How to Overcome Procrastination When Writing a Novel

Everyone knows the cliches about novelists.

  • They stare at a blank page, frustrated by their lack of inspiration.
  • They write something only to deem it embarrassing gibberish and delete it.
  • They organize their desks instead of writing.
  • They decide to do a little more background research so that they can inject brilliant nuances into their prose.

As someone who has written and published 11 novels over the years and received good reviews at multiple online retailers, I have plenty of advice to offer. Let’s go through each procrastination challenge one by one.

The Blank Page

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

You’ve been daydreaming. You’ve been imagining exciting and unforgettable scenes, but all of that evaporates from your mind when you sit down to write. The great challenge with writing is organizing thoughts and choosing what order to present them in.

When you’re really stuck, I recommend free writing. When I use this tactic, I start writing like I am talking to myself. I throw out ideas about how to open the scene and what should happen. I may add notes about good lines of dialogue that come to mind. This process pushes me past the paralysis of the blank page. Free writing releases me from concerns about right and wrong and just sets my mind afloat in ideas. The physical act of typing overcomes inertia and pushes me past frustration or indecision.

After a 10 or 20 minutes of free writing, I usually gain a new sense of direction and can proceed with adding more content to a manuscript.

I don’t always use the free writing tactic. Sometimes I know what I want to do but feel uncertain how to express it exactly. This is the primary challenge for almost every sentence that appears in a novel. To get typing instead of staring at a blank screen, I evict the inner perfectionist, make a decision, and start writing.

I often find that the first one or two paragraphs might not be very good, but by the third paragraph the magic will start to happen. I keep going. Once the writing session is done for the day, I can go back and edit and rewrite the rough bits until something good takes shape.

The blank page when you start a novel is a different animal than the blank page that confronts me when I’m in the middle of a manuscript and need to keep going.

When figuring out how to start a novel, I imagine that I am in a movie theater. The lights have dimmed and the first scene lights up the screen. I ask myself questions while in this frame of mind.

  • What should happen to get me excited about the story?
  • Which character do I want to introduce to start the story?
  • At what point in the life of the character do I want to launch the story?
  • What is the most essential information that needs to be in the first paragraph or two to establish the setting and introduce a problem so that I can build from that in a way that encourages a reader to keep reading?

As for overcoming the blank page when I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I have two great suggestions.

  • 1. I go back and lightly edit what I wrote in the previous writing session. After doing that, my brain is warmed up, and proceeding with the next lines of text becomes easy.
  • 2. Before I end a writing session, I leave a few simple notes about what will happen next. This gives directions to follow when I pick the manuscript up again.

Deleting Unwanted Garbage

To be honest, I sometimes delete writing that does not meet expectations. This is always unpleasant and quite inefficient. I did this often in my first years as a novelist. (I’ve been writing fiction since 1997.) My inexperience made it more likely that I would write something that I would later discard.

Now, with so many writing years under my belt, I recognize much more quickly when I’ve taken a wrong turn. Instead of writing pages or even a whole chapter and then killing it, I now see after a couple paragraphs when I need to start over.

The trick to knowing if something should stay or needs to be hidden from the universe for eternity is switching my mindset from creator to consumer.

To judge if something needs to be deleted, ask yourself:

If I was a reader, would I like this or wonder what the hell was going on?

  • Does this make any sense for the character?
  • Is this advancing the plot?
  • Is it boring?

Being able to look at my work 100% objectively may be impossible, but I can be 75% to 80% objective. I view everything through the reader’s lens and measure it against the standard of “Is this like a good book that I would enjoy?”

Housekeeping Instead of Writing

I get out the laptop and decide to write, but I’m feeling a little cold in the brain and decide to organize my notes, clear rubbish off my desk, or go online and shop for blue-ink pens for editing on paper. Any of this is classic procrastination.

As a novelist, I try to be honest with myself. If I am wasting time, then I need to admit it. I can force myself to stop wasting time with this question:

How will I feel if I do nothing productive compared to actually making progress on my manuscript?

I write because it allows me to enter a flow state and feel an incredible release from my personal problems and the problems of the world. I’m not going to have that experience if I decide to scrape dust out from between my keyboard keys.

Because I want to enter a flow state and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end, I write instead of frittering away my time on nonessential tasks.

Researching Instead of Writing

Oh, this is so easy to do.

Everything that I learn leads to new information. I can never know enough. The details that I learn will ADD SO MUCH to the story. New details can even drive the direction of the story when they are inspiring and interesting. When I wrote the Werewolves in the Renaissance series, I learned a great deal about 16th century Central Europe, the Ottomans, and the Holy Roman Empire. The landscape and history adapted wonderfully to a fantasy adventure.

But at some point I needed to write the story.

To accomplish this, I set limits on research by asking myself “Do I have enough to get started?” or “Do I have enough to finish this chapter?”

