Episode 5 of Mysterious Music, “Single-Copy Albums”, is out now. To watch the full episode (as well as other installments of the series), please click here.
First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying healthy. I try to avoid talking too much about COVID-19 because you just can’t go anywhere (not that you should be going places) without hearing about it; but then again, it’s a very real problem and has had an affect on some of these updates.
More important than any hinders COVID-19 has had to the release of my upcoming work is that my loved ones (some of whom are high-risk) and I have remained in good health through all of this. I hope this message finds you all well, too; and, if not, I sincerely wish you and/or your loved ones the thoughts and strength to rebound from all of this.
Despite the optimism of my first two paragraphs, I admit the introduction of this post is grim. So, I might as well get the bad news out of the way, before moving on to the good news.
The bad news: Whispering of the Autumn Leaves has made no progress in getting published. There was a publisher interested, but when COVID-19 hit, they were forced to pushback their 2020 and 2021 releases. This would push the publication of Whispering of the Autumn Leaves to 2022. A lot of things could happen between now and then, so commitment from either party wouldn’t make sense at this juncture. As I’ve stated before, the novel itself has been completed, and careful instructions have been given to a select few, should anything happens to me before it gets published.
Now, the good news: Aaron Calafato’s podcast of non-fiction vignettes, 7 Minute Stories, will be featuring a short-story read and written by me, called “Rooster”. It will premiere on April 30. In the meantime, Aaron has a lot of fun stories of all different genres, including “The Yellow Bird”, which was featured on NPR. So, regardless of my appearance on the podcast, I highly recommend you navigate over to the one and only 7 Minute Stories podcast.
Last but not least, the fifth episode of Mysterious Music will be released the first weekend of May 2020 (either the 2nd or 3rd). What began as a two-part examination of trends between songs which are unidentified versus tunes whose artist/band have since been located, has since sprouted into an ongoing series of all different types of mysterious music. I thank you for all of the interest and your eagerness to get involved in the quest to solve these songs.
So, despite the state of the world, it’s a time for creativity, inspiration and reflection. I hope I’m doing my part in keeping us connected and reminding you that better times are ahead. Stay safe and thanks again for everything.
Episode 4 of Mysterious Music, “Lost & Found”, is out now. To watch the full episode (as well as other installments of the series), and find out the difference between a lost song and a mysterious song, please click here.
Mysterious Music is a new series about recordings that currently have no known source, or were at one time unidentified. To hear some of these cryptic tunes, watch the latest Mysterious Music episode here. You can also join the discussion to discover several other mysterious albums, bands, musicians and songs that will be the subject of future episodes!
Today marks the 1,209th day since A Book About a Film was released. 1,209 days represents the longest I’ve ever gone without releasing a novel. Since I feel like I owe you guys one for your continued patience, I decided to not only release a sample chapter of the forthcoming Whispering of the Autumn Leaves, but also make a video of it. Unfortunately, still no release date. Whispering of the Autumn Leaves is very long and complex, and deals with a lot of stories intertwining through multiple dimensions, so there’s a lot of planning needed to avoid knots and ensure the reading experience isn’t too much of a maze.
Thank you for maintaining your interest after such long gaps. Rest assured, I’m doing everything in my power to make it worth the wait. To be continued…
Chapter 3 – The Andles A
A public service article published in the 1231 issue, titled “The Psalterist and the Shawmist”
Monsters have always lurked in the Royal Forest, a vast wooded area crossing into the regions of Denland, Everdirk and Wist Vondorian. It was a story to teach children not to wander far, or help them visualize the unknown evils of the world. Now, however, it appears some of the monsters have emerged from the Royal Forest to kidnap the children.
Within the last few cycles, the amount of missing children has increased. Reports stretch from the Royal Forest’s nearby farmlands like Naidney, all the way into the northern side of Denregal, particularly the Roachill district. Some believe there are hexminors turning children into red-crested jays, the black bird with a flame-red crest. However, these birds aren’t seen nearly as frequently as the rate of disappearing children, thus debunking this theory.
Two men were spotted emerging out of the Royal Forest. One was described as fat and balding, while the other was said to be thin and covered in locks of blond hair. The former cradles the bulky harp instrument of a psaltery; while the other carries the slender flute instrument of a shawm. They’ve been dubbed the Psalterist and the Shawmist. Both tall in stature, their footsteps make for long strides, explaining why witnesses have had difficulty chasing them down when they see a child in their company.
The sound of music can be heard as the Shawmist leads the child back into the Royal Forest’s border of black pine trees, which are so tall, they reach into the clouds on a rainy day. The Psalterist waddles behind his partner-in-crime and their young captive, ensuring the child doesn’t escape the musical trance.
