Edit Fest – Working to a Goal

May 21, 2013 at 8:37 pm (Fervor, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I find I make the best progress when I set a distinct goal to reach. With the work I’m doing for Providence, I decided to get things done by next weekend. I’ve finished the review of the final edits, written the preface, acknowledgements, and back cover blurb, updated the character list for the book and completed seven illustrations so far. I just need to finish a few more illustrations, and then I can ship the whole lot off to MDP to wrap up the package.

We don’t have a cover for it yet. I’m not sure how involved I’m going to be in its creation. I did the cover artwork for Fervor and The Blood Runs Deep, but I’m more of a black and white kind of illustrator. I’m willing to work on something, but I don’t have near the talent of the other cover artists they have used. I have the heart and the motivation – I just don’t have the skill.

I will give you a peek at one of my favourites from what I’ve drawn so far, from the ones that are actually scanned in.

And I’m happy to say for my submission blitz update that I received an acceptance for Rev-Ursal. That makes four so far for thirty. Fingers crossed there will be more.

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Love and Hawthorne – Words to Woo

February 4, 2013 at 1:57 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Today I started reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s love letters to the woman he would eventually wed, Sophie Peabody. I was really curious to see what his words would be like when he wasn’t story-telling and his intentions weren’t publication but rather to win the heart of a woman the letters suggested he greatly admired. I think what I found truly charming was where he suggested she was stronger in spirit than him, and while he wished her physical health better strength, he hoped the same would not apply to her spirit or she might outpace him.

That’s not the type of focus you see in modern romance novels. It rarely seems to be about admiring another person’s character. The hero will often go on about how beautiful the heroine is and how he can’t live without her or the heroine will comment on the hero’s physical strength, and how he makes her feel safe, but you typically won’t hear them praising each other’s strength of spirit. It’s sad, really. Modern romance is more about lust and less about love, but I think this is in response to popular demand – hence the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey. People just don’t value strength of spirit the way they used to.

Not that physical attraction isn’t important, we have to acknowledge our physical inclinations when choosing a mate, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with that person, it should certainly be about more than just that. We all age and beauty fades.

Here’s my excerpt for the day, a little something from The Enemy of my Enemy: Masters & Renegades #6. I like this relationship because this couple truly does strengthen each other’s character. Logan starts off selfish, ego-centric and insecure, and Angellica is cynical, overburdened by choice, and fighting alcoholism, but they bring out the best in each other, partially because they recognize the best in each other where others don’t, and in the process they come to conquer these flaws:

Knowing that there would be no one else around, the Master mage wandered into the seating area and sat with a sigh, staring at the empty stage. He still wished that Clayton had never compelled him to make this trip, and longed for Anthis and the Academy. That was when he noticed the occasional shifting shadow in Angellica’s loft over the stage.

Logan was curious. Angellica was likely up there, considering that she had made few appearances anywhere else during the course of the day, but he could not help but wonder at the movement. Even from where he sat at the highest point at the rear of the rows of seats, he could only occasionally see the top of her head in the dim light of the loft. He glanced behind him at the only spot in the theatre that would give him a better vantage point, the technician’s booth. Acting on impulse – not a thing that Logan was prone to do – he rose from his seat and quietly walked over to the ladder leading up into the booth.

The Master mage clambered up the ladder and settled into place behind the open window of the booth, now having a much clearer view of Angellica in the loft. The acoustics of the building also worked in his favour there, and he was able to hear the gentle notes from the colourful music box that lay open on the chair next to her bed, despite the distance between them. He also understood the reason for her movement. Angellica was dancing.

It was nothing like the wild gyrating she and Shasta had performed the night before around the bonfire, spinning and leaping to the drumbeat. This was delicate, and refined, filled with passion. Logan was not sure he had ever seen anything more beautiful. It was also, however, filled with sadness, and the Master mage could swear it looked like she was actually dancing with somebody, even though no one else was there.

The ghost, he thought. Shasta had mentioned something about competing with a ghost, someone by the name of Sammy. That was with whom Angellica was dancing. He felt as if he could sit there and watch her for hours.