The act of writing will raise more questions about what I need to research further. When this happens, instead of halting the writing, I may add a note like “Confirm this fact” or “Get more information about X” and then keep writing. I can fill in pertinent details later.

Remember, a novel is about characters moving through a story. The details matter, but the essential flow of drafting a manuscript is deciding what the characters say and do when and where. I can go back and research the small issues while still making progress on the story.

With this technique, I keep research focused on the story instead of digging into every rabbit hole that I encounter while doing research prior to actually writing it.

Always Analyze Your Procrastination

Psychologists aren’t likely to stop researching the reasons that we procrastinate. The reasons for this behavior are many and varied. In the realm of writing, I believe procrastination arises mostly from uncertainty about how to proceed and the desire for immediate perfection.

Although I have the self discipline to push myself past procrastination, I recognize that sometimes I really do need more time to figure out what happens next in my work in progress. When that is the case, I narrow down exactly what is causing my hesitation. Once I identify the roadblock, I can unlock my mental prison, move the problem out of the way, and get writing again.

Download One of My Free Fantasy Books

Rys Rising: Book I

In this passionate epic told from many angles, the young outlaw Amar becomes a dreaded warlord, the terror of kings.

Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I

free fantasy ebook
The epic begins as Dreibrand Veta and the conquering Horde of the Atrophane Empire reach a mythic Wilderness that beckons with a magical call to glory.

Werelord Thal: A Renaissance Werewolf Tale

Historical fantasy novel involving witchcraft
Thal embodies the ancient magic of the pagan past. He challenges a world conquered by a spiritual system that denies the flesh and forgets the Earth.

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Epic Fantasy Box Set Available to Kobo Plus Subscribers in Canada

Rys Rising Complete Series Box Set

Kobo has finally launched its reader subscription service in Canada. For $9.99 Canadian each month, subscribers get can read as many ebooks as they please as long as the titles are part of the Kobo Plus subscription program.

Rys Rising Complete Series on Kobo Plus

Because I’ve distributed the Rys Rising Complete Series Box Set through Kobo, I’ve chosen to make it available to Kobo Plus subscribers.

This box set will certainly let fantasy fans get their money’s worth out of the subscription dollars. The box set contain four, full-length novels that tell an epic tale of warring civilizations from all points of view.

The box set contains the novels:

  • Rys Rising
  • Savage Storm
  • New Religion
  • Love Lost

Readers new to Kobo Plus get a 30-day free trial. You can enjoy quite a bit of reading before you have to pay anything.

About the Rys Rising Series

In this passionate epic told from many angles, the young outlaw Amar becomes a dreaded warlord, the terror of kings. His ambitions blind him to the trivial diversions of mere female company until he must block a treaty marriage between two powerful tribes. Confronted by the desperate Princess Demeda, he feels temptation again, but the longings of his ruined heart cannot overcome his pure love for Onja. She is a mysterious outcast from the magical rys race that is oppressed by the tabre of Nufal. Onja has commanded Amar to dominate the humans of Gyhwen while she plots to overthrow her tabre masters. To support her cause, she aims to seduce Dacian, a prodigy among rys whose powers have been hobbled by his loyalty to the ruling tabre order. Will he endure more dark abuses for the sake of peace or reach out to Onja?

While a rys rebellion secretly brews, the human minions of the tabre battle pillaging savages. The young estate lord Cruce Chenomet joins the fight. Violent trials and sensual surprises break the trail on his journey to manhood. Packed with primitive energy and complex motivations, the intertwining stories and rising stakes of this fantasy world will indulge your cravings for intrigue, bravery, desire, and freedom.

Read this gripping fantasy series at Kobo today.

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Rys Rising hits #7 in Epic Fantasy Kindle free downloads

After being featured by eBookDaily, Rys Rising: Book I was downloaded hundreds of times. In the past 24 hours, the free Kindle fantasy has been snapped up by 742 readers. As of this moment, it is ranked #7 in Epic Fantasy at the Kindle store.

I’m not sure what I did to earn a feature at eBookDaily, but I’m grateful for the attention. I’ve been an indie author for a long time, and I’m far past chasing every feature-my-ebook website for features and listings. I stopped making time to pursue those marketing opportunities because they did not seem to be producing sufficient results to justify the effort.

Somehow though, this out-of-the-blue free feature from eBookDaily has delivered results to me that are quite dazzling. Thank you!

It would be nice to think that achieving this visibility will give my ebook a chance to linger high on the Kindle charts, but I’ve been here before. Rys Rising has broken into the charts many times, even garnering 1000s of downloads, but at some point Amazon will end the party. It will cease price matching for half a day or maybe a day or two despite the fact that the ebook is permanently free at all outlets. The result will be that Rys Rising loses its status and tumbles back into obscurity.

