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 Roses"
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.

Story #2: "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 consider.

But I'm working dutifully away at it!

The future

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 Ray Bradbury).

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