The Wit and Wisdom of Wytt (‘The Palace’)

(That’s Wytt in the upper right-hand corner, encouraging Jack to climb the wall.)

Our friend “Weavingword” has requested an excerpt demonstrating Wytt’s courage. No bigger than a squirrel himself, he backs down for no one–not even for this gigantic killer bird that wants to make a meal of Martis, who lies unconscious and defenseless. We take up the scene on Page 60 of The Palace:

“The great bird was annoyed.

“A ridiculously tiny red-haired creature was harassing her so that she couldn’t dine in peace. Indeed, she had yet to begin her meal. There lay the man, half-dead, just waiting to be devoured–and this little nuisance screeched and jabbered at her, dancing all around and trying to threaten her with a tiny twig.

“She darted her head and snapped at it, but her jaws came together with only a loud ‘clack!’ to show for it. She was more than annoyed; now she was positively furious

“‘Parasite! Carrion eater! Big clumsy lizard! I empty my glands in your direction!'”

“Wytt’s insults meant nothing to the bird, although they were among the most offensive known to the Omah. But his shrill cries went right to the bone, and now nothing would satisfy the bird but to crush this little hairy pest in her beak. She forgot the meal in front of her. Hissing like a serpent, she chased Wytt, striking at him again and again but always missing. The more often she missed, the greater burned her rage…”

(At this point thirteen armed men ride up on horseback, and the bird is compelled to retreat.)

Wytt’s armament consists of a little stick sharpened by his teeth, and bushels of self-confidence. You just can’t keep him down.

Anyone can request an excerpt from any of my books. Just remember to give me the title, the page number, and a clear idea of what it is that you want me to excerpt.


Where Wytt Came From

Image result for images of tarzan and the lost empire

See the little monkey on Tarzan’s shoulder? His name is Nkima, and he’s the biggest braggart in the jungle–which is kind of funny, because he’s mortally afraid of… everything.

He is also the inspiration for my character, Wytt–who is afraid of… nothing.


People often ask me where my characters come from, and how they end up in my Bell Mountain novels. And if I had to guess, I’d guess that Wytt is probably my most popular character. A lot of readers have told me so. But where did Wytt come from?

If you know me, you know I’m a Tarzan fan. And Nkima is my favorite character in all the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I mean, he’s so full of it! And it’s all hot air. This amuses me: a trait that would be unbearable in a real human being is a lot of fun in Tarzan’s monkey sidekick.

As the Omah creatures began to take shape in my mind, I asked myself, “What would Nkima be like, if all his bluster and bravado were perfectly genuine?” What if he really were as brave and bold as he makes himself out to be? What would that look like, in a little character no bigger than a monkey or a squirrel?

And then I had him–Wytt, Jack and Ellayne’s self-appointed protector and guide, who takes on enemies many times his own size, and lets them have the rough side of his tongue while doing it–and gets away with it. This little tiny hero armed with a tiny stick chewed to a point, who’s always up for any challenge that confronts him. No job is too big for him.

Yeah, he’s kind of easy to like. If Wytt’s your guardian–baby, you are guarded, but good. And given the numerous perils in which Ellayne and Jack have found themselves, he’s been kept rather busy. He’s even had to save Martis once or twice: and Martis is a professional assassin who ought to be able to take care of himself. But some of the adventures are a bit dangerous even for him.

I’m sure Wytt will be up for the next book, whatever the adventure turns out to be.

Who’s Your Favorite Character?

As I wait for the go-ahead to start writing my next book–and I never know what the “Hi” sign is going to be, the Lord always surprises me–I found myself wondering which characters in my books are the most popular. I also got onto that subject by showing my wife Travis Rodgers’ essay on “Obst the Missionary” (–the only one of my characters who’s ever been written about by someone else, outside of a book review.

If you ask me which are my favorite characters, I can only answer, “Whoever I happen to be writing about at the time.” I think it has to be that way, if I want to make the characters come alive for the reader.

But which characters really are the readers’ favorites? Which are yours?

My youngest readers seem to like Jack and Ellayne the best, and everybody loves Wytt, the little hairy creature with the sharp stick and no capacity for fear. The old rat under the Baroness’ back porch has his contingent of fans, as does Cavall, the king’s big dog.

I know someone who liked Lord Reesh, the arch-villain, best; and I’m sure Helki the Rod, the wild man of Lintum Forest, has his cheering section. As for the old Abnak sub-chief, Uduqu–my wife and my editor were both ready to scalp me when they thought I’d killed him off.

