Monthly Archives: July 2012

Very Important Nonexistent Back of the E book (synopsis)


Just because there is not physically the back of an e-book to look at does not make the description that occurs there with traditional books any less important.  The Product Description of an e-book, the Synopsis, is the main peek into your novel that a possible reader has.  Sure, in Amazon, they get a chance to preview a few chapters of your book; later on they may read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.  The text that gives them the motivation to look at reviews or sample chapters however is the book synopsis, making it incredibly important.

I do not believe there is honestly any one specific way to do an excellent book synopsis.  At its heart what you want to do is obvious; create a desire for your prospective reader to read your book.  However different people respond to different things and each novel has its own unique challenges in how to give a compelling summary.

Some people only want to read a book if the characters sound like something that hooks them. However what if you are doing a novel with enough twists that you do not want who your protagonists are to be obvious from looking at the back of the book?  It might be due to rapid death of obvious protagonists, cases where the protagonists and antagonists switch, or even people who seem to be background characters at first are the true ones the spotlight will be on.  When this happens vague descriptions help, or focusing on the character aspects you think will hook people, even if it misrepresents the novel (such as focusing on someone who seems a hero but will be a villain, if the description of the person is compelling inside a synopsis).

Other times the plot itself has so many twists (think like the original Matrix) that an accurate description might ruin the impact of the narrative.  In these cases one must focus on the characters in a synopsis, point out the compelling points of the obvious narrative, and then give small hints of the hidden twists (enough to intrigue) without giving it away.

In the fantasy and sci fi genres (and modern horror or paranormal books) just talking about the world and the types of people might be able to help hook a reader, but only if it is unique enough.  Merely stating there is magic and an evil god that must be defeated won’t hook a fantasy reader any more than a paranormal reader really cares if you have a vampire werewolf romance.  This technique can be used in contemporary non supernatural novels too, think about how many movie trailers start with the phrase “ IN A WORLD…”

One of the best techniques, and it can combine several of the above focuses, is to have a description that makes the reader curious in general.  Make statements or ask questions that makes them demand to know more.  The larger the questions, or the more paradoxical the revelations seem, the more your reader will want the book just to assuage their curiosity.

No matter how good your book is, if you can’t hook your reader with at least one of three tools (good synopsis, great cover, positive word of mouth) no one will try it in the first place.  I will be covering some of the others in future blogs.  As for now, all of these things are on my mind as we get closer to releasing “Mandatory Paradise.”  Here are some possible synopsis. This may be familiar to long time readers of this blog, when I was getting close to releasing the Fall of House Nemeni.  Like before, pick which description you like below. However, please feel free to correct or enhance the current ones, or offer entirely new synopsis’ in the comments or PM/email to me.  You can also combine elements of multiple ones, but still please choose one of the below synopsis as where I should start my framework.

Synopsis for Mandatory Paradise

A) On the Island of Nimoa everything is seemingly perfect.  All of its citizens needs are met from shelter to sustenance to entertainment.  Everyone has a role assigned to and safety is guaranteed.  The monsters cavorting in the skies outside the city ensures no one desires to leave.  A massacre annihilates these absolutes for a Priestess, A Bureaucrat, and an Artist and they find themselves fleeing everything they trusted while they search for the truth. Will they be able to reveal a conspiracy that has existed since the foundation of their island bound empire?  If so, are they willing to give up their lives and maybe even their existence just to have the facts come to light?

B) Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a Teacher, but at least she has always had her needs met like all the citizens of the Island of Nimoa.  She has gazed at night up at the energy shield surrounding the sky of her island that keeps the flying monstrosities of legend out. Despite the fact this keeps her whole society free of strife, she has still wanted more. When a massacre occurs and she is the prime suspect she must team with a grieving Bureaucrat and an eternally optimistic Artist to find out what really happened.  In doing so they reveal a conspiracy wrapped around every aspect of their society.  Should they expose it and other dark secrets they find, risking their entire society’s destruction?  Or should they quietly disappear into the night in order to preserve their way of life?

C) The shield of energy that surrounds and protects Nimoa from the monsters outside of the island means that all the people’s needs are met and no harm can come to any of it’s citizens.  This truth is proven false when a horrific massacre occurs, and a teacher Priestess is blamed for it.  In her quest for truth and survival she finds allies in a wealthy Bureaucrat and an eclectic Artist as well as one who claims to come from beyond the shield. Can four people withstand a conspiracy and other dark secrets that have held their society together since it’s foundation?  More importantly, is it worth their own lives and a few lies to risk destroying a way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

As for other news:

Mandatory Paradise is now on it’s final editor!  It has been through several, and this last edit is not really encountering any of the typos or normal issues that my drafts have had, due to the large amount of editors involved, and I am getting seriously excited.

The next Allmother’s Fire book is getting to about the 40% mark for the first draft, and part of that has already gone through multiple editors, as I plan to keep that up the whole time so as to minimize time  needed between when I finish my first draft and final edits.  At its current pace I may even have the second Allmother’s Fire in time for the Holidays!

World Info:

This time it will again be about Mandatory Paradise, since that will be released earlier.

On the Island of Nimoa each person has a role, and the magical things they can do have to do with those roles.  There are also two types of ways to sue the mana energy that is on the island, through moving the whole body or just ones hands.

Artists , Bureaucrats, and Craftsman work the mana energy with their hands to accomplish effects based on their roles (Artists make illusionary displays, Bureaucrats store and access information, Crafstman create, etc).

Soldiers, Priestess and Priests, Laborers and others of that nature most move their whole body to harness the energy and complete their tasks.  Be it dance, a memorized fighting style, or even the ritualized way one stomps grapes, the whole body must move for these amazing uses of the island’s energy to work.

It is said it is impossible for anyone to use both forms of body movement and hand movement, as they are inherently separate ways to access the gifts the island has given them.


Interview with Christopher Kellen


Today’s Interview is with Christopher Kellen, the author many books, including the highly popular “The Arbiter Codex.”  I conducted this interview after reading Elegy, and it is not necessary to have read the novel to enjoy the Interview.

MD:      Central to your entire novel is the concept of manna.  It drives everything about the plot and characters of this world.  Can you please describe it, and the things that make it a unique magic/energy source in contrast to things it may be compared to?

Christopher: There are many fantasy stories and worlds that deal with some kind of life force, some central source of energy that wizards or others can draw from. When I began writing ELEGY, my central hypothesis was: what if that life force was actually deadly to everyone it touched? What if it drove them mad, turned them into monsters, outright destroyed them?

 

After I solidified that idea in my head, I realized that if the good side of the life force (which I decided to call ‘manna’) was deadly, then the bad side must be even worse. If it also had a bad side, there must be someone who was immune to the deadly power.

 

As of my latest Arbiter Codex book, LEGACY, more about the source of the manna, where it came from and just why it’s so deadly have been revealed, but I’ll avoid going into more detail to avoid spoilers.

 

MD:        The title of the series is The  Arbiter Codex.  Could explain the roles of Arbiters in this world?

Christopher: Corrupted manna (that is, the ‘bad’ side I mentioned above) creates monsters. It turns normal things into hideous versions of themselves, and has actually nurtured strains of monsters going back generations that have become separate species.

 

The Arbiter’s job is to hunt down the places where the life force has become snarled. Normally, it flows like a river, but if someone exerts too much force on it, or if someone attempts to hoard it, the power spoils and becomes corrupted. This usually results in a great many terrible things: walking corpses, horrific monsters, and otherwise rational people gone insane. The Arbiters, working from their Tower, seek out those places, destroy the monsters, and return things to normal.

 

MD:     The Arbiters have a few unique pieces of equipment and the way they interact with manna.  Can you let us know of the heart blade, the manna blade and other things the Arbiters use to carry out their duty?

Christopher: I’ve dreamed about a crystalline sword for a long time. I have story fragments going back ten years or more that feature this particular concept, but none of them worked until I started writing ELEGY. There is heavy color symbolism featured in The Arbiter Codex, and the glow of the crystal manna swords represented it perfectly. It allows them to be instantly recognized, for no normal person could carry the power of the manna so closely to them.

 

The heartblade came out of a need to explain more about how the Arbiter’s world works. I debated heavily on just what it was that allowed the Arbiter to be immune to the power of the manna. Originally, the plan was for them to have been exposed to the power in small doses starting at a very young age, but that didn’t provide enough of the ‘hopeless world’ feeling that I wanted. Instead, I turned them into addicts; the heartblade is a tiny, needle-like blade that recharges itself over time (from a specific place, not from the manna as a whole) that must be driven into the Arbiter’s heart. It both recharges them and re-ups their immunity to the manna’s deadly influence. Without it, they would die.

 

MD:       The Pulp influences on your novels is very visible.  Let us know why you love this style of writing, and ways you incorporated it into your novel.

Christopher: I wrote ELEGY in 2008, for National Novel Writing Month. At the time, I had just finished a two-year stint as a graphic designer and formatter for a small press that was working with public domain properties like Tarzan, John Carter, and Lovecraft. During the process, I had learned a lot about the old pulp stories, and got introduced to Howard for the first time. I can’t really describe how immediately and thoroughly Howard’s work spoke to me. Around that time I was also introduced to Karl Edward Wagner, whose Kane stories I also count among my biggest influences, and I also discovered the work of Andrzej Sapkowski, the modern-day pulp writer of The Witcher.

 

From the moment I began writing, I imagined D’Arden Tal as a combination between Geralt of Rivia (the Witcher himself) and Solomon Kane – a religious zealot who is also an outsider, thought of with suspicion even though he is the only one who can save them.

 

Reading the pulp stories has led me to where I belong, I think. I’ve grown tired of stories where a ‘farmer’s boy’ finds some magic MacGuffin and saves the world from an overbearing evil. I like it when my characters are already competent before entering the story, when they’re already world-weary or at the top of their game. They face down some horrific evil, and they may change, or they may not. Conan took the crown of Aquilonia, but it never changed him. Wagner’s Kane was an immortal who never changed, no matter what he went through – he was always a magnificent bastard. Those are my favorite characters, and that’s what I’ve been striving for.

 

MD:      The novel moves along at a very steady pace that makes it hard to put down.  Is there anything specific you did to keep it that way, such as cut things out after your wrote it, make a conscious decision to not write anything that does not directly move the narrative along, etc?

Christopher: Well, I’m definitely glad that you feel that way!

 

Actually, ELEGY is sort of an interesting beast, because when I wrote it, I struggled for every word; and not in an angsty, ‘it-has-to-be-perfect’ way. For many years, it was very difficult for me to write any work, because they always came up short on the word count. I’d write what I felt was a complete short story and it would be 1,100 words. I’d try for a novel and get 13,000. Thankfully, this has now changed, but at the time it was very difficult.

 

Honestly, the reason that ELEGY is so tight is because every bit of plot was necessary to keep my words coming to hit the 50,000 goal for NaNoWriMo. In fact, in its first incarnation, ELEGY ended at precisely  50,000 words. I cleaned up a lot of the NaNo-isms and revised it so that it all flows together much more solidly now (and changed the ending significantly, which seems to be a theme for me) and it turned into a very tight, fast-paced (but short) novel.

 

MD:       Are all your novels set in the same world?  If not where else are they set in, and if so how do they tie together?

Christopher: Ever since I was very young, I’ve dreamed of having a world in which I could set multiple stories, at multiple times, in many different places. A world that I could explore, with characters that I loved.

 

At last, I think I’ve found that place, although I never expected it to come from where it did. When I wrote ELEGY, it was never supposed to have a sequel. It was just a discarded NaNo project. When I started revising it for submission to a now-defunct webzine, I began to realize that there was more potential in it than I had originally thought. It took a lot of thinking, but I finally decided that I would call the world “Eisengoth” and give it a heavily-Germanic influence.

 

Right now, I have three series set in this world of mine: The Arbiter Codex, The Elements of Sorcery (book 2 launched July 20, 2012), and Tales of Eisengoth.

 

The core story is found in the Arbiter Codex. The Elements of Sorcery is exploring the history of one of the secondary characters, the sorcerer Edar Moncrief. The Tales of Eisengoth contain other stories about the world, the characters, and their history.

 

MD:        The instant feeling a lot of people get when reading your novel is “Conan meets Star Wars.”  How would you describe your series in your own words, and how much of the above description seems true to you?

Christopher: I don’t disagree with that assessment, although the quasi-religious wanderer is inspired less by the Jedi than it is by Solomon Kane. The crystal swords certainly do evoke the idea of the lightsaber, which wasn’t entirely unintentional. I mean, come on. There’s pretty much nothing more awesome than a lightsaber!

 

Really, though, I like to think of my work as a spiritual aspirant to the great pulp work that has been mostly forgotten. People don’t think of Conan when they think of fantasy (a string of miserable adaptation attempts to bring it into the modern consciousness doesn’t help), they think of Tolkien, and Dragonlance, and Harry Potter (high fantasy, Dungeons-and-Dragons-derived-high-fantasy, and modern fantasy respectively).  I want to bring the idea of heroic fantasy back to life in my work: Howard, with modern sensibilities; and Lovecraft, with just the terrifying monsters, and without the horrifying racism.

 

MD:       What is your background with writing?  Any formal training, influences, or early projects you did that drive how you write?

Christopher: The only training I have is the thousands of books and stories that I’ve read. I’ve never formally studied the writing process, but I started reading very young, and I’ve never stopped.  I was also very fortunate to get brought into my parents’ D&D group at the tender age of 6, and when my Dungeon Master moved away, I became the DM for my group of friends at about age 12. That started me on the world-building process, and to this day I absolutely love gaming and collaborative storytelling.

 

Unfortunately, there’s also a downside to that last part: the tropes and methods of role-playing are so deeply ingrained in my consciousness that I often have to struggle against those instincts in order to write!

 

I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2005, and it was mostly just a way to have some fun during the month of November, since I kind of liked to write (but I would never finish anything that I started). Doing NaNo was really the propulsion that led me toward where I am now, and I would never have done that without my then-girlfriend (now my wife) telling me that I should.

 

All of those things combined, plus a healthy love for the methods of storytelling, some of Holly Lisle’s no-nonsense writing techniques, a deep desire to communicate, and a lot of encouragement are really what keeps me going.

 

MD:       Do you have any dream projects you would want to work on? This could include original takes on existing properties, genres you have not written in before, etc.

Christopher: Well, I wrote a science-fiction short story (available as Dutiful Daughter) which I need to turn into a full-blown novel at some point. That’s definitely on the horizon.

 

I’ve never been overall too comfortable working in other peoples’ worlds or with their characters; I’ve always preferred to work with my own. Still, as a creative exercise a few months ago I re-structured the plot of the video game Mass Effect 3 to fit my sensibilities, and that was a lot of fun as a thought experiment.

 

Right now, my dream is really to keep learning and growing; to try out different genres and different kinds of stories, and to keep improving my methods. If something else should come up along the way, I’ll take a look at it.

 

I’d also like to (at some point) do a collaboration with another author. I think working on story genesis with another person would be a lot of fun!

 

MD:     Do you have any novels coming up?  If so let us know more about them.

Christopher: Well, I just released Sorcerer’s Crime, which is Lesson II of the Elements of Sorcery, on July 20. Right now I’m back in the planning and initial drafting phase for a project which I’m tentatively describing as a ‘steampunk/fantasy political thriller’, which will be significantly different than anything I’ve done before.  Since it’s just in the initial phases, it’s hard to say when(or if, frankly) it might be done.

 

My short-range plans (next 6 months or so) also include the next entry in the Elements of Sorcery (since short fiction is much easier to write, edit and publish), and then I’ll get started on Book Three of the Arbiter Codex. Farther out than that… who knows?


Letting your Tapestry have Loose Threads (Foreshadowing)


One of the great techniques used to enhance a book is foreshadowing.  It easy to do wrong, such as doing it so heavy handed and obvious that there is no surprise when the eventual pay off happens because you expect it.  The other extreme is easy to accidentally do, to slip one line in the background and then not reference it again until a book or two later.  When this second thing happens some readers might not even think it was not truly planned out, but that you just randomly took something that happened and gave it significance after the fact (hint: see Lost).

I just saw “The Dark Knight Rises” and it my mind ended what I believe to be the best cinematic trilogy I have seen.  The primary reason for this is a lot of inventive foreshadowing from the earlier movies, that if it was not planned, was done so perfect that it seems so.  At the same time not all of it was expected either.  In the blog I will not directly spoil events that happened in that movie, but I will refer to techniques used (seriously, spoiler free, any examples I give illustrating points will not be from the movie but might be from my own books).

The best technique that I gleaned from the film was when hiding a plot thread that will have later significance but you do not want to make it too obvious at the time, is to have the conversation have a completely different set significance.  That way you can do something like tell a story that gives examples of how ruthless a character is.  The event’s told all point to this and focus on this.  During that story of the past however a character may be introduced as an example of an object lesson in how ruthless the antagonist is, but the seeds might be planted for that same person to come back later and be a character you have already met, without knowing the connection between the two.  The actuakl importnace of the character may also have nothing to do with the original display of ruthlessness.

Another good use to make foreshadowing have more of an affect is misdirection.  Purposely be heavy handed through something “obvious” like prophecy or even physical descriptions.  Make it so that it “must” happen a certain way and “of course” this person will grow up to be Captain.  At the same time you can plant many hints that another person could be Captain too, but “overwhelming evidence” points to the wrong person and only a second reading reveals how much the quiet young person in the corner was better suited all along, but looking at the obvious had obfuscated this.

The final technique I think I saw but did not have proof of was to purposely keep a few threads open, but not attach a reason for them yet. If you do it too often it can go back to the earlier flaw of being so obscure no one believes it was purposeful.  If only done a little bit though, such as knowing someone’s boyfriend left them under strange circumstances, or having a locket always around someone’s neck clues in the reader this is a mystery that might be important later. You do not necessarily have to even plan out what this may be, or you may have two or three ideas and he let the actual flow of the narrative dictate what is the most common sense conclusion and then use it.  No matter what letting a few loose threads fray at the end may help you weave a more beautiful tapestry later.

In case not all the announcements have made it to you I wanted let you know the results of polls and what is happening with the current books:

The second book in the Allmother’s Fire trilogy will now be called “Rise From the Sun Below.”  This book is past the one third mark, maybe around 37% complete or so for the firstfDraft.

The epic thriller fantasy novel will be called “Mandatory Paradise”.  Although sporadically edited by multiple editors in the past it is now a good 85% done through a longer very thorough editing.  The last sentence was not intended to offend any Leprechauns or their family (you know who you are).  Currently I am looking to see who I would want to do the cover Art, and plan to choose before the end of the month.

Just like I asked advice for titles, I will now get some vague advice towards the cover, to have something to give the cover artist.  This is for the Mandatory Paradise novel.

The Mandatory Paradise novel cover should be:

1)Mainly symbolic.  Although it can tie into things from the book, the cover should reinforce the name of the book.

2)An Actual scene: A specific occurrence from the book should be the focus:

3)People or Objects or Locations from the book: It does not need to be an actual scene, but it should represent physical people or objects that are unique to the book

4)A combination of these things.  If you choose this, please clarify what you mean in the comments below!

World Tid Bit:

Since my next focus (not in terms of what I am writing, but in terms of marketing and getting published) is Mandatory Paradise, I will start giving tidbits about it.  This will also help when it comes to ideas for the story description.

The book takes place on an Island named “Nimoa.”  On this island it’s inhabitants live pretty perfect lives.  Their nation houses them, gives them all the sustenance and wine they want, entertains them, and gives them roles to carry out in their lives.  They are safe, never knowing war, and rarely do the Legions even have to act against common criminals, for they are few.  Why have crime when you get everything you want anyway?

Part of why they know they are safe is because the whole island is surrounded by a mystical shield.  On the other side of the shield they can see all the monsters and myths of legends careening in the sky, and destroying the outside world.  As long as they listen to what they are told they are safe, happy and protected, right?

So what happens when a massacre occurs that makes their entire existence seem suspect?

That is the setting for Mandatory Paradise.


Interview with Robert Eaton writer of “The Hero Always Wins”


Today I will be posting and interview with Rober Eaton, the author of “The Hero Always Wins.”  He is another member of the Genre Underground, and his first novel is both dark fantasy and comedic at the same time, and a very enthralling read.

Here is the interview:

 MD: The world seems to be an interesting mix of seemingly familiar concepts (heroes, fire wielding bad guys, orders of knights with magic swords, etc) with original spins on them (exactly how the heroes work and the warlocks, etc).  Are there any specific inspirations for this world and how it works, or was all of it an original world from the ground up designed to feel like a familiar type of tale?

Robert: As you’ve pointed out, the world of The Hero Always Wins is inspired by a number of traditional fantasy elements.  I love Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the like, and wanted my book to have some of that feel.  However, I think my world has a lot of original elements as well.

One aspect that is unique to the world of The Hero Always Wins is that the scale is much smaller than many other fantasy worlds.  I didn’t want armies of millions where a single hero could hardly have an impact without god-like powers.  Instead, I created world that could be travelled by horse in a matter of a few weeks, and large cities have populations in the thousands.  A few hundred warriors constitute a sizeable army, and individuals can really turn the tide in battle.

MD: Tell us more about how the heroes (and the Leorht) work, and what makes them different from typical tales.  Any world information you want to give, either that can be gleaned from the books, or that you had thought of but not necessarily spelled out in the book.

Robert: I love tales of magic, but one thing that always bothers me in fantasy is when a hero has too much power.  So often I see fantasy series go off the rails because the hero is nearly invincible and only complicated loopholes can challenge him.  To this end, I wanted to create a magic system that gave my heroes power, but kept them vulnerable as well.

Generally, my heroes have a very well defined set of abilities.  Those that follow Leorht, for example, have the ability to wield properties of light.  The move with a heightened sense of speed, and can summon limited amounts of electricity to aid them in battle.  Beyond that, they are as human as any other warrior on the battlefield.

MD:  Without going into spoilers, I will say I enjoy how as the book goes on, the reader cannot necessarily know where things are going with characters, even though at the beginning it seems to be very typical of its genre.  This makes me wonder, did you know an overall outline before you wrote, including the twists, or did the twists come to you as you wrote.  What is your process in general when writing in terms of you the author knowing the plot?

Robert: Most if not all of my plot twists are planned well in advance.  I always develop an outline before I start the actual writing.  At the core of my outline are a series of plot events which form the critical path from beginning to end.  I also throw in specific lines of dialogue, bits of imagery, side plots, and other “cool” ideas I have that I want to work in.  From there, I start writing, and ad lib the details of each chapter as I go.  Sometimes the journey leads to changes in the original outline, but generally the major plot elements go unchanged.

MD:    Your structure is a more typical chapter based structure, but I have noticed many modern idioms and phrases in the chapter titles.  Was this a conscious decision to add some “tongue in cheek” elements to the story or a more unconsciously motivated decision?

Robert: Modern idioms and tongue in cheek phrases are central to my writing.  When I first started writing, I tried to mimic typical fantasy influences from mythology.  However it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t care about mythology.  Instead, I drew on those cultural elements that are near and dear to my heart: pop culture.  So my books, though set in a “traditional” fantasy setting, are chock full of references to sports, music, and modern slang.

As for some of the “tongue in cheek” elements, I love a good pun.  Some people may find it corny, but there is a playful cleverness to puns that amuses me.  I also like to mix in elements of satire, which I think goes hand-in-hand with the cheekiness.

Basically, I live in 21st century America.  Just because my head is in the fantasy world doesn’t mean my feet don’t touch the ground around me!

MD:    Tell us more what got you into writing this book.  Are there any specific trials or stories in your own life that occurred from writing this?

Robert: Honestly, this book is influenced by video games as much as anything else.  I grew up on Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and the Legend of Zelda.  I love heroes like Kratos from God of War, and villains like Arthas from Warcraft.  I started writing partially because video game stories got in my head and I couldn’t get them out.  Does that mean my books would make a good game?  I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.

MD:    What is your background/training as a writer, or any prior experiences in writing?

Robert: I don’t really have any formal training in writing.  I do have two Ivy League degrees, and took a few writing classes along the way, but never majored in English, Creative Writing, or anything like that.  I owe most of my writing ability to genetics and my high school English teachers.  I always did very well in writing throughout school, and I had a few teachers along the way who really helped me understand how to channel my ability into a decent story.

MD:     What would you say you focus on as a writer; themes, plot, or characterization? If it’s a combination of these, let us know which you feel you focus on the most, and why?

Robert: Definitely characterization.  I love my characters, and have a vision for them from cradle to grave.  I don’t generally have characters who managed to live boring lives as simple farmers or blacksmiths until the age of eighteen.  Instead, my characters have colorful backgrounds chock full of adventures that happened before my book begins.  My writing, however, concentrates on what I consider to be the main adventure of a character’s life, the adventure that leads them to ultimate glory or ultimate demise.

My characters have real emotions and real motivations.  They are driven by the same things that drive us all: love, greed, fear, and duty.  In the end, every one of them is doing what they think is right, either for their nation, their loved ones, or themselves.

MD:    What makes you the rock and roll star of fantasy writing?

Robert: Rock and roll has always been central to my life.  I grew up in the late eighties and early nineties, watching glam rock and metal morph into grunge and rock-rap.  I always identified with the wild, lustful, and dark undertones in rock music, and I carry those undertones into my writing.  In my mind, every one of my characters looks like someone you could find at a music festival.  Some are on stage, some are carrying equipment, some head-banging in the audience, and some are selling weed behind the porta-potties.  They’re all there though.

MD:   Finally is there anything you would like to tell us about your upcoming book?

Robert: The last question is actually a good segue.  My upcoming book, the sequel to The Hero Always Wins, takes the rock and roll from backstage to center stage.  Music is part of the plot, and one of the settings is a fantasy version of the Sunset Strip circa the mid-80s.

All your favorite characters are back, with the action picking up right where the first book left off.  The mood is darker, the battles bloodier, and the plot twists crazier.  It’s taken a little longer than I’d hoped, but the book is finally coming out this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited.  If you loved The Hero Always Wins, stay tuned; the sequel is going to rock your world!

This concludes the Interview

As for my regular readers it looks like “Mandatory Paradise” is winning completely in the poll for the name for the new standalone Fantasy Thriller Epic Novel!  With the name decided we will be moving soon onto the next stages of getting that novel out.


Everyone Desperately needs a Dan


So after I published the The Fall of House Nemeni as I was awaiting feedback one of the readers kept sending me notes.  They included what he liked, but also included the points that were confusing, or he felt defused tension to early, etc.  Ie they were an honest critique not of the copy/line editing variety but of a how the readers see and comprehend the story.

When I knew I would make a revision of the story to help pare down the typos/grammar issues I realized I had an opportunity to make the story tighter too.  He was the first one that made me realize Chapter 3 had to go, and other various small issues were cleared up or made more hidden depending upon the topic.  If you bought the book after June 30th, this is the version of the book you have, and I am still working with amazon to make the newer revision available for readers who bought the earlier edition of the book.  You can definitely thank Dan G. for the tighter version of the book (this is not the Dan thanked in the book), without whom those changes would not have happened.

I think every self-published writer needs a Dan.  I know this is one function of  editors, but most self-published authors are lucky to have grammar nazi friends copy/line edit for them.  Most of the time if it’s a friend or relative they are not going to tell you, “Seriously, get rid of that entire chapter” or “WTF happened here?”  As an author, if they did and they were a non-writing friend you would be likely to ignore that anyway, since it’s your book.  If you did take the advice you would probably take it in the form that changes your book the least.  It’s important to have that person who is not only going to tell it like they see it, but then back it up with a logical reason or why they think it makes things better and not just a vague “I don’t like it.”

At the same time, you do not have to follow everything they say either.  They are not writing the book, they are not the “editor” who decides if it gets published.  There will be times that your style, and how you choose to frame the narrative will be different than their preferences.  In that case as a self-published writer you need to go with your vision of what the book needs to be over any one specific reader.  At the same time it’s great to have that one constant voice questioning what you are doing so you can make it stronger.

I am around the 30% mark or so on the second Allmother’s Fire book, and just handed it to Dan before the copy and line editing are started on that. It would be such a waste for those poor editors to make it be grammatically correct and then I re-write the whole chapter.  As for the name of that second book of the Allmother’s Fire, I’m almost definite now it will be Rise From the Sun Below.  More than a few people who did not answer the poll told me that was their preference (of course I prefer if people record things in the polls it makes it easier for me : ) )

Speaking of book names, time for today’s Poll!