Days later, the child is found in the farmlands, identified only by the clothes he or she was last seen wearing. All that is left is a dry skeleton, as if the child had been dead for decades. Skin and all organs are completely gone, and the bone is as clean as polished ivory.
People believe a witch lives in the Royal Forest, and they named her Ryla Bao. The name comes from the Mirean language the villagers in Naidney use, which is directly translated to Evil-Eyed Lady; “ryl-” meaning “eye”, “-a” meaning feminine, and “bao” meaning “evil”. They say she’s centuries old, and uses black magic to allow the children’s skin and organs to prolong her youth. The younger the child is, the longer it takes her to age again. The Psalterist and the Shawmist are her warlocks, commanded to retrieve her sacrifices.
Many expeditions have been organized in an attempt to save children seen leaving with the warlocks. However, these same expeditions are usually soon abandoned, with the child’s skeleton always turning up days later. While in the Royal Forest, people who have survived the expedition claim to experience spirits speaking to them, as well as strange disorientations that causes nausea and euphoria at the same time. These disorientations greatly affect the sense of direction, resulting in parties traveling in complete circles; as well as a sense of time being paralyzed, with nights seeming to last as quickly as a few minutes or as long as several days. Beasts in the Royal Forest also show signs of ravenousness, with bears, unisaurs and wolves oft attacking and killing members of the search party. The probability of being attacked by an exceptionally aggressive beast has led many to conclude that entry to the Royal Forest is equal to certain death. When King Three of Johnamas Hollied introduced the punishment of Banishment to the Royal Forest back in 978, he had heard the stories of these aggressive animals. Now, with a witch and two warlocks emerging from the haunted woods, the probability of survival lessens and the punishment of Banishment to the Royal Forest is ever crueler.
Because the child’s body usually turns up in the farmlands while the expedition is still in place, horrific bewilderment arises by how the body is discarded without the Psalterist and the Shawmist’s reemergence being noticed. Theories have included an invisibility spell, teleportation or that the children are being led into the Royal Forest and exited through a different path as a diversion. If the entrance to the Royal Forest is just an elaborate distraction, there are plenty of barns and small castles between Naidney and Denregal that the children can be easily taken to. In other words, the Psalterist and the Shawmist might not be just warlocks, they could your neighbor.
I was looking over some of the previous posts and noticed there was only one update in 2016 and 2017 each. In these posts, I even mention the rarity of an update; but after actually looking at some of the dates, it makes me realize how much time has gone between delivering news. Hopefully there will be more posts in 2018; however, it’s important to me to never cry wolf. The idea of posting just for the sake of it is a real turn off for me. It actually takes the fun out of sharing news on my writing. So, please know that, even though I don’t post very often, I’m always working; and make special note that when I do post something, it’s for good reason, and not done just for the sake of it.
The big news right now is, after coming to terms with it for several months, the release of The Fall of Peacetime will be postponed from Fall 2018 to Fall 2019. The next several months will be dedicated to revisions, but it’s gone from 150,000 to 170,000 words. This is almost the length of my last two releases (Jill and A Book About a Film) combined, so my premiere estimation was a bit off, since Fall of Peacetime is bigger than anything I’ve written to date. They say, “Good things come to those who wait”, and I’ve noticed the story getting better and better the more I work on it; so the longer it takes, the more confidence I have with this book’s quality.
To hold you over, I really recommend you read some Jack Ketchum. If my writing has interested you enough to visit CWSchultz.com, I can’t imagine how taken you’ll be with Ketchum’s work. Sadly, Ketchum died this week. It’s always hard to lose someone who has played a role in your craft, but it’s salt-in-the-wound when they pass away on your birthday, as Ketchum did. While I may not have known his bibliography backwards, my second novel The Pack and many of my short stories would not have existed without such influences as Peaceable Kingdom and The Girl Next Door. To me, there’s no bigger thanks to a writer than to recommend his/her work to someone else. I hope when my time comes, someone else out there will think highly enough of my books to do the same.
For starters, I’m not one for nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong, I get that same warm feeling everyone else does when encountering a movie, song or show from my childhood (Hulu has Doug, by the way). But when it comes to my creative process, I never look back.
I had considered doing a second edition of Yeval, for its tenth year anniversary, but realized it’s just not in me to do something like that. When writing Yeval, I did the same thing as all my other books; I dedicated myself fully to the project… until publication. Aside from the promotional phase, I completely release myself from the book after publishing. I never wallow in my work after it’s been shared with the world. It’s not that I’m tired of it; it’s the painful obsession of wanting to make revisions over and over. My work would never be published if I gave into this urge. There are always minor tweaks you want to make. Before you know it, it could end up being a completely different story. So, to go back after ten years and do a second edition of Yeval would surely result in me making changes. Then, I’d set myself up for a twentieth anniversary edition, thirtieth, fortieth, fiftieth… it’d never end. Maybe some writers are interested in doing this; perhaps it breathes new life into their work. For me, I have no interest.
