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Redeeming Your Adverbs

It’s no secret that writers have preferences when it comes to the kind of words they like using in their work. Some people like to drown their paragraphs in adjectives, while others would rather use the most complex verbs to describe the simplest of actions. Some people like to be flowery and lyrical in their prose, while others like being sober, and direct. But there’s one thing these groups have in common.

They HATE adverbs.

If you’re familiar with the generic writing advice that’s often thrown around, you’re probably familiar with Stephen King’s quote on the subject, so I won’t bring that up here. But nevertheless, there is much truth to what many of adverb’s detractors (including myself) say.

There is no denying that the vast majority of adverbs are too vague and open to interpretation to create even the plainest of images. There’s simply nothing to entice the imagination when you say “He ran quickly down the hall.” When compared to “He dashed down the hall.” The latter image evokes a concrete picture with the word dash, rather than relying on the abstract notion of what is quick.

But here at QuestingAuthor, I try to see a positive angle to all things (well, [most] things.). So I propose that there are two instances in which the use of an adverb tends to be justifiable.

As I’ve spared no time in mentioning some posts ago, I am in the process of rethinking my prose style from the ground up at the current moment. As a result, I’ve taken a look at basics, (Such as adverbs) and found a new spin on them.

But which these instances, you ask?

Well, let’s take it through baby steps first. For starters, adverbs can be an invaluable tool when it comes to summarizing long periods of time. Where a concrete piece of prose is capable of describing a singular instance with good detail, it is incapable of doing this with a series of instances. If we used concrete prose to describe actions taken over a long period of time, we’d end up with many needless paragraphs.

Suppose you have a character walking through a city and he happens to be in a bad mood. What would take more time? Describing how he turns every corner with a somber look in his eye, how he wades through crowds while keeping his hands tucked in his pocket? Maybe describing things like this would be a good idea in any other scene, but if you want this scene to pass immediately, you shouldn’t use this style.

It’s far better to just say that he sullenly ambled through town. This doesn’t give a concrete image, but evokes a series of possibilities, allowing the reader to think about the many ways that this characters actions could have actually gone down.

The other instance where adverbs tend to be justified is when they fit the rhythm of a particular paragraph. I can’t go too much into detail about this, mainly because this is one of those parts of writing were all rules dissipate into mist and are swept away. But it can’t be denied that some words flow better in sentences than others, and in these occasions, you might find that an adverb might work well.

The reason I mention this was because in my previous style, I avoided adverbs more out of irrationality and pride than anything else. Even when I felt I should use an adverb, I went through painstaking effort to avoid it. Sure, I knew how they could harm my style, but I really only avoided them because it was cool and edgy. And if you learn anything from life, let it be that these are the two worst justifications for doing just about anything.

In the end, we can infer that adverbs with suck in most situations. They are terrible for trying to immerse a reader in a specific instance of the story, and they are almost always piss-poor at conveying emotion.

BUT.

This does not deny the practical applications they can sometimes have. Namely in the forms of summarizing long stretches of time or when they fit the “lyrical” quality to your prose. The question is, how often do you use adverbs? Do you think there are more circumstances where they can work? Then please tell me in the comments!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

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Abstractions: A Philosophical Writer’s Gambit

There are specific traits that I loathe seeing when it comes to books. On the hierarchy I have for these, the one whom always takes the top is the poorly written fight scene and hollow words. But if I was to give myself the time of day to pinpoint the rest of my nitpicks (let’s face it, that’s the point of this blog), the third addition to this list would be the dreaded abstraction. And this is mainly because my early writing was riddled with them.

But as with all of my rants, it will do you little good if I just go into this guns ablazin’ without giving a proper definition of what I mean. You remember back in middle-school were your grammar teacher taught you the difference between a concrete word and an abstract word? Well, of course you do, you must be an intellectual if you are reading this blog?

Alright, in case your mind isn’t feeling up to snuff today, allow me to remind you. In essence, abstract words reflect ideas and concepts, whereas concrete words refer to tangible things. For example, philosophy, peace, fear, love, and hate are all good examples of an abstract word. These words certainly do bring about images into one’s mind as to what they might mean, but these images are broad strokes rather than precise ones. Furthermore, they do not directly point to a tangible object. Bricks, trees, table, and meat, are all examples of concrete words. These words bring about a more specific image, and they also refer to something that can be touched.

Now, when it comes to vernacular, you’re allowed to use these words without a care in the world. Unfortunately for you, you decided it would just be splendid to become an author, which aside from boosting your low self-esteem, is going to set restrictions on how you use these words.

As I’ve said in the past, there are only a few objective goals that prose must reach, among these is to make words as precise as they can possibly be. And by this I mean that you must use language in such a way to convey the idea that’s bubbling up in your head. Abstractions, as the name implies, are a direct obstacle in this core desire. But before we get too technical, I’ll pass you an olive branch and start of with an example.