This is meant to be the final naming Poll for the new epic novel, formerly known as Nimoa.  I have pared it down to two choices, one the top poll pick from the large list, and the other a really great sounding suggestion given.

The New Epic Novel Fantasy Thriller should be called:

1)The Labyrinth Conspiracy

2)Mandatory Paradise

Upcoming on the blog this month you should be seeing an interview with one of the other Genre Underground writers, some world information about the new Epic, and the typical posts about writing and e-publishing.

For today’s world info we will stick with the Allmother’s Fire series.

An interesting tid bit is although their main religion has a God like analogue with the Allmother, there is definitely no specific Satan like analogue, even though much of this church is similar to the Catholic church.  There are said to be a race of creature’s called the “Firesouls” however that come up from the Sun Below.  They are said to be able to either burn people or even take over their body and souls if they are not blessed by the Allmother.

The best way to be free of the influence of the Firesouls so to go to the Questionary weekly.  This means not only sing the songs and the formal worship, but then later be with a Priestess inside a Questionary and admit your sins before the Allmother.  You are then anointed with the sacred oil and drinking her holy drink made of specific herbs that only the Priestess’ know of, and then the Firesouls will not be able to reach into your heart and soul, at least for a little while.

It is grumbled by some that this means the Church has an inordinate amount of power, since it knows everyone secrets. The Church  always responds it will never use that power lightly, and only cares about saving the souls of everyone on all the Islands.


Characters and Authors can be Lying Liars


It’s a truth often forgot by readers: Characters and Authors can and do lie.  That Ancient prophecy might not only be false, even worse it could be a trap sent to manipulate future populations to do certain actions.  Just because the head villain says he’s your father doesn’t mean he’s not just saying that so he can cut off your other hand.  The Old wise Man leading the hero down the path to his true destiny might actually be stealing everything the hero owns why he is away from his house.

Readers have this tendency to see the Author themselves and certain devices (wise old women and hermits, prophecies and last will and testaments, deathbed revelations, etc) as immutable truth.  Part of this is from the oldest myths encouraging this, sometimes it’s latter day laziness on modern authors, or maybe it’s just the feel that an author is revealing a world and story to you, so you can’t imagine why they would not tell the truth.

This of course means that some of the greatest emotional shocks can be from when one of these trusted sources lies to you.  If done too much the readers won’t trust anything and they can be numbed by further twists. It can be as bad as M. Night Shamalyan (don’t make me spell this right) movies got, or poorly written soap operas.  If used sparingly though you can hook them into the narrative and then turn the tables on them when unexpected.  It is definitely something I utilize in my writing (including the section I am currently working on in my novel).  The current novel I am reading also utilizes it.  As a person who loves twists I had guessed the big one but the way it was revealed showed further twists ripple out of the main one I was not expecting, and caused the same sort of reaction I like to give to my readers!

Personally I think the best way to serve a lie to the readers is with the sandwich method.  Have two things they expect to be true or from true sources turn out that way, and then then in the middle of that have a lie.  It makes it much harder to expect, and means thata  later truth they will think is a lie won’t be.  In other words, this allows you to shock them with the truth!

The poll is being narrowed down from the last post, and I may keep it open for a few more days. I will then narrow down the Epic Novel book title with one more poll where each voter cna only vote once.  Either way I should know the title by the end of next week, and then I will be searching for a new cover artist.  This next epic novel (not the new novel in the trilogy being written) has a different feel, so I wanted to brand it with a different artist.

Today’s poll is about naming, though.  The second novel in the Allmother’s Fire trilogy is what I am currently writing, and I have narrowed it down to two names.  If you have read a decent amount of the book the reasons for these possibilities will be obvious, with the more you have read giving more nuance to both possibilities.  I have run both of these names through my mind for a while, and I at least wanted to see what others are thinking.

The next novel in the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy should be:

1)The Rise of the Allmother’s Grace

2)Rise from the Sun Below

Both also “fit” along with the current title of “The Fall of House Nemeni.”

World Info for Allmother’s Fire

One of the types of Noble Houses not currently shown are the one’s whose Domain is over Motion.  There are multiple Houses that have these abilities, but each manifest in different ways.  Some are direct, and can move themselves or vehicles or weapons faster or slower depending on their specialty.  Some are more indirect, and can use control over motion to increase or decrease the temperature.  These users do not know why it works this way, but the results are obviously true.

The other Houses not detailed yet are a lot of the minor guilds.  Some of these like the Dyemaker’s guild have as much temporal power as the lower noble houses, but the span of their abilities are so narrow (being able to change the color of objects in the case of the mentioned guild) they do not command as much respect.  It seems like there are an infinite amount of families that can do some minor thing to loophole the Grand Laws of the Universe. It is thought by some that even the lowest peasant might find that his family had some unknown ability if only they had the leisure to practice and figure out just what they were.


