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March 31st, 2008

Up Jim River and The Chieftain

Finished at last, I sent the outline for The Chieftain to my esteemed agent.  She will read it tonight and heap calumny or praise upon it on the morrow.    I have heard back that the outline for Up Jim River, a sequel to The January Dancer, has won favor in Editoristan, and my editor will shortly anoint my head with oils and stuff my pockets with unconscionable amounts of money. 

This is all unusual for two reasons.  I've not outlined a full book before, and now I've done it twice.  I've always been of the blank-screen-and-sweat-blood school and have in the past outlined books after they've been written - a helpful thing to learn that you've got a Rampaging Plot Device in there.  But I had to outline Up Jim River because I had not the slightest idea what it would be about; and an 18-page outline is as good a way as any to find out.  So I'm reading some Joseph Campbell and...  Hmmm.  And things just clicked along.  Shortly will come the hard part; viz. converting 18 pp outline into 324 pp ms.  [Because 324 = 18**2, that's why.  Call it whimsy.]  Maybe I can add 17 words to each word in the outline.

And the second reason is that The Chieftain is an honest-to-goodness, spell-casting fantasy.  Sort of.  Like The January Dancer, The Chieftain is a book I wrote a loooong time ago.  And like The January Dancer, The Chieftain was very very bad.  But I took an oath upon St. Jude to sell every story I ever wrote, even if I had to rewrite them from scratch.  The Chieftain started life, lo those many years ago, as a straight historical, which is to say, as unmarketable, even if it had been competently written.  But I figured I could add some medieval fantasy elements without disrupting things.  The story is based on the Annals of Connaught for the years 1224-1225, and the annals do record some incidents of miraculous interventions, so I am being no more than factual. 

I took as my starting text the onset of a civil war between the Sons of Cathal Red-hand O Connor and the Sons of Rory O Connor.  All the chiefs backed the sons of Rory, except...

Uair robo tarisi le macaib Ruaidri a n-airecht fein arna cuired do cech oen fo leth dib-sin, acht mad Cormac mac Tomaltaig Meic Diarmata & Dauith O Flainn & a aes grada archena.

 – Annála Connaught, 1225

[transl.: "The sons of Rory felt confidence in their own lieges, having been asked to come into the country by each one separately, except Cormac son of Tomaltach Mac Dermot with David O Flynn and the rest of his officers.

 – Annals of Connaught, 1225]

So you might see how that would catch my fancy.  Nothing the Clan loves more than a lost cause, especially if the fix was in. 


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