The Poison Gamble

By Dolores J. Nurss


I cannot escape this first full novel in the series. I began it before all others, while still in my teens, based on three vivid dreams in two consecutive nights. I have spent more time polishing it than any other, yet of all my novels it is the most obviously flawed. Despite which, I have grown much too attached to it–and it has become much too integral to the rest of the series–to discard it.
I originally wrote it as a tight, beautifully proportioned little novella, and I loved it dearly! Then I tried it on an agent, who said she wouldn’t even consider it unless I expanded it to a full-sized novel, since she saw no market for novellas anymore. When I did, my well-proportioned little sprite of a story became an obese midget, carrying way too much for her frame.
Unfortunately, by the time I finished, the rest of the series had sunk roots deep into the added material, till all kinds of passages foreshadowed matters that I had not foreseen, yet which had now become vital elements of Fireheart Friendclan, filling in huge blank spots in their histories, making sense of what had seemed previously inexplicable to me. Basing writing on dreams works both ways–not only does one dream stuff to write, but the stuff one writes inspires new dreams on which to base future stories. If I trimmed this tale down to its original size, I would lose whole stories yet to be. Besides, I found the added passages engaging in their own right, and in fact at times profoundly moving (at least to me.) I would miss them if I cut them. Moreover, I no longer remembered precisely where to cut.
This experience with the agent had a lot to do with my decision not to go the usual published route. The industry makes all manner of decisions based on considerations that have nothing to do with art. I resolved that “The Poison Gamble” would be the last story I ever deformed to please accountants.
So I offer this, my hobbit, my overweight novella, and hope you find her charming despite her somewhat slow pace, huffing and puffing to catch up with the modern taste for stories racing faster than the speed of thought. She doesn’t exemplify the best of my work, yet she does have a certain appeal all her own, not to mention supplying essential information for future novels. And I think you’ll find the digressions along the way enjoyable–the last easygoing days in the lives of Fireheart Friendclan, before their lives whip up to a pace that only three survive into old age (but we’ll have many tales before then, I promise you!)
I found some passages very hard to write, and only wrote them because it became even harder not to. It does start mildly enough, but be forewarned, the innocence won’t last forever. Sooner or later every novel I write shocks me–giving me another reason not to formally publish. Yet some compulsion that I don’t understand and don’t really condone demands that I put my work out for readers anyway.
So take this story for what it is, at its own pace. You might find you actually like the flaws. Or skip ahead to a later novel (once I post them) and come back to this when the others have whetted your appetite to find out more of the background. Whatever works for you.

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