Thursday, July 19, 2018


A few things can be admitted about my upcoming “Tsar of the Empty Lands.” For one, as many of my ‘fantasy adventures,’ it follows a somewhat Michael Moorcock-like template of around 60,000 words (I ran a little longer this time, topping out at 68,300) divided into four sections, each with its own arc. This is an approach that comes somewhat natural to me and I will undoubtedly employ again.

Also, the plot has definite similarities to my Malvern novels, particularly the first, “Coast of Spears.” That is, a man from our world thrust into another, as well as into a somewhat unwelcome position of leadership. Josef Dobrov is certainly a different character than Michael Malvern. He is younger. He is something of a cynic, but one who finds purpose in his own life through duty. An existentialist of sorts, maybe.

This tale is set in the same world and approximate time frame as the Malvern/Mora series — on the opposite side of that world. Joseph and Michael are quite unlikely to ever meet; they do, however, share the acquaintance of the ancient sorcerer Hurasu, who plays a fairly large role in “Tsar,” as he did in the second Malvern novel, “Valley of Visions.” Hurasu should show up in the first of a new trilogy set among the Mora. In a way, this book provides a bridge to that one.

But I shall put off its writing for a while. I think! One never knows. I do have plenty of other projects to hold my attention. There might even be a sequel to “Tsar of the Empty Lands” one of these days.

I did something else in the novel I have done before, without thinking too much about it, which is make the ‘Big Bad’ only someone in the background, a distant threat, through the first two-thirds or so of the narrative. We know him through agents or indirect and mysterious actions. This builds suspense but at the same time we are not actually introducing a new character late in the story. We knew he was there all the time, even if were not sure who he might be or what he intended.

Gates between worlds again play a role. The existence of a second gate, opposite the one through which Michael Malvern passed in ‘Coast of Spears,’ has been part of my world-building from the start. It is first mentioned in print in the second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ where it is said to be located in ‘the land of the Scythians.’ This was refined in the upcoming ‘Tsar of the Empty Lands’ as the Ural Mountains.

The two gates are not opposite in the sense of an axis through the middle of the earth. They have their own axis which is not necessarily tied to this world. But still, they are on opposite sides of the world and I do have a sort of math worked out that led me to place them where they are. That’s unimportant to the stories.

Of course, I have posited many gates in the course of my other fantasy novels. These are just the two from the world we know (the ‘E-World’) to my primary fantasy setting (the ‘D-World’). For example, the gate from the world of Hurasu and Xahun (the ‘A-World,’ for Atlantis) to ours is located in Anatolia. This has to do (ostensibly) with land mass distribution in our world, a spot in Asia Minor supposedly being at the center of earth’s land masses. It worked out nicely for their back story too, their time spent in our world.

Incidentally, this would be different from finding the center of an hemisphere of our earth containing the greatest landmass. That would be in France, if someone hasn’t recalculated since the last time I looked into it. Not that any of this actually matters here. It’s fiction.

Now that all the work — aside from getting it published and out to the public — is done on ‘Tsar,’ I have moved on to other projects. One is my next poetry collection. I’ve tried to keep those to one about every other year. This book will be titled ‘Magic’ and is scheduled for release on December 1. Working on setting it up now. I have also gotten back to work on ‘The Jewels of the Elements,’ which I was writing simultaneously with ‘Tsar’ up to the points where both were a little over 20,000 words. Then the one started boiling and the other was slipped to the back burner. ‘Jewels’ might be the next novel, early in 2019, or I might find some other project. One never knows until it actually happens.

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