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Over the top or just Epic enough?


Another personal emergency happened recently, but this time when things calmed down, I  got to use writing (moving more on book two of Allmother’s Fire) as a way of dealing with things, instead of letting the events of life throw up another obstacle in the way of completing the next book. It’s a nice change.

The biggest issue I am having with this next book I think is deciding what tone to sent.  Recent influences have been very pulpy, and it feels to me like a lot of the plans for where the plot is going and recent scenes have been full of big ideas and cinematic concepts.

There is not a problem with that either, but a few of the readers of my last book in the Allmother’s Fire let me know what they  like the most was the characters, the family, and the occasionaly bits of humor that peeked out more.  They prefered this to action and giant ideas screaming across the page.  I even had a small amount tell me what they liked most was the when it was serious, and the ‘realistic’ aspects of the book.

Overall, flying Airpirates that shoot blood out of their eyes and raid giant floating castles filled with gold does not really speak of realistic to me.  Like all writers I want to hope people like what I write, so let’s just assume they like the character moments, and the way people respond to what happens.

This leaves me with the fact that however I write this second book, if I shift away from the kind of hodgepodge mix of themes and attitudes I will probably disappoint someone.  The next book won’t stray greatly in themes from the first, hopefully not enough to be jarring, but as a writer I tend to write with what inspires me, and often what I want to read or see at the moment.

At heart, this really a is a tale of how the remenant of a family faces the rest of the world against them, so character and relationships will matter and stay central to the plot.  At the same time, besides some revelation of things that went on behind the scenes in the first book that show the scope was grander then though of orignally, I am just in a mood to write those crazy  kinetic gonzo scenes and images.

So you will still ships dueling in the sky and blades flashing in between semi witty repartee, but you will also get more lost tribes, unexplored worlds, and all of existence in peril.  Let’s hope this comes off as more epic, and not so over the top that it feel incongrous with the tone of the other books. This is what editors and beta readers are for, so I can blame them if it comes out wrong!


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.


Interview with Dave Meek


Today’s interview is with Dave Meek, author of Stalker Squadron a modern or slightly future techno thriller.  He is a member of the Genre Underground, and he has some great real world experience to bring to his exciting novels!

MD: There was a lot of precise military details, from tech to chain of command in this book.  What is your military background?

Dave:  I spent eight years as a naval flight officer.  I was a flight navigator and an airborne communications officer with over 2,000 flight hours.  That’s a lot for one tour with a squadron, but that was the nature of the work.  My first assignment was a unique squadron that flies highly classified missions.  Most of what we did was strategically, rather than tactically, oriented.  After that assignment, I rotated to an anti-submarine warfare training center, which was very different from my squadron.  It was there that I worked with ex-military contractors.  In short, I pretty much lived the foundation of what I used for the military material in the book.

MD: How much of the details in this book were from personal experience, how much was researched, and how much was fabricated?

Dave: What I find most interesting about the story’s technology is that it holds up so well.  I originally wrote the story in 1998, back when drones were basically remote-controlled post-war aircraft used for target practice for fighter pilot training and weapons testing.  At that time, people were just starting to suggest using drones for spying or carrying weapons.

In 1998, I had just finished a contract as technical writer for Intel Corporation, so I had a good understanding of leading-edge computer technology, the direction of development, and the future potential.  I also did considerable research into military aviation technology in addition to my own military experience.  Combined, what I learned was that by the time we see the “leading edge” technology, it’s actually old tech and nearly obsolete.  The pipeline that we don’t see is already full.  What we consider “leading edge” is often 5-10 years old.

So what I did with the story was to ask not, “What’s next?” but, “What’s after that?”  Basically, I assumed “what’s next” had happened and used that vantage point to better see what was after that.  I tried to imagine what was actually just entering the pipeline.  Based on what we’re seeing now, I think I hit the mark.

The downside was that when I finally got an agent in 2000 and shopped the story around, no one would pick it up.  We got several responses that the story was “science fiction” rather than techno-thriller or action-adventure.  My agent asked if we should rebrand it as science fiction, but I know science fiction well enough to know this story isn’t true science fiction, nor could I make it so.  Now, if one keeps up with this sort of thing, you’ll see that we are preparing to deploy drones that are almost at the level of the Stalkers in my story.

As for the people and places, I researched just about everything, and used my research as a foundation for fabrication.  So the technology was 90 percent research and 10 percent fabricated, which consisted mostly of how I combined separate technologies into a new whole.  As for the rest, it’s roughly 40 percent research and 60 percent fabrication.  Most of the fabrication comes from assembling something new from a variety of separate parts.

MD: Kate is a very original protagonist for a techno thriller, and very three dimensional.  What where you influences for her as a character (literary, real life, anything else)?

Dave: First of all, thanks for the compliment!  As a writer, it’s always a joy to hear that a reader has enjoyed a story and its characters.

Now, to answer your question, Kate’s character was influenced by everything you mentioned and more.  Frankly, I find a lot of “strong” women characters to be guys in drag.  But a woman doesn’t need to act like a guy to be strong.  In fact, the strong women I’ve known have all been strong in a very female sort of way.  I’m talking about women who have raised four or five kids on their own after being widowed.  I grew up near quite a few families like that during the time of the Vietnam War.  I also read stories written by women.  There’s even a little Sigourney Weaver thrown into Kate.

MD: All of the characters in this book have their own goals and drives, and most can even clash with their allies and friends.  As a reader, I loved this and it drove the plot in interesting directions.  Was it a conscious decision to do this, and as a writer did you let the plot change based on the individual drives?  Or where these goals each people had created when you made the characters for the specific point of reaching certain places in your plot?

Dave: I’ve been on a lot of teams and projects in the military, the private sector, and the public sector.  The reality is that people have shared goals and their own goals, and sometimes those different goals clash.  I wanted that sort of realism in my story.

I was very careful to ensure that each side, the good guys and the bad guys, had their own goals and drives that often clashed.  At the same time, the good guys’ differences were all focused in the same direction, and the bad guys’ differences were all focused on separate directions.

MD: For a very Political based book (as anything dealing with the White House and interactions with other countries is) you definitely stayed away from having the characters be from specific parties or even overall espousing specific political views.  Was this done intentionally to make the book itself be non-political?  Was it so that politics would not get in the way of the story or other reasons?

Dave: Politics is a very hot topic, especially these days, and emotions often run high. As a writer, I want my books to have as wide an appeal as possible.  On the other hand, Stalker Squadron deals with a conspiracy against the president of the United   States, and things don’t get much more political than that.  I felt I owed my readers a story that people from all parts of the political spectrum could enjoy.  So I tried to distill the common elements at both ends of the political extremes, which is basically, “grab power, push it to the max, and don’t compromise.”  That’s an oversimplification, of course, but the idea was to present things in a way that everyone relates to without being offensive to anyone.  It’s a tightrope walk.

MD: Your Chapters contained multiple character, time, and location viewpoints (separated by when and where each scene took place).  Taking this into account, what did you use to define when you wanted a new chapter to start?

Dave: I treated each chapter as a separate, small story within the larger story.  I felt that, within reason, each chapter had to be somewhat self-contained.  It wasn’t always easy to define the limits, and of course each chapter needed linkage to the rest of the story.  But this approach helped the story build step-by-step.  I also took advantage of chapter breaks to control the pace and build suspense.

MD: What is you writing experience/background?  Have you written anything before?

Dave: My interest in writing started when I was 14.  I enjoyed reading stories and watching stories told in movies and TV shows.  At some point, I realized someone had to tell those stories, and I was awed by the idea that a person could take the vaporous images in his mind, put them on paper, and have the same images appear in another person’s mind.  At that time, I tried writing short stories simply by writing the events as I imagined them.

In college, I took a class in which the entire semester was spent reading and analyzing Homer’s Odyssey.  It was then that I was introduced to the structure of story telling and the power of symbolism.  Good storytelling is more than stitching together a bunch of events.

Since leaving the Navy, I worked for 11 years as a technical writer, mostly in the computer industry for companies such as Intel and Hewlett-Packard, as well as with state government entities.  On the side, I’ve written a bunch of short stories, some of which I consider to be fairly good.  I’ve also written two novel-length stories, one of which was a 900-page monster.  Neither of those is worthy of publishing, but they honed my ability to write structured, consistent stories that hold a reader’s attention.  Stalker Squadron was the first story in which I did those things while simultaneously my writing began to come fluidly, without being forced.  (Well, mostly.)

MD: Are there plans to do more books with any of these characters?  Or do you prefer to write self-contained books?  Either way, why?

Dave: I always start by envisioning a self-contained book.  I find this approach helps me focus on the story at hand; otherwise, I’d get distracted too easily.  Also, although the idea of a series or spin-off always hovers around in the background, I figure that if the original story succeeds, those considerations will take care of themselves.  If the story doesn’t succeed, a series or spin-off probably won’t succeed either, so there’s little point in my thinking about it too soon.

Now that Stalker Squadron is done, I have plans for a spin-off with Major Eckland and his team facing off against terrorists.  I find the storyline very timely and intriguing, and I’ve made extensive notes.  However, I’m currently working on another story that suddenly grabbed my imagination and won’t let go.  But Eckland’s time in the limelight will come next.

MD: What writers or other media have influenced your writing?

Dave: Number one is Homer’s Odyssey, which is perhaps the greatest story every told.  It spans the entirety of human experience and psychology.  Our technology and mores have changed since Homer’s day, but basic human qualities have not.  The next greatest influence is Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.  It’s nearly a handbook on human psychology and behavior, although it’s definitely skewed toward the darker side of the human psyche.  After that, there are a number of influences, but none that particularly strong, except perhaps an ever-present but somewhat mild Hemingway influence.

MD: What is your next book and how far through into it are you?

Dave: I just started chapter 7 of my next book, and it’s a complete departure from Stalker Squadron.  It’s a fantasy about a secret society living within our society.  It’s a worldwide yet extraordinarily small society.  They have special powers, of course, but they aren’t strong enough to survive discovery by society at large.  An internal power struggle threatens this secret society and the outcome of that struggle will have consequences for them and the rest of us.

For a variety of reasons, I’m very excited about this next book.  First, M. Todd Gallowglas is helping me with it, and he’s an amazingly talented and creative writer.  I have some characters, and he has others that conflict with them.  It all makes for some very challenging but exciting writing.  Also, every story contains a “special world” in which the characters operate, and every special world has its own rules.

For example, the special world of Stalker Squadron was that of military pilots, computer experts, high technology, and politics.  The characters had to behave and react according to the inherent rules of that world.  It was a fun story to write.  But it was somewhat limiting too.  They couldn’t violate the rules of physics and aviation, the limitations of technology, and the realities of politics.

With this new story, we have created an entirely new society with its own rules of behavior.  Their powers have special rules as well.  It’s challenging but fun to see how we can manipulate these rules to achieve interesting effects.  And for me, the most fun is seeing how I can push the rules to the limit, to reach logical results that surprise the reader and yet are entirely consistent with the special world.  And I’m finding the story telling is so fluid that it’s completely unforced.  I can’t wait to see what readers think of it.


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.


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.


Killing Your Characters Reasonably


I saw the new Spiderman movie over the weekend. (Incredibly Mild Spoiler alert.  If you know anything about Spiderman in any way shape or form and have ever read a comic or seen a movie, this is not a spoiler alert at all.)  This time when Uncle Ben dies it felt a lot more realistic the way the plot unfolded and I’ll admit it, I was a bit misty eyed when it happened.  It was not just that he died, or that I felt more for the character in this incarnation (which I did) it was that it felt like something that could naturally occur in the plot.  Now I know it was also a needed thing to happen for the plot and the characters to be motivated and act as they should for the rest of the story, but it was all together believable and that helped.

Anyone writing in certain genre’s (horror, fantasy, thrillers, sci fi) is going to probably have some characters die.  Maybe even well liked or known ones.  The main two reasons a writer does it is because A) it would reasonably happen in the story.  A chain of events cause it so that a specific person would just have to perish. You could always find a way out for a character but it may not be believable or reasonable that they could and so their time is up. B)The other main reason is that it helps the story.  Maybe someone needs motivation to know that with great power comes great responsibility, or someone has to die so that there is risk in the conflict.  Possibly they have to die for plot reasons, so that someone investigates a murder or someone needs to take their place.

I have concluded that unless there is a serial killer involved it’s best if you can do both.  If you can trace either the events, or the motivations of the killer and go well yeah or course this person would die, it’s a lot better than a “freak accident.”  I know some people think things like freak accidents add “Realism” to a book.  In my mind however it can make a reader feel cheated, and can come out deux ex machina.  I honestly think the killing of Uncle Ben works better than Batman’s parents dying. I understand the lack of reason is part of the batman mythos, that the senselessness of it all in violent Gotham city is part of what shapes him, but I can’t say I have ever shed a tear for Martha and Thomas Wayne.  Uncle Ben however, especially in the new movie, yes, I did.

Also if there is no long term affect on characters or plot it also feels like something done out of malevolence.  I have had a high body count in some of what I have written, so I know that seems odd to come from me, but I do like to think every named character that dies has some sort of large effect on one of those two things.

Obviously another side of this is writing characters with enough complexity that they are missed.  All of these thoughts are in my mind of course, because I have been busy this week writing a new chapter.  I might even be about to kill your favorite character in the next day or two, who knows.  Oh who am I kidding, of course I am!

For today’s Poll I am going to ask a question having to do with my Epic Novel’s new name.  Originally it was going to be called “Nimoa” which is the island it all takes place on.  I had rethought the intelligence on that move, and when I gave a poll on naming possibilities that was the idea no one liked.  So it seems like a smart move to keep going with a new title.  “Themes” of the book was the winner, but plot related was the runner up.  This is a poll that you can choose more than one choice.  Which of the following words do you like, and might draw attention to you in a title.  Each word here is evocative of theme or plot.  If you have synonym ideas from words on this list, you can leave them in the comments.

Poll: Which words would you want in the title

1)Labyrinth

2)Labyrinthine

3)Paradise

4)Nimoa

5)Island

6)Isolation

7)Conspiracy

8)Bureaucracy

9)Massacre

10)Survival

Don’t worry, I am not just going to string together like the top three words or anything. This just helps give me a snapshot of what types of words ring with readers more.  Next poll will be several differentactual title possibilities based off of what is chosen.

World Info:

In the various Islands in the Allmother’s Fire Series there are two main drinking types of establishments.  There are Public drinking houses which can be known as “Pubs” and occasionally “Ale Bar’s.”  These serve beer and by most laws have to have a place that people can sleep it off if too drunk, so they double as cheap hotels.  Other activities in these establishments also make it lucrative for owners to rent rooms, often by the hour.  By their very nature they are often seedier with the exception of a well frequented pub by locals if they self-police enough to keep out ‘riff raff.’

The other type of drinking establishment is a Tavern, and they only serve wine there.  Like it’s source material (Renaissance Italy) wine is held in high regard, and wealthier members of guilds and even some times royal families will patronize these places.  In many cases you have to either get an invitation to enter, or drop a lot of gold coin.  This makes Taverns a much better source of information on the location of valuables as many merchants speak with a freer tongue for they feel safe there.  All a would be Pirate has to do is act convincingly, forge papers and drop lots of gold to get in. In other words this tactic is rarely successful but when it is, it’s always lucrative.


Cliffhangers and keeping the Author Entertained!


Some writers have a 500 point outline written before starting a novel.  I tried that once, and I got so bored I could not finish writing the first chapter.  Although I normally have a hazy outline (and sometimes quite a lot if not all of the end hashed out) I purposely let a lot of things remain up in the air as to how they happen.  Sure I might know Character A needs to sometime get to point B, but the journey is often open ended.  Sometimes if the character is fleshed out I may even alter things because Character A would NEVER go to point B, and then small parts of the whole plot move.  The most important part for me is to find the balance between having some of the plot written in stone so I can foreshadow and make logical character growths towards a specific point, and keeping things fresh so I want to write too.

I think this is also why I prefer to write in either pulp inspired or outright swashbuckling genres, the idea of the unexpected being key in both.  There was a particular chapter that was bogging me down in the currently published book.  It had very needed exposition, and a lot of things that moved the plot along and rewarded earlier development in the characters.  The problem was, it was boring to write.  If it’s boring to write, I am betting its boring to read. I went back over the chapter 4 times, and kept re writing it. The chapter was no longer boring to read, but I had run out of the “steam” I had earlier for the chapter. I wanted to move on to the next one, but it would not have made any sense to stop where I was. So what did I do?  I had the character thrown out of a castle.

It actually fits with the overarching plot, and the defenestration was going to happen to that character later, after trust was built.  In the end it was simply more fun to have them thrown out early, and unexpectedly.  I have gotten a lot of positive  (and a little WTF?!?! are they dead?) feedback about this scene, and it rejuvenated my want to keep writing more chapters.  I think that’s one of things a lot of writers do not talk about, the fact that as they are writing it, they are readers also.  Granted it’s different since the writer is more likely to know all of what is going on, but the author is just one more reader that does need to be entertained.

When writing this series and the other larger book I will be rereleasing soon, I felt the excitement the writers of the pulps in the early twentieth century felt and some of the early comic books, too.  Cliffhangers reminds me of the old 60’s Batman shows, that kept kids wanting to return to the “same Bat Time” and “same Bat Channel”, and it does not even have to be at the end of your book.  If you have not read the book however I do of course leave you at the end with a pretty giant doozy of a cliffhanger.

Today’s  Poll

First a little background. I am releasing a new fantasy epic.  It’s being re-edited as we speak, and it will be a big one book door stopper.  Well, electronic door stopper.  Anyway, it’s original title was the name of the island where the whole story takes place. It is certainly accurate.  However, my current book has a jargon name.  When I tell people about the book, and they seem interested they often ask for the title.  After I do I get a blank look, because it’s not the sort of thing they will remember unless they write it down, and there is no descriptiveness to it.  This has made me wonder about whether or not to keep the title name for the new book as is, or to change it.  Without going into specifics, here is the poll

What should I name the fantasy epic that is to be realeased soon?

1)Keep it the name of the island it takes place in.

2)Name it something indicative of the plot.

3)Name it something indicative of the “feel” of the book.

4)Go poetic.  Island in the Sea of Time type thing, but not that one.

As for a world tidbit, in this world the heavier and utilitarian cutlass is being used alongside the thin and more dueling oriented rapier.  Most noble Houses have the nobles themselves using rapiers (for the only time they will normally ever need to defend themselves is in a duel) and bodyguards and soldiers and pirates use cutlasses.  This is not universal, and one of the original Captain Bloodeyes was well known as using rapiers when boarding ships and then challenging the opposing captain to duels.

One shot Muskets are used in the book too, but after they are shot they are useless.  The battles in this universe tend to be up close and do not give one time to reload.  Many soldiers keep at least a pair of muskets loaded before combat for that reason.

Keep thsoe questions coming and by the next blog (or two) I should have something specific to announce having to do with some other great writers!


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