Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Perhaps you need to set a tone for a scene that’s a  little dark, a little hopeless. Maybe your characters are starting to feel each others’ chemistry, and you find yourself trying to write something subtle and seductive. Or is it a case of writer’s block, where nothing seems to stimulate your fingertips into their keyboard dance and light up the page?

How can you get there with a little help from your friends? In this case, make music your friend. But just how can they help?

Songs and music influence mood. Picking the right songs can get you into the right groove for whatever scene you happen to be writing.  Years ago when I was still in grade school (more years than I would prefer to admit), I played a computer game on my Commodore 64 called Wasteland. It was fantastic but, like many other games of its age, it lacked something that is so ubiquitous in games now you would miss it if it wasn’t there–a soundtrack. So I made my own: Alice in Chains’ Facelift, Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and that gem-of-a-lifetime Pink Floyd’s The Wall. To this day, I can listen to The Wall and instead of seeing the movie (which is fantastic in its own right), I am right back there with my Desert Rangers in the warhead-riddled American Southwest.

Consequently, when I started writing my novel, Umbra: A Post-Apocalyptic Mystery, I turned back to my Wasteland staples and found the same gritty, dark influence I needed for certain scenes. That’s not to say I didn’t turn toward more modern music, and that was when I tripped over a serendipitous find.

Have you ever listened to a song that struck so close to the mark that you would swear the musician crawled into your head and took your own thoughts and feelings to turn into a song? That happened with the same novel, Umbra, when I was finishing up the revision. I’d already named my main character ‘Vera’ after the (real-life) woman in the Pink Floyd song from The Wall * (she’d been ‘Vera’ through about ten iterations of the lone woman in a post-apoc world until she finally emerged as the mystery-solving protagonist in Umbra), when I saw there was another song with the same name by Ebba Forsberg. I couldn’t believe how much the song’s theme hit on the same themes and happenings my character was going through. That impetus really helped me finish my revision and get it out there, and Forsberg’s song became Vera’s theme.

Sometimes the lyrics themselves can inspire the story. I have an as-yet-unpublished science fiction romance based on Cinderella-meets-Enemy Mine, which all stemmed from two dancing-themed songs: Celine Dion’s Refuse to Dance and macabre humor of Heads We’re Dancing written by the brilliant, quirky Kate Bush. (Apparently, Pink Floyd held some sway over Kate Bush too. I just looked up the wiki on her post-nuclear song Breathing and it says she cites The Wall as an influence! David Gilmour also did some production on her album The Kick Inside). The Omen-Eyes short story collection and The Opal Necklace (in revision) had Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerard as their soundtrack. For the SHARC collection (also in revision), I listened to a lot of electronica, dubstep and Imogen Heap. For the current draft of my new Ennid the Havoc story, I discovered Thrice’s The Alchemy Index (particularly Volume II, covering the element Water).

Whatever your writing dilemma, try listening to some tunes to spur your creativity or set your mind at the right tone.

*There are quite a few Pink Floyd and popular culture references in my novel. I’d love to know which ones you found, so post them here (with spoiler alerts where necessary).

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Or… How the Internet Killed the Intended Plot.

 

Every author, no matter if they write for profit or pleasure, faces that dreaded inky, seemingly-infinite darkness known as ‘Writer’s Block.’ We are under a great deal to come up with something new, something novel (pun intended) or we risk losing our readers for good. The pressure has only increased with the advent of self-publishing and everyone getting in on the game, on top of the literal millions of other things out there they could be reading besides fiction off of an e-book reader. Worse still are the forums.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Forums are a great place for readers to go gush about the latest book they read in a series, possibly winning over new readers for the author by word of mouth.

The problem is in the speculation.

And, yes, I was guilty of this at one time until I realized the potential damage it could cause. (This was not for A Song of Ice and Fire*, although I have my theories there, I keep them to myself and hope to be surprised by what happens in future books**…IF Martin ever gets them out).

That damage is this: So much speculation could rob the author of the plot.

Let’s show instead of tell, and use a ridiculous scenario of a couple of rabid ASOIAF fans on a forum with a fictional Sixth Book ending:

BILL: Ohmigosh, I got so mad when I read that end! I thought we were going to learn about Jon Snow’s parentage and then *poof*.

SAMMY: Yeah, man. I have my ideas about it, and wanted to see if I was right. See, I think Jon’s Snow’s mom is actually his “sister” Sansa who was sent back into the past and impregnated by the then-younger Hound!

DAN: Nah, that’s silly! I think his dad is actually Mance and Osha and…

 

Need I go on? And it’s not about the theories being “far out there” – it’s about them being out there at all. Now say Martin comes along, and he had an idea very similar to Sammy’s that involved some kind of weird time travel injected into the plot and he stumbled onto this particular threadnow… now he could face a myriad of problems.

