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We had a contract from Del Rey Books commissioned by none other than Judy Lynn del Rey herself. We had a thorough outline of the first book, plus outlines for eleven others. (As the years went by the 12 books we originally envisioned were pared to a leaner, meaner eight.) And at the point we sputtered to a halt we were two hundred damned pages into the book.

Each and every day, no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn't get our Sten mojo going. We'd sit hunched over our keyboards, brows furrowed so deep you could have planted whole fields of turnips. Then one of us would groan, the other would moan, and we'd quit and break out the Scotch.

One day Chris made a depressing admission. "The trouble is," he said, "is that I've started to hate the little bugsnipe."

I didn't have to think long before I came to the same realization. I just didn't give a horse's fat patootie about Sten one way or the other. And I was one of his creators, for clot's sake!

Chris said, "Here we have this kid whose parents we kill at the very beginning of the story."

"And his brother and sister," I said. "Don't forget them.'

Chris snorted. "How could I frigging ever? He won't let me." Then he said, "We've got two hundred pages of this little buttwipe dragging around, going Boo-Hoo, Woe Is Frigging Me. I'm so sad and lonely I could kill myself."

" I wouldn't care if he did," I added, my depression deepening. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it was an oncoming train.

"He's like effing Oliver Twist," Chris said. "Moping around all the time so it gets so you want to kick his butt yourself. Dump the bowl of porridge over his head and stomp on his toes when he asks, 'Please, Sir, just a little more.'"

"Yeah, it's the Artful Dodger you root for, not little Ollie." I said. "The Dodger's had an even worse life, but he's always out there on the street laughing and hollering and cutting every purse in sight. He's a nasty piece of work. But much more likable than Dicken's darling orphan."

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