by James Lincoln Warren
I never read only one book at a time. There is always a stack on the floor next to my side of the bed and at bedtime—I always read at bedtime—I cherry-pick from among them.
I wish I could say I only write one story at a time, that I start spinning a tale and work straight through until it’s done, but I’m not nearly that organized. Sometimes all I start with are snippets of prose. It’s like trying on a sports coat at a department store to see how it fits. If the words fit well, they can grow and flow into a full-fledged story. Or maybe it ends right there. At other times, I have entire epics mapped out in my head—the only problem is getting them on paper.
Today I went through and looked at all of my Works In Progress. Here’s a list. (Unlike John or Rob, I have no problem talking about unfinished stories I’m working on. I just won’t show them to people. As far as Big Ideas are concerned, well, I don’t worry about anybody stealing them because I know when to shut up.)
“Bloodline” —This will be my entry for the MWA woo-woo anthology if I finish it on time. It involves a haunted murder weapon and an even more haunted cop.
“The Satan League” —The new Treviscoe story. Takes place mostly at Stonehenge.
“The Abandoned Garden” —A fragment of a fantasy cycle. The hero is the last surviving cleric from the Church of Chance, a mountain monastery of warriors wiped off the face of the earth out of political expediency. He’s searching for the sorcerer who put a curse on him—when he’s cut, he bleeds fire and he finds this very unpleasant, as well as life-threatening. His quest is dangerous, but he does have a magic sword and he knows how to use it. In the meantime, you can hire him if you can beat him at cards.
“Shikari” —From the memoirs of Colonel Sebastian Moran, wherein is revealed the truth about Dr. John H. Watson, M.D.
Heaven’s Devils —Novel. Attempted murder in 1927 Hollywood investigated by the target, an introspective stunt pilot.
“Robinson Shafto” —Space opera featuring a very clever young officer with enemies within as well as without the Celestial Service, whose thrilling escapades always end in a court-martial from which he inevitably comes out smelling like a rose.
The story I work on at any given time depends on what motivates me. Lately, I’ve been mostly occupied with the first two stories, since right now I only have one sold but as yet unpublished story in the pipeline, and I need to load more in the hopper, so to speak. This makes me feel very guilty because the story I really ought to be working on is Heaven’s Devils — by far the most ambitious of the projects listed. But I also can’t but help think that maybe there’s some money in either “The Abandoned Garden” or “Robinson Shafto”, both of which are light-hearted adventure escapist fare for which I am confident there is something like a market. Call me mercenary, but that check is very important to me, much more important than simple praise.
On Saturdays and Sundays, I don’t really have to worry about any of it, since I’ll be working on my Criminal Brief column, which is therapeutic writing of a sort for me because it forces focus. But on Monday, it’s back to work—but which work? I can’t even attempt to guess. I’ll look over them all and eventually choose. Unless I get a new idea so enthralling I forget all about the W.I.P.