Example:

The woods were a lonely place and a deathly quiet had settled there. Ronnie walked forward with a fearful step.

This kind of sucked, but that’s kind of the point of it, so let me be kind enough to explain. Let’s tackle this in parts so that we don’t go crazy, starting with the first sentence. Firstly, comes the use of the word woods. This, is not that bad, however, there is no doubt in my mind that it could be tweaked to produce a more specific image. However, the word does a good enough job at conveying an area, so we can let it slide. What is not forgivable is the use of the word lonely.

This is another case of failing with show don’t tell. You see, while the author is telling me that the forest is lonely, he’s yet to explain to me how it is lonely. This just makes it all the harder to immerse myself in the words being presented here.

As for the second half of the sentence all I can say is that, although it’s not a bad piece of description, it doesn’t really use the necessary sensory details to give me a crisp picture. The final sentence is too on the nose, and the use of the phrase fearful step is another example of shoddy description. I know what is going on in these sentences, but I don’t understand it. So let’s fix it.

Answer:

The grove stood in silence. Not soul tread about it, down to the chirps of birds that had gone mute and the foxes whom had ceased rustling the shrubs. Ronnie’s legs trembled, but despite himself, he hauled his feet to take a step down the old dirt path that led into the heart of the forest.

Now this is healthy. Notice how every sentence is capable of telling you more details due to the use of concrete descriptions? In the piece I gave before, it felt as though each sentence existed only to convey very little detail, but with the use of precise wording, I was able to kill two birds with one stone.

My descriptions of the lack of animals was enough to get across the idea that the forest was both silent and empty of life, while the final sentence I use to describe Ronnie’s movements give a clearer idea of what he’s actually doing. And this is all because I got rid of Abstractions.

And you can too!

In essence, Abstractions are words that give across big ideas. As with all big ideas, these can be torn down into a number of smaller, and precise details that get across the original message while enhancing immersion. It’s all a matter of asking yourself how? If you say that something is lovely, then how is it lovely? If you say something is irritating, then how is it irritating? While just stating the idea in vernacular conversation might be enough to get across your message, you have to remember that you are writing a novel. As a result, you need to make it easier for a reader to understand what you mean without much effort.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes children’s books use abstractions to avoid complex language that will put a kid to sleep, other times, using a simple abstraction can work to get across feeling. But remember, this post is in reference to most description you’ll find yourself doing. And I think my guidelines should be helpful in most circumstances. So what do you think of Abstractions? Do they have much merit?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

Trimming my Writing Rituals

It’s no secret that authors and other such misfits are found of crafting needlessly complex rituals. And if you don’t find this description to be true, then chances are that you might have only recently begun to write or that you’re just a plain liar. Maybe both.

But independent of whatever your own disposition towards this matter is, the fact remains. There’s a sizeable chunk of authors that enjoy setting up routines. And these can be based on some of the most mundane parts of your day, to complex processes that many might view as akin to meditation.

Some people like to prepare a cup of coffee at a certain time of the day, other people like to bust out the ol’ laptop in the mornings, and some folks enjoy performing a brief freewriting excercise before they start working their fingers on their novels. And to these people I say, cheers and best of luck to the lot of you. If your traditions are something that assist you in accomplishing this arduous task we like to pretend is our hobby, then by all means, preserve it.

But if you’ve read the title of this post (if not, why are you reading this?) you’ll know that I no longer belong to this category of author. Now before any of your jimmies get rustled, I’m in no way trying to be a special snowflake here. I came to the conclusions that I came upon due to a series of realizations I had this week. But enough stalling, let’s move on to that already.

I too, used to be among the ranks of authors whom held complex rituals before their sessions. I would make sure to brew myself a cup of black coffee laced with the blood of orphaned children, all the while praying to Baphomet in the hopes that my writing sessions would be fruitful.

Alright. So maybe I took advantage of my poetic license to hyperbolize the account of my traditions.

Maybe.

Either way, all allusions to Satanism aside, my traditions were not as obscure as occultism, yet they certainly had their quirks. But the quirks of my traditions were not the problem. Seeing as I am an all around peculiar individual (No one says this about me, I just enjoy believing I’m unique), I could handle a quirky tradition here and there. The problem was that they took long.

WAY too long.

The minimum of time I spent “prepping” for a session of wordsmithing was an hour, and there were occasions in which this lasted for most of the evening. It consisted of a few things. Firstly, I would spend the first few hours of my free time perusing through YouTube and exploring my favorite channels. I told myself this was a moment to relax after a long day. As it turns out, this “moment” often composed a goodly portion of my day.

If I was lucky enough to remember that I had to write, what I’d do later was head over and make myself some dark coffee. After which, I, in my impeccable brilliance, had thought it apt to turn on YouTube yet again. This time so I could listen to music for another half-hour.

Again, this half-hour, more often than not, found itself extending to an hour. Maybe more than that.

Finally, once my coffee was done, I’d retreat into my room and proceed to writing. Oh wait, there’s more!

