off as well, creating the first steady strands
in a narrative web. It would take me another nine years to complete my initial
outline for the novel, but this was the moment when things really started to
get rolling.

I don't remember much else that happened afterward that day. I know I didn't
jump up and down and cheer, nor mention to anyone about my flash of
inspiration. As best as I can remember, I hadn't yet told a soul up to then that
I was even working on this particular story. I may have jotted down a few
notes later that night, though I'm not sure. But if I
had been on my way to
the kitchen for a snack that evening, I probably
did go and dig one out of the
refrigerator afterward.

This incident was just one of many steps in the process of writing this book,
though a significant one. I wonder what might have happened if I had walked
down those stairs a minute earlier or a minute later. Would this book have
developed along a different line, or even at all, if I hadn't heard that news
clip? I suppose I might have read about the story later in a newspaper or heard
something on the radio and come to the same conclusion. Or maybe not,
depending on my train of thought at the time. It's all speculation. But that's
the creative process, and this is how it showed itself to me in this one case, so
that's what I ran with.

You often hear about people receiving sparks of inspiration from odd or
unlikely sources, sometimes while awake or other times in a dream. My
particular spark in this case just happened to be related to an historical event
that happened over 900 years ago. And though I clearly remember the
moment, I
did have to search online to find the exact date before writing this
post. After all, my memory isn't
that good. See you next month.

Update #14 - May 30, 2012
I had several productive days of writing last week, though I didn't pen even a
single word of my current novel during that time. I'll explain shortly.

In my April post, I stated that I was ready to begin work on Chapter 93, the
key chapter in the book which I hope my readers will one day be breathlessly
turning the pages to get to while savoring each word along the way. I
anticipated that writing this chapter would take the entire month of May since
I would be juggling several story lines at once and would need to properly
plot the order of scenes to make the novel as exciting as possible. But as I
started writing, focusing on some of my main characters at the start, I began
to realize that I would need to advance them and their current situations to a
particular point
without interruption before I could start weaving in the other
narrative threads in the most effective way. And since the first part of the
chapter focused more on character and dialogue rather than pure action, I
decided to turn the first 34 pages I eventually wrote into Chapter 93 alone,
ending it at a point where the pace of the story kicks up a notch. Chapter 94
will now have these characters embroiled in a more active narrative alongside
the other similarly paced story lines. And by splitting yet another chapter, the
total count in the book comes to 100 chapters plus the prologue.

This brings me to my earlier point about why I didn't write any of the text
for Chapter 94 last week. I was about to dive into the chapter, having a
general idea from my outline of what scenes I wanted to write but not
specifically knowing the order I wanted them arranged. So as I began to jot
down a few notes about what should happen and when, I found myself
detailing each scene quite extensively, including at what point in the action
each sequence should stop in order to generate the most suspense and
excitement, as well as how to present the grand finale, as it were, in the most
sensible and satisfying way for the reader. I outlined twelve scenes altogether
and was quite pleased with the details and their logical progression, and
yesterday I began writing Chapter 94, eager to reach the end.

The two remaining chapters in this section of the book (Part Ten) are very
short chapters, wrapping things up and sending my characters back to their
various homes, including my main character who must resolve one final
lingering conflict in his village from about ninety chapters ago. Part Eleven
will consist of the final four chapters, two of which are also very short, and
none of which will be split into two. Of that I am one hundred percent sure.
Well, 99.9% anyway. I'll keep you informed. Until June, take care.    

Update #13 - April 25, 2012
I suspected that writing Chapter 92 of my current writing project would be a
challenging task, and I'm here to report that my prediction proved to be one
hundred percent correct! But it wasn't all drudgery and frustration in the
three weeks or so it took to complete. I forced myself to think creatively and
came up with a few exciting scenes that I hope my readers will enjoy. I
finished Chapter 92 about eight hours ago (which was around 2:30 this
Wednesday morning), though I rarely work on my book that late. Instead, I
usually find myself preparing
this update during those ungodly hours. But the
creative juices were flowing then and I was anxious to complete the chapter,
and now I'm happy that those 39 pages are done, bringing the total page
count to somewhere around 2130. So that leaves me with seven chapters left
to finish in the book (Chapters 93 - 99), with three to go in Part Ten.

Since Chapter 93 is the key chapter in the book before everything begins to
wind down, I'm going to take a few days off and not start writing it until
Monday. First, I just
need a few mental recovery days as I have been writing
since mid January. But more importantly, I'll use this time to go over my
outline and updated notes to wrap my brain around how I want to approach
the chapter. I have a general idea in mind but have developed a few different
avenues to arrive there, not being one hundred percent sure which route I'll
take. And even when I start writing on Monday, I'm certain I'll be
rearranging and tweaking plot points as I go along. It'll be an interesting
month ahead to say the least as I expect this chapter will take all of May to
complete unless, of course, the writing muses are particularly kind to me.

Writing Chapter 92 (and Chapter 67, which I'll explain later) served as a
preview of what I can expect while working on this next installment. In
Chapter 92, which launched the final battle between the opposing forces in
the novel and set up a few cliffhanging moments to be resolved in the next
chapter, I found myself getting behind in my writing for two or three days at
various times. I wrote very little during certain stretches while contemplating
where to go next with my characters, and then when I latched onto the right
idea, I'd write in spurts to catch up where I wanted to be in my daily page
count. Now in previous posts I've discussed my extensive outline for the book
which guided me through the writing process, but the outline for this
particular chapter amounted to a mere two paragraphs with very few specific
plot points. I guess when I planned that battle chapter over twenty years ago,
I was just too tired, lazy or unprepared to work out the details and left it for
the
future me to deal with it. Thanks, 1988 Tom.

Anyway, to complete Chapter 92, I had to plan
another large battle as I did in
Chapters 61 and 62, though I think I had a little bit more to work with in my
outline for those chapters, though not
much more. To avoid writing pages of
tedious swordplay and the like, I had to envision a specific layout of a city and
its surrounding terrain and the paths the opposing armies would take before
individual battles could be written about. Then I shifted from one scene to
another, setting up what I hope are interesting confrontations for my
characters to face in terms of pure plot and theme, most of which are to be
resolved in the next chapter along with the struggles of two
other sets of
characters whose final story arcs were set up in Chapters 87 and 91. All of this
caused a lot of starting and stopping in my writing sessions for Chapter 92,
and I expect it will happen again for Chapter 93. Just something for me to
look forward to.

Chapter 93 will also parallel Chapter 67 in my book which I wrote in
September and October of 2010 in that it was the culmination of several
building story lines before the launch of the final third of the book. Chapter
93 will take on that same feel, only even more ramped up, as many characters,
both major and minor, face their greatest challenges in the book and will
endure a few unexpected twists of fate. Major scenes will build, shift and
resolve within this one chapter with what I hope will have a movie-like feel as
opposed to concentrating on one plot line at a time to its conclusion. I think
that would lessen the impact of the story as a whole the way it has been set
up. At least I
hope this all plays out as exciting as I have imagined it. And
since I am still eager to read the book when it is finally completed, though
having read it numerous times already, I'll take that as a good sign that I'm
traveling in the right direction. Talk to you again in May.           

Update #12 - March 31, 2012
And then there were eight (chapters left to write, that is). It has been a long
road since I wrote the short prologue and Chapter One of my current project,
an epic fantasy novel, but slowly,
very slowly, I'm reaching the end. And as
they say, it's the journey, not the destination. So I had better enjoy this
process with all of its ups and downs, because pretty soon I actually
will finish
this nearly lifelong project. Then what will I do!? (Don't worry. Several other
books are already lined up in various states of completion).

When I wrote February's post, I was working on Chapter 90 of this novel,
having completed the first eleven pages at the time. When I reached page
thirty-three I realized, just as I have at others parts in the book, that the
chapter had arrived at a natural and logical conclusion. So I decided to end
Chapter 90 at that spot and continued writing as per my outline what is now
Chapter 91. I'm happy to report that I also finished
that chapter yesterday,
adding another forty-two pages to the total.

Since my originally outlined Chapter 90 has now been divided into Chapters
90 and 91, the final chapter of the book will be Chapter 99. (Do I dare aim for
one hundred?) I've done this chapter splitting several times before as noted in
previous posts, but I thought I wouldn't need to anymore. But a chapter takes
on a life of its own when you actually write it as compared to the ideas you
once jotted down in an outline, something akin to the theory and practice
argument. In this instance, the chapter shifted about midway through in the
type and flow of action as well as the focus on particular characters. Splitting
the chapter only made sense, though I never expected the two parts to run a
total of seventy-five pages.

Now it's on to Chapter 92, one of the four remaining chapters left in Part
Ten of my book. Part Eleven will also contain (as of this minute) four
chapters. Both Chapter 92, and particularly Chapter 93, promise to be
challenging to write as they represent the culmination of the main storyline in
the book. I've revised parts of the outline for these two chapters as I near
writing them, and at the moment, several of the plot points and character
actions are still up in the air as I am considering many ways to mold the grand
finale. I'll be interested to see where my creative instincts take me when I
begin to tap at the keyboard on Monday and transfer my thoughts into a
more concrete form. Whatever the result, I know it will be far different from
what I originally had in mind when I completed the first draft of my outline
almost twenty-four years ago. For those of your keeping score, here's the
current status of my novel broken down section by section.

  • Prologue (finished)
  • Part One - Chapters 1 - 10 (finished)
  • Part Two - Chapters 11 - 20 (finished)
  • Part Three - Chapters 21 - 27 (finished)
  • Part Four - Chapters 28 - 39 (finished)
  • Part Five - Chapters 40 - 47 (finished)
  • Part Six - Chapters 48 - 59 (finished)
  • Part Seven - Chapters 60 - 70 (finished)
  • Part Eight - Chapters 71 - 78 (finished)
  • Part Nine - Chapters 79 - 85 (finished)
  • Part Ten - Chapters 86 - 95 (86 - 91 finished, 92 - 95 to be written)
  • Part Eleven - Chapters 96 - 99 (to be written)

So until next month, enjoy wherever life takes you (only good places, I hope),
and I'll get busy doing some more writing. All the best!

Update #11 - February 27, 2012
I had intended to post this month's update about a week ago, but my plans
went awry thanks to a sudden head cold that dropped by unannounced. I am
much on the mend now, and though I tried to write through the stuffed head
and the need for extra sleep, I'm still about three or so days behind where I
wanted to be. But I'll make it up with some additional time at the keyboard
during each writing session so as to keep me on track. Briefly, here's where
things now stand with my book.

I began writing Chapter 89 in mid January after reading the first eighty-eight
chapters just to get my head around the whole story again, and happily
finished it in February. It stretched out to thirty-eight pages, a little longer
than I had expected, but I was pleased with the results. I am now eleven pages
into Chapter 90, and as there are ninety-eight chapters in the book, I am
excited to have at last reached the "90s" though there is still a good amount of
work to be done. So starting tomorrow (actually
today since it is nearly 2 AM
as I write this), I will get back to work to drive this story to its conclusion. I'll
try to write something a little less cut-and-dry for my next update in March.
Until then, enjoy the extra twenty-four hours this year brings you on Leap
Year Day on Wednesday. Use it well!

Update #10 - January 23, 2012
Half a million words later (just over 550,000 to be exact), here I am again.

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to take the first two weeks in
January to read the prologue and eighty-eight completed chapters of my novel
in progress to see where it stood as a whole. That task took me almost
three
weeks as I fit it in between working, occasional snow shoveling and watching
several NFL playoff games. I'm happy to report though, that it was an
enjoyable task. A fun read, if I do say so myself, where I looked forward to
coming home each day to continue with the next chapter even though I
already knew what was going to happen. I'll take that as a good sign.

As I read a printed version of the book in my reading chair, I kept a running
list of typos, grammatical errors or minor word changes that I wanted to make
and will correct on the computer later. There were under a hundred that I had
missed during previous edits. Since the last three chapters (Chapters 86 - 88)
are in Part Ten of the book which I'm still working on, I read those on the
computer as I hadn't made a good print copy yet. That gave me the chance to
re-edit those three chapters as I went along, cutting unnecessary words,
phrases and whole sentences here and there and rearranging the same in other
places. I enjoyed doing that and look forward to editing the entire project
when I finish the last ten chapters without the pressure of having to write
every day hanging over my head.

I always liked editing my work--getting rid of needless words, neatening up
clunky sentences and tightening the story as a whole. Editing is like putting
your work on an exercise regimen to trim it up and put some added spark and
vibrancy into its pages. When I finished editing Chapter 86 the other day, it
started out as 53 typed, double spaced pages. A few hours later, I had it down
to just over 51 pages. That's nearly two pages of what I once thought were
precious words now removed from throughout the text, making it leaner,
meaner and more enjoyable to read. Though I've been editing as I write, I
can't wait to go at the whole book with a literary scalpel when it's finally
finished. Though I was pleased with how much I liked the novel up to this
point, I found a few "talky" passages in two of the later chapters that I have to
tighten up. Out of the 2000 plus pages, those were the only parts I thought
dragged a bit. I wanted to sit down at the computer right then and fix them
as I knew what needed to be done, but I decided that I'd better get to work on
Chapter Eighty-nine first and save some of the editing fun for later.

So starting tomorrow, it's back to the keyboard, or occasionally pen and paper
during my work lunch hour when necessary. Another update next month.
Take care.

To read Updates #1 - 9 from 2011, CLICK HERE
THOMAS J. PRESTOPNIK
~ The Author's Official Website ~
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MY NEXT BOOK
A monthly update on my current work in progress.
The photo on the far left is an image of the edition of The Hobbit that I first read in
1975, though the volume I had read wasn't in as pristine condition as the one
pictured above. I can still recall the smell of the pages from time to time. The two
images center and right are the first volumes I owned of
The Lord of the Rings which
I purchased in 1978.
The Hobbit was a birthday gift to me from my parents in 1980. I
have a hardcover set as well containing additional books by and about Tolkien.
An image of the book spine of the edition of
The Hobbit that always caught my eye in my grade
school library whenever I was searching for a book
to read. A cover image of the book is next to it.   
Clarence, a Wheaten Terrier, was the inspiration for the dog
named Magic in
The Sword and the Crown and The Saving
Light, parts 2 and 3 in my Endora Trilogy series.
Photo taken on March 21, 2004.
On the left, an image from the 1977 animated TV movie version of The Hobbit
from Rankin/Bass Productions. To the right, an image from Peter Jackson's 2012 live
action movie
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from New Line Cinema and MGM.