#1:  Someone else already thought about it, and posted it, and it could look like Martin was ripping off the idea. If he publishes with this, yeah, it may make the poster feel good by affirming his theory, but it could open up Martin to accusations of theft/plagiarism/laziness/hackishness/etc.

#2:  Someone already thought of the idea and now Martin is forced to come up with something even more novel, which means that it will take that much longer.

There’s also the danger of fan fiction, which any author of the basis of the fan fiction should avoid reading at all costs. (Is that a litmus test for having “made it”, when others spend their own time doing horrible, unmentionable things to/between your characters?)

So, not cool for the author any way around. Now, most of us don’t have nearly the following for our worlds and characters that would engender the hours of thought put into what we think is going to happen, or think has happened and are waiting for it to be affirmed. Don’t get me wrong–guessing what happens is part of the fun, and shows that an author did a great job of creating an immersive world where the readers like us get so involved in the lives of completely fictional characters. It’s just that it can cause a lot of problems for the author when they are broadcast on so public and pervasive a forum as many of them devoted to such works as ASOIAF. Readers, please remember that if you really love the author and want them to keep writing, be kind.

 

Have you had theories about characters/plots of popular series and divulged them in a public forum? Did they pan out, or were your dreams for Heroine X and Hero Y getting together dashed beyond all hope? Please share only wins/losses, no speculations on as-yet-unresolved plot points.

 

*For the curious, my theories about plot were regarding Star Wars characters in their Knights of the Old Republic, not ASOIAF. But, like I said, I do have my theories about Jon Snow’s parentage…

**AND NO, I have not watched the series beyond Season 2. Maybe I will get to the rest of it, someday…

***Note: I don’t have secret access into his mind, so maybe he isn’t even suffering from this dilemma, and I just gave him another “out” for why his books take him so long to get out there. But he COULD be facing these dilemmas.

In case you wanted an update, I’m working through several revisions of differing genres, and one new novel in the Ennid the Havoc universe, but unfortunately I have no dates on them. Sign up for my newsletter and I will send updates, and you might even get a chance to do some beta reading.

Two weeks ago I brought up several stories which I call my favorites, and that naturally brought me to the idea of influence. You hear the phrases bandied about often by any creative types–“I consider such-and-such my greatest influence”, as in “As a composer, I find Mozart and John Williams to be my greatest influences” for an example, or directors cite earlier movies that formed their interest in the silver screen.

Certainly, as a writer, I count many, many authors and stories among my influences. All writers generally do–after all, that initial exposure to tales that transport us to other worlds or realities far from our own personal experiences engender the desire in some readers to craft our own. Fredrik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Harry Harrison, John Haldeman, Doyle, Tolkien, Lewis, Shakespeare etc. all count high on my list of literary inspirations.

But… what about other influences, such as music? Take my first example, with music above. I frequently listen to music while writing, matching the mood/tone with whatever I am trying to write. Umbra (and all of its previous iterations) came flying from my fingertips with an ample dose of Alice in Chains, early Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden pounding in my ears. For my darker fantasy stories like “The Falconer and the Wolf“, one of my favorite bands to get me in the right atmosphere is Dead Can Dance. When sketching notes for The Light of Liberty, I turned to Barry Phillips and his version of “The World Turned Upside Down” along with other American Colonial period tunes.

Are there any more? Of course there are. Many people have incorporated their likes and hobbies into their writing. Some cozy mysteries, for example, are based around knitting. My character Ennid the Havoc and his escapades are influenced by my love of MMA (that’s Mixed Martial Arts for those not yet initiated into its primal awesomeness). My interest in genetics features heavily in Clones are People Two. Even if the things we like aren’t at the forfront, we sometimes insert it in small ways. I love goats (Casey, from Umbra), I think rhinos are awesome and I smith silver (both of which will appear in The Opal Necklace, release date TBD) and I’ve an interest in raptors and falconry.

It’s all very simple–EVERYTHING can be an influence on our creativity, and EVERYTHING should be. It’s from these somewhat disparate ideas and influences that some of our richest “juices” flow.

 

 

Clones are People Two The Opal Necklace

 

CLONES ARE PEOPLE TWO is on the virtual shelves, at least on Smashwords and Amazon.  Others will be added shortly.

Now that CLONES is out, I have another story which I’ve been planning for NaNoWriMo.  It’s the same basic premise as the novel I had done two years ago for that same organization, but a lot more thought has gone into it, and a whole other subplot which necessitates a major re-write.  I also am planning to have this thing published some time early next year so I can get started on the second Umbra novel.  Please note that this is a “working cover” for The Opal Necklace.

Ennid BotB Cover

Ennid the Havoc in “The Belly of the Beast” – available in multiple formats for your reading pleasure!