On occasion, I’d find out that my computer was not fully charged. So instead of trying to write while it was being charged, I took the most rational, and logical route that was available to me. You see, it was simple.

I’d get my headphones, recover my cellular device, and…I’d watch YouTube till the computer was charged. Again!

Yeah, I haven’t been really efficient for the past month.

And only after ALL of that, would I begin writing. As you can see, this is a system that is flawed to the core. But after realizing that all this time I was just throwing away precious hours, I decided to do something about it. Firstly, I tried to reason in my mind just why in the Nine Hells I had thought this to be a good idea in the first place. Any schmuck with half a brain cell would be able to tell this was a miserable way of going about doing things. I sat in a profound, philosophical silence, until I reached a conclusion.

The only reason I did this was because I told myself that this was to mentally prepare myself for writing. And I was dumb enough to believe it.

I discarded that foolish notion from my head, knowing how destructive it really was. Afterwards, I scrapped the massive chunks of time I wasted without writing, and created an efficient system. Now, whenever I come home I make it a goal to turn off my phone. Afterwards, I brew myself coffee, the only aspect of my ritual that remains in place, and proceed to write.

So far, this has worked well for me. I realized that the more time I spent “prepping” was time in which I allowed fear of my manuscript to fester in my mind. I find that I work best when I just jump into the fray of writing and get stuff done.

But hey, I might not be you.

Maybe your rituals work fine for you? Maybe you feel that they truly do prep you for writing? If so, keep them. But I’d ask all of you to inspect your current ritual and see if it works to your benefit, or if it is a waste of time.

My challenge is this. Whenever you have the free-time, start a session without doing any of your traditions. Force yourself into your seat and write, write, and WRITE. Try this for three days, and see how you feel.

Do you find it harder to get your sessions over with? Then maybe you actually have good rituals in place. Do you find yourself breezing through the words? Then it’s quite possible that your current rituals were holding you back. Every writer is different, but that is no excuse to not question our quirks. It is our responsibility to experiment with different systems to see if we can maximise our productivity.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Scrapping my Novel: Why it’s OK to Shatter Your Dreams

When I say that this week has proved to be awesome, I don’t throw out those words lightly. Because if I had a dollar for all the days I’ve felt the Muse this week, I’d have a whopping seven bucks!

But all hyperboles aside, I’ve been killing it these past few days (not that I’m bragging or anything :D). I’ve been averaging a word count that ranges from 2500-3000 words, and this might not seem a lot, but if I keep this up for another month, I could end up with 90,000 words. Now THAT is Awesome. Aside from that, I’m already reaching that sweet spot between the 2nd and 3rd Arc, which means that my novel will actually be fun to write again!

Maybe it was my increased doses of black coffee per day, the fact that I was able to get back into reading consistently, or maybe I’m just that talented, but this has been my reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving. These are the kind of opportunities that us writers have to reach out for and milk to no end, because there’s no telling when this feeling might leave. But while it’s here, I might as well relish in it.

Or at least, that was my thinking until yesterday.

I, the QuestingAuthor, in all my Divine grace and foresight, decided to come to a harrowing conclusion. And this isn’t just any kind of revelation, oh no, this is a special kind of revelation. The kind of revelation that pushes you off the edge of your bed at midnight and throws you into an ice-cold shower right afterwards. What is it, you ask? In case you haven’t read the title of this post, let me inform you.

It turns out that there’s a 90% chance that I’m going to end up ditching my current WIP.

*Tortured, muffled sobs in the background*

While it is true that I’m making light of this decision I made, it is even doubly true that confirming that conclusion in this blog makes me want to gouge my eyes out. But since we all know that this is by no means a cynicalmean-spirited, or snarky blog about an author drowning in his own ego, let’s look at this from the bright side. Mainly, why did I think this was the wisest choice and what can we learn of this?

Well, since I desire to drag you all down with me, let me drop a truth bomb. No author is immune to this occurring. There’s no 12-step novel-writing program that you can follow that guarantees you won’t want to trash your work the second it’s done. Sure, the chances of it occuring can be minimized, but the chance will still linger.

But as miserable as this makes me feel, I know in my heart that this is the best route I can take for my series. I love my novel, but I love my characters more. And as it turns out, this book has led my characters down a path that I don’t really want them to go through.

Sure, it could be argued that I’m too close to the book right now, or that I’ll see the worth in it later. To those arguments, I say you have a point. Maybe I’ll end up cuddling with this manuscript once I’m done with it, who knows? But as it stands, I feel that if I make my current story into a canonical part of my universe, it’s going to distort my beloved heroes into warped versions of themselves.

But alas! There is no need for despair!

I’m still going to finish the first draft, I’ll probably just trash this piece afterwards. And even though this might seem like a huge setback for some, it’s proven to be a learning experience for me.

The problems in this book are mostly structural, and being able to see this, I’ve spotted a couple of mistakes that I will vow to never commit again. The following are just a few.

