In a few days, probably as early as Tuesday, I’ll be starting work on the next Alamo novel, ‘Cage of Gold’. I’m a little nervous about this one, I’ve been warming up to it for a while, and now actually get to do it. The primary characters this time are Marshall, Orlova and Harper - marking the latter’s first appearance as a point-of-view character, though it’s been in the works for a while. She’ll also be in a similar role in ‘Malware Blues’, which is probably going to be Orlova, Harper and Salazar, most likely, and here the enlarged cast of characters really comes into its own, as I can select POV characters that best serve the story that I’m telling in each individual novel.
Two more Alamo novels to write this year, then, though only one of those is to be released this year - the other is to come out in the middle of January, and I want to build up my buffer once again. None of this, of course, relates to the somewhat enigmatic title of this post, which I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. The obvious part is that next year will see six more Alamo novels. No serious spoilers here when I tell you that Alamo is going exploring once again, using Yeager Station as its base to probe the territory of the Not-Men. All of this will be building up to a crescendo, a planned three-part story in 2017, but that’s really getting ahead of things a little. Suffice to say that Alamo is progressing as normal, and that next year will be the same as this year has been in terms of releases.
That takes care of the first half of Plan 2016, then. Six Alamo books, building up to the planned events of 2017. The second half is the ‘new bit’. I’ve spoken a lot on this blog about the wisdom of expanding into multiple genres as a writer, primarily because it helps to stretch you creatively in different ways, but also because it is wise to have two series in progress rather than one - the catch being that they need to be different enough that you are not imitating yourself. I could probably come up with a new military science-fiction series in relatively short order - I’ve got some ideas, certainly - but it would be similar enough to Alamo that I fear I might just be repeating myself.
The best idea, then, seems to be switching genre. I’ve had a couple of attempts at writing historical fiction this year, but they didn’t really satisfy me. Too constricting, perhaps, and I tended to enjoy the research a lot more than actually writing the book. If I was starting out as a historical fiction writer, I’d take six months at least to study the period full-time, a combination of research from sources and field-trips, which I suspect would give me material for a good number of books. It’s something I might even do at some point in the future - that long list of nebulous ‘someday and maybes’ that every writer has.
Robert E. Howard’s best work - in my opinion - was his historical fiction. I say that as a huge fan of his entire oeuvre, but I suspect that had he lived, he would have ended up carving a career as a historical writer. Very much like Howard Lamb, or perhaps John Jakes - whilst he professed that he wished to write about his homeland of Texas, I strongly suspect that he would have returned to Outremer as well. He switched to fantasy for the bulk of his career for two reasons. The first was that he was able to cultivate paying markets in the form of Weird Tales, the second that the research was a lot easier - with less compulsion to accuracy. As a writer paid literally by the word, that was critical.
I see quite clearly what he meant. Writing works that are drawn from reality, that use legends and tales from the mythic past, that is something that doesn’t require you to break away from your manuscript to check who the Bishop of Desolate-See-North was in 1123, or the thousands of little details that you don’t know you are going to need until you sit down to write. Tone and flavor become everything with fantasy, the spirit of a setting, with the details being drawn in as you go.
This is a pretty long-winded way of saying that I intend to write some fantasy novels next year, but brace yourself, because it is going to get even more twisted yet. About a year ago, I stumbled across a book called ‘Mythology of the Folktale’, by a Soviet-era academic named Vladimir Propp. I can highly recommend the book, though it does get a little dense at times. The work has similar goals to Campbell’s Monomyth, in that he is analyzing legends and stories, though with a specific focus on Russian folktales and fairy stories. He breaks down the legends into a series of steps and characters, producing what almost amounts to a cookbook of plots. In all honesty, it’s sung to me more loudly than Campbell, if only that it permits a far greater level of, I suppose, customization.
That’s the second part of it, then. Wanting to try out some of Propp’s ideas. The third, well, I don’t live in a city any more. These days I live on the Welsh borders, in a part of the world that was a direct inspiration for Tolkien’s Shire, and you can really tell. The hills, forests, ruined castles, lonely country lanes, all of them feed into that. Frankly, I’m crazy not to be writing fantasy in an environment that reeks of it.
So, Plan 2016 - to add an additional four books to the schedule. A Trilogy-Plus-One, is the core idea for this; start with a single book to establish the setting and to build myself into it, then open with a trilogy of novels that will follow up on that. In that way I tip my hat to Tolkien, in that the first book will be to the trilogy what the Hobbit is to the Lord of the Rings. Each will be around Alamo-length, at the same price; I’m comfortable at the 70k length, and might as well stick to that for the moment. I’m not sure when the first of these will come out, whether I will go for the same alternate-month schedule or whether I will fit them into a quarterly release schedule. I do know that I want to maintain the two-month buffer that I’m building up with Alamo, which means that the first one will be April at the earliest. December I have earmarked for world-building, Alamo 17 needs to be written in January, so February is the earliest month to write the first book. Probably.
As for the rest of the year, then, well, ‘Cage of Gold’ is scheduled for release in mid-November. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November, and I’m going to take part this year with the writing of Malware Blues. In the run-up to that, I’m going to be doing a series of posts on, well, how to write a novel in a month, so anyone reading this who is planning on taking part might find them of at least a little interest. Henceforth I’m going to try and post at least once a week here; I’ve left this fallow for far too long this time...