But my novels are there to always rise again. I can hope that the few who came across the free Kindle download this time around enjoy reading it. A few of them will go on to buy more of my novels, and I’ll have a small dose of satisfaction as an author.

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Werewolf Castle Paperback Now Available at Amazon

Werewolf Castle: Werewolves in the Renaissance 3 historical fantasy by Tracy Falbe sold at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
Werewolf Castle completes the Werewolves in the Renaissance trilogy

Werewolf Caste: Werewolves in the Renaissance 3 is now available in multiple countries as a paperback. Putting together the paperback requires different formatting than making the ebook version, which is why there was a delay between the release of the novel for the ebook market and the preparation of the paperback. It just takes me longer to get everything right so that Amazon can print proper paperbacks.

Amazon produces the paperback for readers in the following countries:

Amazon USA

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Amazon Germany

Amazon France

Amazon Spain

Amazon Italy

Amazon Japan

About Werewolf Castle by Tracy Falbe

Thal has found refuge from werewolf hunters and assassins at the castle of his father, Sarputeen. Although the mountain fortress on the eastern fringe of the Holy Roman Empire shields him for the moment, he knows the peace can’t last.

His father counsels war against his old rival who sent servants to murder Thal. But first, Thal must increase his power and that means making a pack. To obtain men to make werewolves, Sarputeen calls in an old debt from the local duke.

The thought of giving others the werewolf magic troubles Thal. He knows that they will be forever bound to him as obedient killers. They will never have normal lives again. Despite his qualms, he is troubled most by the supernatural fext who can heal from all wounds. This foul assassin serves the sorcerer Tekax, and Thal cannot dare to battle them without more werewolves at his side.

Excerpt from the werewolf novel:

Thal stood in the open window with his fur across his chest. The late fall snows had given way to clear weather. Rosy sunlight highlighted the mountains, and the snow melted back from the trees. In his palm, he admired the light glittering on a moonstone ring. The smooth gem beckoned his attention. He wondered who had crafted the ring, but he thought most about the man whose dead finger he had taken it from. He had counted Rotfeng as an enemy but had desired for their relationship to be otherwise. Thal had tried to impose his will upon the dangerous werewolf but had been denied the chance to know if his influence would have converted the werewolf to an ally.

The sun sank behind a peak, and the colors in the moonstone faded.

Altea came alongside him. “Are you intending to wear that?” she asked.

“No,” he said quickly and closed his hand over the ring. “I was thinking about what is to be done tonight.”

“It’s not too late if you wish to change your mind,” she said.

Thal put an arm around her shoulders. “That is your desire is it not?”

Altea knew better than to attempt to lie to him when her turmoil was so close to the surface. “I’m afraid of what is to come,” she admitted.

“I share in this fear,” he said. “But a pack will strengthen our position. In the battles to come, I must have allies. My decision is made.”

His final statement struck Altea hard.

To reassure her, he said, “You make me wish I were only a man.” He kissed her. The soft press of his lips and the firm power of his body dissolved her concerns for a moment, but she did not believe him. His animal self mattered to him. He would never be a domesticated man. His heart would always be wild.

“You wish no such thing,” she scolded.

“You matter most to me,” he said.

Although kindly spoken, the words sounded like he was reminding himself instead of declaring his devotion with certainty.

But certainty gripped her heart with sudden force. Thal had said his decision was made, and now she made one for herself.

Get your paperback copy today

Amazon USA

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Amazon Germany

Amazon France

Amazon Spain

Amazon Italy

Amazon Japan

Want to read this historical fantasy series from the beginning?

See more about the Werewolves in the Renaissance series and download a free ebook copy of the first novel Werelord Thal.

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Free Fantasy Ebooks to Download for Kindle

What’s free to download on Kindle changes from day to day. Amazon does not generally allow authors or publishers to set a free price for a Kindle ebook. The lowest price allowed by Kindle Direct Publishing is $0.99.

However, Amazon allows certain authors to have a limited number of free giveaway days. Authors use their allotted free days as promotional tools to attract the attention of readers.

This is a good marketing tactic, but not one available to me. Only indie authors who commit to selling their ebooks exclusively on the Kindle store have the ability to run free ebook giveaways on certain days. I do not have this privilege because I sell my ebooks at many online retailers and library distributors.

Price Matching

However, Amazon typically offers my novels Union of Renegades, Rys Rising, and Werelord Thal as free Kindle downloads, at least in the U.S., because of price matching. Amazon wants to have the best price, so the retailer makes those novels for free because they are free everywhere else, like Apple Books and Google Play.

Price Matching Can Come and Go

Although my series starters are frequently free, Amazon does sometimes revert them to their $0.99 price. This usually happens if I get a few dozen free downloads on one day. I don’t know if the algorithm thinks that it can start making money or if it wants people to stop downloading my free novel for free.