1. I had WAY too many characters in my story, and I could barely spare time to flesh them out.

2. Many of my plot threads are geographically separated, so it makes it harder for me connect them with the overall narrative.

3. My world-building is not developed enough for me to competently express the story I wanted to tell

4. My characters are overpowered! If I wanted to give them a challenge, I would have to create a threat capable of destroying a sizeable chunk of the world. And that’s fine for later books, but this is only the second book in what I want to be a long series.

There’s another batch of flaws that I noticed, but I think you guys get the gist of it. And while finding these made me question my abilities as a writer at first, later introspection made me realize that finding this out means that I’ve grown as an author.

I’m able to pinpoint what went wrong with my book’s structure. I don’t know about you, but that’s a milestone for me!

When I first started writing, I always had to take potshots at what I thought were the weak portions of my work. I always had a vague idea of why everything went to crap, but I had to shoot in the dark. But being able to make precise assessments of my problems? Well, that’s the first steps to fixing them!

So, if there was ever a message to any of the ramblings of this post, let it be this. If you feel that you have to scrap your work once you are done, don’t fear it. That just means that you know you can make a better version of your tale. And if you truly love your characters and setting, you’d be willing to rewrite the same novel six times if need be!

And I leave you all with a question (or two). Have you ever had to do something as drastic as this with your work? Did it hurt you as much as it hurt me? Does my list ring familiar for any problems you’ve had with books in the past? Feel free to share your experiences below!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

When Life Gets in the Way

So you got your story set, you’re pumped to start cramming out those word counts, and there’s a ghastly silence that’s reached your house. It just feels like it’s the perfect day to get a writing session going. Your creative juices are coursing through your brain, and your mind is drowning with all the ideas that are hitting you without stop. It would be a missed opportunity if you just let this go from your grasp, so you do the only thing that you know how to do. You get writing.

You open up your laptop, click on that word processing software, and smirk to yourself when you open a document that says Chapter 42. “Hell yeah…” you whisper under your steaming breath. You’re the king of the world, you got this whole novel-writing thing in the bag. At the rate you’re going, you’ll be done with you novel in a week!

Oh wait…

A miserable thought crops up in your mind. Like a slithering abomination from the deepest pits of hell, it calls out to you from that lone recess in your mind that you scarcely venture to. You had a test due for next week. And you haven’t even studied.

That royal perception of yourself that you’d constructed shatters all at one instance. Where you had once been the epitome of self-confidence and initiative, you are now just a quivering wretch that is incapable of writing even the shortest of phrases. “Alright…alright…” you try to calm yourself down. After all, studying shouldn’t be that hard, you just need to review a few phrases and–

Oh God Almighty…

You forgot to write that essay you’re supposed to have done for Wednesday! You blundering, sizzling, mumbling, lumbering, moron! How could you even forget that, that’s half your grade!

Those same fingers that had at one point been poised to strike out at the innocent keyboards of your laptop are now preoccupied with clawing at your own skin. Your slow breaths have now turned into raspy wheezes that force themselves out of your mouth. Your nostrils flare open just to try to take in the minimum amount of air that your body needs to keep moving, lest you wish to faint on your very desk.

“Everything…everything is going to be fine.” Somehow–you don’t know how, but somehow you managed to collect all those fragments of your mind that had wandered off during your little monologue. “I just need to make a call or two and ask my friends if they remember what the essay topic was. Then I just need to cram those phrases I keep forgetting for the test. Yes, yes, this will work perfectly. As father would always say, a good plan of action–”

Silence.

“DAMN IT!”

Your father was waiting for you at the airport today! You dunce! You writhing, undulating, slow, uninspiring, waste of space! What the hell were you even thinking!? He’s been telling you the same damn thing for the past month! Don’t forget to pick me up from the airport, Jerry. I’ll be arriving by 8:00 PM, Jerry, I hope you’ll be there. This was miserable…utterly miserable. Dad is going to kill me…wait a moment.

You really are dunce, aren’t you? How could you have been so naive? Your father is fully capable of using cellular devices. Surely, being the tech-savvy alpha male that he is, he would know to text you to go pick him up.

You slouch against your computer chair, and emit a sigh. You wipe the beads of sweat that were forming on your brow. All that worrying for nothing. Sometimes you find it a mystery how you manage to go through every day. You shake your head, you give your appendages a much needed stretch, and you get back into writing position. Yet while your head pivots across your desk, over to your computer, you spot a peculiar object lying on your bed.

Your phone.

Good thing I left it near me. I would have missed a message from the old man if it was in the other–oh no, oh God please no.

Your trembling hand makes a cautious approach toward your cellular apparatus. You touch that pink cover you bought for your phone at a flea market and you bring the black screen to your face. You gulp. You press the home button.

Your phone was turned off.

