That’s right The Bonds of Osteria: Book Four of the Osteria Chronicles is DONE!! Okay, not “done” done, but done enough to celebrate with all kinds of happy dancing and hoppy libations because it was a major struggle getting to this point.
I wrote the bare bones of Bonds as I was reworking The Maze last year. I’d basically taken each story line in Bonds and wrote them out as individual stories just to figure out what needed to go into The Maze and what needed to wait until Bonds. While this gave me a really nice starting point when it came time to starting Bonds, it also spelled gobs of trouble.
The first major issue was plot gaps big enough to fit Trump’s “239”-pound behind into. I knew X needed to happen and I had it happening, but the logic of getting X to happen ended up with me just plunking something in that didn’t make fit smoothly or logically into the rest of the narrative. I’ve included one of these examples in a deleted scene below.
Nightmare number two was the timeline. Bonds has at least six story lines all weaving together and one story line (the one that involves Bellerophon) is very dependent on the one that involves Perseus. Unfortunately, Perseus’s storyline was taking far too long to wrap up which would have really left Bellerophon in the lurch. I also had people taking way too long to travel when the main guts of the story happens in a rather short time frame.
The other serious problem was having characters’ story lines just falling off. For example, Jason (who you’ll remember from The Voyage) has a task he needed to do. Well, I had him just doing the task and then you never heard from him again. That’s no way to write a story. Resolution, man! I need resolution!!!
Killing Off My Darlings
Not so much killing, but more like a horror-movie homicidal maniac was left with a fully gassed up chainsaw in a room of teens on a backwoods getaway.
Before this semi-final draft of Bonds, I had trudged my way through two other drafts and, in my usual brutal honesty with myself, I thought the book was horrible. Sure, there were parts I loved, but as a whole the story just wasn’t working and the story lines weren’t meshing together as I wanted.
My issue was that I was being lazy. I was trying to force what I had into a better story by just making tiny changes to each chapter. Clearly, that wasn’t working and it was painful to realize that a major rewrite of several chapters needed to happen, storylines needed reimagined, and new chapters needed to be added.
In other words, Ugh. But it needed to happen and to avoid losing my motivation, it needed to happen fast. So, every day for about two and a half weeks, I spent at least four or five hours attacking this manuscript, moving chapters, writing new chapters, moving more chapters, deleting chapters, and…ugh.
At the end of each day my brain felt like it had been used for kickboxing practice, bludgeoned with Thor’s hammer, AND ran over by an entire fleet of monster trucks. But it was so worth it. The manuscript I ended up with feels complete in a way that almost surprised me. I really like the new stuff and all the work has made a cohesive story overall that sets up everything for Book Five quite nicely.
A New Tool from the Classroom
As I mentioned, the timeline thing was one of the worst aspects of the old drafts. I kept trying to sort the chapters on the computer, by jotting notes, by laying out notecards, even by laying out the chapters themselves all across the floor. Nothing was giving me that visual look at the overall timeline that I needed.
I saw a post on Twitter a while ago in which a writer had painted a wall in chalkboard paint and used that to plot her book. I loved the idea but my writing room is already super dark so a black wall didn’t sound appealing. However, in my quest for chalkboard-y goodness, I found a solution: Chalkboard Contact Paper!!!
The stuff comes in a roll and is sticky enough to adhere to a wall (or in my case, a door) and voila, instant chalkboard! This proved to be a gift from the gods! I was able to write out my chapter ID numbers, draw arrows between them, color code them, and wipe them off and start over (many times) until I finally nailed the timeline and order of chapters without having little pieces of paper all over the place that the cats might shred.
Break Time? Hardly.
To look at the book with fresh eyes, I need to take a few weeks off from it. As much as I’d like to spend those weeks eating bonbons and drinking champagne to celebrate the end of the hard work, that’s not in the cards.
Yesterday I formatted Bonds for print and sent in the order for the print proof copy. Because the future of my old print-on-demand publisher Createspace looks a little sketchy, I decided to try Amazon’s KDP Print for the first time (I’ll let you know how that goes in a few weeks). Meanwhile, I’ve sent the ebook off to a couple of my First Readers to get their opinions.
While I’m waiting for the print book and for my brain to refresh, there’s plenty in the works for the next couple weeks (as you can see on the sheets below that I made from the leftover chalkboard paper and some Washi tape). I’m submitting some ads (one just got approved this morning), editing my short story, plotting my next book (not book five, I need a break), prepping the box set of books one through three, and loads more that I’m sure you’ll eventually hear all about.
Pre-Order Your Copy Today!
Because of Amazon’s wacky ways of working with pre-order sales, I won’t have the book up there until closer to Launch Day (30 May 2018), but I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready.
This is Finn McSpool‘s week off so there’ll be no post from him this Saturday (he’ll probably be spending more time in the garden). I’ll be back next Wednesday to celebrate another big milestone…the Official Relaunch of The Osteria Chronicles!!! See you then.
Blog Bonus!! Deleted Scene from The Bonds of Osteria
One part of Bonds involved the need to weaken the goddess Demeter. In The Osteria Chronicles all the gods have a special item that holds their immortality. For Demeter it’s a collection of grain seeds (she being the goddess of harvest). I originally thought Ares might take the seeds but he really has no motivation to do so.