The price matching is rarely apparent in Amazon’s other Kindle stores for Canada, Australia, and the U.K. Price matching could work in those locations if interested readers alerted Amazon to the better price at other retailers.

How Kindle Readers in Any Country Can Get My Free Ebooks

Right here at Brave Luck Books, anyone with a Kindle can add my free ebooks to their devices. Simply select the .mobi format. This is essentially the kindle format and will work on your Kindle.

Smashwords is another great source for free downloads for Kindle, and it’s accessible by people around the world. Filtering your searches for free titles is very easy at that retail site, and it offers the Kindle format. Browse all of my novels at Smashwords. The first book in any of my series will be a free download.

In addition to my titles, Smashwords is a great place to find more free reading material for your Kindle. Thousands of indie authors and publishers use this platform.

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Writing Advice on When to Plan and When to Fly by the Seat of the Pants

Don't let your story turn into a bridge to nowhere.

Aspiring fiction writers who research how to write a novel will very quickly run into two main approaches to plotting a work of fiction. The first plotting technique takes a formal approach that involves planning and outlining. The second technique is called flying by the seat of your pants or making it up as you go along. Shorthand for this duopoly is “plotter or pantster.”

Because I have a very fuzzy mental outlook that considers all shades of gray, I tend not to think of things in terms of “one or the other” or “black and white.” I see planning and flying by the seat of the pants as two ends of a spectrum. Where I fall on that spectrum differs depending on where I am in the writing process.

Planning Matters for Your Plot

Before I start writing a novel at all, I ponder the broad strokes of its plot. I map out the macro-level essentials of what happens to who and what it leads to.

Essentially, I have the END in mind before I write so much as one word of the START. I think novelists can fall into the trap of coming up with a great idea and a cool opening, but they have not really built a story.

Since I began writing novels in 1997, I’ve fallen into this trap a few times. I’ve had to back out of it and start over or put a partial novel on the scrap heap of failures.

Basic story mechanics require a beginning, middle, and end. Think of the basic 3-act play. I envision this basic structure as a bridge. It starts on one bank, crosses a middle, and reaches another bank.

If I don’t know how the story ends, then my writing runs the risk of building a bridge to nowhere.

As long I think through the foundation, frame, and roof of the story, including a climatic ending, I can proceed with the actual composition of the novel with much greater confidence.

When Do I Fly by the Seat of My Pants?

The “making it up as I go along” happens when forming the small details of the novel. These are the beads that are strung together to form a complete necklace.

I don’t make an outline for each scene. I let them unfold organically as I think of them. I consider this free-form approach to be writing in the moment. I tap into my inspirations of the moment and listen to the characters as they develop. Carl Jung would describe this as connecting to the unconscious. In this way, I stay open to fresh thoughts and even serendipity as I build the bones and muscles and skin of the novel. Flying by the seat of my pants is the lightning that brings the Frankenstein’s Monster to life. If I was strictly working from an outline on the micro level, I would shut myself off from the part of the process that is the most pleasurable, which is entering a flow state where creativity can flourish.

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Explore Fantasy Series by Tracy Falbe

The Rys Chronicles

Rys Rising

Werewolves in the Renaissance

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New Audiobook Release! Lessons Learned: A Rys World Short Story

Lessons Learned narrated by Tracy Falbe
1 hour of audio narrated by Tracy Falbe

Lessons Learned: A Rys World Short Story introduces the author Tracy Falbe as the audiobook narrator.

Audiobook is scheduled for worldwide release on May 5, 2020, but I’m not sure if all audiobook sites will have it precisely on that date. The distributor for this title has warned users that intake delays, particularly at Audible, can be expected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

To its credit, Google Play already has it available for preorder.

Update May 5, 2020: Lessons Learned now live at Apple, Kobo, and Scribd.

I’ve made my new audiobook available for purchase and download right here in MP3 format. The download comes in a .zip folder that contains the Mp3 files.

Audio Excerpt from Lessons Learned

Narrated by Tracy Falbe

1 hour of audio mp3 files delivered in .zip file


A rash act of defiance thrusts Shan into a high stakes competition with Onja, his lover, his queen.

His compassion for a mere human starts his descent into a dangerous test that he is not prepared for. Then, his desire to be his own master drives him to continue. Shan feels his magic growing inside him. He sees the good that can be accomplished if only he can stop the vicious queen who has ruled over the rys and her human worshipers for centuries.

This short fantasy story presents a prequel episode between Shan and Onja 400 years before the events in the epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles.

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Early Modern Professionals in Werewolf Castle

The lawyer’s office by Pieter de Bloot. This 1628 painting was made only a few decades after the setting for Werewolves in the Renaissance.

As I wrote the adventures of Thal for the Werewolves in the Renaissance series, I sometimes needed characters from the professional class of that era. The novels are set in the 1560s in Bohemia, Moravia, Transdanubia, and Hungary. Throughout the series Thal and his allies must contend with a cast of professors, magistrates, bankers, and lawyers.