Anyhow, I’ve got lots and lots of characters in my Bell Mountain books, and I’m intensely curious to know how readers feel about them. Besides, this discussion will be a lot of fun if everybody takes part in it.

And somewhere in one of your comments may be the seed of the next book. I never know where that’s going to turn up.

A Rave Review for ‘The Last Banquet’

Image result for the last banquet by lee duigon

This comes from O.P. in Australia, originally posted on my “Playground Player” chess forum on . I have his permission to post it here. I have edited it slightly, only because it’s so long. Here goes:

I’ve finished “The Last Banquet” and found this fourth installment to be a most enjoyable read, just as I did the first three!… You continue to come up with fascinating new characters and the further development of your existing characters from the previous books is ingenious.

The obsession of Lord Reesh with the past Empire is an intriguing sub-theme throughout the series.

“But to be free, we must have power. Power to feed ourselves, regardless of the vagaries of rain and drought and frost. Power to go where we wish to go, when we please, regardless of how far away the destination, regardless of the weather. Power to channel human labor, and direct it. The men of the Empire had such power. So must we.”

I wonder to what extent the old Empire, and its demise, is a commentary on our own society.

Orth is an interesting counter-point.

“Folly, Orth thought. You collect bits of rubbish from the ruins of the Empire and treat it like fine jewels, and you delude yourself. If the men of that age were so great, why is there nothing left of their greatness but useless pieces of trash? Why did they perish? You say they flew through the air, and sailed the seas, and spoke to one another over great distances as if they sat across a table from each other–but did any of that save them? Where are they now, First Prester? Why should we try to emulate a civilization that has utterly died out?”

Orth develops into a compelling character. He is pathetic and cowardly, yet retains a residue of conscience, which only emerges when driven by his fear of “the dark angel” with the slaughter weapon. His reaction to the human sacrifice, in contrast to the cynicism of Lord Reesh, is particularly stark.

Your treatment of the  various animals throughout the series is particularly heart-warming. Cavall is so reliable and the addition of Angel was a nice touch for Helki, who preferred “the company of hawk and hound”…

Wytt’s importance in this book, as in the first three, cannot be overstated. The little hairy fellow becomes more captivating with each book.

“Wytt leaped out of her arms and chattered loudly. He snatched up his little sharp stick and brandished it over his head and started dancing all around…He made a squeaking noise that was Omah-laughter.”

You really do bring him to life with your remarkable writing.

The finale of this book, as with all of them, is very dramatic! Of course I won’t give anything away, but Chillith’s last stand before the Thunder King, “You are delivered into judgment!” was spine-chilling!

There’s more, but O.P. says he’ll post the whole thing on The Last Banquet page. There’s a lot of praise here that is very gratifying to me–but I’ve posted this not to blow my own horn, but in hopes that some of you out there, after reading the review, will want to read the book.

My Fantasy Tool Kit (8): Butt Out![Every now and then I remember the purpose of this blog is to get you interested in my books–so please feel free to click “Books” and look them over.]

If you ever want to write a fantasy novel–or any other kind of novel, for that matter–that’ll be sheer torture to read, be sure to make a thinly-disguised version of yourself the hero of the story.

Not that the reader is going to recognize you. But most readers can recognize pure poppycock when they see it. And few are so dense that they can’t detect irrelevant personal issues from the writer barging in between the reader and the story.

When you’re telling a story, butt out! I take it for granted that no one wants to read about me–not when they could be reading about Wytt or Helki. [You’ll have to read my books to get to know these characters.] Nor do they want to read my opinions on politics or the problems of this modern world that I’m supposed to be taking them away from.

To any writer, the same advice: Get out of the way! Don’t be like the jidrool who gets up and shambles around in front of the screen in the most exciting part of the movie.

If you want your readers to believe in your characters, you have to believe in them first. Don’t make them extensions of yourself or of the people in your lives. Think of them as real. Don’t try to control every little thing they say or think or do. Get so deeply into them that they start to say and do things you never expected.

Yes, I know–if it was easy, everyone would do it. A lot of published authors can’t do it. But you don’t even want to imagine the mountain of wasted paper produced by those would-be authors who don’t even try to keep themselves out of the story. That no one ever spent any money to publish their work goes without saying.

We are always being advised, “Write what you know.” But that’s no way to go about creating imaginative fiction.

Caveat: Let no one take this to mean I endorse the practice of lazily omitting to do research and just “intuiting”–that is, making up–false information about something for which real facts are easily available. For Pete’s sake, do not write about tribal customs of the Navaho unless you first read up on it: the ghost of Tony Hillerman will show the Navaho exactly where to find you.