Tag Archives: swashbuckling

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!


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”


Slicing the Pie (Chapters and Breaking Down your Book)


Although I am pretty sure someone might have tried it, reading an entire book without chapters (or at least something to break apart the text) after a story is at least thirty thousand words might  be maddening to read.  This is why we have chapters and other ways to break up the text for normal length or greater novels, but the methods people use to decide how long a chapter is varies not just amongst authors, but even different books from the same author.  Like every other conscious decision by an author, deciding how to break up your chapters is one more way to give distinction to your book, and highlight various aspects that constitute your novel.

Past blogs have discussed how to group your chapters, such as by characters, by location, or by event.  Except in the case of the event this still does not control when you close a chapter.  Authors typically choose different things to end chapters such as trying to tell a series of short stories (so the chapters need small beginnings, middle, and ends), building up to specific events or revelations, needing to always end on cliffhangers, wanting a resolution of some kind at the end of every chapter, or just a single scene imparting one specific piece of knowledge to the reader.   There are also more esoteric ways to do it such as each chapter being a length of time (like a day, or even a week or month, think like what 24 did for TV), a specific word count, or some other framing device (like a story that each chapter switches to another one when a new protagonist is met so that the narrative has a constantly changing narrator).

Just like slicing a pizza can affect the dining experience, which of the above (or combination of them) you choose sets a certain tone for the book.  Most authors use only a few of the above per novel, otherwise chapter endings can feel random and inconsistent.  They may vary it up for specific reasons occasionally (such as suddenly doing a series of page long chapters when trying to build tension by showing a series of short scenes) but they will generally have some sort of structure that the reader can expect.  The biggest combination writers often use is having chapters that are similar in length, and then use one of the other above ideas (scenes, small stories, cliffhangers, specific events, etc) as a framework besides just length.

When originally writing the next book in the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy, Rise From the Sun Below, I had “determined” that I was going to make most chapters roughly 5000 words.  Like the last book that would help me know roughly how big the book would be and keep me on course for getting it done in a timely manner if I could do at least one chapter a week.  In reality what it started doing was making me want to artificially pad the word count (a tendency that authors often have in the beginning of their careers anyway) and draw out scenes past their normal termination point.  Most of the time in my chapters for this book I am doing two to three scenes a chapter, and each one points to a bigger theme or revelation. I am combining several of the above techniques, and since many of the chapters fit within swashbuckling genre, they often end in a cliffhanger.  I finally decided sticking to those guidelines, as opposed to a specific word count were better for the health of the novel.

Reaching for a word count of any kind is dangerous for anything but a college paper.  It encourages people to use more words to explain simple concepts, and sets the bar higher for when people try more professional avenues of writing such as journalism or novels.  Both of those mediums prefer high word economy and are almost diametrically opposite to what school papers encourage.  Therefore although similar chapter size might help with familiarity, it is better to set a general range for you chapters then a true uniform size.  Even with that advice,  I recommend erring on the side of shorter chapters if you have already relayed all the information you need to do in a chapter.  Few people want a pie with eight inch crust because you ran out of the actual cheese and toppings.

In other news, the final day of the #RoadToWorldcon is today, and there are still the following novels you can get FREE today:

FIRST CHOSEN – (Fantasy) by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/First-Chosen-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B0055I14BG/

•                                       ONCE WE WERE LIKE WOLVES by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Once-Wolves-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B006OSSF7C/

•                                       ARMS OF THE STORM by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Arms-Storm-Tears-Series-ebook/dp/B008P8DE0C

•                                       HALLOWEEN JACK AND THE DEVIL’S GATE by M Todd Gallowglas

http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Jack-Devils-Gate-ebook/dp/B005XJ0V7A/

•                                       ELEGY (Fantasy) by Christopher Kellen

http://www.amazon.com/Elegy-The-Arbiter-Codex-ebook/dp/B005ESFMMY/

•                                       THE HERO ALWAYS WINS – (Fantasy) by Robert Eaton

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hero-Always-Wins-ebook/dp/B005CMGZAU/

•                                       THE FALL OF HOUSE NEMENI by M.D. Kenning

http://www.amazon.com/Fall-House-Nemeni-Allmothers-ebook/dp/B00847364S

•                                       MANDATORY PARADISE by M.D. Kenning

http://www.amazon.com/Mandatory-Paradise-ebook/dp/B008XM6ST4/

•                                       KNIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by Stephen E. Moore

http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Living-Strange-Knights-ebook/dp/B004YR54LU/

•                                       KNIGHT TERRORS by Stephen E. Moore

http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Terrors-Strange-Knights-ebook/dp/B0069SJIHI


Inner Monologue vs. Dialogue (Revealing Information)


Besides describing events as they occur the main way information is relayed to the user is through dialogue of the characters and the characters inner thoughts.  Good writing has a balance of this, for they both have different uses in pushing the story forward.  There are reasons to rely more on one than the other, depending upon the feel you are trying to evoke in your narrative.