The time period of the story would more accurately be called the Early Modern era, but Werewolves in the Renaissance has a nicer ring to it for a title, and the time periods overlapped substantially anyway.

An eerie thing about studying the Early Modern period is how familiar many of the institutions are. Despite the passage of hundreds of years, bankers and lawyers still have a great influence.

In the final novel of the series, Werewolf Castle, I present both a banker and a lawyer. I was not particularly kind in my portrayals of these characters. The banker was indebted to an evil sorcerer, and the lawyer was a lustful gambler uninterested in justice.

Werewolf Castle Excerpt about the Banker

I enjoyed weaving historical “professionals” into the story. Here is the scene between Janfelter and the Banker:

The round man in a long black surcoat and white puffy sleeves set his hands on his hips. He flared with offense at the intrusion and showed no fear of the strange warrior until his eyes fell upon the token held toward his face. Stamped into the shining metal were two spears over flames.

Now the man blanched.

“You are the banker Welser,” Janfelter said, judging the man’s identity by his dress and the gold rings on his fat fingers.

“We must talk,” Janfelter said and brushed by the man into his private chamber.

Welser signaled for his astonished butler to do nothing and followed Janfelter into the room. He nudged his dogs out into the hall before latching the door. He hastened to a table where he had been interrupted in his counting of gold and silver coins. Half were neatly organized in a wooden rack, and half were still arrayed across the table. Carelessly he scooped up the coins and shoved them into the rack and put it in a lock box.

Welser relaxed slightly now that his coins were put away. “Who are you?” he asked calmly.


“What do you want of me? I’ve done no offense to your Master,” Welser said. He sat down and put his hands on the table. He felt the sweat stick to the smooth wood.

“And the decisions you’re about to make will be important to maintaining your respect for him,” Janfelter said. He pulled a stool up to the table.

“Are you going to offer me a drink?” he prompted.

Welser quelled his urge to summon a servant. This conversation surely required the strictest privacy, but pouring someone a drink galled him a little. Reluctantly, he leaned back and grabbed a decanter and glass. He slid a modest dose of brandy toward his intrusive guest.

Janfelter downed it and sighed like a sailor who has missed his drink rations. Alcohol affected him much less since Tekax had altered his body, but drinking it irritated the banker

“I need twenty-five of your best mercenaries,” Janfelter announced.

“I don’t have that many mercenaries,” Welser said.

“Then I’ll take as many as you’ve got,” Janfelter said.

“Look here. You can’t come in here and demand–”

Janfelter grabbed the banker’s velvety tunic and yanked his body across the table.

“You’ll do everything I say or I’ll cut your tongue out and feed it to your little dogs. I’ll get away with it too. No one will miss hearing you speak,” Janfelter said. He slapped the silver token onto the table under Welser’s nose. His nostrils flared as he considered more closely the symbol of Tekax.

Janfelter leaned over him and whispered. “My Master told me that he made these tokens from silver melted from the last Byzantine Emperor’s tea service.”

“Let me up,” Welser puffed stubbornly.

Janfelter smiled. He admired the rascal’s nerve under pressure. He shoved him back into his chair.

“Welser, you owe a favor to my Master,” Janfelter reminded.

“I’ve granted him many favors. And at no small danger to myself. Dealing with the Ottomans is a sensitive thing in this city,” he said.

“The loan given you when you lost a fortune backing the wrong noble in a land dispute has not been fully repaid,” Janfelter said.

Welser wilted a little as he grappled with the facts of his debt. The Duke’s need for a withdrawal when the accounts were empty had nearly been the end of him. The mysterious one in the East had funded his bank in his moment of greatest need. Welser hoped to find an opportunity some day to rid himself of the insufferable obligation that Tekax imposed, but the unnerving killer in front of him convinced Welser that he would make another payment today.

“I can get you ten maybe a dozen tough men in three days,” Welser said.

Werewolf Castle Excerpt with the Lawyer

In Werewolf Castle, I bring back the character of Valentino del Sangoro, the Condottiere from the first novel. He’s in need of a lawyer due to be charged with insurrection. (Such things happen to mercenary captains.) Unfortunately, Valentino does not exactly have a legal dream team trying to keep his on his shoulders as this excerpt demonstrates:

The guards shoved Valentino on a stool. He teetered upon the thing’s three loose legs. While he was off balance, one guard swiftly slid the chain through an iron loop in the floor and padlocked it in place. He knew to act fast with this prisoner.

The coarse fellows lumbered off to other duties and left Valentino shackled just out of reach of a small desk. Quills and an ink bottle occupied the desk ready to record the pleadings of the guilty.

He squinted at the windows set high in the thick stone wall. The daylight hurt his eyes, but he savored the chance to see the sky.

