Category Archives: Mandatory Paradise

Legion (first snippet of a short on going fiction)


Well adjusting to my new job and location took longer then I thought.  With the holidays behind us I am hoping I will have time to work on my writing once more, and I have taken the suggestion to do small snippets of an ongoing web fiction in this blog in the Mandatory Paradise world. This will be supplemental to the main story, and contain some of the characters form the book in it, but from a different point of view.  As I get back to writing, I hope to start updating this blog on a regular basis once more.

 

Below is the first snippet from this on going web fiction:

 

Curano liked familiar things.  There was something about a well-worn path and often repeated steps that made one feel secure.  As a member of the Legion, security was something important to him.  It was obvious from his profession that he wanted Nimoa to be secure, but he also liked to know his place in the world, for it gave him value.  He had a dim memory of a woman who once liked change and all the chaos that it brought, but it was not that important obviously, because as soon as he thought of her face all of his thoughts would slow down and get fuzzy.  So instead of focusing on her he focused on his patrol, as he weaved slowly around the Labyrinth that ran along the islands inner walls.

He turned to his left and smiled at Sagea, a member of his Legion that was for lack of a better term, his partner.  They always seemed to pull the same duties together, and he spent a decent amount of time with her after hours drinking wine and commenting on gossip they had heard about other members of the Legion.  That was all they were, and all they could ever be however, for her knew she loved another member of the Legion.  She would never be with him as more than a partner, and Curano was fine with this.  He understood Sagea and even if his life seemed on hold as he never ventured to meet new people, it was a life he understood, for the same things happened every day, and that brought him contentment.

A series of loud noises and then a shriek brought him out of his internal enthrallment, and he unslung the shield that had been resting on his back, and then pointed his spear outward as he shifted paths towards were the sounds were coming from.  Other’s might get lost in the twists of the labyrinth but he and Sagea knew those tunnels more than most knew the markets and quickly he was at the location of the noise.  His spear shook when he reached around the corner and saw to his surprise something that he had not seen before, a fabled basilisk!

Shivering underneath it was a younger woman, clad in ragged red robes and twin bracelets.  Strangely the woman who he was sure was the source of the shrieking seemed to be giggling as it licked her!  She appeared to be an Artist, and those fomenters of change were pretty stupid, so it was possible her wits had left her and she did not realize it was obviously about to devour her.  The beast towered over her and twice her size.  It had a head like lion but it’s body was covered in scales, and flames misted from it’s eyes as it continued to cover he in saliva.

He could see Sagea facing her shield between herself and the beast as she circled, to get near it’s flank.   The basilisk began to move his head towards her, and Curano remembered there was something deadly about it’s gaze so he rushed forward with his spear, Dancing  into it as he did so that his spear flamed with power, and the basilisk’s head exploded.  Sagea almost rolled backwards from the explosion, and before he could tell his partner that all would be fine, he got a good look at the Artist who passed out after he destroyed the beast that was threatening to her.

The earlier thoughts, of a woman who caused chaos and delight solidified once more as he realized she lay unconscious before him.  At the same time that he knew he had never seen this Artist, he knew that she had once beneath most important woman in his life.  How was that possible?  Images of himself in red robes with jade bracelets as if he was an Artist too drifted through his thoughts, and he shook his head to clear the obviously false memories.  Without thinking he let his body go through the motions of picking the woman up off the floor and saying the words that she was to be tried for the crime of unlawful entry into the Labyrinth before fog over took him again, and he heard his body as it crashed to the floor and darkness overtook his sight.


Word Usage in Non Existent languages


In fantasy (and in many scifi novels) your protagonists probably are not speaking English.  They are likely not speaking and actual existing language, unless you want them to.  You could just decide by fiat that they are speaking English, but some people might have a problem suspending belief (especially if they know enough to know different Old English is from current English, and that language constantly evolves).  If you do decide that they speak their own language however other issues occur such as; can you use any puns then, what about rhymes, or wordplay like homonyms or clever phrasings, and what about modern idioms?  Below is some advice to help with these issues.