Dialogue has the advantage of simultaneously moving the narrative along and possibly relating personal or past information at the same time. It does not however allow the same amount of inner thought to be revealed as internal monologues do.  That does not mean that NO inner thought is revealed that way.  Word choice, the topics spoke of, idioms used and other subtleties can clue the reader in to things that other characters might not pick up on. Overall though dialogue is better at conveying more overt information, unless it is in character for the speaker to say things that have primarily double meanings.

Narratives heavy in dialogue seem to read much quicker.  Some readers actually crave the dialogue so much they skip past scenes that do not have it.  Most information we gain about someone in real life comes from talking to someone else.  Sure you may occasionally read of people that become your friends, but often getting to know someone starts off as a conversation with them, or about them.  Because of this dialogue feels like a very “natural” way for information to be conveyed, and helps make that a primary form of fast reading for many people.

People often slow down when reading inner monologues, partially because in real life that is not something we can do.  They are essential however for conveying information that is internalized.  A lot of history, personality, and subtleties are easier to understand when coming directly from the characters head.  Context is often key to truly understanding a character.  Most people do not constantly talk about their past with others, and stuffing your novels with flashbacks is cumbersome (I know, this coming from the guy who is showing 12 years over twelve flashbacks over the course of a trilogy).

Without those resources the main way to deal with the past is the way many people do in real life.  When things occur or even when idle it reminds them of other events that have some sort of similarity.  In addition to relaying past information an inner monologue can often be the only way to really know how a character feels about a situation, especially if it is opposite of their words or tones used.  It is easier to convey dramatic irony through inner monologues, and can add depth to a novel.

Narratives where the focus is on introspection, where nothing is as it seems, and the focus is on what lies beneath the surface will often have a disproportionate amount of inner monologues.  The biggest issues coming from this however is that it can slow down the reader.  Also, depending upon the reader or technique used, it can fall opposite of the normal “show don’t tell” rule of writing.

Pulp writing has little inner monologues while mysteries often come from a first person perspective  that has most of even its dialogue sandwiched by inner thoughts and reactions.  Fantasy and sci fi depends on the style used.  Swords and Sorcery books come from the same vein as pulp, and therefore are dialogue or description heavy (more of that next blog).  Large Epics often want to get in characters heads, and tend to lean more towards the inner monologues.

Poll:

Which technique do you prefer?:

1)More Inner Monologue

2)More Dialogue

3)No Preference

World Info:

Let’s go back to the Allmother’s Fire Trilogy, since that is what I am writing currently.  Although not touched on heavily in the first book (but it is referenced) there are many “schools” of sword fighting available.  Each Island has at least one school, no matter how big it is, and the largest Islands have many.  Cenive for example, has ten large sword schools.  Although any one form any guild or family can learn any style, most of the time those from the same guild learn the same style.

The Nemeni for example primarily learn the Southern Quarters style, which emphasizes two swords and precision.  The Tanello instead learn the Staccato style,  which uses rapiers only and is named after the fact it’s students learn to fight to music.  There forms are taught connected to both orchestra and opera, and many of it’s students reach for a sword whenever they hear the appropriate music.

These schools are not only useful for learning how to fight, but give one a network of friends that can be relied upon.  Houses and guilds should remain higher than that, but many see their Sword School as great family then blood itself.  It should be telling that  the Nemeni officially are not supposed to learn any style other than Southern Quarter, so that there should never be a conflict of loyalty.


And the book is Available!


I was not expecting this post so soon.  You can buy the book on Amazon right now!

Click here to go see it!

Please share this post, as an independent author that is the best way to get the work out about this book, by word of mouth!  The more twitter feeds, facebook statuses, etc. reproduce this, the more people will know it exists. Thank you everyone for all your help!  I look forward to discussing the contents ofthe book more, now that people can actually read it 🙂


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