17 Novels: Easy Betrayals

Happy New Year! I can’t believe that we’re already in 2018. Over the holidays I made a point of cutting back on my work schedule and resting up a bit; now that we’re on the other side of the break, it’s time to push hard on my next Sikander North manuscript, move Sasquatch’s Alternity SFRPG into editing, and maybe keep experimenting with a new alt-history project I’ve been working on over the last few months. It feels like I’m already behind, and it’s only the third day of the year!

This week, I’m continuing with my look back at the books I’ve published during my writing career. If you’re interested in the story behind the story, this is for you.

Easy Betrayals

The first of my novels to actually see print, Easy Betrayals was the eighth book in the Double Diamond series of Forgotten Realms novellas. I actually wrote The Shadow Stone before I wrote Easy Betrayals, but when the Birthright novel line was cancelled, The Shadow Stone manuscript got shelved for a time. While it was clinging to life in its cancelled-but-maybe-someday state, I was brought in as a replacement on the Double Diamond project, so Easy Betrayals wound up being the first of my books to see print.

The Double Diamond Triangle Saga (the formal name) was something of an experiment by the TSR Book Department. Stephen King’s 1996 Green Mile serial novel had sparked an interest in different novel formats. The Book team came up with a Forgotten Realms version that ran to nine volumes and actually featured a branching narrative: After reading Book 1 (The Abduction), you could go 2-4 or 3-5 before recombining in Book 6 (Conspiracy). Then you could split off to either 7 or 8 before finishing it up in Book 9, The Diamond. I think that in practice most readers who started the serial just read ‘em all, but it was an interesting approach.

I was a latecomer to the project: someone else was penciled in to write Book 8. But when that author dropped out (and I have to admit now that I don’t remember who it was, or why they decided they couldn’t do it), editor Peter Archer asked me if I’d be willing to step in. Peter had edited my Birthright novel The Shadow Stone, and I think he had a sense that the universe owed me a book after the demise of the Birthright novel line. So one day shortly before TSR relocated out to Seattle to become part of Wizards of the Coast, Peter called me into his office to ask if I’d be interested in stepping in to replace the author who dropped out. The downside: Book 8 was now seriously behind, so I’d have to do a lot of catching up fast and then knock out a good first draft in a hurry.

Well, when opportunity knocks, you answer the door. So I said yes.

I plowed through the series notes and the drafts of the novels before mine as fast as I could, worked up an outline, and brought it back to Peter. At the time I was not any kind of Realms expert—I just knew the basics, really. But apparently I figured it out well enough to hold up my part of the overall story. Peter told me he was impressed by how quickly I’d absorbed the complicated storyline, and I managed to bang out the first draft in something like two months while trying to settle in after moving across the country.

Easy Betrayals is really something of an odd duck when compared to my other books. I didn’t pick the title, I didn’t create the characters, and I had some strict marching orders about where the characters needed to start the story and where they needed to end it. On the bright side, I liked the characters that I had to work with, and I had a lot of room to come up with the twists and turns that led from Point A to Point Z in the story. I don’t remember many of the details now, but I do recall that I made sure to include a classic doppelganger fight scene because doppelgangers were very definitely a thing in the storyline. And ultimately, the book was published—a much better outcome than my previous novels!

After knocking out Easy Betrayals, Peter Archer suggested converting The Shadow Stone to the Forgotten Realms setting (as I related in last week’s post). From that point on, most of the stories I wrote saw print. Easy Betrayals therefore served as an important stepping-stone that got me into the ranks of Forgotten Realms authors, where I had some success over the years.

Next time: Zero Point, my only science-fiction novel before Valiant Dust!


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