In saying that, it’s actually not unusual for me to go back and reference excerpts for my portfolio, and when I go back to Yeval, there’s something special about it. I’m sure some people will say, “If you obsess over your work while you’re writing it, why are there grammar errors on page X and again on page Y, and how did you miss the one on page Z?” When it comes to grammar, no writer, regardless of how renowned they are, is free of making mistakes. That’s why there are proofreaders. Even the big publishing houses, with several eyes on one book, still get the occasional error printed. So, I don’t think of grammar as the make-or-break of a book for me. My focus has always been the story, and it always will be. When given the opportunity, I try to adopt the label of “storyteller” over “author” or “writer” because I think the latter two evoke the idea of being a walking talking dictionary and thesaurus. If that’s what a writer is supposed to be, count me out.
There are times where I think it’s necessary to explain myself, but a good majority of the time, I believe my work speaks for itself. Yeval is a great example of this, whether we’re talking about my intentions, creative decisions or grammar errors. Going back and skimming through for good excerpts, I often find myself satisfied by its rawness. There’s no hint of pressure or influence about it. This book was truly indie. I let no criticism hold me back from what I felt was necessary for the story. When it came out in July 2007, my instinct was to be ready to explain myself. As time went on, I matured to the philosophy that if I didn’t put it in the book, then explaining it wasn’t necessary. Every time I go back and flip through the book, I’m afraid I might find something that I wish I would’ve done differently or explained a little better. But I didn’t. When I revisit the random paragraphs or pages (and, rarely, entire chapters) once or twice a year, I remember exactly why I did what I did. For all the life lessons I’ve learned in the last ten years, and all the maturity I’ve done as a writer, I’m very happy that I can go back to my very first book and still confidently stand behind it. Take a guy like Bill Maher, who says he can’t even bring himself to watch his old standup because he thinks it’s so bad and he’s come such a long way. I don’t have that feeling with Yeval.
I guess this means, even ten years gone, I’m still proud of Yeval.
So, that’s about as nostalgic as I’ll ever get. Like I said, I always look forward. In looking forward, I’m gonna throw out some news of what I’ve been working on for the last year because, who knows, it could take another nine months for an update.
In my last post, I mentioned I had moved to the other side of the city. A change in habitat is a big deal for me. I also lost a loved one back in October 2016. With all the adjustments, ups-and-downs, smiles-and-frowns… the chaos of life really influences the writing process. So, I’ve been hard at work with a fifth novel. It’s called The Fall of Peacetime, it’ll be about 150,000 words (my longest work yet) and will likely be released in 2018. The title is a double entendre, so I think an autumn release will be the best move. Even though it’s a medieval fantasy novel (a genre that I’ve personally always loved and respected), the direction I’m taking the story will go hand-in-hand with other horror sub-genres I’ve written about, like: cults, inner-demons and serial killers. Like any artist who wants their craft to grow, I wrote this book intending to appeal to readers of my other books while also broadening my horizons to find a new audience. I think both crowds will be in for a surprise.
It’s been over 10 months since a website update. I think that’s the longest www.cwschultz.com has gone since its launch back in October 2011. Oh, that’s another thing, Happy 5 Years to the website! If all continues to go well, I look forward to another five years with updates on a more frequent basis.
While the updates have been scarce lately, this shouldn’t imply that I haven’t been hard at work. Sure, there’s been a few distractions. Mainly, Snowpuff, the Wife and I have gone from renting an overpriced 650 square foot apartment in the University District to practically stealing (though we legally bought it) the perfect home in West Seattle. And yes, this is great news, but those of you who’ve spent a lot of time in both the University District and West Seattle will understand that it is necessary to just take some time and acclimate.
But even with the change from U-District to Dub-Sea, I refused to allow the creativity to rust. Most of late-2015 and early-2016 was dedicated to promoting my fourth book, A Book About a Film, which received the most promotion out of all my publications, and I’m happy to say was met with very kind words from the folks patient enough to push through it.
Mid-2016, was the start of a fifth novel inspired by the Voynich manuscript, which failed after about four weeks of work and has since been scrapped. But that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. Keep in mind, I’ve been known to salvage unrealized projects before. Let’s not forget that Yeval was originally a screenplay that was eventually scrapped mainly due to length (having added the internal monologue and elements of transgressive fiction afterwards, when I realized I’d get more attention and satisfaction out of the story being more of an ugly art piece rather than dark entertainment, though I secretly wanted it to be both); and Echo with Laughter was a script rejected by a director/friend/producer for being too “on the nose”, but I ended up turning it into a short-story and Sirens Call Publications published it as The Stairwell. And then, of course, there’s A Book About a Film, that got several false starts between 2010–2014. So, if this Voynich manuscript idea sounds appealing to you, never say never.
