Janner Kohl is supposed to be my Solomon Kane, a wandering, sword-and-sorcery hero whose tales I would chronicle in episodic short stories. The setup was perfect: a mercenary of principles in a world transitioning from medieval dark ages to enlightened renaissance; where magic exists more as myth than reality, but still could be stumbled across in the remote corners of civilization. There was even a sidekick, a recurring villain, and a love interest.
The first story, which I started writing while waiting for my editor to approve the outline for Maiden of Pain, was to be Janner Kohl’s last adventure. (My plan, inspired by the unorthodox chronology of the Saga of Recluce series, was to publish this final tale first, and then go back and fill in the “holes” with subsequent stories.) I had a specific theme I wanted to explore. Sprinkled amidst the action would be the introspection of an old mercenary, and the resulting regrets of paths not chosen.
That story fell victim to an unclear vision and market demands. I began work on a new Janner Kohl story to submit to an open call for an anthology of sword-and-sorcery tales set on the high seas. “Relvan’s Rescue” came together quickly from a plot perspective, but suffered from a glut of themes. It was rejected by the editor of the anthology.
And several other, subsequent markets I submitted it to.
“Relvan’s Rescue” was in need of rescuing. I had a plan for the story, but not the time to implement it. So, when I started writing during my lunchbreaks at work, I decided to tackle “Relvan’s Rescue” first.
My progress over the last two weeks has been encouraging. It has been very easy to weave a theme of unresolved feelings for lost love into “Relvan’s Rescue”. Too easy, really. I was in the middle of writing a scene where Janner confronts his old flame about why she hired him for the mission. There was weeping and sighing and inner angst about secret desires of the heart being rekindled.
Then I had to stop and remind myself that this was supposed to be a sword-and-sorcery tale, not a Harlequin romance.
Left click. Shift and left click. Delete.
I’m back on track now, but it was a close call. Janner Kohl is still going to have to deal with old feelings that are disrupting his objectivity, but those elements of the story have been properly relegated to moments of characterization and not major plot points.