Amazon (.MOBI)

Smashwords (Everything Else)

Working on one of my stories much longer than I anticipated, but that dreaded black hole called revision has sucked some of my wordcount into its impossible-to-break grasp.

BUT…

(And anyone who reads knows that the interesting twists come after the word “but”)

I have been working on the blurb. It’s a nice little tool –sorry if the title of this post threw you off– to really hone the story down to its essence.

So I present to you the blurb for your reading pleasure, and certainly, for your tidbits of sage advice:

The world quaked in chaos. Landbound kingdoms waged war over the precious few resources found among the small continents and scattered islands. Pirate fleets swarmed the oceans, pillaging trade vessels and sinking one another as they vied to command the waters. Powers angelic and demonic performed their dances martial just beyond the veil of human sight.

Ennid the Havoc couldn’t care less about any of that.

Three things drove him onward – his mare, his next meal, and his next match. In that order.

He roamed from town to town, sampling the wares and finding someone brave enough to challenge him for the thrill of the fight (and a share of the purse). But when a couple of kids knock him from the saddle and steal K’zirra (that’s the mare), he follows them to a town lacking not only coin enough to buy her back, but nary a young man to fight.

In fact, no young men at all walked among them.

Only when an exotic woman invites Ennid into her world and tasks him with retrieving a rare gemstone does he hope to earn his fortune, buy back his horse and leave the town.

But first… first he must face the Beast.

Oh, and I have updated the cover, again…

Ennid BotB Cover

So… go for it!

Short post here.

Working on The Adventures of Ennid the Havoc: Belly of the Beast. I anticipate unleashing the Beast early next month. I’m also trying to run it through the Smashwords wringer in order to release it to as many platforms as possible for all of my readers.

Back to the keyboard…

So I recently had the question posed regarding my inspiration. Now I could take the shortcut and say that so many things inspire me that I can’t list them all. This is partially true – one, because if I sat and listed all those things, I would be wasting time better sort writing and two, I do mind-mapping when looking for ideas, and it hardy looks like a list by the time I’m done with it. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t seem useful at all, the ideas being very disparate ones. Occasionally, though, some of those weird things start tying themselves together in a rather novel (pun intended) fashion. The latest, as an example: (okay, not necessarily the latest, since “he” has been bothering me for a few years) I like fantasy stories, I love Monty Python, I love the video game Diablo (since the first one, and no, I am not a milkmaid), I love MMA. How could these come together? Ennid is how. Years ago I came up with an idea for a Diablo-based story (can’t even call it fan fiction since it never got beyond the idea) but it faltered and fell back into the idea box. Years later, I get hooked on watching UFC (except for Joe Rogan. Cannot stand that guy, and Dana White should just find someone else for Goldberg to flirt with). One if the things I simply love about MMA fights is that, more often than not, I get to witness a brutal, primal beatdown between two alpha males who look like they’re about ready to kill each other, but as soon as it’s over, they shake and hug and congratulate one another. I’d like to believe that all of them are really good guys in and out of the octagon (especially you, Clay Guida!). That inspired me to create a tough guy with a gentle heart who gets himself into trouble more often than not because he isn’t willing to take the easy way out of his problems by bashing heads in. Instead, he’s got to use his brains and heart before his brawn. And, of course, he’s a sucker for a woman in trouble, which is where most of his trouble starts. There’s a lot of story around Ennid to play with, and I think I’m going to have a lot of fun going back to his world from time to time.

I’ve been stumbling around a bit with the choice of my next project. I didn’t have this problem earlier in the year, when I sat down to calculate which projects I wanted to work on, with deadlines and tasks defined. However, I got word of an upcoming class on writing a series offered by Holly Lisle (if you love to write, you should check out her offerings here. Lifechangers. Seriously.), I decided to shuffle my schedule in order to accommodate the stories which I had not entirely fleshed out the concepts and characters. Using her method, I could define all of that around the basic idea floating in my head. I shuffled the projects around to get that particular universe into place, but the class hasn’t been moving fast enough for my schedule, so I decided to take on another project and work simultaneously. I’m hoping it doesn’t mess up the quality. Because of that, my next published project is going to be:

Ennid Cover I Take Final

A novelette revisiting Ennid from the short story “Food For Thought” in the Morsels flash fiction anthology.

He’s going to be around for a little while, as I have an arc of novellas planned for him.

(And, for anyone curious about the project I’m working on alongside Holly’s class, it’s SHARC, space opera military fiction.)

I made the top of Amazon’s Daily Deals in Science Fiction & Fantasy!

At first I thought it some kind of double notification that my work has been made available, since the title of the email itself is The Falconer and The Wolf, but was ecstatic to see what the content actually was. Although, come to think of it, it’s kinda funny that Amazon is trying to sell my own book back to me…

20140220-154519.jpg

And the actual link to purchase the story online!