The most important advice is to stay consistent.   If you sprinkle your own (or another language’s) words for something, or an ancient word for something use it every time.  Do not use the phrase katana and broadsword as if interchangeable.  Don’t call an animal a k’ysen most of the book, and then suddenly call it a dinosaur later even if the description you gave made it obvious.  If you do pepper modern idioms into your world, decide which ones fit and why and stick with it.  Nothing is worse than having what parts of our languages are used in your world seem arbitrarily.  If the whole world seems like an allegory for the ancient Vikings, and then you use all modern English rhymes in their poetry it may pull a reader out of your world.

Modern phrasings in particular can be tricky, including what is “modern.”  Even phrases that often are in our language and seen as conventional are actually references to real life cultural events and would not probably exists in your fantasy world.   This means extra care must be taken of what types of phrases you use to keep your world feeling consistent.  Decide why those phrases are allowed. It might be because of cultural similarities, it might be events in that world, or you might let all modern idioms apply and assume that those modern idioms are translations of whatever they are really saying. If attempting to weed out modern phrasings then you will need to think hard about anything allowed.  Even my last phrases “weed out” assumes the speaker’s culture has familiarity with the process of keeping a garden.  If trying to be rigorous on phrasings, I recommend having multiple beta readers that keep an eye out just for that.

If you want your own jargon (this happens particularly with magic or technology in fantasy and sci fi) it helps to keep it to a level that does not overwhelm your reader with new words they must learn.  Also, if there is something analogous in our world you can use that as an alternate way to describe it as long as it is not too rooted in one particular cultural identity.  If a person has a specialized curved sword called a dyten, calling it a sword later is fine.  Referring to the dyten as a scimitar later is not advised however, as it weakens the idea that your world’s sword is this unique thing you called a dyten.  If you can keep all your phrasing to a small amount (maybe a dozen or two words) the reader won’t feel like they need to check a glossary each time a conversation occurs.

Puns, homonyms, rhymes and the like very much rely on deciding if: the language is for all intents and purposes modern English, the language is not at all like English and you do not want anything to break that illusion, it is not English but you assume that there is some sort of wordplay in that language that the people in that world are seeing that we are not and let our version of the wordplay stay as a way your reader can connect.

Most fantasy seems to go with the third one.  The language is not English but it is treated like that in the rhymes, songs, and puns its characters use.  This is the easiest way to write, but can sometimes pull your reader out of the book much like using modern idioms.  This seems to very by reader.  Some readers actually prefer this technique for familiar wordplay draws them in more.  If firmly rooting your novel in history, or emphasizing the “otherness” of your culture you might want to write it differently.  Instead use analogues, related concepts, and wise observations for poetry instead of rhymes.  Make humor contextual instead of pun related.  When writing think  “Will this joke be the same for my Spanish, Japanese, German and Italian readers?  That sort of mindset can give you good guidelines of who to keep language integrity throughout your work

Poll:

Do you prefer your languages in fantasy and sci fi to be:

A)Modern English.  Who cares if that’s not feasible, it gets rid of all other barriers.

B)Its own unique language, and nothing modern or reliant upon being English should show.  The translated version of this novel will easily be able to use actual translations with little to no localization needed.

C)Functionally similar to modern English, but only as a device to allow the reader to be more immersed in the world.  It will have differences, but rhymes and puns are allowed and it is just assumed the world has an equivalent for them.

World Info:

Mandatory Paradise will be the focus again, since it is the newer book and I have more questions about that from people who have wondered how one structure can cover the entire island.  The truth is the Palaces are essentially connected and wind their way around the island and jut into the center of it at parts.  There are, however,  places not actually part of the Palace as a whole.  These are not residential places, and do not have the running water the rest of the island does or entrances to the catacombs.  This is where the markets are, smiths craft their wares, and the vineyards for the grapes are located.

Also thePpalaces are broken down by areas and quarters have different feels to them.  I will describe the differences between the quarters in a later article.  In general they are broken down by class and occupation, but occasionally by philosophy.  It is still all one Palace, but the culture is not nearly as homogenous as the Senate would probably prefer it to be.


Writing in Sprints


Most ebook authors are holding down a full time job, raising a family and might even have a hobby or two.  This means time is a premium, and unless they become a self-sufficient hermit (with wi fi) they will never have a schedule that allows them to write as much as they want.  This has some writers forcing strict schedules on themselves to make up for this, with either a specific time of day that they write (like maybe one or two specific hours each week day, all Saturday,  etc) or a specific goal every week (5000 words is a common one I hear).