When he heard footsteps approaching, he wiped his watering eyes with the back of his hands, taking care not to scrape his now pale face with the rusty edges of his thick manacles.

The door swung open, and his lawyer came in briskly. Polished black leather shoes with high heels and oval brass buckles clicked lightly because Tobias Dorn had a spring in his step as if he did not oversee the grim business of a prisoner accused of heresy and insurrection.

“Good Morning,” he said while glancing to make sure that the padlock was shut over the chain. Sitting, he opened his leather folio and scanned the documents within. “Valentino del Sangoro,” he said.

Valentino clenched his teeth, hating to watch the lawyer look up the name of the man who had paid him with the last of his worldly wealth to represent him before the court. In exchange for Valentino’s rapier and pistol, a Jewish pawnbroker had provided the gold florins necessary to make the lawyer pretend to defend him.

Tobias shifted his cloak off his arms and read through the papers in front of him. Valentino stared at the thick silver pin at the man’s shoulder that secured the cloak of thick wool trimmed in black silk. He wondered if such a thing could pick the lock on his cell.

“I’ve had a chance to talk about your case with the prosecutor and the justice minister,” Tobias said. “I’ve done my best.”

“Really?” Valentino said. His voice was weak from disuse. He supposed he should start babbling and ranting like some of the other wretches in the cells next to his. He doubted very much that the lawyer’s “best” was going to impress him.

Tobias took a moment to observe the big man before him. Imprisonment had starved him down to a lean man with pale skin over hard muscles. Dirt dragged at the curls of the prisoner’s long dark hair, and his beard was spreading like unpruned grape vines.

“These conversations are never easy,” he said.

Valentino growled lightly before silencing himself. He did not want to be dragged back to his cell prematurely because of a wrathful outburst. The tenderness of his persistent rib bruises urged him to forgo another battle with the gaolers.

Tobias cleared his throat. “You’re a literate man, so I know that you understand the gravity of the charges against you. I heartily recommend that you accept this offer that I’m bearing to you from the prosecutor.”

“And what’s that?” Valentino asked. A spark of hope startled his constant despair as he imagined that some merciful crumb had fallen from the plate of justice.

“You’ll have a swift death by beheading if you sign your confession,” Tobias said as if announcing that Valentino had just been accepted to a prestigious university and had a promising future ahead of him.

“Hmmm,” Valentino managed.

Werewolf Castle is an ebook available worldwide

Werewolf Castle: Werewolves in the Renaissance 3

Buy Your Ebook Copy of Werewolf Castle Right Here from the Author or Download From Your Favorite Retailer


Choice of 3 formats: Epub, PDF, of Kindle

Pay with credit card or PayPal. Downloads delivered by SendOwl.

About Werewolf Castle

Thal has found refuge from werewolf hunters and assassins at the castle of his father, Sarputeen. Although the mountain fortress on the eastern fringe of the Holy Roman Empire shields him for the moment, he knows the peace can’t last.

His father counsels war against his old rival who sent servants to murder Thal. But first, Thal must increase his power and that means making a pack. To obtain men to make werewolves, Sarputeen calls in an old debt from the local duke.

The thought of giving others the werewolf magic troubles Thal. He knows that they will be forever bound to him as obedient killers. They will never have normal lives again. Despite his qualms, he is troubled most by the supernatural fext who can heal from all wounds. This foul assassin serves the sorcerer Tekax, and Thal cannot dare to battle them without more werewolves at his side.

Download Your Copy of Werewolf Castle today:

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Figurative art seen in 43,900-year-old Indonesian cave painting

Video provides images from within the cave and discussion of the scientific process used to date the cave art.

This news about cave art in Bulu Sipong cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi adds significantly to the evidence of human creative expression in the distant past. Archeologists have dated the Sulawesi cave art at 43,900 years old. It could be far older, but the mineral analysis used to date the paintings can only establish a minimum age not a maximum age.


The images show therianthropes hunting pigs and a variety of buffalo indigenous to the island. Therianthropes are beings who possess human and animal characteristics. They are common in many cultural traditions, such as the dog-headed man-god Anubis in Egypt.

Figurative Art

The art in Bulu Sipong cave distinguishes itself as the earliest known example of figurative art. The obvious stylistic choices of the prehistoric artists and the narrative quality of the art prove that creative minds intended their images to express ideas.

So Much Has Gone to Dust

Archeological finds like this one offer glimpses into the lost prehistory of our species. They always raise far more questions than they provide answers. So much of prehistoric human existence has been lost to time. Eventually, all our works go to dust.

The people who worked hard to document the cave art in Bulu Sipong know that its location is vulnerable to being destroyed by a mining operation. Think about how many records and relics of distant human lives have been buried by geologic forces or paved over by civilization.

With so much impossible to know, my imagination takes over and casts stories in far off alternative worlds where my creativity can pay homage to the true stories lost to the ages.

