Will & Tass
An anthology in
the works... sort of
Occasionally, a story will just seem to write itself. Sometimes, it's a
long story where a writer never leaves his keyboard or notebook, and when
he's finished the story undergoes little revision before seeing print.
"Hold Me Forever, Daddy" was a such a tale.
Story #1: "White Ribbons, Red
And so was
"White Ribbons, Red
Roses." I had an idea, and when I sat down to write it, I didn't leave
the keyboard for hours. When I was done, the outcome was nothing at all
like I had envisioned, but I was excited. The story about the emotionally
devastated Will Duncan, a galactic police officer who feels responsible
for the horrible recent deaths of his beloved wife and daughter, needs to
take a leave of absence. The only thing he can think to do is travel to a
planet called Vazhgar, where supposed magic has enabled bizarre things to
happen to those who seek it out.
The trouble is, Vazhgar is behind enemy
lines, so to speak, in the opposition Malkarian Empire. Throwing caution
and his law enforcement career to the wind, Will Duncan books passage to
Vazhgar aboard a private vessel run by Tass Keaverly, a female human
cyborg. The trip enlightens Will Duncan in many ways, and he finds a
friend in Tass.
I truly enjoyed writing this story. It
was far longer than I'd planned, actually several hundreds words longer
than the maximum possible length published by the magazine Amazing
Journeys, in which I had appeared a couple of times. I sent it to
editor Ed Knight anyway, to give him first dibs. Ed liked it enough to
include it in an anthology he was doing, that I had not heard about. He'd
already closed out the anthology, but knew this story would be a good fit.
It appeared in Unparalleled Journeys.
"Wings of the Spirit"
But somehow, I knew I wasn't done
with Will & Tass. I had never written a sequel to any of my previous short
stories, but I discovered that I wanted to know what happened to those
characters. I resolved to write something else, so I could find out. At
the time I made this decision, I was wrestling with an unrelated sci-fi
story idea. I liked the plot and the theme and all, but I just couldn't
seem to come up with the characters I wanted to make it all work.
And then it hit me: the characters had to
be Will & Tass. I hit the keyboard and started writing furiously, and when
I was done, the idea had come to fruition with Will & Tass as the
protagonists--and with a new character introduced who would become
involved with them. And, inadvertently, I had introduced an antagonist in
this story who was truly a big old bad guy--and one who would easily go
beyond this story.
I was careful in writing it to make it a
standalone story--so people who read it didn't have to read "White
Ribbons, Red Roses" in order to read and enjoy it. Of course, I hoped
they'd be interested enough to want to read "WR,RR" but it was fine
if they didn't.
"Wings of the Spirit" was
thus the second Will & Tass story, and I'd laid the ground for a villain
who could complicate their lives down the road--not to mention introducing
a big stack of legal problems they were now facing. And with this third
character, the Will & Tass stories had now taken on a life of their own.
"Wings" was then the first-ever two-part
serial story in Amazing Journeys magazine--and the last, featured
in #11 and #12, with #12 being the final regular issue. I have high hopes
AJ will continue in anthology form in the future, because Will &
Tass stories seem to be a perfect fit for Ed Knight's publications.
Story #3: "Ways to Bonding"
But Ed doesn't just publish things because I write them. I had submitted
one story, that I'd worked on for quite some time, to him, and he loved
every word of it--right up until the end. He thought it went from powerful
to weak, and just didn't like how it ended. I couldn't argue with him; I'd
sort of thought the same. I'd never been completely happy with the ending. I asked him if
he'd reconsider it if I rewrote it. He agreed, so I did. While the
rewritten ending was much better, I still wasn't overly excited about
it--and neither was Ed. We agreed to let it die for then.
Fast forward a couple years. Two Will &
Tass stories published. This other one with the unexciting ending still in my head. And one day, while
looking it over and wondering how to make it better, I realized the
perfect way--and it had to be transformed into a Will & Tass story.
Now, I don't plan to convert every sci-fi
tale I write to a Will & Tass story. But like "Wings," this story seemed
like an excellent tale when put into the Will & Tass framework. I spent
hours reworking it, but it was more than just changing the main character.
It had to be told differently, and I did so with Will relating the tale to
Tass. But interspersed amongst the tale-telling is a second story
happening while Will is telling the tale. The two stories mesh together
for a common theme.
But I'm not done with this
one yet. My writer friend Terry Gizelbach has mercilessly critiqued it and
has offered a plethora of fine suggestions, and once I rework it, I'm
considering self-publishing it. I've never done that sort of thing, but I think it might
be fun to offer it here on my writing Web site for visitors to download
and read for free. Hopefully, they may be interested enough in Will & Tass
to get a copy of Unparalleled Journeys or any remaining back issues
of Amazing Journeys #11 and #12.
Story #4: "World of Immortals"
So I came up with a project idea
and pitched it to fellow writers Ed Knight and Terry Gizelbach. I wanted
to do a trio of novellas in the Golden Age of Sci-Fi "sword and planet"
genre. With Ed and Terry in agreement, we tossed ideas around. Initially,
I had a story I'd mucked around with for many years but had never
finished, but it involved a robot. Terry is an accomplished robot-fiction writer,
so I didn't want to steal his thunder.
But then it occurred to me that my S&P
tale could easily be a Will & Tass adventure. But more importantly, it
could be a Tass tale--focusing on her as the main character, with
very little Will. Of course, there are many challenges: dealing with
recurring characters in such a way that newcomers who read the story won't
need to read the others in order to appreciate it; a sword & planet story,
which usually features a lone human male against all odds, battling
barbarian armies, instead featuring a female cyborg; and other things to
But I'm working dutifully away at it!
I have a few other Will & Tass ideas in
the works. I'm envisioning a collection of them that is something more
than an anthology but something that isn't quite a novel (to paraphrase