Where the Time Patrol Ended Up This Particular Day: 999 AD Vikings, Kraken & More

Excerpted from:  Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

Where the Time Patrol Ended Up This Particular Day

monstersOn maps of old, those blank spaces beyond the known world were marked: Here There Be Monsters.

Off the East Coast of England, 999 A.D. 29 October

Roland was ready for battle, a sword in his hand rather than a machinegun, but the general concept was the same: Fell deeds awakening against the forces of darkness.

And here be the monster as a thick, ropy tentacle lunged up out of the water. At the tip was a mouth fringed with sharp teeth, snapping, searching for flesh. It hit one of the Vikings directly into the chest, the teeth boring deep. The man slashed at the creature with his sword even as he died.

VikingshipThe Viking leader was fast to the defense with Roland at his side, almost as fast. They battled desperately as more tentacles came out of the water. Roland sliced through one, stomping down with his leather boot on the snapping end, crushing the teeth. To his right, another Viking was lifted into the air, tentacle wrapped around his chest. The unfortunate warrior was pulled down into the black water, disappearing. The man never cried out in terror or for help, swinging his sword even as he was taken into darkness. It was the way a Viking should be taken, weapon in hand, guaranteeing a place in the hall of Valhalla.

If such a place exists.

But warriors need to believe in something beyond themselves, whether it be country, flag, unit, comrades or Valhalla.

kraken5Neeley had told Roland of these creatures, the kraken.

He was elated to finally meet one.

Roland jabbed the point of his sword directly into the mouth end of a tentacle, right between the teeth as it came straight for him. The sword went in and then further in, the teeth snapping down on the steel, getting closer and closer to his hand, finally stopping at the cross-shaped haft before the tentacle pulled back, dripping gore.

It is 999 A.D. The last year before the turn of the first millennium Anno Domini. In another part of the world, the Samanid Dynasty, encompassing parts of Iraq and Afghanistan, ceases to exist after crumbling under an invasion from the north. Not for the first time and not for the last time, that region of the world is convulsed in conflict. Across the sea to the west of England, Christianity is being officially adopted in Iceland. Gerbert of Aurillac becomes Pope Silvester II, succeeding Pope Gregory V. He is the first French Pope and introduces the western world to the decimal system using Arabic numbers. He would thus be accused of studying magical arts and astrology in Islamic cities, with charges that he was a sorcerer in league with the devil.

Some things change; some don’t.

And here, on a Viking longship, Roland was facing creatures of legend while on a mission whose objective he wasn’t exactly certain of. But he had a shield and a sword and he was in the company of fierce warriors in the midst of a battle.

Roland was at home.

(Roland’s mission, well, we’re really not sure what Roland’s mission is, but it involves Vikings, Kraken, Berserkers, monks, a nun and a seer.)

Typing THE END on a manuscript

miseryAs I wrote those two words late last night, I realized I’d never written them before. Even though burners is my 60th book (at least—as far as I can count), I never wrote those two words when I finished the draft. Because I know a draft is only a draft. Lots of rewriting and editing to do and I was always moving forward to that.

But this time I actually wrote them. Why? Because of a paradigm shift in the way I view my work. Sometimes we can get so caught up in moving forward, we don’t enjoy where we are. Now, it’s not quite like Paul Sheldon in Misery where he finishes a book, allows himself a cigar and a drink then drives like a nut on a mountain road in a snowstorm and wonders why he ends up with a deranged woman re-arranging his ankles. He was lucky that was the worst thing that happened to him on that road trip.

burners (deliberately not capitalized) is a book I’ve been working on for four years. I had about 14,000 words written and kept rewriting and rewriting for years. But then, earlier this year, it finally gelled. Last night I wrote the final scene and it was what I knew from the very beginning years ago that I was driving toward. But a lot changed in the process. And more will change as I rewrite, but I’m very, very happy with the result.

It’s unlike anything I’ve written before. The theme is deep, examining the conflict between the top .1% and the rest of society, except it’s not in terms of wealth, but something much more valuable: how long a person lives. Is it fair that some people get to have apparently unlimited life spans, while the vast majority, the burners, die at a median age of 25? How did this come about? Will it hold?

Two poems are central to the theme and story. The first, of course, from which the title comes, is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s First Fig. The other is Yeats Second Coming.

IMG_1563But to get back to THE END. I’m the type of person who is always looking ahead, or reflecting on the past, but not much in the present and it’s something I’m really trying to change. To be in the moment and enjoy it. So while lots of rewriting ahead and editing and more for the 6 October pub date (one of the neat things about indie publishing is our production schedule is so much tighter), I’m going to light a cigar, pour a drink, get in Big Orange with Cool Gus (who gets the cigar) and go driving madly through the Smoky Mountains where Kathy Bates awaits with her sledgehammer.

Or I just might binge watch something on Netflix, with Cool Gus lying his head on my feet.

Nothing but good times ahead.

BURNERS(fist)“My candle burns on both ends;

It will not last the night.

But ah my foes, and oh my friends,

It gives a lovely light!”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

It is now 30 days until Grace’s Deathday

That is the fate on the red card Grace was dealt at age six on Dealing Day. A burner. Her twin sister, Millay, was dealt a white card. A People. No Deathday.

For twenty years, the sisters have lived different lives. In different places.

Then there’s the wild card, Ryker, a burner, who has no memories of his own past.

In what was left of the world after the Chaos, mankind surrendered control to Dealer, a powerful computer that has kept society running for centuries.

But truths don’t come easy. And everyone and everything is not as they appear.

