Inspiration strikes you at the strangest times. Many times, it’ll be when you’re ill-prepared to follow the story down the garden path. I’ve had many occasions where the roadmap for my story suddenly became crystal clear, but by the time I could get to my computer to start typing, the illuminate links in my story were fading, and before I knew it, I was only a few feet away from where I’d been before, with only a spotlight showing where I currently stood in the story.
This was not one of those times. As most of you are aware, I said farewell to Creampuff of the County and sent the final manuscript to Amazon for printing. My plan was to start mapping out the next book in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries and get myself back into the rhythm of regular writing—meeting daily quotas and setting monthly benchmarks.
Instead of settling into a good old-fashioned mystery, my imagination suddenly exploded with a clear path for the fantasy story I’d been tinkering with, Hex of the Dragon Fruit. I’d developed a basic outline for this book with clear indicators of what should happen in each chapter, but even an outline doesn’t give you a step-by-step diagram of how to get from point A to point B to point C. Only writing does that.
I had started the fourth chapter a few weeks earlier, but lack of a clear path to the next point in the story, combined with the need to edit my existing work-in-progress, necessitated that I set the story to the side. Well, inspiration struck with a vengeance. It didn’t just hit me; it knocked me to the ground like a pair of brass knuckles. I picked up the laptop and started typing.
On a normal day, I try to write between 500 and 1,000 words. Normal could not describe the last four days. In that time period, I wrote almost 9,300 words, the equivalent of almost two chapters. I can count on one hand the number of times I’d done that previously. Sunday was my busiest day, with 3,100 going from my mind to the page via the keys on my laptop. My mind was a hostage to inspiration, and it was starting to get used to being plucked from reality.
Chapters four and five for Hex of the Dragon Fruit are done, and I just started chapter six. In the last four days, I not only wrote about all the things I’d listed in the outline for the two chapters, but I’d even invented a couple of new characters and some additional scenarios. I won’t go into too much detail, but I think I redefined “Niblet.”
Since I’m coming off the writing high, I think I’m going to get some sleep. In the meantime, here’s a little taste of what I wrote.
Austin couldn’t figure it out, but there was something familiar about Blue, as though he’d seen the noble warrior before his arrival in the strange land of Noridem. Was he the one he saw in his dreams? If so, the reality was nothing like he’d expected. He’d expected a charming and romantic soul, someone who would sweep him off his feet. Blue was not like that at all. In fact, he seemed to be a little condescending.
“Blue, you haven’t told me why those evil warriors are chasing after us. Are they wanting me for something?”
“You could say that. You might say your falling from the sky was prophesied.”
“I’m in a prophecy? Wow. That’s kind of weird to process.”
“This place that you’re from, this Baltimore. What did you do there?”
“Well, I was kind of living on the streets. I’d never known my parents, bouncing from one foster home to another, and once I’d turned eighteen, I was on my own. I’ve had to live by my wits and traveled from one place to another to survive.” Austin put his hands on his hips when he noticed Blue chuckling. “Something about my origin story amuses you?”
“Oh, no. I was just wondering how many of my people would accept that the man from another land prophesied to come here was just a street beggar.”
Austin snarled. “I’m no beggar! I work hard for every penny I earn.”
Blue got control of his laughter. “I’m sorry, but what is a penny?”
“Oh, that’s right. I’m on some alien world where the warriors wear skirts and probably trade animal skins for the supplies they need. You have no concept of money!”
Blue rolled his eyes. “You’ve been here less than one rotation, and you dare to cast judgment on my society? I can’t believe you’re the one who is supposed to break Nephra’s hex. What are you going to do, bombard that witch with waves of sarcasm until she capitulates?”
“Well, I certainly didn’t ask to come here. One minute I’m running from an angry gang of street thugs, and the next I’m hurtling through dimensions to this little hamlet where the gang has swords and scary horses instead of brass knuckles and baseball bats.”