My schedule, for whatever reasons I cannot pin down, ends up being too chaotic for specific guidelines.  I still have overall goals I would like to meet (I prefer a minimum of one chapter a week) but I do not always fulfill that.  I try to make up for this by most of the time that I write, I write in sprints, then edit at a slower pace.  Without some words or some guidelines, days can pass with nor progress on the book.  If you force artificial guidelines (I must have an hour to myself!) then it may never get done.  Instead when I sit at that keyboard and I have the spare fifteen minutes to write, I let those fingers fly away as quick as possible to put as much things down in electronic form as fast as I can!

After that, of course, you not only do the obvious spelling/grammar edits, but you can flesh out the scenes, or re word things.  You might even have to redo entire scenes this way, as the idea that sounded great in your head when pounding out a chapter quickly might not translate as well on paper.  That can happen even if you are leisurely typing out a chapter too, meticulously following out a point by point outline.  It’s much easier I have noticed filling out editing in spare minutes, as long as there is something on the page to change. 

Along those lines writing in sprints also means not always doing things in order or stopping at obvious places. Nothing defeats a novel’s formation as much as a blank page at the beginning of a new chapter or at a break in a chapter.  It’s for this reason that normally after I finish a chapter I start typing the next one, even if only a paragraph.  That way when I come back to it I have thoughts to build off of.  For me, once I have a character in a situation I can continue the plot by merely having them react to the situation.  It’s also easier to come up with said situations when finishing another chapter because my “writing brain” is fully engaged and therefore better at pulling plot out of the ether.

Sometimes when writing in sprints real life may keep you from writing for days, or at worst weeks.  When this happens I have noticed it’s very tough to start again.  Things that have helped me before with this is: trying to continue the scene in my head before writing, jumping ahead to another chapter, or erasing the last paragraph or two and re write them differently so that new ideas flourish.

Another thing that helps with writing in short amounts is mentioned above, but can be done even if it has not been a long time between chapters: continuing dialogue, scenes, or other aspects of the novel in your head in between writing.  Often at random times such as at lunch breaks, commuting to work, or even watching TV I am wondering how characters would react to the last thing I wrote for them, or even hypothetical situations that are likely to happen from where I left them last.  When I actually sit down to write it does not always come out the same way I originally imagined it, but doing this helps you work out possibilities without constantly erasing and re-writing.

The most important thing about sprint writing is not giving up, and allowing it to happen as frequently as possible in your schedule.  You won’t type out whole chapters in one sitting like marathon writing does, but you will see progress in a way that can fit even the busiest of schedules.

Well, you will as long as you don’t eat a whole bag of jelly babies beforehand and your mind descends into sugar induced insanity and/or lethargy.

In other news:

The second Allmother’s Fire book is officially over the halfway mark now.  I can’t tell if this novel will be shorter or longer than The Fall of House Nemeni was, but it seems to me to be packing more scenes in less words as a lot of “filler” words are being excised from it.  It’s moving slower due to real life (moving across country in two months) but still expanding at a steady pace.

Also the likely next series is starting to coalesce, and I might even write a short story in that world in between book 2 and 3 of the Allmother’s Fire.  It’s not a large epic like Allmother’s Fire is, but the canvas for it’s world is vast and is also clockpunk.  It’s not however a tale of floating islands and has more of a pulp influence to it.

Also got my first Amazon 5 star review (had some on goodreads before) for The Fall of House Nemeni, and my first Amazon review for Mandatory Paradise!  I can’t describe how much a writer loves reading these things, even when the point out the weak points too (it’s honestly how we grow).