The mantra in following Dealer’s edicts: It is what it is.

Until today.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world!”


Happy Release Day Jennifer Probst! Summers Sins Now Available!

Please Welcome Jennifer Probst to Write on the River!


Writers are always looking for various ways to find new readers. At the same time we want to increase our readership, and occasionally may need to stretch our writing muscles a bit. Do something in a new genre. Write shorter, longer, or dive into essays. We need to keep the writing gene fresh, but try to stay in the game where we don’t have to sacrifice our current readership to rebuild a whole new one. Time is also an important factor. Between those long, emotional single title books I write, I enjoy switching to a shorter length and playing a bit.

One of my favorite ways to do this is writing a trilogy with two other authors.

The first time I ventured into this type of project was with the Sex on the Beach series. The concept was three best friends who go to Key West on Spring break and find love. Each of us took one of the girls and wrote her story. The novellas shared one to two common scenes,  but each one was a complete standalone. They were more fun read together but it wasn’t necessary. We combined networking and released all three books together.

I had a blast. And the books sold well.

It was so much fun, and I was writing in first person POV, new adult, so it was stretching my writing muscles. We wrote a continuation of the series the very next year.

summer sins by Jennifer Probst 300dpiI’m thrilled to write this blog on my release day of a brand new series called Hot in the Hamptons. Again, it’s three novellas, new adult, about three best friends who spend the summer in the Hamptons, revolving around a wedding. My book is Summer Sins, and Storme, the heroine is the one who will need to decide whether she’s going to go through with her wedding. All of the stories work together, but can read alone.

Besides being a great beach read, the Hamptons becomes a character in itself, with the lofty mansions, beach, popular nightspots, and the play-hard crowd that spills in for those perfect eight weeks of the year.

Here’s a teaser, blurb and links if you want to check it out. And next time you’re looking to do something different in your writing world, think about joining in with some other authors to create your own series!

Love burns hotter in the Hamptons. Come play.

The Hot in the Hamptons Series:

Summer Dreaming by Liz Matis | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Summer Temptation by Wendy S. Marcus | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Summer Sins by Jennifer Probst | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Three separate novellas. Three different authors. One summer to remember.
Read them all, or just read one. It’s up to you! But when read together, you’ll find extra story scenes to enhance your reading pleasure. No matter which route you choose, these standalone novellas will make you burn.

1 of N does not equal N—Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

Thumb_Nail_Novel_WriterArrghhh. Math. Sorry, but it’s the best way I can explain this concept. What this formula means is that just because you can buy a best-selling book written by so-and-so, the famous writer that does not mean you can write a similar book and get it published.

What I’m talking about is those people who sit there and complain that their book is just as good as such and such and, damn it, they should not only be published but have a bestseller. Also, those people who look at book number 5 from a best-selling author and complain about how bad it is. Yes, there are many book number 5’s from best-selling authors that if they were book number 1 from a new author, would not get published. But the primary thing that sells a book is the author’s name. I’ve always said Stephen King could write a book about doing his laundry and it would be on the bestseller list. Stephen King earned being Stephen King and to misquote a vice-presidential debate, I’ve read Stephen King and you ain’t no Stephen King. Neither am I.

Another thing people do is they see a technique used in a novel and use the same technique, and then get upset when told it doesn’t work. They angrily point to the published book that has the same technique and say, “SEE.” Unfortunately, what they don’t see is that that technique is part of the overall structure of the novel. It all ties together. I’ll discuss book dissection to study various aspects and techniques and I still stand by that; however, I also remind you of the story of Frankenstein. Just because you can put all the pieces together, that doesn’t mean you can necessarily bring it to life. There are some techniques that only work when combined in context of other parts of the novel; thus using it in isolation can be a glaring problem. You can’t take the beginning of one bestseller, tie it in with flashback style from another, and have a similar flashy ending as another and expect the novel to automatically work.

Every part of a novel is a thread connected to all the other parts. Pull on one piece and you pull on them all. Tear apart a novel or a movie and see the pieces, but then be like a watchmaker and see if you can put them all together again as the writer did and if you understand why they go back that way.

For example, Quentin Tarrantino ignored the classic three act screenplay structure with Pulp Fiction. Yet the movie was a great success. So therefore, a number of new screenwriters decided they didn’t need the three act structure. However, what they failed to see is that it was not so much the unique story structure that made Pulp Fiction such a success, but rather the intriguing dialogue. Tarrantino’s structure without the Tarrantino dialogue would have spelled failure.

It is also more important to figure out what is working and why, rather that what you feel didn’t work in a book you read. An attitude that will serve you little good is the there’s so much crap on the shelves in the bookstore. I admit that there are times when I am looking for something to read, and I stand in the local supermarket looking at the paperbacks, that I really can’t find anything I want to read or that sparks an interest. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s all crap.

I had to do this many times. I’d read something I might not like, but it seems to be selling quite well. Instead of dismissing the rest of the world as stupid, I try to find what it is about the book that people like. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same thing, but it does broaden my horizon.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little fire burning deep inside believing you are better than those people getting published, but I think that’s the sort of thing that should be used to fuel your writing, not expressed loudly so everyone can hear it.

John Gardner once said that every book has its own rules. Remember that when you examine a book to see what you can learn from it. Look at the parts from the perspective of that book’s specific rules.

backgroundBlack Tuesday finalThe Novel Writers Toolkit, Write It Forward, How We Made Our First Million on Kindle, 102 Writing Mistakes, and Writer’s Conference Guide.

And coming 24 August and available for pre-order: Time Patrol: Black Tuesday



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