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My Stories

About a year ago, it struck me for the first time that there are a lot of people in my family I’m pretty close to, who have never read a word of my fiction. It blew my mind. Not because I think my writing is necessarily that good, but because I think it’s the only really interesting thing about me. I don’t understand why someone would put up with me in person unless they’ve seen that glorious aspect of my personality which is my work product.

I know better when I stop and think about it, but whenever I’m not actively paying attention, I really just think of myself as the collection of stories I’ve got to tell. I’ve shared a lot of insights into my past and present with the little intro stories I’ve used for these blog posts, but in a twisted, backward kind of way, I really feel like yesterday’s was the first story that really revealed me.

It’s weird to me that I now have readers who have never seen a word of my fantasy. That bothers me infinitely more than having friends who’ve never heard any stories of my childhood, because it seems so much more real. I’m not particularly proud of my fantasy — I haven’t touched it in five years — but how can you understand my thrillers or my near-future science-fiction cop drama romance novels without exploring the swords and sorcery that got me there?

For the sake of your curiosity, for the sake of my credentials, and for the sake of Google’s more perfect understanding, here’s my Curriculum Vitae.

NOTE: In case you didn’t already know this, it ain’t a short list. If you don’t care what my unwritten, unfinished, or unpublished books are about (and every single one of them falls into one of those categories), skip on down to the last section to find out what the point of all this is.

The World of the FirstKing

Last week I ran through the names of my finished fantasy books, all in a blur — The Scorekeeper, The Poet Alexander, Taming Fire, and King Jason’s War. That’s the order I wrote them, but not the order they occur in my world’s history.

The First Myth (as I mentioned yesterday) is the story of a young Gatherer living in an island paradise plunged into chaos and fear when a swarm of demonic beasts overruns his village. A mysterious and beautiful spirit offers him aid and unimaginable power to rescue his friends and drive back the monsters, but at what cost?

Thousands of years later, the focus shifts south and west to the sprawling continents dominated by the petty, warring kingdoms of man. The elder beasts — whether dragons and demons or angels and elves — have been driven to the deepest forests and high mountain passes, and even there their existence is threatened. Bloodlost, tells the desperate tragedy of an elf who sacrifices all ties to his people to participate in the bitter battle for survival they wage against the relentless dwarven hordes.

The Rise and Fall of the FirstKing chronicles the life of a young half-elf born during those troubled times, forced to watch the annihilation of his mother’s people and driven to grief by news of her death — all while the nations of man stand idle by. Driven by fury, compassion, and holy destiny, the boy comes out of the wilderness to bind every nation and people together under one vision, but scarce has he achieved this lofty goal before the numberless armies of the godless Eskiem nation comes from across the Boundless Sea to threaten the whole of his kingdom.

For all his destiny, the FirstKing is only able to fight the enemy to a standstill at the very walls of his palace, and for twenty long years after his death the Eskiem occupy all of the Ardain continent (a full third of the FirstKing’s united kingdom).

King Jason’s War follows the life of a peasant boy born deep within the occupied Ardain, in a tiny little town that alone in all that land has resisted the enemy occupation. When a squad of the king’s scouts take refuge in his hometown, they risk life and limb to bring the story (and young Jason) back with them to the king’s court, inspiring a nation weary of war to rouse itself against the occupation. Meanwhile Jason’s sudden fame propels him to popularity — and eventually to authority — as he strives to reconcile his father’s passionate defiance with his own educated understanding.

Two centuries later, The Poet Alexander opens with the arrival of a young and talented writer in the prosperous Three Cities where he will learn about good art, true love, and the petty treacheries of real life.

One of those petty treacheries goes on to become king a few years later, ruling in the FirstKing’s old palace but tiny in his shadow. I only mention that, because some of his policies bring the nation to the brink of peril…and then the wrath of innumerable dragons pushes it over!

