King’s Man Is No More…

When last I posted here—April!—I reported that I had just finished the draft of King’s Man, the working title for the new second novel in my Siege Master series. I write today to report that King’s Man is no more, and to explain why.

Way back then, I sent it off to my trusty beta readers. Since then most of them have read it and reported back. Their reactions were most encouraging—they very much liked the book, which tells me you should, too.

So far, so good.

While they read, I collaborated with fellow authors online at Holly Lisle’s Writing Classes, where I am a habitué, and where Holly had just opened a unique product testing lab for authors to test titles, covers, and cover copy in order to improve these major selling features for our books. I am a bold little guinea pig when it comes to trying out the new and dangerous, so I was first up in presenting King’s Man cover to peer review, hoping for wild applause.

I did not get it.

What I got was better.

My colleagues took me to task and told me exactly what they did and did not like about my title and cover. And by heeding their advice and experimenting on it, I got a new title and a great cover that I’ll reveal shortly.

But the process also introduced a new element out of nowhere. And it took me on a strange journey, both figuratively and literally.

The literal journey? Well, many of you know that I am a full-time caregiver to Gabriela, my dear spouse of ~40 years, who now suffers advanced Alzheimer’s. And as Gabriela had not seen her 94-year-old mother in several years, I concluded it was past time to take her across the country to California so the two ladies could visit with each other one more time.

Now I really didn’t want to take a woman with dementia through TSA screening, since they seem to lack all understanding, decency and common sense when dealing with disabilities, so I elected to drive the 6,800 mile journey to California and back in our motorhome. We were 54 days on the road and took time enroute to visit her lifelong friends, her family, and mine along the way.

It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we made the journey, for it gave her mother comfort and her sisters reassurance that Gabriela was faring as well as she could. For me it was mostly just work in another direction, as the driving, making/breaking camp, cooking, cleaning, vehicle maintenance, and caregiving all fell to me to do. I’m explaining, not complaining here; but it was certainly not a vacation—rather, the opposite.

But along the way, I wrestled with my problem, the new element.

AND WHAT IS IT? you ask. Well, the new title my peers liked best—chosen from 110 candidates I pulled from thin air—was . . . The Siege Master’s Song:

The Siege Master’s Song? An intriguing idea, to say the least. What would a siege master sing about? To whom, when and why would he sing anything? I had no idea. That title came out of nowhere—there was nothing in the book about a song. It simply didn’t exist. But now it needed to.

So for 54 days on the road, I worked on that puzzle as time and events allowed. And when I reached home again last month, I knew where I had to go with the idea in the book to make it work. But I still had no song!

Now many of the other title candidates I had made up struck me as possible lyrics, and from them I crafted a song—six quatrains of rhyming poetry in six-five, six-five syllable verse. They were ominous, dark and threatening—just what a siege master and his men might sing as they worked.

So The Siege Master’s Song is a musical death threat—a pledge of violence, mayhem and terrible consequences to come for those who refuse peace terms and opt to hold out in a castle against repeated demands to surrender.

So with these lyrics in hand, I found music composition software online and set to work creating a suitable tune. I have zero musical training, but I know what I like; and I knew what I wanted: a medieval tune that sounded Scottish/Celtic in origin when played on the musical instruments of eleventh-century Scotland.

Three days later I had a tune I liked, and the software was gracious enough to play it for me using fifes, bagpipes, lutes and drums. To me it sounded ominous, determined and very intimidating.

But I needed it sung. I cannot carry a tune in a bucket. But I can manage to sing a tune in phrases. So I found music editing software and set about adding vocal tracks by singing and recording my lyrics as phrases I pieced together. With a little software magic, I turned my one voice into many, producing a chorus of soldiers singing The Siege Master’s Song more or less well in unison.

I rewrote portions of the story then, introducing the song first as a musical joke, sung by Godric’s squire as they narrowly survive testing prototypes of Godric’s newest siege engine. But the song then reappears at actual sieges with purpose: first as a work song for Godric’s soldiers; and then as a psychological weapon against stubborn, beleaguered castle garrisons.

In the past few weeks I have added video clips to the song, putting visual imagery behind the words to show exactly what the Siege Master and his men say they intend to do. Soon you will see for yourself why a castle garrison might hear it and conclude surrender is their best option.

And the cover? Here it is. I think it’s terrific. I hope you do too!

The Siege Master's Song Front Cover 20160522

So King’s Man is gone forever. The second novel is now titled The Siege Master’s Song and is on track to be out later this year. If it interests you, do elect to follow me here and/or on Goodreads, so I can keep you updated on my progress and news of its release.