But even though that particular “fifth novel” didn’t work out doesn’t mean there’s not another fifth novel in the works. In fact, that’s my main motivation for posting this today. Two chapters and a prologue have been completed, and while this is not deep enough to the point of no return, I’ve written over 17,000 words of internal notes; so, I technically have half a novel’s worth down, so I do think it’s a bit far to turn back. Plus, this was the story I’ve been wanting to write for several years, but have forced myself to hold off. Maybe that’s why the Voynich manuscript idea didn’t work out; maybe I’m simply far more passionate about this current idea than the Voynich one.
So what’s this big passionate idea I have? Isn’t it better to keep you in suspense? No? Well, I respectfully disagree, but I’ll compromise and share some details wit-cha. I’m going back to the first-person narrative. I know, I know, there are a lot of limitations, but I think it’s best for the story. So far, I’ve written four books, my first two in the first-person (Yeval and The Pack) and my most recent two in the third person omniscient (Jill, very omniscient; and A Book About a Film); I’m digging back into the style of my early days of publication, already almost 10 years ago, of first person narration. But like with every new story I write, I want to do it differently. Instead of having one main character narrating the story (props to Randy Mulray and Siggy Farris), I’m going to have several different characters tell their story, which takes place during the buildup of a great war (with an obvious war-is-not-great moral, but I’ll try not to be cliché about it); a writing style that first got my attention when reading Chuck Palahniuk‘s Snuff.
As for when you’ll get to read this work all depends on how long it takes me to write it, which in turn depends on how long it is. I’ve been pretty accurate with my release date estimations but have a tendency to overestimate my word count during the writing process. Right now, it looks like I’m on track to meet my one-novel-every-three-years average (so late-2018), with a likely length of 125,000 words. Before finishing the first chapter, I thought all my ideas would result in a read far more dense, like 300,000 words; but, like with my other books, when I get the ideas on paper, I like to keep things tight. I don’t like a moment of boredom, or a single word to go to waste. An editor for Jill once told me I had so much going on so quickly—a statement I couldn’t deny, originally planning to divide the story into 2–4 separate books—but I refused the suggestion to fluff my material. Reading takes time and it’s very easy to get bored. A reader should be entertained from the first word to the last; and there should be things underneath the surface, between the lines, so the reader is motivated to come back and discover something that wasn’t there the first time. So, will this fifth novel that’s gone from 300,000 words down to 125,000 words perhaps go lower? I doubt it, because unlike Jill, which was a beginning, middle and an end that I thought could be so expansive that I’d have to divide it up; this fifth novel is a beginning, middle and end to the start of a great war. Will I want to write about the war itself and the aftermath of it? Maybe, but that would be two different books. And while I’ve said before that I generally find sequels unnecessary, a sequel(s) to novel #5 might be necessary.
But here’s a critical thing: I don’t want to be that writer who just publishes book after book, as if it’s the size of the bibliography that counts instead of the actual stories. While I don’t think of my work in terms of good or bad (that’s the reader’s job, not the writer’s), my books mean a lot to me and I intend that each of them continue to count for something. A day won’t come when I do this strictly for money or the size of my bibliography or to stay relevant, etc. I write because it makes me happy; sometimes it’s therapeutic, other times I simply just want to write. If the day comes when I stop loving it, I won’t force some piece of tripe into the world. Like I said, reading is hard. It takes time and patience. To present to the world a story so insincere is, to me, a writer’s greatest crime.
I’m not saying I’ve published masterpieces. Again, it’s up to the reader to decide good or bad, not the writer. I fully admit that the grammar Nazis would have a field day with me. But only someone who has absolutely no creative backbone could think that something not printed through those huge publishing houses (most of which have at least a couple of errors of their own) could be free of any grammar issues. There’s a difference between presentable and quality. One is polished, the other may be something that’s tarnished; but many times, the latter has more heart. And despite any shortcomings I have as a writer (like shamelessly starting sentences with “and” and “but”), my work always comes from the heart. And while the criticizers say some pretty funny things, it’s those that enjoyed my books and write me about it who make this all worthwhile. Chef Ben Shewry once told himself after he received one of his first compliments, “[I]f there’s one table that likes it, there will be others.” I don’t see why the same doesn’t go for books.
So even though I write because I love it, it’s the kind words of those who took the time to send me compliments that keeps me going. And, with that said, I’ll get back to writing.