Dramatic Irony vs Suspense


Dramatic Irony vs Suspense

In any novel with secrets when they are finally brought to light there are two main ways to reveal them.  You can reveal them to your readers, and not the characters.  The other way is that the reader does not know something until a character does.  Novels that focus on suspense tend to use this later method.  They leave clues and hints but in the end nothing is made definite until revealed to the character.

Other novels and my personal preference as a reader and a writer is to reveal at least some of the secrets but either none or most of the characters do not know the truth.  While this does lessen the suspense (and is probably not the preferred method for a mystery) it does allow later events to be seen in a different light than the characters are seeing things.

If Jen is bemoaning that she never got to raise children to John, who is secretly her child and you know this, it makes the whole speech different.  If John is aware of this, and responds back but does not reveal the secret, each words he says may have two meanings.  One of them is the way she is perceiving things and the other comes from his additional knowledge of the truth.  Personally, I love that method much more.

This of course does not have to be used in just soap opera settings, and can help add danger to a scene if you know that person’s partner is really the killer, or they just handed their house key to the person who wants to take them down.  Dramatic Irony can get you yelling at the characters in a book like almost nothing else, and I like things that add that level of caring about what happens.

The other reason I prefer Dramatic Irony is that if in most of the novel a lot of the big questions remain secrets to the reader, they may become lost, confused, or bored.  Dramatic Irony should give enough information to hook interest, but can often leave out key pieces of informaiton that makes the reader want to know more.  Being clued into a secret also helps the reader feel smarter than the characters without actually dumbing down the characters.  You might know what will happen if they stab someone with the magic dagger and they are not wearing a blue tunic, but you can’t fault the protagonist for not knowing since they were not in the mind of the antagonist two scenes ago.

Some people prefer the real impact of a secret that is carried for a long period of time and then is suddenly shown to characters and the readers at the same time, and prefer the shock value that has.  I honestly believe that in sci fi and fantasy novels (and to a lesser degree thrillers but not mysteries) it is good to have an honest combination of both, to give short term and long term ‘hooks’ to your readers.

As for other book related things I wanted to briefly talk about tags.  Amazon uses tags to help people find books that appropriately fit categories.  One of the issues with Indie books is with less original exposure, people at large are not sure if a book tag fits an appropriate book.  Here is a great thread on the Genre Underground Goodreads group page http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/947198-a-sporting-game-of-tagging?type=topic#comment_53802172 to show some Indie authors some love.  They have links to their books and you can click on the suggested tags, and say that you agree with the tags. This has nothing to do with endorsement of a book, and is not a review or liking it, just letting people know what type of book it is so the right audience can find it.

My Poll today is NOT connected to what I mainly talked about, instead it is another one about the epic novel.  The results of the last poll have Conspiracy, Labyrinth. Paradise, and Island as showing as the top four options and I had one person tell me they had an issue clicking on Labyrinth, so I am giving them another vote for it.

Here are some titles I am thinking of, you can vote for more than one.  If you have other ideas, please put something in the comments.  Like last time for my First novel, I am not guaranteeing to take the vote as the new name for the novel, but this helps me gauge what my readers like.  Please vote as to which titles makes you most want to either pick it up or at least read the description.  Oh and the Paradise Conspiracy is not a choice because I already looked it up and it’s taken 🙂  Depending upon if there are a few I like and others like too, I may do a final poll on this later.

Poll

1)Labyrinthine Conspiracy

2)The Labyrinth Conspiracy

3)Conspiracy of Mandatory Paradise

4)Island of the Labyrinth

5)Paradise by Conspiracy

6)Island Paradise of Conspiracy

7)Massacre in Paradise

8)Isolation Conspiracy

As for other news:

Updates – The epic novel is 80% through it’s current editor (the book was partially edited beforehand but that was a while ago, and the focus was not on line editing in the past like it is now).  Soon it will be passed to another editor to copy edit.  I expect this novel to have at least two new full passes of editing, and possibly three, with a particular focus on copy/line editing since it had more thorough overall story editing in the past.

The sequel to Fall of House Nemeni is about 25% through the rough draft, ie the bulk of the writing.

As for a world tid bit:

Long ago the House Nemeni made clockwork guards amongst their other clockwork marvels. These guards were amazing as they could react as if alive, and were unbribeable and never slept.  Occasionally though, something would happen and they would slaughter people without warning.  Eventually the Church issued an edict that the brass guards (also known as golems) were being possessed by Firesouls and their use was forbidden.  By the time this happened House Nemeni had transitioned to a banking house, and this edict did not harm them.

Now golems are the things of children’s tales and warnings.  If you do not listen to your parents a firesoul may make a golem appear in your room, and crush you in your sleep, or so it is said.  Only scholars with large libraries seem to remember how widespread and how powerful they truly once were.


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