My poll ties into my post, but you can apply to yourself even if you do not write, as I am curious about how different people tackle similar things:

Poll:

When tackling a big project do you prefer to do it:

1)In many short chunks fit in when you can

2)All at one period of time with nothing else in between

World Info:

I have done a lot recently on tidbits from the Allmother’s Fire world, time to diverge for a little bit to Mandatory Paradise, since I am finally getting some feedback from it by people I do not know.  Today’s will be general answers to questions I have gotten, but edited so as to not give spoilers:

1)The cover and occasional points in the book have Alnanla in dark robes, but the first description given of Priestess’ at the Bull Dances are that they and the Priests are pretty scantily clad.  Is this a plot hole?:

Answer:

No, at the dances they do not wear alto as part of the ceremony and because no one wants to be gored by a bull because you were attempting to run around in thick robes.  When not at Bull Dances both Priests and Priestesses are modest, hence the robes.

2)If thesis stones hold such information how come they are not used by the populace in general instead of formalized teaching, reading, memorizing etc.

Answer:

Thesis stones are limited, and the Senate and Judges have a reason to not hand them out like candy.  This will become more apparent why as the story progresses.

3)If most of the populace never gets attacked by the monsters behind the shields, why are they still afraid of them?  Even though they could see them wouldn’t their fear of them go away, and the “threat” the monsters present seem unreal, much like violence has become to some people because of TV?

Answer:

Without debating conclusions drawn in that question, keep in mind that enough Lykatic Vampire attacks happen that on an island as small as that enough people know of a friend, or friend of a friend who has had someone die even if they have not seen the monsters do it themselves.  At the same time many of the citizens often do not look up at night at the monsters, because shield or no shield it’s still frightening to see dragons and gryphons careening around madly only a few hundred feet over your head.


Short Stories: Doing More with Less


Personally, giant Epics have often been my favorite novels to read.  The form allows a level of depth (into the characters and their histories) and breadth (amount of characters and span of events) that other forms do now allow.  Another favorite form of mine, however, is the short story.  I personally find them harder to write, as they do not allow as much time or character span as a giant epic.  What they do excel in is giving a fantastic window into a character and normally one event or a small series of events.  This smaller focus often can create more powerful scenes and dialogue than the larger form, for every word must be razor focused to do its job correctly.

My favorite form of reading short stories is anthologies.  Whether it is a linked literary theme, a shared world, or something even more random reading multiple short stories at the same time seems to enhance them. You can compare and contrast how different stories handle the same theme.  If all done by the same writer even if there are no obvious links you can see how the writer highlights different characters or concepts in a variety of ways. Anthologies allow context to be given to stories without forcing them to be part of some larger linked story.

The best part of the short story is the author is not tempted to put anything even slightly extraneous in there.  As a reader is perusing the story they know that everything noted upon has some reason to be there.  It is like viewing art made with small tight brush strokes that focus on a small area.   Word economy actually becomes an art form, and it’s also almost impossible for a reader to lose interest unless it’s very poorly written or does not connect with the reader at all.  Backstory must be kept to a sheer minimum and if it’s does not affect the immediate main plot or actions occurring, it is not there.  Much like what timing is to comedy pacing is to short stories.  It must be honed to perfection in order for it to operate as it should.

The tools authors use to create good short stories include keeping external descriptions to a minimum, using terse wording to paint an idea of the world the characters habit.  Exposition is also kept to a minimum, and only occurs in dialogue or very truncated monologues.  Every word spoken in a dialogue sheds light on either the characters or situation.  Repetition to reinforce them is obviously not suggested in short stories, but actions and ideas that reinforce a theme can occur instead.

I personally love the various George RR Martin edited short stories and have used those anthologies to widen my knowledge of authors.  On the smaller press and e publishing scale I am recommending Frances Pauli http://francespauli.com/ who if you go to her blog site http://francespauli.blogspot.com/ today and comment in her comments, she will give you a coupon for her anthology to be free (this is for smash words, so it is cross platform readable! ) I am not going to lie, free anthologies are some of my favorites, and a real fantastic way of knowing what an author can be like.

Today is the second day of the Genre Underground Road to WorldCon.  Stay tuned tomorrow for information on some free books associated with us!

Poll:

I prefer reading:

A)Giant Epics large enough to Kill Spiders

B) “Average” length books of 70-100 k words

C)Short Stories

World Info:

Today’s Info Tidbit is from Mandatory Paradise

Although scrolls and even a few books exist on Nimoa, in most cases the written word is not trusted.  People have been raised to believe the outside world before the Cataclysm lied, often.  They think the written word was a form of propaganda, and that people believe whatever they read was true, without thinking critically of it.  Citizens of Nimoa are taught they need to memorize information and think critically of anything they are told.  This is why their classes are primarily oral in nature, and most homework involves interacting with servants, parents, or other adults to help them memorize or learn information.