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Using Story Within a Story to Tell a Character’s Back Story

The essential duty of a novelist is to determine how to reveal information in a way that develops characters and propels a narrative.

As the author of many epics, I’ve made countless decisions about how to put a story into words.

Today, I’m reflecting on the story within a story technique. The literary move is most accurately called a frame story.

Either term conveys that one part of the narrative will surround the inner narrative, which will be told by outer or framing character’s point of view.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales present a very old example. The traveling pilgrims each function as narrators framing separate tales.

Do want to hear the story or not?

In the realm of cinema, The Princess Bride is a frame story because a grandfather reading the story to his sick grandson frames the narrative.

Although I haven’t constructed a complete novel based on a frame story (I should put that on my to-do list.), I have framed certain elements of narrative from time to time.

In the dark fantasy novel Rys Rising: Book I, I let the character of Urlen serve as the narrator of his own back story. I found this choice an efficient method for filling readers in quickly about Urlen’s turbulent and very relevant past without risking a boring information dump.

The following excerpt begins after Urlen has been saved from execution and his saviors want to know why he had been sentenced to death.

“We will not judge you,” Amar said sincerely.

Urlen looked doubtfully at his savior. He supposed that heinous crimes would not shock this young but hardened outlaw, yet he feared that his crime might not be excused.

But with Onja’s magical eyes bearing down on him, Urlen knew that he would speak only the truth. He coughed and then began his tale.

“I was respected and encouraged most of my life. As a boy I showed an aptitude with letters and I never grew bored among the scrolls. I would travel to every town and seek all the scholars and scribes so that I could learn more of reading and writing.

“So much knowledge I found rolled up in fabric and skin, lovingly stowed in wooden tubes. The wonder of it always made me want more. By my thirteenth year, I was making my own living copying scrolls for the aging word masters. My family was proud of me. I improved the home of my aging parents. Even my older brothers, so much taller and stronger than me, were proud of me.

“I studied hard and trained myself to letter with skill, art, and clarity. To read my script was to be a pleasure, I thought, but I also took seriously how important it was to preserve the knowledge. It seemed like a magic to me.”

Urlen paused and glanced at Onja, expecting her to comment but she remained patiently silent.

In a tentative tone, Urlen said, “I read once that your kind is magic.”

“What you have read is correct,” Onja said. “Continue.”

Urlen wished he had skin and ink now so he could interview her and record her responses. That would be a scroll of incredible value.

He licked his cracked lips and Amar kindly fetched him the water skin. Even a few words had already dried Urlen’s mouth.

After a drink, Urlen said, “In time, my talent earned me a place in the court of the Nurati King. In my twenty-fifth year, I became chief scribe to my King. Such an honor for such a young man. Life at court was grand, and I was often allowed to travel to other domains in pursuit of my scholarship. In time my fame grew, and scholars came to visit me and view the library of which I was the master. Many candles burned low through many nights discussing history, nature, law, language, geography.”

Urlen sighed, remembering his heyday. Such prestige would never be his again. But to cheat Preem his due was also a great achievement. Urlen would be glad to write down that event.

“I had everything,” Urlen said. “But alas, no matter how I stimulated my mind, I remained a man of flesh. I came to know one of the daughters of my King. Isamahlia was her name and she was both fair and smart. But her intellect was a wicked joke of the Gods, trapped as she was in her woman’s body, banned from any scholarship. Yet, her woman’s body became my master.”

Fascinated by his story, Onja sat down and reclined onto an elbow. Urlen shifted off his knees and got more comfortable too. Since it seemed that it was going to be a longer story, Amar sat down as well. He could well imagine at this point what at least one of Urlen’s crimes had been.

From the nearby brush a crow squawked. Urlen flinched. Onja waved to the bird swaying on a flimsy perch. She told Urlen not to worry. He relaxed slightly, telling himself that he was free of the chains and the crows could bedevil him no more. With the crow now quietly among his listeners, he continued.

“It was an accident that I met Isamahlia. I suppose it is always an accident that starts such love stories. I was to be weeks away in the Domain of the Temulanka. I had been invited to lecture at a summer gathering of scholars, but my wagon broke down not long after my departure, and I came back to Telop, the Nurati capital, with my servants. My trip would be delayed only a day while I obtained another wagon.”

By now the other men had settled into an attentive circle around Urlen and Onja. A tranquil dusk descended upon the land. The sunlight softened toward the horizon and cool shadows spread beneath the trees. Several small flocks of birds, which earlier in the day had been so menacing to Urlen, crossed the turquoise sky seeking their roosts. Now the birds were beautiful and serene; their flight seeming to say that all was right in the world, at least at this moment.

The wonder of surviving the ghastly torture of the sky temple briefly overwhelmed Urlen. To have lived to see the gentle loveliness of even one more sunset was the most blessed mercy he could have imagined.

