Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Figuring out the Anthology - And new excerpts from The Making of a Man

The rough draft of the anthology is done!!! 

This project has been an act of love and agony from the beginning. Now that it is done (almost), I am both relieved and anxious. Seven short stories (possibly eight--I will explain later) spanning twenty years and focused on one character's life, it is like nothing I have ever done before.

So, the reasons I am anxious are threefold. (1) I am handing my romance-reading audience two tragedies. (2) By nature of it being an anthology spanning two decades, I am afraid I am going to lose readers unfamiliar with the Rhynan novels. (3) I am haunted by the question, did I forget something important?

Solution #1 - Make it really clear that this is not just a romance. I am going to try to make it clear on the cover, in the description, and in the promotion that this is not just an anthology full of romances (my usual product). 

Solution #2 - I am contemplating adding in timeline markers between stories to help the reader stay oriented. I haven't written those yet, but I am hoping that will be enough to deal with any time jump confusion. You should see my timeline Excel for this series. It is huge and I haven't even filled in details for the later novels yet.

Solution #3 - I asked a friend to read a beta copy while it was "raw and wriggling" (her words) and she loved it. That is where the possible eight story might come in to the anthology. She mentioned that she wished to see a story about Simon's role in the civil war that happens before the beginning of Duty. His role was a lot bigger than many readers probably suspect. So, I am seriously considering writing that story, though it will be on the shorter side.

Now for a glimpse of the contents of The Making of a Man. 
(All first person POVs are Dentin's unless otherwise noted)

Passing the Mantle

   Alexter announced his arrival by clearing his throat loudly.
   “Are you about through?”
   “Considering a dozen laps next.”
   “Care to spar instead?”
   “Not quite the same thing, but I am amenable.” I dropped my stance and turned to where I had left my practice sword. “I was expecting Nigel. Did you see him on your way down?” I kicked up the sword and turned in time to catch the flicker of anger in my older brother’s face before he hid it.
   “I doubt he will make it any time soon.”
   I inspected my training weapon and glanced past it at Alexter. “What happened?”
   “Nothing.” He swung his blunted weapon in a flamboyant whirl over his head before lunging forward to skewer an imaginary opponent. “He lectured me about being respectful to Father.”

Forging Friendships

   The winner rose, but offered no hand to his opponent. Instead he bowed to Sir Fortwin and appraised me brazenly as Fortwin made introductions.
   “Korwich, this is the Earl of Dentin.”
   “My lord.” Korwich offered a barely perceptible bow. “I am due for a turn at the quintain.” He stalked off without another word.
   The thinner man rose from the dust, bowed deeply, and waited to be acknowledged.
   “Lowen Reginald, my lord,” Fortwin said as he acknowledged the man. “He is one of the men I selected for you. Loyal, even tempered, and skilled, he could be a valuable addition.”
   I studied Reginald. Medium height and slender, but obviously strong enough, he met my scrutiny with calm assurance. No shame or pride, only confidence.

The Sword of Korma Monroe

Korma's POV
   “My lord!” The dark-haired major burst through the canvas flap over the doorway.
   I leapt to my feet and retreated to the far side of the tent before turning to face the new arrival.
   Dentin didn’t even flinch. Studying the inside of his cup, as though contemplating refilling it, he asked, “What is it?”
   “Trouble.” The major looked from me to Dentin. A frown drew the man’s dark brows together over his long nose. “Do you think imbibing is wise, my lord?”
   “What is wrong, Dyrease?” Dentin asked without moving.
   “Blair is accusing me of poisoning him.”
   “Really? That seems a bit farfetched for even him. What are his symptoms?” 
   “Vomiting and stomach cramps.”
   “Could be nothing more than bad rations.”
   “He is the only one complaining.”

The Bittersweet Pear

Elsa's POV
   Reginald, Simon’s first squire, greeted us at the sitting chamber door. I smiled at Reginald as I preceded Simon into the room. Continuing on through to the inner most room where my maid had drawn a bath, I immediately began disrobing.
   “What do you wish me to do with this, my lady?” My maid held up the pear I had tucked into my pocket.
   “I will bring it with me to dinner.” 
   “But, my lady, won’t Lord Dentin find it strange that you bring fruit to dine at the high table?”
   I smiled. “He will find it quite vexing. See that it comes with me.”

Isbeth's Redemption

   The man's voice surprised Isbeth. Having removed his outer clothing to reveal well-made clothing beneath, he now stood with his back to the fire, arms crossed over the formidable chest of a warrior. It slowly dawned on Isbeth that she might be standing before the master of the house.
   “He only said to give this to Gelsey.” Isbeth produced the crudely folded scrap from her pocket. “He didn't say anything about waiting for a reply.” But before the kitchen maid could take the offered parchment, the man plucked it from her fingers.
   To Isbeth's surprise, Gelsey didn't appear a bit dismayed at the procurement of the correspondence. She simply pulled a chair out from the table that dominated the center of the room and indicated that Isbeth should sit.
   “Lord Dentin will want to ask you some questions considering the unusual nature of the delivery. Won't you, my lord?” Gelsey threw the question in the direction of the man studying the message on the parchment.
   “The Earl of Dentin?” Isbeth's hands trembled as she realized the identity of the man just a table length away. “The Securer of the Realm, the bulldog of Rhynan–”
   “I don't recommend you call him that.” Gelsey slid a half a loaf of bread across the table with a small crock of butter. “Sit. I have a cold chicken and sliced ham, which do you prefer?”

A Squire's Love

    I was just rounding the first turn when Gelsey stuck her head out into the passage from the kitchen below.
    “Is that you, Reginald?”
    “Aye.” I leaned back against the wall behind me and turned just enough to look down at her over my load. She was a pleasant sight to behold, honey curls escaping her coiled braid and slightly angular chin balancing the softness of her wide eyes. Seeing that was well worth the increasing weight of the gear.
    “Food will be ready in about a quarter hour. Will that be enough time for you to see to all that?” She gestured to my full arms with a flour-covered hand.
    “Should be. I will be right down as soon as I finish with these.” She flashed me a wide smile that warmed my middle far faster than any of her good cooking. She ducked back into her fragrant domain releasing a puff of savory scented air as she closed the door hard. Apparently she wasn’t taking any risks that the cat would return for another try.

Prodigal Brother 

   The man kept glancing over his padded shoulder to gage my reaction to this news. Although it was intriguing bit of gossip that was all it was. Hardly something to get excited about. I did not respond.
   “Why is that?” Tomas asked from my side. He always was a bit more susceptible to such things.
   “She hasn’t said.” The man waved his hand. “I hoped the earl could enlighten me.”
   “I have never met her,” I informed him.
   Upon reaching a relief carved door decorated with gilt, he turned and studied my face in earnest.
  “As far as I can gather she has never had the pleasure of your blunt conversation, my lord. But…” He squinted up at me. I stood almost a full head higher than he. “Now that I consider it, there is something familiar about your face, my lord. Are you certain you have traveled this way before?”

Questions? Concerns? Are you looking forward to this?
Please let me know what you think in the comments or in the poll 
(top left column)

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