This distrust of the written word is so strong that even many teachers do not like it, with the exception of a few.  It is thought anything important enough to keep concrete in memory will be done by the Bureaucrats and the Library Mind.  Since the Senators have full access to the Library Mind they will keep all information “honest.”  At least, that is what is said.


Mandatory Paradise is published today!


The new book, Mandatory Paraidse,  is published!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008XM6ST4

Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a teacher, but she, like every citizen of the Island of Nimoa, has always had her needs met. At night she gazes up at the energy shield that keeps everyone safe from the flying monstrosities of legend, and she wants more than just to exist in her pre-ordained role. When hundreds of innocents are massacred, Alnanla finds herself to be the prime suspect. To clear her name, she teams up with a grieving Bureaucrat, an eternally optimistic Artist, a gruff Outsider and a sarcastic Spirit. As they begin to discover the details of what really happened, they find more than they bargained for. Should they expose the dark secrets they find and risk their society’s destruction? Or should they sacrifice their lives and let the lies continue in order to preserve the way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

One interesting aspect of the novels is each chapter is written in a style similar to the thought processes of the character it is showcasing.  Two of the characters have a rather flippant and sarcastic way of percieving the world, and it shows in their chapters.

Go and grab a copy today, and tell your friends as early sales are great for the life of a book!


Mandatory Paradise Cover Art (Fitting the tone of the Book)


Not the most creative title ever, but pretty accurate.  Here is the cover art to my new book below:

Cover art is very important, as often even before a synopsis is read a prospective reader will see the cover.  If you are in a list the title and the cover is all they have, and it must catch the eye and interests of a prospective reader.  It helps if it fit’s the book tonally too, so it is not jarring to a reader if they see an epic fantasy like cover then read a story mainly focused on economics.

The cover you see is not the first draft, and it is significantly different than the first.  The first had an authentic Minoan background, but it clashed a lot with the rest of the cover, and some people thought it would repel readers.  We chose the current background you see of a Labyrinth due too it’s importance to the story, and that it gave a neutral tone so the rest of the cover would “pop” better.

Also, the stark lack of details about book plot from the cover was done like many thrillers. The intent was to give more of a feel and less of a preview of what actually occurs in the book.  The only tone aspect that is not shown in the artwork is the “flippant” (think more Terry Pratchett) tone some chapters are told in due to who the characters are.  Each chapter is written featuring specific characters, and when that is happening the “voice” of the chapter synchs with who is starring in it.  So a chapter about a priestess or a bureaucrat will be more serious than one told from a rather frivolous artist or gruff outsider.

With all of those differences there was not a way to convey this on the cover without clashing in a very “busy” manner.  I do like the details in this cover and it holds up very well when increased in size, and I may eventually make this book available for print (there was resolution issues with my last one, and I will not be able to have that book ready for print until I can resolve them).

As for other final touches, the book will come out this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday.  There will be a blog post when it comes up.  I’m just doing one last once over and all of the involved formatting before it is released.  The Sample Chapter available at the top of this website has been altered to match the edited text of the book.

The final Synopsis has been made by the way :

Alnanla has not always enjoyed her life as a Priestess and a teacher, but she, like every citizen of the Island of Nimoa, has always had her needs met. At night she gazes up at the energy shield that keeps everyone safe from the flying monstrosities of legend, and she wants more than just to exist in her pre-ordained role. When hundreds of innocents are massacred, Alnanla finds herself to be the prime suspect. To clear her name, she teams up with a grieving Bureaucrat, an eternally optimistic Artist, a gruff Outsider and a sarcastic Spirit. As they begin to discover the details of what really happened, they find more than they bargained for. Should they expose the dark secrets they find and risk their society’s destruction? Or should  they sacrifice their lives and let the lies continue in order to preserve the way of life that has given them all peace and safety for thousands of years?