“Go on,” Onja prompted, impatient with his silence.

Urlen gathered his memories and said, “My breakdown was actually fortuitous for I had forgotten a scroll by Binn Bon on architecture. I wanted to take it to the gathering in order to argue that he had actually designed the amphitheater at Hespon and not Zebroh, who normally is credited as its designer. There has been some rather heated debate on this subject….” Urlen trailed off when he noted that the men looked annoyed with his tangent that was surely meaningless to them.

“Anyway, I returned unexpected to my library and found her there. Only one window was unshuttered and sunlight steamed through it. She sat in the light on the mosaic floor and held a scroll into the sunshine so that she could see it in the gloomy library that I had carefully buttoned up before leaving.

“Her tepa lay on the floor and her head was uncovered. Her black hair flowed around her shoulders with an amethyst twinkle in the golden light. I startled her and she looked up at me with guilty eyes.

“In her mad moment of being caught, she snapped the scroll behind her back, but knowing that her action was ridiculous, she brought it forth again and carefully rolled it up. Moving onto her knees, she held up the scroll to me and begged for my mercy. She pleaded for forgiveness and said that she had meant no harm. She begged me not to tell anyone, and then she could not hide her anguish, when she desperately promised me that she would not come back.

“But I was not angry. No, I kneeled before her as she begged. I took her hands along with the scroll and asked her what she was doing.

“When she saw that I was not angry, indeed that I seemed only curious, she smiled and her trap closed around me. Isamahlia told me that she only wanted to look at the scrolls. They were so beautiful and she admitted that she had been trying to figure out the symbols. It broke my heart that she could not read them. Of course a woman would have never been taught letters, but still to see someone who wanted to read, and was unable to, it hurt me in a fierce way.

“I led Isamahlia into a private room of the library where we could talk and not be noticed. I discovered that she had been sneaking into my library for over a year. Suddenly any misplaced scroll that I had puzzled over came to mind and then made sense. Enchanted by this fair daughter of my King, whose face I was never meant to see, I told her right then that she could come to the library whenever she was able and then I told her that I would teach her how to read.

“Isamahlia was more than grateful. She told me that I was the kindest best man in all of Gyhwen and that she would love no other. She kissed me. Isamahlia knew no shame or fear. She cared nothing for her maidenhead, so strictly protected for years. We loved each other among the scrolls and I learned of things that can never quite be written down correctly. At that time, I thought that our inevitable doom would be worth our joy. Today you saw how mistaken I was.”

Amar asked, “How long did your affair go on?”

“Two years and three months,” Urlen replied heavily. “We were so careful at first. Our fear of being caught was fresh, but as our bond grew and Isamahlia learned to read, we spent longer and longer together. Now, it was not a strange thing for me to be shut away in my library. I was not missed, but Isamahlia was. It was difficult for her to hide her absences from the women’s palace. Of course, she had servants lying for her, and even some of her sisters. All making excuses and stories to explain where Isamahlia had been. I never figured out who betrayed us initially, but they all testified against her at the trial. Curse them. I don’t know if it was jealousy for her happiness and intelligence that motivated them or just fear.

“We were caught together in my library that had blossomed with joy and learning. In her body I found great satisfaction for that part of me that is flesh, but there is also tremendous satisfaction in teaching an able student and to see her grateful, truly grateful, for the knowledge that I could share. And her perspective on so many things was so fresh to me. Her mind had not been infested with the crushing dogma of men that narrows so much interpretation.”

Amar asked Urlen if he had been caught in the act of loving the King’s daughter.

Urlen shook his head. “No. We were reading, which was perhaps worse. If I had been caught in her naked embrace, my punishment and death would have been quicker. You see, I was given over to the torture of Preem for teaching Isamahlia the letters of men, which is forbidden to women,” he said.

The other men murmured in agreement, but Onja was confused. “Why is this forbidden?” she asked.

Urlen knew the official reasons well enough. They had very recently been pounded anew into his head, but he only replied miserably, “I don’t know, fair and gentle rys maid.”

Amar offered an explanation. “Women are the keepers of love and family. They are for children. The teachings of men are beyond them,” he said.

“Is this what you think of me?” Onja demanded indignantly.

“You are not a woman,” Amar answered.

No, indeed, Onja thought. “Urlen,” she said. “What was done to Isamahlia? Was she put in another sky temple to die?”
Urlen stifled a sob. He wished he could answer yes and then they could go save her. “She was publicly drowned for her crime,” Urlen said. His face then collapsed in his hands. They had made him watch her die. Many in the ignorant crowd had cheered. Her parents had seemed pleased that she had met a just end.

“I would rest,” Urlen murmured.

“Your story was interesting. Go to your rest,” Onja said. She got up and returned to her perch on the boulder and resumed her meditation.

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