That was when Logan realized, shamefully, that Shasta might have been right about something else. Maybe he truly was one of Angellica’s so-called strays. He had already done a few things, since meeting her, which he never would have imagined himself doing before now. The thing he was doing at that very moment was but one example. Normally, he would have considered this kind of spying unethical and invasive. Instead, he found it strangely acceptable and highly rewarding. As opposed to chastising himself and leaving Angellica to what appeared to be some sort of ritual to deal with unpleasant emotions, the Master mage stayed where he was and continued to observe, wondering how often this Harv, who had been returned to the FFP the day before, had sat there and watched her go through similar motions.

Eventually, after winding up the music box several times, Angellica finally exhausted herself and allowed herself to collapse onto her bed. The dancing had not seemed to help her state of mind, however, Logan noted. She looked crushed – defeated. He found it difficult to see her look that way. Once again, impulse took over.

He clambered onto the ladder again, half sliding, half jumping back into the seating area, and silently jogged down the centre aisle. Defying her instructions as he had before, the Master mage scaled the ladder to her loft, something he figured that Harv had never had the nerve to do. Arriving at the top, he climbed into the loft and stared at her, not sure exactly what to say first. Angellica noticed him there before he could say anything. She barely lifted her head to look at him.

“Go away,” she muttered, and then let her head drop back down on the bed. This helped to propel him to speak.

“I think you owe me a dance,” Logan said softly.

He expected her to resist, maybe to even get angry with him, but he could not hold himself back. Instead she sat up with little energy, as if the fire had gone from her. She perched on the edge of the bed, with her hands in her lap and her shoulders sagging.

“I don’t dance – except at parties,” Angellica claimed, staring at the floor.

“And now you owe me a dance, and the truth,” he insisted.

“The truth?” she laughed half-heartedly. “The truth is, this place is going to burn down, and there’s nothing that I can do to prevent it. The truth is, everyone here expects me to come up with a solution, a way to save us all, and I have nothing. The truth is, I’m just as scared as the rest of them, but I’m not allowed to show it.”

Logan drew closer. He hated seeing her this way. He had to offer a solution.

“We’re going to find a way to handle this. We’ll come up with a plan, tactics to deal with the Jadorans, and the Redsuns and the dogs, when they get here. We’ll set out ways for everyone to escape, when the time comes. Shasta can help – you know that she’s more than capable. Clayton and I will do everything within our power to assist Emrys in getting that law overturned, and when the moment arrives that this place does go up in flames, we’ll retreat, we’ll rejoin and then we’ll rebuild,” he assured her. “It’s not over yet, Angellica.”

“We? Why would you say we? You don’t owe us anything. You don’t need to be here. When you’ve done whatever you promised the prince that you would do, you can just go home.”

“If it were only that simple. A few days ago, I would have agreed with you. I don’t think I can do that anymore.” The words slipped out of the Master mage’s mouth before he could stop them. This was not the kind of thing that he would have been saying a week ago.

Angelica got to her feet and faced him, wearing an expression of confusion.

“So that was the truth,” he murmured. “How about allowing me that dance, then?”

She crouched and wound up the music box, setting it back on the chair afterwards. Without any reluctance, she strode over to Logan and took his hands in her own, glancing up at him expectantly. He was frowning slightly, and did not move at first.

“It’s kind of hard to dance while you’re standing still,” she suggested, smiling.

“Wait,” he responded.

Logan released her hands and walked over to the music box. At that point, he made use of a novice spell that he had learned many years before. He cast the incantation and the melody from the music box changed completely.

“There,” he whispered. “That’s better.”

Angellica glanced back at her keepsake, a gift from Sammy. She turned her gaze to Logan, puzzled.

“Why did you do that?” she asked him.

“Because I want you to dance with me, not Sammy,” he answered honestly. “No more dancing with ghosts.”

This time when he returned to her, he did start moving with her, enjoying the subtle harmonies of this new music. He welcomed her interest in dancing with him this time. In fact, he revelled in it, and found that it stirred something in him that nothing else had ever awakened before.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – The Unwilling Warlord

December 11, 2012 at 4:31 am (fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

The Unwilling Warlord by Lawrence Watt-Evans

You’ll hear me say I love fantasy and I hate it, because most fantasy lacks realism. Not that I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be elements of fantasy in a fantasy novel, but that the characters should be less than perfect, the situations less than ordained and less than typically heroic, and the scenery not so overly scenic. If you can give me a story like that, that is well written, I’ll give you a fantasy novel I’ll enjoy.