“Look. Why don’t you just shut up for a little bit so that I can focus on finding shelter for the night? I imagine that’s a new concept for you, being a street rat, but most of us like sleeping with a roof over our head.”
Austin put up a dismissive hand. “I don’t know who’s the bigger prick, you or that purple sourpuss you brought with you. You must make a lovely couple.”
Blue looked through a thicket. “Iga and I are just friends. We’ve served our emperor for many years as leaders of his elite guard. There is absolutely no romance between the two of us, not that it’s any of your business.”
“Wow. A little defensive, aren’t we?”
“Why not? You question my society, my friendships, even the garments I wear? Are all the people on your world as arrogant and judgmental as you?”
Austin stopped walking and leaned against a tree. “Maybe I’m just scared, and this is my coping mechanism. Did you stop to think about that?”
“I don’t know why you’re scared. I told you there’s no way the Order can…”
“Can get past the charms of the Forgotten Forest. I know, I know! It’s a forest on a strange world that I have no idea how I landed on it, dealing with strangers and trusting some buff warrior with a sword that can zap people. It’s not like I led a tranquil life back home, but at least I have some clue about my surroundings.” Austin held up a branch from one of the orange trees. “Like this. Trees aren’t orange where I come from!”
Blue exhaled and walked over to Austin. “Listen. I know this is a lot for you to take in. From what little I know, it seems like you come from a place where everything is detached, and magic is almost nonexistent. I’m sure if I was whisked off to your world, I’d be equally frightened. I know it’s hard for you to believe right now, but I am here to help you and protect you. You’re not alone. I’m sure once we return to the Citadel, we can figure out some answers.” He held out a hand. “Trust me?”
Austin was about to accept Blue’s hand when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. A pair of glowing, yellow eyes were visible in the thicket behind Blue. On instinct, Austin leapt forward, knocking Blue to the ground. As he did, he heard an angry, animalistic growl and felt something fly past him. As soon as Austin could get his bearings again, he looked where he and Blue had been standing moments ago, and in their place was some kind of wolf, covered in hues of black and green, with the same yellow eyes that had prompted Austin’s fight-or-flight instinct to take over. The wolf was snarling, its fangs bared.
Blue struggled to his feet. “What are you…” Once the warrior saw the wolf, he seemed to understand why Austin did what he did. Blue unsheathed his sword. “Austin, get behind me.”
Austin obeyed, and energy blasts flew out of Blue’s sword toward the wolf. The creature jumped out of the line of fire and retreated a few steps to safety.
Austin gulped. “What is that thing?”
Blue fished out some rope from one of the packs on his belt. “You mean they don’t have werewolves where you come from?”
“Just in cheesy films where you’re supposed to believe that vampires glitter like a mirror ball.”
Blue tossed the rope into the air so it went over a high branch on one of the trees. “Well, they’re real, and they can be vicious with strangers.” He tied one end of the rope around a belt loop on Austin’s jeans. “Hold on tight. This is going to be quite a ride.”
Before Austin could open his mouth to ask what Blue meant by that, the warrior yanked hard on the rope and sent Austin up into the trees. Everything spun from the lack of equilibrium for a few moments, but once Austin could focus his eyes again, he saw that Blue had tied off the rope around the trunk of another tree and was now engaging the wolf in battle. The wolf tried to attack Blue, but the warrior was quite agile. The wolf was no slouch, however, as the energy blasts from Blue’s sword failed to directly hit the creature. It almost seemed like a dance between the two, although this dance didn’t seem to have a clear leader.
Austin wanted to help, but all he could do was hang helplessly while the warrior battled for his life. While Austin was grateful for Blue’s bravery, he was a little annoyed that Blue had decided to hoist him out of harm’s way instead of enlisting his aid. Austin had once fought off a pair of rabid Rottweilers when he’d trespassed into a junkyard around Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Surely he’d be able to help Blue fend off a werewolf, but thanks to the warrior’s condescension, all he could do was hang there like bait.