Poll Question:

Which cover do you prefer?:

A) The Fall of House Nemeni

B) Mandatory Paradise

There were aspects I liked about both covers, but due to the resolution issues I might contemplate using a different artist for the second Allmother’s Fire book than I used for the first one.  I personally like this new one more, but I am curious what my readers think.

Next Blog: THE RELEASE OF MANDATORY PARADISE!  Woo  hoo!


Inspiration (Order out of Chaos)


One of the most frequent questions a writer receives is “Where do you get your inspiration?”  The answer to that for most authors is varied.  Personally a lot of my novels or the worlds they take place in have been inspired by history.  Sometimes it’s an old or obscure culture, sometimes it’s a specific event.  I normally go far from the original thing that inspired me, but it’s a good jumping off point for ideas.  Once your characters are fleshed out they can constantly inspire you also. Even though they are just constructs good characters react to things in ways even the author may not expect, creating future plots and ideas.

That’s good for the overarching plot but what about specific details?  If your protagonists are in a fantasy world and travelling a lot, you may have to come up with a few dozen cultures/cities/tribes in a very short time. You could once again “steal” from other sources like history or repurposing other fictional characters (take Boss Hogg and put him in a Ninja culture and boom, instant interesting character) but after a while it might feel forced or repetitive.  Many fantasy worlds are almost exactly like ours, with some serial numbers filed off and one or two minor changes to food or dress.  You can normally figure out which ancient culture they are and after seeing most of “Europe” you expect to meet the “Scandinavian” culture of the world and like clockwork you do, three chapters later.

When your normal inspirations take away your predictability you must do something to leap out of the rut you have created.  Something perfect for new ideas is finding a way to be inspired randomly.  My new go to resource for that is the random button on Wikipedia.  You can get an insanely wide spread of ideas from people, from cultures,  art,  and ideas.  In the current book I am writing, two of the characters need to go to a place to retrieve something.  I knew the plot ramifications from this, I knew the thing to be retrieved, but I had not fully fleshed out where they were going, as it was not as important.  All that was necessary was that the place was exotic, and differed greatly from where the characters originate.

I clicked on the random button and got a country, an article about an energy activist, and information about a type of rock.  My mind began to create order from this chaos, and I thought about what could possibly connect those three very diverse Wiki articles.  I let the three ideas stew in my mind for about twenty minutes, and a great new location was born!  You still have to create the ideas and write the scenes, but a tool like this is a great way to use random information to guide you.

My personal writing style probably would not allow me to use this to create over arching actual plots.  Most of my plotting is either generated from how the characters react to the situations they are in, or are thought of in advance to guide the story.  However there are still parts of all novels that are not thought of until specific scenes are reached, and using this can help with those “mini plots.”  Honestly any way to randomly generate information can help.  You could flip through a large book like a dictionary, random searches on google or even flip on the TV and go to three channels if you wanted to synthesize something.  The important thing is as a writer your mind is already good at finding connections between unrelated things, and this just a great way to jump start this process.

Today’s Poll

Last I checked last week’s poll was tied, or within one vote of being so.  This means I honestly do not know yet if I am going to take The Fall of House Nemeni off of its exclusivity with kindle or keep their one last time.

This poll will be on Mandatory Paradise.  It’s twice the size of Fall of House Nemeni, and self-contained.  Due to the size I was thinking of pricing it at 4.99 (still less than commercial paperbacks and any fast food meals not bought off the dollar menu).  Besides the size of it, if I don’t it will feel weird pricing my next book at 3.99 also.  However, I don’t want to “price” this book off of peoples casual consideration list.

Should Mandatory Paradise be:

1)3.99

2)4.99

World Info:

Since it is the book coming out shortly, I will once again focus on this world.  The main religious ceremony of Nimoa, the island this takes place on, is the sacred Bull Dance.  Twelve Priests and Twelve Priestesses “dance” with the bulls.  This is highly ritualized and include using “labrys” sacred axes that are found covering the labyrinth in the city’s walls.  The goal is not to kill the bull, but to move with it.

As said in a previous blog the clergy raise energy to work their miracles through dance, and this is a dance that most of the island participates in.  The energy drawn that day sustains most of the citizens so they do not have to eat for the next month.  Part of the reasons this island is Paradise is because no one ever goes hungry, as long as they show up at their monthly dance.


%d bloggers like this: