Tag Archives: air pirates

Web Fiction: Smiling Krakken Part One


I was at a Convention this weekend, so I did not get anything done then.  So for this week’s blog post, here is the first in a Series of Web Fiction in the same world as “The Allmother’s Fire”.

The problem with sword fighting while falling from one flying ship to another was the wind kept whipping Noviani’s hair in her face.  Well, that probably wasn’t the one problem with it, the lithe Air Pirate Captain admitted to herself as she spread out her arms and legs, hoping the wind would catch her pantaloons and allow her to glide slightly to the right so that she would land on the rapidly approaching deck below her and not miss it, plummeting to her death when she would eventually fall into the Sun Below.

The large brute that was slightly above her and relatively horizontal was another problem, she conceded.  More likely the large cutlass he brandished at her repeatedly was the true issue, and she had to spastically crane her head and flail her limbs away from him rapidly so as not to lose them, breaking how she was trying to position herself to catch the wind.  Fire seemed to erupt from her shoulder as the tip of his weapon shallowly scratched Noviani there, slicing effortlessly through her silken sleeve.  Thankfully he was not of noble blood, so that fire was a figurative feeling, and not a literal flame burning her skin.

“DIEYOUSCURVYDOG” or some other such nonsense was screamed at her by the First Mate of the Sky’s Embrace, the grandiose ship the two of them were descending from.  Another shallow cut slashed through her other sleeve, and blood began to freely splash out, obscuring her vision almost as much her red hair as it sprayed out everywhere due to the wind.  It was not as much as his aim was true that allowed him to land so many blows, as it was that he had a weapon and all she had really was her pouch on her belt, her silken shirt, and her voluminous pantaloons which did not parry sword swipes well.

Noviani decided to focus on that advantages she did have before she bled to death or the big ox landed a luck blow across her neck, so she used both her hands to pull on the exterior of her pants again, this time as she locked her legs together, mildly imitating a horizontal version of the sails the flying ships those of her profession loved to use.  To her shock it seemed to do as she hoped, and almost immediately she slowed her decent.  This caused her to try to swerve her body, so she did not crash into the large bald cursing moron who was now moving slower than her.

He screamed some sort of impotent threat as she was now above him, and then he finally seemed to focus on what was below him, which was not Noviana’s ship.  This allowed new torrent of cursing to eloquently pass his lips as he missed the Smiling Krakken, and would eventually reach the Sun Below.  If the giant oaf had not thrown both of them off of his ship Noviani would have sympathy for him and his eventual fate, but as he did she allowed a small smile to curve on her lips.  Then she steered herself towards her ship, and saw to her relief the pilot Miano was trying to intercept her as well.

Novianai was definitely stunned when she hit the deck, but something about the strange properties of the wood of the ship that allowed it fly also absorbed most of her energy and she did not break any bones when she hit it.  This allowed her to sit up and laugh, as the crew crowded around her.  Donello, her First Mate approached her and held out his hand as he said, “Good job Captain, did you get it?”

She sprung to her feet, ignoring Donello’s hand and laughed a full and rich laugh as she unbuckled her pouch and responded, “Why yes I did,” and brought out from the pouch a large gold necklace festooned with gems of all colors and sizes.  It seemed to sparkle of it’s own accord, like the Allmother herself was contained within.  Not that the prior owner was particularly religious, considering Noviana had met him in a dingy dive bar on a small floating island the day before.  It had not taken long to get into his bed, and then his personal chest and run out to the deck where she had fired her musket into the sky trusting that her crew had been following the Sky’s Embrace as planned.  The powder had burned bright in the night lit only by the Sun Below, and almost immediately her ship that had been trailing far enough away and below to not be spotted moved towards her, but she had not seen the First Mate who immediately knocked her over the side after she fired the signal.

This did not bother her much now, as she was on her ship and the First Mate would soon be burnt to a crisp, or worse.  Her “Uncle” had taught her how to be a Pirate Captain well, and now it was time to pay him back, for a reasonable finder’s fee of course.  “Miano, loose these feeble dogs, and set course for Lofonzo for our meeting with Captain Bloodeyes the Allmother’s Grace.”  Being a Pirate, who stole from Pirates, to sell to other Pirates was always an adventure.  Noviana had avoided any serious consequences so far, and she was sure she would continue to do so.

He woke up feeling empty.

The screams of almost seconds ago were a fading memory, and the pain that had caused them was gone too.  Something called “The Sky’s Embrace” had meant something to him once too, but even that idea faded away.

There was one thought, one image in his mind.  She had red hair, a pouch that he needed back, and aship that was soon to be dead.  A thing with the memories of the First Mate got to his feet and started to climb up from the well he found himself in.  His fingernails tore, and blood slowly leaked on his hands as he moved up to the surface.  He could feel her approaching, and hopefully it would only be days before his fingers could wrap one final time around her laughing throat.


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!


It Rises like Krakken from the deep!


Ok, so moving and a new job altered everything a lot more than I thought.  Oops.

Now things are calming down, and I am re establishing some control over my schedule and timing.   What does this mean to my readers?  Starting Sunday I am going to use any Sunday that I am not at a convention to do some writing. This blog, the book, and a few other things.  Something happened yesterday to re ignite me, and I won’t stop till the whole Allmother’s fire trilogy is finished. It still won’t stop then, but now the need to finish it is consuming me.

As for what stoked the fires for finishing my tale of swashbuckling, flying ships, family warfare and Revenge, well, it’s rather silly.

Er, it was an episode of the 2002 He-Man series.  No Really.  I have no idea why.

My need to write pulpy over the top action laced with a family drama somehow re asserted itself watching that show. What silly thing to be my inspiration, but it is.  you would think it was all the people I heard talking about Princess Bride recently.  But no, silly goofy he man somehow inspired me with a neat solution to a story issue.

My blogs will more likely be weekly then three times weekly they used to be, but they will be more often and more regular.  Honest.

As for a hint of what to expect in the next book all I can say is — wings.


Fleshing out Characters Part One: Motivations and Idiosyncrasies


If characters are little more than excuses for scenes to occur a reader will quickly tire of them.  Sometimes this is not true, as some horror oriented genre stories have little time to flesh out characters before killing them.  The rest of the genres however can keep people hooked by having characters that are more than stereotypes or archetypes, and behave like real people with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies.

One of the first steps to a fleshed out characters is for each one to have their own motivations.  Notice I used the plural of that word. If they only have one, then they remain a stereotype.  For a short period of time the knight who is motivated by his code of honor, the swordsmen who wants revenge for his family, the mother who wants to protect her kids, etc, can be entertaining.  Over the course of a series or even a novel that can make a character seem one note, like they only exist for the single motivation.  To make a character better give them at least three or four motivations.  If possible, have at least one of them be set up for the sole purpose of clashing with the rest, so the character is not entirely predictable.

For example the person who wants revenge for his slain family may also have drives to protect his new (unrelated) family that might put him at odds with revenge (is it worth putting the new family in danger?)  Add a few motivations that are not directly connected to the clashing ones (he also wants to run a successful business, and to charm as many women as he can) and you have a more fleshed out character that in some scenes may have all four of his motivations at odds, and readers won’t be absolutely sure which way the character will go when faced with a challenge.

It helps to not make these completely random (they built a new family to replace the old one, running a business makes them feel accomplished like their father who they will never know, charming the ladies gives them a closeness they will never have with their new or old family, etc) but they shouldn’t all be slight variations on the same theme either.  Often when starting a novel you as the author may only know one or two motivations.  However if you pay attention to the scenes you are writing you may see small nuances in a characters dialogue or reactions that hint at more buried drives, or a even a flashy surface motivation (be the center of attention at all times!)  that stop your protagonist from being just another revenge/protective/heroic protagonist.

Those clashing motivations also underline the another important aspect of a  fully fleshed out character: Idiosyncrasies.  In many ways it’s the things that DON’T fit the stereotype about a character that makes them as memorable as the things we are used to.  Batman, unlike all the other vigilantes DOES NOT USE GUNS.  This sets him apart from the rest and is natural within the character (guns killed his parents) but don’t fit the other modern vigilantes at all.  Some idiosyncrasies happen so often they become a stereotype of their own (fierce large warrior who won’t hurt kids) but still have more depth than if they did not have those aspects that go against the grain of their core concept.

Much like motivations, to make it more real, let the idiosyncrasies flow from the rest of the characters motivations and back story.  The gentle merchant’s daughter who goes crazy and violent when animals are hurt does this because she spent more time with her dad’s horses and the hunting dogs than most people.  The normally taciturn blacksmith who in a bar can’t stop singing loudly with no shame might have had a father who blew off stress every night at the local ale house and have fond memories of when passing it hearing his father do the same.

As important as it is to have these aspects that make a character more than two dimensional it is just as important to have all the “layers” fit.  If the things that make them different flow out of actual events in their life it feels better than just to make a character “quirky”.  In a later blog I will talk about adding quirks to characters, but things like motivations and idiosyncrasies work best when coming from logical outcomes from a characters environment.

My next blog I will talk about a contest several GenreUunderground authors are having.  It will culminate in a blog swap, where other authors are writing for each other.  Whoever guesses the most wins!  There will be prizes involved including an really awesome grand prize from Bookbaby! (more on that next time!)

So with that little bit of information in mind, we come to our poll”

Poll

Will you check out some of the other blogs to try to win prizes this October?

1)Yes.

2)No.

3)I’ll wait until I get more information next blog.

World Info about the Allmother’s Fire series:

Adulthood comes at a time we think of as early in our modern lives.  People (men or women) can own property around the age of 12 or 13 (depending upon whether or not they have “come out” as an adult if noble, and if other commoners are willing to sell to them if a commoner).  Commoners tend to embrace adulthood younger, starting families often at age 15 or so, in order to have more people help on the farm quicker.

Nobles on the other hand have a formalize ceremony where they are first considered adults, and can be heir to a house (normally this is around the age of 13).  After this ceremony, they then either run the affairs of the house, or some women start learning at the Questionary for a like in the church.  After a few years (normally 2-4) they decide what they want to do, and start courting suitable mates.  This often leaves them a few years behind in family development then their commoner counterpoints.


Ramp it up to ELEVEN!!!!: EXTREME WRITING


Much of my advice often follows the path of finding a middle between extremes in your styles of writing.  This allows the use of all sorts of techniques that hook some people but not others.  If a particular style you are using does not appeal to someone, if you keep a lot of your writing in between using too little or too much of something they will probably like some other aspect of your writing.  Most readers often fall inbetween this point too, that a lot of what they like to read are techniques used enough to highlight aspects of the book, but not over take it.  Sometimes however, it is both fun and rewarding to throw all the other advice out the window and just write with certain styles and techniques cranked all the way up with no middle ground.

Many popular sub genres fall into one of these extreme writing styles.  For example Pulp writing tends to have very little of the following: dense continuity, character growth, interior monologues – but tend to have lot of action, adventure, and character actions that seem familiar or repetitive (favorite lines or battle techniques, situations that follow similar patterns, familiar types of background characters occur, etc).  By hewing to these extremes of very little of some themes and quite a lot of others a very different writing style can be made.

Another popular sub-genre is POV fantasy books.  This style often goes over the same events through different eyes, with new discoveries made each time.  In this genre inner monologues occur often more than dialog or action, dramatic irony is used very frequently, but pacing is much slower than normal.  Even with only three aspects being more extreme it still sets the tone as something very different than most narratives.

One great way to see what types of writing you like to do with certain aspects over the top is to write short stories. This is better than investing the time into long novels and then realizing you don’t write in that style well.  Another way to experiment with it is to write certain chapters with certain elements ramped to eleven.  The main hero has seen all of her family die, all of her plans go to waste and the person that did it is right in front of her with only a dozen guards standing in her way.  In that case, even if the rest of the chapters have balanced action and dialogue, that specific chapter might have no dialogue at all, and just be one descriptive action scene after another as she hacks her way to the ultimate confrontation.  This technique allows you to use a lack of moderation to enhance only one part of a narrative, without making the whole work done in a specific style.

Going to extremes isn’t something I would recommend without a plan.  I wouldn’t just say to yourself  “I want to do a book with tons of dialogue and a lot of humor, and practically no inner monologues or descriptions at all, just funny witty things said the whole time  and also make it a 1000  page epic!” just to try to create a new genre.  There will be people that like that style of book, but probably much more that will find it off putting.  Also along the lines of above, it is more palatable if only a few things in the book are extreme.  See each aspect of a book (methods of writing, subjects focused on, action to interaction quotient, tone, amount of humor, levels of irony, popular tropes used, etc) as different “dials.”  If only a few dials are ramped up, then it is easier for people to take then the whole book being completely out of the norm to the point of alienation.

So in the end I guess I am recommending even for extreme writing, to have some moderation.  How surprising.

I have not received a lot of complaints about the lack of poll, so I will do without it again.

World Info for Allmother’s Fire:

Travel times between most islands is measured in days or weeks.  There are some large islands that seem to be more out in the periphery which take closer to a month, but those are only gone to very rarely, as the rewards are not normally worth the extra costs of stocking up for months’ worth of supplies for your crew.  Getting to one specific island may take you a month if it follows a different path than yours, but on its way you will probably cross at least 3 or 4 other islands that you can stop and get new supplies.

There are horror stories of those running out of supplies and not even being  able to hook any flying animals enough to get food, but clouds when passing by ships seems to automatically refill barrels if treated right by Woodsingers, so running out of water is never an issue.  The only reasons people would risk going long without supplies is if they have no place they think is a safe haven nearby (which some rather aggressive Air Pirates with notorious ships do) or if exploring for legends.  It is said some where is an island that the true daughters of the Allmother live on, and whoever goes there will receive her blessing.  No one has gone there and returned to tell the tale, even if everyone is sure they heard of a friend of a friend of a friend who thinks they saw that island once.


Expectations: Follow and Avoid Them


Fantasy and other genre fictions have certain expected tropes that normally occur.  Dreams show the future, farm boys grow up to be heroes, prophecies lead ways to light the darkest hour, the slumbering dark lord awakens, etc.  Although there is a familiar and almost nostalgic quality to when fantasy follows these well-worn paths, long time readers are sick of them.  Many readers are fine with these qualities being in the first few novels they read, but eventually it can push them out of reading the genre for they become lazy writing crutches.  Once a line has been crossed from “this is familiar” to “this is a rip off” readers often do not want to continue to read from those writers.

At the same time, if all of it is new, with nothing known or familiar it can be alienating to the reader too.  There are adventurous readers that enjoy these types of stories, but a vast middle of your audience like a balance between comforting familiar tropes and explorative original ideas.  One of the best ways to walk this line is to give them some familiar elements, then utterly destroy what they expect to happen after that.

This can be done either by throwing in familiar things then making everything else original, or you can also make those familiar aspects cloak original twists.  For example the story can start off with a farm boy who has strange dreams of confronting an evil Dark Lord in his past lives.  The novel can then make it seem that like many fantasy novels before it the farm boy is the prophesied one who will destroy the Dark Lord!  Then of course, you can eventually reveal the farm boy WAS the Dark Lord in the past life, and he is about to be reborn in his power to destroy the world. Once that revelation occurs you could take the story anywhere from companions of the farm boy now having to defeat him, to the farm boy determined to find ways to never become what he once was. This is an example of taking a familiar element and using that to cloak original twists.

A variation of that is to have the familiar trope carry through for the character, but then having the consequences for it happening not be what you expect, especially if the consequences are more realistic.  This sort of technique is used by people like George RR Martin all the time.  Sansa dreams of being a pretty princess betrothed to her king and learns the hard way that it may not be the dream she actually wanted.  Another King marries for love, and his kingdom and army are destroyed because of it.

One of the earlier mentioned techniques was to put in some familiar things in your novel, but have other parts be original.  Your hero is not a farm boy, but a trained merchant duelist, who since birth has been taught to defend the honor of her House.  She fights not to save the world from evil, but for better contracts for her Family.  Then one day in the marketplace she notices a group of people following her. And that they are in fact people she has killed in the past.  After  a long chase and fight scene she remembers seeing the symbol emblazoned into her undead opponents heads, it was the symbol of a dark god of death.  She is now determined to read the ancient prophecies to see what could be happening here, and how it ties into her family.  This takes some familiar tropes (fighting supernatural forces, prophecies, dead gods rising again, sword fighting main character) but adds original elements to keep in new (merchant duelist, prefers to fight for money not honor, has no manifest destiny as a “chosen one” etc.)

Hopefully this advice can help you to keep your novel familiar enough to interest fans of the genre but creative enough to make them want to keep reading.  Like almost all good writing, the real key seems to be striking a balance between extremes.

I notice recent polls have not been as popular, so I am skipping the polls for at least one blog.

World Info and Book Update:

The second book is moving slower.  The upcoming move and associated activities is cutting into writing time heavily, but it is still occurring.  The good news is another edit (3rd major) of Fall of House Nemeni is done which will be the Barnes and Noble version, and I will probably post it for Kindle too, but mainly for newer readers.

For World information, I wanted to talk about duels.  Typically duels only occur for nobles.  I have spoken of weapons before, and the dueling sword is worn by most nobles at all times outside of their houses.  Matters of honor are important, and a duel is the best way to often resolve them.  However, your Station in your House matters to.  The Head of a House is considered to be of such high Honor that they can ignore challenges to those that are not Heads of other Houses.  The Head of a House is just assumed to be right, and can have insults from members of Houses lower than them killed in the streets when insulted.  Of course the Head of the House who owns the person you killed might take this as an insult, which could lead to d a duel, but there should be no immediate reprisal from murdering one of lower Station.

The stories have small guilds and merchants also use dueling to resolve issues and even pirates are said to use duels to pick their Captains,.  Whether or not those stories are true might depend on the specific guild, or pirate crew involved.


Songs and Prophecies: Fantasy Flavor


Songs and Prophecies: Fantasy Flavor

Fantasy novels are a continuation of the same story telling tradition as myths and fables.  Most are inspired by the epic ballads of heroes, and due to this link often contain prophecies and songs from that world.  This is due to the original tradition of mythological stories being recited orally, and often sung (hence the term ballad) depending upon the culture.  This carried through in many of the first fantasy epics, like the works of Tolkien (especially the songs) all the way through current blockbuster epics (Wheel of Time for prophecies and songs).  They add significant flavor to a book, and make it fit the genre better, but if done wrong can pull a reader out of the book.

Songs are probably the harder of the two for most authors.  While there may be a few budding songsmiths amongst fantasy writers, many are not particularly musically inclined.  This has the habit of making many songs either just general poems or not feeling songlike in the least.  The easiest way to make it feel more authentic if you do not have song writing abilities yourself is to pattern your song after either the cadence of epic ballads ( like Beowulf, odyssey, etc) or if doing something closer to our time then sung to the tune of other songs you know.

Many traditional songs we know like Yankee Doodle had the lyrics patterned to fit existing songs (in this case a drinking song) and this happened with many hymns and other songs that people know of.  Sometimes your reader might even think it seems familiar, if they know the source material enough.  In the second book of the Allmother’s Fire I needed a rousing but slightly wistful song for the Air Pirates.  I decided to pattern the tune after “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.”  At that point the song practically wrote itself (lyrically it’s not similar, but the idea for the song I had grafted onto the backbone of the existing tune so well, the whole thing was written in about four or five minutes).

For both songs and prophecy you could get the feel you wanted by using certain types of poetic forms, like iambic pentameter to give it a familiar stylized feel.  Other rhythm and meter schemes work.  If wanting to evoke the feel of homer for your Prophecy, try dactylic hexameter.  Modern English is used to rhyme schemes being emphasized, but it is not the only way to give the effect of a song or prophecy.

With prophecy the content is just as important as the presentation.  If the meaning is too clear and accurate there is no sense of discovery or surprise in the book, since everything could be predicted easily.  The key to good prophecy besides making it “catch” in the head of the reader through meter and rhyme scheme is content fuzzy enough to not make twists obvious, but detailed enough in hindsight it makes sense.

For prophecy use vivid descriptive phrases, but let them have multiple meanings.  This way a reader (and the characters) can draw wrong or obvious conclusions early on, but the truth of their meaning can be obfuscated for later surprise.  You could also make intention obvious and have the whole prophecy be an outright lie, but is more a plot choice then stylistic.  You would still want to use things like rhythm (which syllables are stressed) and meter (how many “feet” {syllable combinations established with rhythm} each line has) to make the prose stand out as something unique.

Poll:

Do you like when fantasy novels have their own songs, or do you skip past them to get to the rest?

1)I like it, it adds flavor.

2)I don’t it bogs it down.

World Info:

Here is an Air Pirate Song!  We would recognize this tune as my Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean:

“My love once met me on an isle

It was a place no one else could see

I stayed with her but a while

But it was long enough for me

 

For I won’t

I won’t

I won’t be tied down

Not Me

Not Me

For I won’t

I won’t be tied down

Not Me

 

My place instead is in the skies now

Sailing and forever free

Never tied to one love by a vow

For I won’t ever bend the knee

 

For I won’t

I won’t

I won’t be tied down

Not Me

Not Me

For I won’t

I won’t be tied down

Not Me”


%d bloggers like this: