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“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Never Refuse to Reuse

It’s happening again.

My first novel, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, came out nearly six years ago now. It was a male teenager’s story of a quest, which led to a foreign land and which turned out to have its dangerous aspects. After writing it, I decided that I needed to work on something completely different and bearing no relation whatsoever, in terms of characters or story, to the first book. It would be a fantasy about a prince saving a kingdom suffering under a curse. With a tale like that, you certainly couldn’t get any further away from the first book, could you?

Darned if the second book didn’t turn out to be the exact same story—sort of. Paralleling the first novel, the princely protagonist was a male teenager in a foreign land, growing up a bit while encountering miscellaneous and sundry dangers. The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I was halfway through the first draft of The Three Towers of Afranor. Well, I wasn’t going to make the mistake again.

Flash forward to a year ago when my fourth novel came out. Called The Curse of Septimus Bridge, part of its narrative was devoted to the title character recounting his own story of making a Faustian bargain for the benefit of the love of his life, only to have it (as Faustian bargains tend to do) backfire on him. After getting that fantasy story out of my system, I was ready to go back for one more episode in the life of the fictional Dallas Green. Nothing could be more different than those two books, right?

You’re probably way ahead of me. Yep, it happened again. Didn’t this chapter of Dallas’s life turn out to involve him, in the name of romantic pursuit, making one of those Faustian bargains. Being somewhat dim, I was well into the writing before it dawned on me that, once again, I had merely re-written my previous book. I suspect few people have done as much for recycling as I have.

In my defense, the books aren’t really all that similar—even if the undeniable parallels are interesting. Even more interesting (to me anyway) is the fact that, barring a catastrophe or major second thoughts on my part, the new book will be coming out not too much more than a year after the previous novel. That is record time for me, and it certainly wouldn’t have happened that way if not for the pandemic.

What is also interesting is that people, who have read the early manuscript all the way through and commented on the ending, have reacted a bit differently than they did to the previous two Dallas books. So far no one (I’m only talking about a couple of people here) has said, “Can’t wait to see what happens next” or “Looking forward to the next book.” Does this mean I’ve actually done it? After thinking I had completed Dallas literary journey in each of the two previous novels, have I actually managed to reach the end of his story this time?

The funny thing is that, out of habit, once I got to the end, I immediately began mapping out what might happen in a fourth book. Having said that, I like where I have gotten Dallas to, and I’m happy to leave him there. I am tempted, however, to explore what might happen with some of the other characters that have come to populate his world. We shall see.

In the meantime, I have more pressing literary impulses. I have already begun writing the beginning to the adventures of Sapphire and Izanami post-Septimus and am finally quite happy with the story idea I have for it. Also, my brain has come back around to my long-planned epic about Seattle in the 1980s.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. In the short term, there’s still plenty of work to do on the upcoming Dallas book. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

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