You shake your ahead, knowing what’s going to come. You turn on the phone, it vibrates once, and then you set it on your desk. There is a brief space of silence provided to you in which you ponder the futility of your existence. Then the phone vibrates. And then it vibrates. And then it vibrates. BrrrzzbrrzzbrrzzbrrzzbrrrzBRRRZZZZ.

Your watering eyes gaze upon the start screen of your cellphone, only for you to see that you miss precisely 20 missed texts and 7 missed calls. And what do you know, they’re all from your father.

You glance back at your monitor and you grit your teeth. “Whatever. I’ll have to write tomorrow. I can just use the extra time to think.”

begrudgingly, you close your computer, wincing when you close the window that has your novel, and you exit the room. You put on your jacket and walk out into your front yard where you see your car is parked. You stick your hands into your pockets and walk over to your SUV. You can’t really say you’re looking forward to hearing your dad give another round of his unremarkable stories, but at least it’ll keep your mind out of your other tasks.

You reach your hand to the car door’s handle, and remember that it’s locked. You give a grumble, but remind yourself it’s nothing to lose sleep over. You just need to find your keys. You rummage through your pockets and then–

Oh no, oh man, oh God…

You left the keys in the car.

***

  Moral of the Story: All writers have days like this. We won’t always be able to cram out the writing sessions that we really want to, and some days, we’ll fall short of our word counts by large margins. This is unavoidable and should not be a source of fear. If you feel urgent tasks burning in the back of your mind that you know you should do before writing, then do them. You’ll never be able to write properly if you have half the world resting on your shoulders. Deal with everything else so your novel can have a monopoly on your thoughts as you write.

   As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

“A Price for Dead Men” Part 2

The story so far…

“A Price for Dead Men” Part 1

***

A silken-gloved fist banged on an oaken door that had been garnished with square imprints. Not a sound came from within the building, so Archibald decided to knock again. He retrieved his hand and coiled it with the other from behind his waist. He grumbled to himself while waiting in the veranda that led into Fordshire Manor, he would have expected a response by now. Yet he was given none.

Wisps of wind sighed past his ears, until they swept through the black strands of his hair, only to whistle past the leaves of a grand fig tree that stood in the middle of the gardens. Even Archibald’s aged eyes burned with the fires of a forgotten youth when he gazed upon the garden. Fordshire Manor, home to Baron Fordshire XIX, was the most opulent corner of Grenal City. Most of the settlement was marred with grimy alleys and streets in which the honking of cars took precedence over even the most pleasant of conversations. It was a melting pot for outcasts and criminals alike, one where they could fester in their degeneracy or crimes.

But Fordshire Manor was nothing like that.

Fordshire Manor’s gardens where an ocean of emerald which was bathed in the splendor of the sun’s rays. Beds of roses, lilacs, and daisies were arranged in paths that the hapless visitor might lose themselves in just by daydreaming within the confines. Archie could see himself–as a child no less–frolicking amuck in the beds of scarlet roses, wafts of flowery fragrance teasing his nostrils. He could see the scrapes in his arms which had spent the whole of the day climbing atop the boughs of the fig tree, but he wouldn’t care. He had been free then–in that time where the Turtillians had been no issue to him. Yet perhaps that time could come back to him…maybe he had a few minutes to–

“Um, siiir?” Archibald’s thoughts came reeling back to the present after the butler that greeted him at the door had spoken up. His voice was a monotone one, without even a hint of inflection to add flavor to it. It had the aristocratic accent of those colonials whom were so fond of dragging out their vowels.

Archibald whirled backwards, almost stumbling over an ornate vase with circular patterns. He was then greeted with a frail gentleman in a navy dress suit. “My…condolences?” It had been some time since Archie had practiced proper etiquette. Truth be told, he never expected he would need that skill ever again.

The man squinted his eyes down at Archibald, and licked his lips once. “Hrm…yeees. Master Fooordshire has been waiting for you. Cooome right this waaay.”

Recalling that his weapons had been stripped from him before he’d been allowed into the premises, Archibald sauntered into the luxurious halls of Fordshire manor with the butler close at hand. It opened up to a large antechamber on which were hung portraits designed by renowned artists. The dingy landscapes designed by the School of Realism, the dandy fields of flowers crafted by Romanticists, and the unintelligible garbage that the Surrealists called “art” found itself displayed in galleries all around the manor. All of them in places with padded furniture and where trails of perfumed scents lingered.

With that, the old man led Archibald down one hall, only to come into another, and then another, and then he would take a sharp turn without Archie noticing. Archie had seen the same abstract painting on one of the right walls at least six times before the butler had made any real progress. That, or Mr. Fordshire XIX was fond hanging a replica of the same painting in every corner of his dwelling.

Soon enough, they’d reached a wide set of oaken stairs that led to a door that was wrought in the same fashion as the one that led inside. Before Archibald could speak to the butler again, the bald gentleman bowed and was halfway down the stairs before Archibald was able to think of what he would say.

“This ought to be the Baron’s room then…” Archibald muttered under his breath while slid a crack into the room.