Taming Fire begins the story of Daven Carrickson, a penniless shepherd with a boy’s interested in swordfighting who is recruited to train at the Academy of Wizardry. His benefactor’s plans fall through, though, and Daven finds himself outcast, hunted, and ultimately alone and untrained facing fierce and powerful enemies. But where magic fails his own determination and strength carry him through.

In The Dragonswarm, the armies of all the elder serpents rise to wipe mankind from the earth, but Daven alone is able to wage a war the Academy wizards and the king’s whole army are incapable of fighting, standing against the tide of destruction to defend the land he loves.

Twelve years later, with the last of the dragons returning to their ages-long slumber, Dragons’ Rest tells the story of Daven’s ill-fated journey to visit all the shattered lands and bring humanity together again, even as his wife and first-born son abandon his grand stronghold to petition the vain and bitter king for Daven’s pardon.

Oh, and there are more. The Scorekeper (or whatever I would name it now) which tells of the final battles following King Jason’s War as the Eskiem are finally driven out altogether and the FirstKing’s lands restored, or the Dragonborn Sons Trilogy which tell the tales of Daven’s three amazing offspring who each leave their imprint upon the world (and watch as the FirstKing’s land is shattered once again). There’s also the Order Knight trilogy, hundreds of years later, retelling the Templars’ tale in my universe as the last descendant of Daven Dragonprince returns to reunite the FirstKing’s kingdom once again.

The World of Ghost Targets

And that’s to say nothing of the semi-apocalyptic Sleeping Kings series (which, sadly, I’ve probably abandoned altogether), or my newer science fiction series, Ghost Targets.

Gods Tomorrow, the first book in that series, has been the most popular of all the stories I’ve told so far.

Set in the near future (at or around 2040), it follows Manhattan detective Katie Pratt as she joins the elite Ghost Targets task force of the FBI — a squad dedicated to tracking down the supercriminals capable of avoiding the all-seeing eye of Hathor, the nation’s pervasive (and terribly cool) digital surveillance program. Her first day on the job, Katie finds herself investigating a software glitch in the archive of a murder victim that threatens to bring the whole system down — and society with it.

Katie lives (*spoiler alert*), and goes on to do more work with the Ghost Targets team in Expectation, when she investigates a murder at the military research lab working on a wonder drug that promises to cure aging. Then in Restraint she faces an old nemesis and the hostile authority of a private prison as she tries to resolve a new rash of blackouts in the Hathor archive.

In Shelter she’s stuck with a shady new partner as she investigates a murder in rural West Virginia that leads to a startling discovery — and an enemy no one had expected. (Hint: it’s dragons.) (Sorry, Courtney, not really.) Book 5, Faith, finds Katie fighting with the mysterious figures running the Hathor Corporation as her own life comes crashing down around her.

I call all of that Season One. I’m done with Restraint and about twenty pages into Shelter, but I’ve got titles and plots for the whole Ghost Targets series — all 25 books. I’m really looking forward to writing book 7. It’s going to be a blast.

Your Stories

That’s already 40 novels — all of them ready to tell and well worth telling, but I’ve only finished seven of them. I’ve got more, too, of course — standalone projects, collaborative projects, serial projects, companion projects…. I’ve got more stories to tell than I’ve got time left (unless some of those predictions in Ghost Targets: Expectation come to pass, anyway).

That’s a problem many writers run into. It’s a lot easier to find new projects than to finish old ones. It can be nice, though, because it keeps me interested. If I’ve got some time to write, I’ve always got something I can work on. And if I don’t know what to do in a Ghost Targets story (or just don’t want to work on it), I can always open up some fantasy and get some words written anyway.

Keeping track of it all, though…that’s the real challenge. I’ve found some solutions that help keep everything sorted, and make it as easy as possible to get back into a project that’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. So come back tomorrow for advice on maintaining your writing projects list.

One Response to “My Stories”

  1. Courtney Cantrell says:

    It’s not dragons? *sadness*