The Philistines, a mysterious warrior people known now for mainly one man: Goliath. The giant.
Goliath. A name grander than even the man himself. You've heard of his infamous end at the hands of a shepherd as written in a famous book, but what of the life of the man himself? What book tells his tale?
A warrior among warriors, a son of a god, a living legend. Goliath, the warrior champion of the Philistines. On the battlefield, he runs like a horse, wields killing instruments no normal man may heft, and revels in the fear his presence evokes. Off the field, his will is immutable, his trust invaluable, and his appetites unbearable. Goliath. This man knows no challenge.
But such a reputation will not discourage all men. Scheming rulers and generals, prophetic priests and powerful cults, dauntless warriors looking to make their own legend. Monsters. Gods. For one seemingly un-killable, at the very least, these things can ruin an otherwise pleasant day.
Along with his shield bearer, Abimelech, and soldiers more in awe than they are useful, Goliath will set out on missions for kings, face foul magic users, and walk in the shadows of mysterious halls. History tells us Goliath died at the hands of an Israelite.
Goliath may have something to say about that.
Philistine is the first Tale of Goliath, set in the same world as Steven Shrewsbury's novels such as Overkill and Thrall, and his Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul short stories.
Every novel writing experience should be educational, right? Wow, that sounds like I went to a kid’s pizza place to crank out one of the bloodiest books I’ve ever done. I doubt any writer, unless they have a stick forever lodged in their keister, really sits down to start a novel and says, “What will this teach me?”
However, one would have to be the Other Brother Daryl to really say you’ve learned nothing penning a novel. For example, with a first novel, one will learn you don’t what the heck you’re doing? We all have written a few we thought were as good as sliced bread, or at least the gift shop of the Great Pyramid, but were really closer to the men’s room in a Portuguese cathouse. Hopefully, the lesson learned there was: “not gonna try that again.”
One discovers and grows if one has enough bullets for more than a single book in one’s head. One also uses the word ONE too often instead of talking as one really does, but I digress.
When asked to write a blog on five things I learned while writing my epic PHILISTINE I agreed, at first, to convey a few thoughts and promote the book further, and, secondly, because I really don’t want Peter Welmerink to post those pictures. [Me, post pictures of you in your skivvies and cowboy boots shoveling a ten foot during a little Illinois snow? I can’t believe you’d think I’d do such a thing. LOL—PJW]
Anyway, onward to the Five Things I Learned Writing PHILISTINE.
1. This book is gonna be bigger than I thought.
A book is as long as it needs to be. I don’t write with the idea of many sequels and stretching it to be a bridge to another tale. PHILISTINE would be a good story, one I’d wanted to tell since I was a kid, and my books usually run 75K to 90K words tops. From the scope, the cast, the tale and the layers, I had a feeling I was in real trouble with my usual method for writing a first draft, then subsequent ones.
I get focused and crank away on an idea, pumping that sucker out in roughs in a month. I don’t try and get it perfect the first time out. I tell the tale and dress it up purdy later. The year I sat down and wrote Philistine, I had written a horror novel in the month of February, a rough of another in May. But Philistine’s first draft, that took me all summer and then parts of October.
I oft return to a trip through a festering draft I left behind, but PHILISTINE plagued me for years, not months.
2. I’m not bright enough NOT to have an elaborate codex of the work. Most writers have a God complex. If they won’t admit it, then they are liars. However, I haven’t considered myself such a stroke that I cannot bend in my ways. It was clear I was no where near intelligent enough to keep track of so many gods, peoples, clothing, locations, customs, etc. without a guide for myself. The scope became broad for the work and I had to adapt. Usually, my brain is restricted to one piece of paper as a CAST and many hand written notes in binders.
PHILISTINE has a twenty page add-on of info.
3. I’m going to do more drafts on this monstrous sucker than I have ever done before. I really enjoyed the realm/place this book was in so much I dragged my feet leaving it. My usual walk-through (as I call them) second draft is: read it, tidy up, and see that it all makes sense and add as I go. This system was a tad strained with Philistine, a work that was double my usual length. But I started to like the realm, the place near 1000 BC. (Bite me, you modern BCE dorks. Get pissy about my non-conformist ways after I’m dead).
4. These characters, for good or ill, were real to me. I could see their faces, see them sweat, smile and die. I could see the hulking Goliath, his shield-bearer, Abimelech, the expressions of the soldiers, the coyness of the goddess Malak.
5. It was fun to write about an antihero, even if many might not like him. I wonder if such a grudgingly likeable guy as Goliath will play in Peoria or Sphincter, NY. He isn’t a great romantic, and has a great deal of ego, to the point it blinds him at times. While an easy guy to root for in a fight, Goliath isn’t a pleasant fella. But, you might just find him hard to resist.
I think Waylon Jennings was quoting Mae West when he said, “Sometimes when I’m good, I’m bad. But when I’m bad, I’m the best you ever seen.”
STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. Over 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media along with over 100 poems. 9 of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from Sword & Sorcery (OVERKILL, THRALL, BEDLAM UNLEASHED) to Historical Fantasy (GODFORSAKEN), Extreme Horror (HAWG, TORMENTOR, STRONGER THAN DEATH) to Horror-Westerns (HELL BILLY, BAD MAGICK, and the forthcoming LAST MAN SCREAMING).
He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.