His eyes were treated to a crackling hearth with the stuffed head of a grand moose hanging on a plaque that was directly above the fireplace. Fusils, rifles, and a slew of pistols were hung on walls and arranged on stands beside a variety of creatures that Archibald could only guess had been slain by the weapons. The door creaked while he went one step into the room, and he was met with a fresh, transparent whiff of air. He breathed in mouthfuls of it. It felt as though he’d been taken deep into one of the pine forests that were a ways off of the grim of cities. He would have allowed himself to inspect the room further, had it not been for the realization that he was not alone.

His curious gaze drifted along the room until it fell upon the arm of a high-backed chair with velvet cushioning. A stout figure rested against it, but it was no more detailed than a shadow to anyone whom gazed at it from behind. A robust arm protruded to his left, the meaty fingers twirling the stem of a wine glass. An uncorked bottle of the crimson delight stood on a small table which was also to his side.

Firewood crackled and the hearth belched out embers that danced in their flight. And then the person in the chair lifted the glass to his lips. “Come inside. I’ve been waiting for you. For a proper long time I have.” The Baron, despite what Archibald thought his age to be, still held a clear voice. The kind of voice that could convince a man to jump off a cliff, and if that same man lived through the drop, he’d jump over the cliff again should the voice command it.

Archibald bore himself forward, fawning over the rifles and pistols that had gone out of production years ago. Had he the free time, he’d go out hunting with one of those, yet time was not kind to him. It never had been.

Archibald seated himself on another chair that was behind the Baron. The oaken legs screeched a bit when he sat down, he’d have to remind himself to lose some weight later. “Baron Fordshire, I presume?”

“The nineteenth.” The Baron made a point to emphasize his place in the long line of Fordshires. He drummed his fair fingers on the rim of his seat’s armrest. Archibald could see that he wore an admiral’s vest, with golden stripes that were luminous when the hearth’s light reached them on his shoulder. “Let’s talk business why don’t we? But first, spare me a moment.”

Baron Fordshire XIX raised either of his palms and clapped twice. His callous hands being the way that they were, the sound echoed throughout the whole of the room. Right after the clap, there came a voluptuous mistress in a fine gown whom bore a tray with two wine glasses on her arms.. She wore a crimson gossamer dress that ended in flowery designs by the time it reached her bosom. A curling river of hair slid down one of her shoulders, and then Archibald’s eyes landed on her lips. Moist and the same color as her gossamer gown. The same woman he’d met at the pub.

“Been a while, hasn’t it? I wasn’t sure you’d come, but now your–” the Baron raised a finger toward her, and she zipped her mouth.

“We can leave the pleasantries for later, Daniella.” the daughter pouted, and Archibald watched as her shapely legs peeked out of the gown while she took up a seat beside the Baron. Considering the age gap, she was likely his daughter.

Archibald slouched against his seat and brought his arm to grip the stem of one of the vacant glasses. He looked into Daniella’s eyes for a moment to see if he was allowed to pour himself a drink, she nodded and by the time she finished his cup was already half-filled. Archibald took a swig.

“I’ve heard much of you, Archibald of Newlenburs. Your dealings, your recent excursions, but more importantly, I know that you and I are allies. Allies against those abominations that have crept into our glorious nation of Winsworth–of those Turtillian beings that hide, extort, and manipulate our proud people.” he slammed his fist on the armrest, only to regain his cool by opening his palm again. “You and I, we are much alike. We both know that they’re pulling the strings with their planned assassinations and the sudden replacements of noble peers.  Yet neither of us would just stand idly by and do nothing of it.”

“Yet I haven’t seen you call them out in public.” Archibald retorted, and a tense silence stood between both of them. Daniella narrowed her eyes at Archie’s bold remark. “If you really cared as much as I did, you’d be on radio broadcasts nationwide, telling everyone the truth.” Archibald sipped his wine. He would not allow himself to be compared to some pompous aristocrat whom happened to be aware of the truth. What good would that do if he wasn’t willing to stand up for it?”

“True, true. A coward I am, I’ll give you that much.” His inflection got rougher by just a tinge, to the point that only an educated man would have been able to notice it. “But bravery and truth aren’t commodities we give much value to in these times. Suppose I did say the truth, what would be the best that happens to me? Should I lose my lands and have all mention of my lineage erased just because I made myself a fool in the eyes of the public? It didn’t work out when it happened to you, why should it work out for me?”

“A wise man once said that we ought to value truth in spite of what anyone else believes.”

“Should he value truth above even his own daughter?” Archie raised an eyebrow, and spun his head toward the youthful Daniella, but he was not met with a playful smirk. She glared at him, with all the intensity of the pale sun.

Archibald was left speechless, so he downed the rest of his drink while he tried to think of how to phrase a possible rebuttal. Debating men of his own kind came naturally to Archibald, without regard to the individual’s status or wealth. Yet being the courteous gentleman that he was, he could never bring himself to argue with a woman, it had been the last thing that his father had taught him. And the only thing that Archibald regretted learning from Edward Newlenburs.

“Enough of that. We’ve come to talk business, not to argue.” Daniella returned to her seat after her father diffused the situation.

Baron Fordshire shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. He set the glass back on the table, and then he turned to expose his whole profile to Archibald. Had Archibald been a lesser man, he would have called Fordshire a freak of nature the moment he saw him, but Archie believed in principle.  But even that still didn’t stop him from being unnerved by Fordshire’s appearance.

An ebony sphere lay in the place of his left eye, with a burning cerulean dot shining in the middle of the void. The Baron blinked once and six metallic fragments came together until they met at one center point and retracted with a mechanical movement when he opened his eyes again. Vein-like wires protruded from under his skin right above and below both eyelids. He was one of the Enhanced Ones, albeit not to the extent that one would hear about in the news. Yet unlike most of their ilk, he was not some lanky youth that sought strength through artificial means, nor was he a senior whom wanted to relive his youth. Baron Fordshire was middle-aged, but among the healthiest of that demographic. His shoulders were broad and his short hair had only recently begun to gray. His muscular constitution threatened to burst out of his naval uniform at any second.

“Don’t be embarrassed. You wouldn’t be the first to react negatively to this. But enough of me, I’d like to bring in the subject of my brother, Philip Fordshire. Uncle to my daughter.” He waved a hand toward her and she gave a courtly smile.

“Philip Fordshire? My deepest condolences, it was just a week ago since he’d passed away was it not? I heard of it through the radio.” Archibald set the glass of wine on his lap and he leaned toward the edge of his seat.

Fordshire’s artificial pupil faded and shone, only to fade and shine again. It was odd. In truth, the Baron needed only get rid of that one part of himself to be human, but to see him so nearly resemble humanity made Archibald’s stomach churn. “Uncle died a peaceful death, but that isn’t the problem. It was old age that took him–earlier than I would have wanted of course–but I’m powerless against it. The problem was what happened after.” Daniella, whom had held any trace of emotion to herself since Archie had met her, now spoke with a subtle fervor.

She paused as though the Baron meant to speak again, but he took another sip of his wine instead.

“It’s what happened after he was buried that worries me the most.”

“What do you mean after?” Archibald bristled his moustache while he looked at the time on his pocket watch.

Daniella glanced from one end of the room to another, in the same way she had done back at the pub. Not a soul was to be found in the Baron’s personal study. She lowered her voice to that fine line between casual conversation and murmurings. “None of the journals circulating Winsworth know about this, it’s a family secret, but when my father had gone to visit the grave just four days ago, he found it empty. Not even a scrap of Philip’s clothing was left in the coffin, only an odor.”

“An odor as foul as horse dung and human waste, but it was faint.” The baron joined in all of a sudden. “I would have thought it to be dingy grave-robbers, but before I knew it, I had smeared my hand across a foul slime on the rim of the coffin. When I inspected it, all I saw was a black ichor oozing down the coffin.”

“Turtillians.” The word had a certain aura to it when Archibald mentioned it. The kind that could earn a couple of seconds of silence. “There’s no question about it,” Archibald elaborated and wrung his hands together. “they stole your brother’s body. You made a good choice in not reporting it. The authorities would have silenced you a mere moments the second you made the announcement public.”

“Oh Lord.” Daniella buried her face between the palm of her hands, and Archie patted her shoulder. Yet much to his surprise, she did not sob. By the time she’d removed her hands from her face, her expression was one of pure disgust.

“Don’t fret, milady, we can still recover him.” He had made his voice as dashing and heroic as he could manage, but that only worked on damsels that had been distressed. Daniella was not in tears, nor in sorrow, nor was she in pain. An almost masculine anger had seized her, the rage of one that has been wronged.

Baron conjoined his hands and rested his chin on them. “It is all fine to hear you speak of solving the problem. But a man is as good as cattle if he doesn’t act on his word. I would gladly take you to the church where my brother’s been buried–but only you can make the choice, Sir Archibald.”

That same grin that had found itself on Archie’s face in the pub had come to him again, the same grin he bore when he swore he’d kill every last trace of Turtillian filth in the Winsworth Imperium. Even if it took him one kill at a time. The moustached, gentleman hero, Archibald of Newlenburs, puffed up his chest and locked eyes with Daniella. They exchanged a glance, but one of pure determination. The kind of glance that defined men and women that would not allow the tides of history to drown them in their wake. Archibald offered his hand to Baron Fordshire XIX.

“I would be honored.” Archie said while he awaited the admiral to clasp hands with him.

Fordshire chuckled to himself, his cerulean pupil flaring up with newfound fervor. He brought his brawny hand and clasped it with Archie’s. “I knew you still carried the spirit of a gallant in your hands Archie. The Winsworthi aristocracy have a saying, but never has there been one that has lived up to it more than you.”