There are a select few fantasy writers I love, because they deliver on that realism. They have reluctant heroes who are likeable losers who experience a series of spectacular failures but still manage to struggle their way to success. The story ambiance is gritty and dirty, where they slog their way through bad weather and muddy pathways. They describe the things that matter, rather than the twelve different flowers they see along the roadside or the outfits of the half-dozen strangers they pass in the streets. Lawrence Watt-Evans brings that substance to his tales, and The Unwilling Warlord is no different.

In the beginning, we are introduced to Sterren, a failed warlock who makes money by cheating at gambling. Out of the blue, he gets the martial problems of a far away kingdom, Semma, dumped in his lap. Apparently, he has inherited the position of warlord there, because an unknown relative has died without a closer heir. It sounds like an interesting venture, but he is dragged there against his will, forced to learn their language, has to deal with a bitter and incompetent king, and must make do with horribly meager resources and less than favourable odds. He considers running away, but out of a morbid sense of curiosity and a masochistic sense of duty, he turns instead to making things work his own way.

To be honest, for all his faults, the reason there’s a story at all is because Sterren never gives up.

This was a fabulous story, with everything I look for in fantasy and none of things I don’t.

For those who were following my NaNoWriMo project, Chapter 18 is now up, here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/116340552/The-Trading-of-Skin-Chapter-18?in_collection=3963405

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How Dark is Dark Fantasy? Or – Feel the Fear

October 12, 2012 at 8:52 am (dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, writing) (, , , , )

How Dark is Dark Fantasy? Or – Feel the Fear.

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Oh – The Horror…

September 1, 2012 at 12:19 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , , )

I was a little offended by a recent headline regarding the movie “The Possession” in one of our local papers. It read: “Scary Stuff but Don’t Call It Horror – Jeffrey Dean Morgan Says The Possession Is a Film about Character not Gore.”

Um…what?

Since when has the definition of horror been “gore, without character?” I looked up the definition of horror according to Merriam-Webster and this is what it said:

1) a : painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay <astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me — H. G. Wells> b : intense aversion or repugnance

2) a : the quality of inspiring horror : repulsive, horrible, or dismal quality or character <contemplating the horror of their lives — Liam O’Flaherty> b : something that inspires horror

3) plural : a state of extreme depression or apprehension

No mention of gore there whatsoever – but they do mention character.

If people out there are convinced that horror is all about gore, nothing about character, it is no wonder the genre has a bad rep. Funny, considering that the reason I love the genre so much is because it is cathartic, focussing in on the human condition, on people struggling in the face of fear and malevolence, sometimes successfully but more than likely not. It’s rarely pretty, but it can be very realistic, and sometimes quite deep. Some of the best characterizations I’ve read have been in horror stories and plenty of my favourite horror tales haven’t involved any gore whatsoever. It is not a defining feature. Fear is. The darker side of humanity is, or in some cases monsters created to embody some of our worst traits, but I think whoever wrote that headline, as well as the actor he was quoting, were terribly misinformed and could use some education on the topic. That, or they are purposefully choosing to define an entire genre by what they consider its worst elements – hardly fair, and I doubt they define their preferred genres in the same way.

Horror lacking character? Go read some character-driven Lovecraft, or some of my favourite King works like “It” or “Misery”, for some classic examples of horror with oodles of character. Those stories would never have existed without it. There are also plenty examples of newer horror novels, large press and small, that are teeming with character.

Mr. Morgan goes on to say other disparaging things about horror before discussing the movie with the journalist interviewing him. I have a feeling that Sam Raimi, director of this movie, would object to Mr. Morgan denigrating the genre. Sam Raimi has a significant horror-loving fan base, people who consider his name synonymous with horror. These fans are the very people Mr. Morgan was dismissing as lovers of a lesser thing. If you don’t want to be associated with horror, why accept a role in this kind of movie, directed by a horror legend? Watching the ads for this movie on TV, I can say without a doubt that the marketing is being geared towards those who are looking for the next great horror movie. But Mr. Morgan would have you think this is the equivalent of a spooky Shakespearean play brought to film. It’s not.

So please, Mr. Morgan, take some time to learn about the genre you are rejecting before displaying such prejudice. Horror is definitely not without character. But people who speak or act on prejudice, and with a sense of elitism, are.

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Fervent Exposure – Sarah

February 5, 2011 at 4:36 am (fantasy, Fervor, Sarah, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

Continuing with my introduction of the characters and culture in my book, Fervor, I thought it appropriate to present Sarah, my protagonist’s best friend. Here’s a little excerpt to give you some insight into her persona:

Francis emerged from the house with a girl who was even smaller than Sam. The waif-like Sarah, who stared vacantly out at the space before her and allowed herself to be pulled along carelessly by the blond boy, had both dark hair and eyes and a thin frame.

“Sam? Francis said that you were hurt…” Her thoughts were very strong now that they were actually meeting face to face – much stronger than their Teller’s.

“Here – let me be your eyes,” the older boy offered, and then he projected the image that he saw to the slender girl. Sam could see it too, and it felt weird to see himself through someone else’s eyes. He looked so small, his grey eyes sad and accusatory, his light brown hair uncombed and unruly and his rosy cheeks stained by his tears. Sarah knelt beside him and smiled.

“Is it bad?”

Although Sam knew Sarah had the potential to push much harder than even he could, her thoughts were always so soft, so gentle. He nodded without considering that this gesture would be lost on her if Francis had not chosen to pass it along through his projection.

“Let me see what I can do.”

Her mind touched his, and he felt it wrap around the pain and pull it free.

Sarah is a juxtaposition – small for a Little, she is physically weak and vulnerable because of her visual handicap, but she is also the most powerful member of her house-family on a psychic level. Sam likes to refer to her presence in the connection as “an elephant that tiptoes”. She has the potential to push very forcefully, but uses care not to overwhelm others. As a Fixer, her healing skills make her the most valued individual in the group and the others are inclined to protect her, knowing that their well-being may very well depend on hers.

Because she is the only other Little in the house family, she and Sam develop a special bond. Her essence as a Fixer means that she is naturally nurturing and caring. She loves all of her house-family, even when they stray from an acceptable path. She has a fondness for Francis that the others do not share, and tries to include him despite Sam and Fiona’s objections.

Next week: Francis – a lonely and misunderstood Teller

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Fervent Exposure – Sam

January 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm (fantasy, Fervor, Sam, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m going to take the advice of fellow writer/blogger Dawn Rae Miller, and move away from the idea of the trials and tribulations of being a writer. With the March release of my first novel, Fervor, I’ve decided to instead use the next few weeks as an opportunity to introduce the characters and culture in my book so that you can get to know them and, hopefully, to like them. Since Sam is the protagonist and the exclusive point of view character in my directed third person narrative, I figured that earned him the honour of going first. Here’s a little excerpt to give you some insight into his persona:

That was something that Sam actually liked about his gift. His life was now something of an adventure, his searches taking him to places he had never been before on Fervor. It let him lead a fairly solitary existence, and Sam was quite happy with that. If he had not been directed to find something specific, he would often spend his days scouring the beach or tracking through the backwoods, looking for anything new and spectacular that he might be able to bring home to his house-family. On those days, he often came home empty-handed and somewhat disappointed, but on other rare days, he would stumble upon something unanticipated, like a small cabin filled with canned goods that offered more variety than the storehouses’ usual fare, and he would become the temporary hero.

Sam begins the story as an extremely precocious and obsessively curious eight-year-old who is shocked by the turn of events on the island of Fervor, including his own sudden deafness. He is hungry to solve the series of mysteries surrounding the recent changes on the island that he has always called home. He is a Finder, a role reflective of his desire to seek out answers and solutions, and a Little, one of the smaller percentage of younger children who were abandoned on the island. In some ways he is a typical child, with shiny gray eyes, light brown hair that’s often out of place and an infectious smile. He enjoys learning, runs from bullies and gets antsy when he is idle. In other ways, he is nothing like a normal boy, with exceptionally keen instincts, a desire to use very adult language when speaking (because of a compulsion to find the perfect words for what he is trying to say) and an amazing ability to think under pressure.

Sam matures along the way. He starts out quite vulnerable and dependent on others, but over the course of the time that spans the book, he develops a greater level of self-sufficiency, learns the value of cooperation and finds himself confronting a number of unpleasant truths, including death.

Next blog – Sam’s special friend, Sarah.

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