In the rewrite I had an much better plan for who would steal the seeds–a plan more in keeping with the grain-stealing character’s motivations, a plan that tied into another aspect of the plot, and a plan that worked Persephone into Hades’s story line.
Another reason this chapter ended up on the chopping block is because once I sorted out that timeline, there was no way Agamemnon was going to have time for a honeymoon. And finally, this chapter just seemed to have a “so what” aspect to it when trying to fit it into the book.
Note: This chapter hasn’t been fully proofed, so forgive any typos or grammatical booboos.
16 – Agamemnon
As my bride says her goodbyes, I lunge in the private carriage of the train.
I’m glad the wedding is over. All that planning, decisions that matter to nothing, and fussing over a single day’s event that is going to end with the same result whether the cake is flavored with lavender or with strawberries. Clytemnestra certainly isn’t my first choice of bride. Sure she’s attractive and clever in a sniping way, but she was only an end to a means. A push to get Helen to pick Menelaus and get her under our roof to make a pawn of her. Which shouldn’t be difficult. Given how much she watched Paris during the festivities.
Just I imagine the speech I’ll make to rally men to my side, a surge of heat rages within the carriage. At first I think it has caught on fire but when I open my eyes I find myself looking at a man with dark eyes and black hair. No, not a man. This is Ares. I don’t get up, but I do tilt my head to acknowledge him. Fury flares across his face for the briefest insolence, but then he takes the bench seat across from me and stretches out his hand. Resting in his palm is a small dark green satchel tied with black ribbon.
“What is it?” I ask suspiciously.
“A wedding gift.” He holds his arm out further, gesturing for me to take it. “You’re a leader of one of the poli, it’s only natural for the gods to give you gifts.”
“That practice died out decades ago. Not that I don’t appreciate the honor of your recognizing me.”
I take the small bag. It’s disappointingly light as if it contains nothing. I give it a shake and hear only the faintest sound of something like wood chips rattling against each other.
“Go on, look. But be careful with them.”
I fumble with the ribbon and look inside. I glance back up at Ares. Is this a joke?
“Seeds? I’m not a farmer.”
“No, I know that very well. You’re a fighter.”
“Damn right,” I say, sitting up proudly. So, my fighting skill has reached Ares’s ears. That may not be something to boast about to other Osterians, but I can’t deny I’m glad he’s noticed. “So why the seeds?”
“Do you always question the gifts of the gods?”
“I’ve never actually been given one.” And you may never get one again if you keep acting so ungrateful. “Thank you,” I stammer, unsure exactly what to say.
“Keep those seeds safe and you may find the glory you seek comes sooner than expected. They—” he pauses as if searching for the right word, “—they represent your conquest. But only if you keep them safe.”
I grip the satchel, feeling the tiny grains inside. Grains. “Demos?” I whisper, but Ares only shrugs. And with a clap of his hands, vanishes in a blaze of heat.
I can only stare dumbly at the gift. Is Ares promising me Demos? How can he? Or is he only predicting the invasion I’m planning to protect my brother’s honor when Helen betrays him? Does he know something about that?
I’m still staring at the tiny satchel when I hear my bride call out her last goodbyes from just outside the carriage. She wouldn’t understand this gift. I barely understand it. And Ares said to keep it safe, so I tuck it into the pouch at my hip just as Clytemnestra joins me. She plops down next to me, practically right on top of me, leans over to pull open the window and wave more goodbyes in between planting wet kisses on my lips to show everyone how happy we are. Finally, the train lumbers out of the station to deliver us to our honeymoon.
If it weren’t for the dangers on the road these days, I would have preferred to ride to our honeymoon lodge in Cedonia. I tried to assure her I’d keep her safe—after all, how much fame would I gain if I were to slay one of these monsters plaguing Osteria—but Clytemnestra insisted she would not spend her honeymoon covered in dirt and muck from the road. In truth, I know she cannot ride, but that will make it all the easier to get away from her during our week away.
The journey by train is dull and made more monotonous by my trying to seem interested in Nestie’s chatter, which is mostly about the wedding — who did what, who wore what, how much so-and-so ate. I try to escape by pretending to sleep, but when I stretch out she presses herself against me.
“You know we need to consummate the wedding or it won’t be official,” she says coyly. “And if it’s not official, I am free to run off with anyone.”
This is a Seattican tradition that Nestie has gone on endlessly about. I can’t count the number of times she has mockingly threatened to run away with someone if she escapes being bedded by me soon after the wedding. I swear the little trollop would have consummated the wedding the moment the marriage cloth was removed from our hands. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she insisted on an Athenian ceremony to make me take her in the temple on a scared bed right in front of everyone. Honestly, I don’t care if she does run off. I’ve married her and gotten my name off the list and bonded Seattica to Vancuse, but I figure I deserve some reward for putting up with her. I close the blind on our carriage door then take her as roughly as if she were a camp follower on campaign. This pleases her and she moans and cries out so loudly I’m sure the people we pass on the tracks must hear every sound.