“‘Once a gentleman, always a gentleman.'” They both intoned the mantra, and Archibald felt the tight squeeze of Fordshire’s hand.

In due time, the admiral let go. He walked over to a stand that was above his fireplace, and hoisted a rifle that had been sprawled atop it. Above it hung the head of a mighty buck, one of the antler’s chipped with injury. A testament to the power behind the weapon’s bullets. Daniella crossed her arms and downed a drink of wine, all the while Archibald watched as Fordshire unloaded a cartridge from the rifle. It was an M2 Gorond, with a thick iron barrel beneath a carapace of oak. Fordshire strapped it to his back.

“Let’s get a move on, shall we?”

***

Previous Archibald Stories:

“A Price for Dead Men” Part 1

“The Philosopher’s Garden”

Take That Risk

What is that one scene you’ve thought about adding that could end up throwing the story out of whack? What’s that one conversation that could alter the very core of one of the most important characters in your book? What’s that one chapter where everything breaks apart at the seams? If this reminds you of any moment in your book that has yet to be written, then why haven’t you done it yet?

It’s the very dilemma that confronts all kinds of writers that have stumbled on to a road block of sorts. We often want to decide between being bogged down with our novels, or taking a risk that could potentially send the First Draft swerving in the wrong direction. When you write, it can feel like you’re on one of the most boring road trips in the whole of your existence. It can feel like you’re sitting in a car for hours upon hours while that annoying cousin of yours keeps bugging you to play road trip games with him. It feels like that grating sensation that stabs at your ears when someone tries to get everyone into singing a song inside of the car. All the while, you’re just looking out of the dirty window of your van, as a featureless desert scrolls past you.

But what if you’ve been thinking about it from the wrong perspective all this time?

What if you weren’t taking an extended road trip? What if your cousin wasn’t even riding with you? What if you realize that it’s not even another person that’s in control of the steering wheel–rather the person in control is you. And what if I told you that you weren’t even on a road trip to begin with?

Your eyes are poking out of the tunneled vision of a helmet, and your gloved hands wrap themselves around a decorated steering wheel. You look down at your attire and realize that you’re being sponsored by all kinds of restaurants, drinks, perfumes, colognes, and corporations. Your heart skips a beat when three blurs zoom past you at speeds that you can’t make out upon their exit.

Lowering the window of your car, you gaze out to find that you’re in the middle of a massive race track, and a dozen others cars swing past you at a moment’s notice. You’re a race car driver, and you’re about to lose the Grand Prix.

You had started the race without any qualms and you had no issues with leaving the rest of your rivals to bite the dust. But for some reason, you decided to slow down, and now they’re gaining up on you. You’re on cusp of reaching the finish line, but a choice looms over you. Will you continue at your current speed, hoping that your close distance will account for your lacking velocity? Or will you press your foot against the pedal, risking an accident or two in your attempts to get to the end?

You, and only you, are in control of your story. No one will tell you at what rate you should be writing, and no one will direct your course or tell you which path is safe. It’s your choice alone. Will there be bumps on the way? Don’t even kid yourself–of course there’s going to be. Hell, not even bumps. Fractures and gashes are the least you’ll be getting out of your mistakes. It’s not an easy choice, but one you need to make right now, as you read this post.

Will you play it safe until you hate everything about your novel? Or will you take a risk and venture forth into the unknown?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Post Schedule Changes

After some time of pondering and reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is necessary for me to change my schedule. Considering the sudden influx of responsibilities that have introduced themselves since the beginning of school (I started this blog in summer), I’ve decided to go with a less rigid schedule.

Not only is this a cause of my sudden lack of free time, but it would also help in allowing me to keep up with my daily writing routine, and would allow me a longer period of time to brainstorm my posts. This ought to be beneficial for all of us, since I’ll be able to create better quality content. With my time being as it is, I’ve only an hour every day to create a decent article, and that’s not to say I’ve been making utter rubbish because of that. In part, it’s due to all of your support that I was able to pump out posts despite this schedule. For which I am grateful.

But being a benefit to all of us, the schedule will change to 3 Posts per week

 A great thanks to all my followers and I hope this new method works best for both of us. A relaxed pattern such as this should allow me to create content that is more diverse than what I usually create, yet should also provide me with enough opportunities to remain on everyone’s radar.

I’ll try to spread them all over the week, so there aren’t too many days without a post of mine in a row. But if there is a special occasion on that certain week, that wouldn’t be the case. Either way, three per week shall be the set amount from now on.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

No Post today

Well, there really isn’t much to say. It’s been a rather hectic day and I’m afraid I won’t be able able to return home at a reasonable timeframe. I’m currently out and not in a position to make another of my stellar articles. Forgive the inconvenience, as I’m starting school tommorow and I need to sleep in early.

Of course, this isn’t another prolonged hiatus like the previous times, as I’ll be back to my usual schedule tommorow. Make sure to stay tuned for my wacky hijinks on the succeeding day. My condolences.

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