Conjuring the Story

David Keck Draws a Villain for The Serpent’s WalkOld Problem

Writing around a full time job and family is, for me, as tricky as it is necessary.This summer I worked up a pretty meticulous outline for a next book: The Serpent’s Walk. But, since then, I have had no end of trouble getting rolling: an immensely frustrating experience all hemmed in with self-doubt, suffocation, self-pity, distraction, and similar critters.

Today’s Solution

It occurred to me that getting the story to live in my imagination once again might be the key. With that in mind, I’ve sketched the shape of one of the more unpleasant characters. I had been vacillating about exactly what sort of thing he would be. Imagine writing Moby Dick without any notion of what sort of sea monster had got Ahab so irritated. (Clams can be quite alarming. Oh. And squid. No. Maybe it’s a mermaid. Or a vast narwhal….)

I think it helps to have an answer or two about the physicality of the thing swimming at the bottom of the next book….

I think.

I’ll update you soon.

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Sisyphus with Oatmeal

The Summer of Plots

Right now, I'm plotting a novel. I want a plan before summer ends. (Ideally, I'd like to have bite-sized pieces to chomp down during the school year).

There are a lot of characters and storylines in my plans, and keeping them all moving onward and award has required a lot of messy pushing. Things slide when I'm not looking.

Grim History of Bug-eyed Doodles

For me, planning has always involved stories and sketches. There are probably still notebooks in a Manitoban basement documenting the adventures of strange (and often heavily armed) creatures.

All of what a person might generously call my strategies return to those notebooks full of pop-eyed adventurers. I draw faces. I'll sketch places. And I suppose the doodling keeps the problem in the corner of my eye (unsuspecting while I sneak up on it).

The Pretense of Order

For years, I've taught (mostly) teens about how to break through tough spots in writing, and I'll teach discrete strategies. Try writing without stopping (or even thinking) for five minutes. Try lists. Try a mind map. Try questions.

In reality, when I'm on my game, these things are much more muddled. In my notebook, there are plenty of "mind maps" with their sprawling arrows and options. But there are also many sentences that are basically me, talking to myself until the problems and solutions start to bubble up. I circle back, I reverse things, I shake my head and see what a long walk can solve.

The process isn't really a set of tidy strategies.

It's much more like wrestling. (Maybe in the dark).

((Possibly with porridge)).

Names to Conjure Without


Names, especially for a writer of fantasy, are a constant source of peril.

Often, it’s people and places that cause the trouble. At this instant, however, I’m trying to name a thing.

We have a set of supernatural wards stretched across the forests. This vast, shifting field of sorcery is anchored to Creation at different nodes. Or possibly loci. Maybe nexuses. But they can’t be called nodes. Or nexuses. (Or noses or Lexuses).

I need something with roots. It may help if you follow me a little with this. Our wards are an ancient force. They were tied to the world by desperate people. The whole thing struggles to free itself like a lashing eel. Like the aurora. Maybe something from the world of shackles or nails, pins, stakes, or palings.

Nothing has presented itself.

On and off, I’ve turned to various species of thesaurus (there are some wonderful word finders out there) and weird old dictionaries. There’s a big book of forgotten crafts full of weavers and unusually shaped ironmongery.

From the shackle world, the word “gyves” had a promising rootedness–and a lovely “y” right in the middle. (All fantasy words since “wyvern” have wanted a strategic “y”). Then, sadly, I checked the pronunciation. (It’s possible that I’d been hearing people fussing about “.gif”), and I learned, to my horror, that we were going with a soft “j” sound with my “gyves”. My characters really couldn’t be walking from “jive” to “jive” with a straight faces.

Fantasy is, at the best of times, only the filmiest of gossamer thingamajigs from utter absurdity. At any moment, I might have to sell the existence of a gnome with a grim backstory and a secret burning love for justice. “Jive” might be pushing it.

I frequently convince myself that my search for the right name is a rabbit hole: a trap to catch the time and attention of the unwary writer. It’s *juste* a *mot*, after all.

But names do have a curious power. The wrong name is bad. It becomes part of the tone of a piece, clanging away every time you strike that note. Conjuring up unintended associations. (Moby Dick, I would contend, was a name to be overcome for old Herman M).

Another word from the chains and shackles world was “bilbo”, by the way. It’s a sort of an iron bar with sliding ankle chains. Very stylish. (I thought this word best avoided).

Bad names are bad. We can agree on that. But nameless things are even worse. They are boxes without labels, or suitcases without a handles. I’m sure that one might find science behind this. Somewhere someone will have put brain to scalpel the butter fingered lobe that cannot come to grips with the slippery nameless things.

(I’ll likely give up soon and throw in a placeholder. “Placeholder” Hmm. It almost works. Better than “loci” and “node”. Never mind).

Wish me luck.

That eel thing has me thinking. Maybe there’s something in a book of knots. That’s next.

(You think I’m joking).

Good Things Come in Threes


I’ve had a bit of surprise today.

It seems that Tor has changed its plans for my third book.

Originally, A King in Cobwebs, was meant to appear on its own next summer (July 2018, as I recall). And, I am afraid, it would have made a rather sheepish final entry in its trilogy, appearing several long years after books one and two were out of print.  (You might picture the book scuffling its toe in the dirt, afraid to meet the eye of other books).

It was, I should add, more than fair of the publishers. I had no cause to complain whatsoever.

Today, however, I learn that all three books are to be relaunched in 2018. There are even to be gorgeous new cover treatments (which must remain under wraps for the time being). 

As of this writing, publication dates are set as follows:

  • In the Eye of Heaven: 5/22/2018
  • In a Time of Treason: 8/7/2018
  • A King in Cobwebs: 12/11/2018

I cannot help but feel that this gives my poor efforts a new chance to find an audience among those who love a little harrowing medieval fun.

(I’m tickled).

King in Cobwebs Publication Date: 7/24/2018

IMG_2291I have a little news to share: We have a pub date!

My next book, A King in Cobwebs, is slated for publication on July 24, 2018.

As any under-the-radar writer will tell you, a book needs a lot of help if it’s to find an audience. (This one will need a nudge from each and every one of you).

I will confess that the book took a while for me to put together.  It has always been challenging for me to write around a full-time job, and as I worked on this particular project, my wife and I started a family. Time vanished.

The book was a labour of love (and bloody mindedness), but I suspect most books are.

More news soon.

Edits Complete

 

Curious Keck creatures consider Tor.

Your author considers Tor headquarters…

My third book, A King in Cobwebs, has come through a brief back-and-forth of the editing process over at Tor, and is now finding its place in the future plans of that illustrious publishing house.

Details will follow soon enough, but a cheque appeared in my mailbox this afternoon (hot on the heals of a rather alarming estimate from my local transmission shop).

In the meantime, I may have to think about a new author photo. The old one isn’t exactly an accurate representation of yours truly anymore….