Thankfully, she turns out to be one of those women who fall asleep after bedsport, content as kittens with a belly full of warm milk, and I realize how easily and pleasurably I’ll be able to keep her out of my hair during this trip.
The lodge in Cedonia is just as grand I expected. Made of solid wooden logs that appear stacked one on top of another, the builders have somehow constructed a two story structure with a steeply sloped gabled roof of slate. When the porter lugs my hunting gear into the lobby, the proprietor gives me a scornful look and says, “We don’t allow hunting in these woods. You will have to find some other entertainment.”
“I can think of something,” Clytemnestra says without shame.
I make a show of giggling at her suggestion and pulling her to me, but who is this man to tell me what to do? I think of the gift from Ares at my hip. When I take Demos, I’ll be certain Cedonia is the first polis to have their wheat rations withheld.
“But you do have horses for rent, yes? I would enjoy a ride through the woods.”
“But you know I can’t ride,” Clytemnestra whines.
“We have very gentle horses here, my lady. You could learn. Your husband could teach you.” I want to jab an arrow through this meddlesome pest’s left eye.
“With the chance of Chimera and Medusa running around these woods it’s far too dangerous to expect her to go into them. Besides, I don’t know these horses and don’t want my bride to spend our honeymoon with a broken leg.” Nestie, I suppose impressed with her husband’s protectiveness of her, nuzzles up next to me. The proprietor starts to say something, probably about the gentleness of his beasts, but I cut him off. “And I wouldn’t want her worn out,” I say and plant a wet kiss on Nestie’s lips to add to my lusty ruse.
I guide Clytemnestra to our room and once again do my duty as husband. This puts her to sleep, giving me a chance to get away. Since hunting isn’t allowed, I drop my bow and arrows outside our bedchamber window then rent a horse from the lodge’s stables. He’s not the most noble beast, but at least he doesn’t look too old not to want to stretch his legs. I walk him around below my window and pick up the bow and arrows I’ve deposited there. With a light kick to the flank, the horse responds instantly. His response surprises me at first. I hadn’t expect him to have any spirit and I nearly topple out of the saddle before I grip with my thighs and find my balance. With my heart full of the thrill of the hunt and the joy of a swift steed, I charge off into the woods. Despite the brightness of the day, the forest looms thick and dark only a few feet in forcing me to bring the horse to a walk.
Once my eyes adjust, I detect animals everywhere. Rabbits, squirrels, even a raccoon waddles across my path as if they have no fear of man. It would be easy to fill an entire bag with trophies. Too easy. Gods, Cedonia is boring. I continue walking the horse through the forest. Just as I think of turning around to run the animal through a field just to feel a bit of excitement, I catch sight of a flash of gold.
I stop the horse, staying still, waiting and watching. The flash comes again, and this time I can see the gleam is coming from a set of antlers. And the antlers are attached to a gorgeous stag with white, shining fur. What a treasure. I notch an arrow and using only my knees to guide the horse ease him forward just enough so I can have a clear shot. The deer looks up from his drink. Water dribbles from his mouth as he looks around, scenting the air. His muscles twitch, ready to bolt. I aim the arrow at his heart then pause. Why do this so quickly? Wasn’t I just complaining to myself about being bored? I lower the bow, and slap my thigh to make some noise. The stag follows his instincts. He runs, splashing through the water as he crosses the creek. I urge the horse to run, loving the challenge of keeping my balance as the horse bolts around trees while I while hold the bow ready to aim when the next chance comes.
The horse seems to enjoy this as well and he clears fallen logs, patches of mud, and a steep hill as if flying. We narrow the gap between us and the stag. I pull back my bow string. The deer follows a bend in the path and exposes his side as he does so. I let the arrow fly and ready another in a heartbeat. But I don’t need it. The deer staggers, his pace slows, but he falters when he tries to leap over a pile of brush and collapses.
I dismount and go to him. His breath is ragged. I pull out my dagger and slit his throat to stop his suffering. Gods, look at him. I want to tell the world what a fabulous beast I’ve taken down, but the only one to celebrate with is my rented horse. If hunting isn’t allowed, I can do nothing. I can’t drag the body back for a feast, I can’t even take the hide to be cured. Ah well, that is the way of the hunt sometimes. Still, I can’t resist taking one of the antlers as a prize, another wedding gift from the gods because I know what deer this is. This is Artemis’s stag. I know it’s a gift given unwillingly and if I’m caught, she won’t pay heed to the rule of gods not killing mortals. I have no idea where she might be. I’ve heard she keeps a watchful eye on this beast and won’t stop at anything to keep hm safe. I give a quick look around and tilt my head trying to catch any sign the goddess is nearby. Other than the rustle of leaves from a cool breeze that I imagine is bringing in another storm, I hear nothing but the horse’s excited breathing. Still, just because she isn’t nearby at this moment, doesn’t mean she can’t suddenly appear like Ares did in the train carriage. A disturbing thought. I crouch down and, working quickly, I use my knife and brute force to hack off one antler and tuck it deep into my satchel. I then trot the horse back to the lodge feeling more than ready for another round of consummating my marriage with Clytemnestra.