Monday, June 27, 2011
At this point, I plan to be back with a new Urban Psychopomp post on Monday, July 11, 2011.
Wish me luck. And may the road rise up to meet you, my fellows.
Monday, June 20, 2011
This is my kind of blog award! The idea is this:
1. When you receive the Blog Award of DOOM your task is to post a short selection of your writing, 100-300 words, in which your favorite character suffers a horrible fate. It can be your favorite character from your own writing or from something you've read, it can be from a finished manuscript, a WIP or something you just made up on the spot. Your choice, but it has to be full of DOOM!
2. Pass it on to one other blogger and let them know their DOOM has come.
3. Remember that the person who passed the award on to you also received it as well. Go back to their post to read and comment on their writing sample. Make sure to thank them for sending the DOOM your way.
4. Whenever you use the word DOOM in your post, you must capitalize the whole thing.
First off, I highly recommend checking out Sierra's DOOM selection. It's both beautifully written and tantalizing in its details.
Me, I'm going to break the letter of the rules but adhere to their spirit. Most of my real world friends know me more for my epic fantasy than my urban fantasy. When I received this award, I immediately thought of a passage I'd written a few years ago for an epic fantasy project I intend to go back and pick up someday. It doesn't include my favorite character (though I really like Kho, and one of my favorite villains ever makes an unnamed appearance on the rock outcropping at the end). It's also longer than suggested, about four pages, but it's the scene in total (and one of the few times I ever considered keeping a prologue). It also doesn't actually feature the word DOOM (okay, it has 'doomed'), though it is all about the DOOM.
Oh, and Claudie A, you are so tagged! Let's see you DOOM, baby!
So, my fellows, here is your first taste of my epic fantasy (though an older style), DOOM flavored:
The lilies gorged on blood.
Kho stomped with enraged glee through the knee-high thick of them. The pane of night above the writhing battlefield dyed the hungry white blossoms dark blue. Black now, Kho thought and nodded as he jerked a limp Phoakwis body through the tangle. Black-red now, as he painted the lilies with hard strokes, swinging his enemy’s spindly corpse. Its weight and the rage of his efforts tore dead ligaments and left only a hard onyx-black chest plate lined with gore dripping in Kho’s clawed hand. He flung the plate down where the rest of the Phoakwis warrior’s body lay piled like so much empty armor.
These were the best for battling each other, Kho’s kind and the insect-like Phoakwis, each born with their weapons and plates. No foe could disarm them or strip them of their armor without first making them dead, unlike the willowy, soft Qseivus with their string weapons or the Hyaphoa with their lyrical spells vulnerable to interruption. It had been a Phoakwis warrior who had cut down Kho’s sib, Shaln, lifeless in the maple vines beneath the tall woods just beyond the lily field. It had been Phoakwis and Hyaphoa that had set this battle and this war in motion like a wave of wildfire across the territories of the Many Races. Hyaphoa and Phoakwis . . .
Kho threw his horned head back and howled low and hard. The suffocating cry of grief and bloodlust burned his lungs and chest, an acidic ache. He felt no pain from the gashes around and beneath his own golden plates. No pain compared to burned villages and buried bairn.
A tiring Hyaphoa dipped too low over the field then. Kho sprang and clamped one claw around the winged mage’s slender ankle. Her sweat slicked her skin greasy and metallic, but he held her fast. The female gurgled part of some singsong chant. Though billowy silver wings beat strong, he ripped her from the sky. Her end was quick. More blood for the lilies, true black from Hyaphoa wounds. The blossoms churned in the wind, in coppery perfumed ecstasy. They seemed to gulp the lost life down. It almost seemed to Kho they gaped for more.
The battle cry erupted from the distance. It was a screech of vindication cutting through the indistinct din of howl and scream, yelp and mew, chant and half-uttered prayer. With each kill, the name of their slain bairn was the curse from Kho’s mate, Ina. His gaze tracked the sound past half a dozen mortal struggles to the distinctive silhouette of the horned battle maiden with her own golden thorny plates. More wet lilies clung about her feet.
Kho propelled himself through the throng of warriors toward his mate as though swimming against a swift current. His arms stroked out strong beside him, clearing his path. He concentrated his gaze on Ina, only grimacing with the surge of satisfaction whenever his claws met yielding flesh. When he reached her in the fire-streaked darkness he saw the wet red stripes along her scales.
Ina collapsed against Kho, her natural armor clattering unnaturally against him where blades and pincers and claws had levered up and loosened her plates in search of flesh. He lowered her into the bed of lilies, their light eyes bound and steady on one another. She hissed a relieved greeting, but words were too soon beyond her. Kho shook his head in a moment’s sinking anguish. A knot of denial built in his chest, even after all this.
Then his heart and his mind stilled for her, banishing the chaos surrounding them. He pressed his soft, fine-scaled cheek to hers. She was cool, breathless. He cooed a lullaby, ancient even then, against Ina’s face, rolling and vibrating the wistful notes deep in his throat and his contracting chest. So came the hummer’s trance, the sensory memories: early morning on the quiet riverbank beside the village, the willows playing silvery music with leaves against the breeze, the tickle of water under their plates as they lazed in the shallows.
Ina felt nothing, and Kho cared nothing, when the lilies tangled them. Hungry petal mouths went hard to work feeding on the life free-flowing. Kho wrapped the hummer’s trance about Ina and himself as a blanket, sheltering them from the panic erupting on the field as proud combatants fell to delicate flowers and slaking vines. Nature, blood-gorged by war, blood-mad, closed over them all, binding, strangling, suckling.
As Ina slipped away, the same inner spiral path opened for Kho. He lingered long enough to survey the waves of savage, insane wilderness crashing over the shamed remnants of the doomed Many Races. In an ensouled land, what else could such slaughter have earned them?
On the far side of the field, a cluster of Hyaphoa mages alighted like so many jewel and metal butterflies on a rock outcropping above the vengeful vines. A male amidst them gestured with purpose. He maintained impossible grace on the outskirts of the horror that drowned out his poetic incantation.
Then the flash of utter black, like a lightning bolt of pure darkness, struck the rocky overlook. The clap as the stone fractured echoed out and up and through the field, through Kho. From the rock poured blackest bile into the bruised sky. Liquid hunger billowed up and rolled over them, and Kho praised his merciful ancestors that no member of his kith but he had lived long enough to touch the terrible devouring . . .
So fell the twilight of the Many Races, the First Races, when the Darkness surged over the face of the World, and She smiled no more.
Friday, June 17, 2011
#6,965 in the Paid Kindle Store
#31 in Books > Fantasy > Short Stories
#47 in Kindle > Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Contemporary
I think I must lavish more thanks on my fellows who have been so supportive and many of whom have promoted "Dis" on their blogs.
In other news, David Gaughran, who has also self-published short stories, is guesting on Wicked & Tricksy (there's a contest involved, my fellows!) while I guest at Dave's blog. Come visit!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
First, I wanted to encourage people to head over to Wicked & Tricksy today where my post is about why I don't let my characters cry or say I love you. We've gotten to the point at W&T, now that we're about five weeks in, when some interesting discussions are breaking out here and there. I'd like to tap that synergy for this post. So head over, read the post, give it some thought, and share your own philosophies and techniques!
And second, Sarah McCabe at The Aspiring Sub-creator, a hard-working blogger for sure, gave me a blog award sure to send my little leo self into fits of delight:
It is a difficult thing sometimes, passing on blog awards. I know quite a few people who deserve this award all day every day and twice on Sunday. However, I've decided to award it to just one blogger for a site that has been exceptionally exceptional lately. I've been reading it but haven't had nearly the time I would have like for participating in the discussion.
Head over to Donna K. Weaver's Weaving a Tale or Two to check out a blog that's on fire.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Today's post is actually made up of a couple of announcements, which is incredibly handy since I'm feeling a touch under the weather.
First, the small announcement. I have a big event coming up in my personal life, so expect me to be a bit scarce for the next three to four weeks. I'm (probably) not disappearing entirely, but my posts will like be more like this one (announcements, links to my favorite blog posts, fun stuff) than the usual writing topics.
Woohoo! My fellows and I at Wicked & Tricksy are hosting our first blogfest! The Something Wicked Blogfest and Contest. All the details are available today at Wicked & Tricksy.
Monday, June 6, 2011
This is an interesting time for writers. The age of social networking brings us together with a great writing community and makes us available to readers but eats into our writing time tremendously and presents constant temptations for the ego to rise up and stage a coup. If, like me, you've chosen to experiment with self-publishing, there's the thrill of shaping the final product -- the cover, the blurb, the promotional plans. But these too can be time consuming and distracting.
So much of the modern writer's life can too easily feed into the human need to exert control over our circumstances. If I just blog enough, tweet enough, have enough followers, have the right cover, get the right editor or agent...I can will my project to succeed, will myself to get an agent, will my book to become a bestseller. My success won't be outside my control.
Of course, I think intellectually we know the only thing we can control is whether or not we write. We can't even control whether or not our project will turn out well; we can only give it our best shot, keep learning, keep trying, keep writing.
I've been contemplating over the last few months how I can block out the siren song of social networking and the fun distraction of planning covers and blurbs so I can make the writing the central focus, not just barely but by far. To that end I'm going to be cutting down on blogging: Monday for Urban Psychopomp, Wednesday for Wicked & Tricksy, Friday for Unsafe Haven.
If I am quiet, my fellows, I am not gone, just writing. Knock if you need me.
Any other good ideas for battling all the aspects of writer life that eat away at the actual writing?
Friday, June 3, 2011
The term aftermath in writing is usually used in reference to the scene-and-sequel structure. The scene is the rise in action and tension, the event or revelation that demands response. The sequel is the reaction to the events of the scene, the regrouping wherein the character takes his emotional inventory.
Donald Maass mentioned at the last workshop I attended that a strict scene-sequel structure is not really in favor right now. It is and it isn’t. It’s complicated. We certainly can’t have a story with a straight line moving in a smooth diagonal from beginning to climax. There have to be ebbs in tension and action. The problem with following a strict scene-then-sequel rhythm is that it’s predictable and it’s too easy to end up with a neat machine stitch plot that can’t increase in stakes and tension because the sequel scenes keep pulling them back down.
I mean to say that, if high tension/action is a 10 and low a 1, we don’t want a story that comes out 6, 3, 6, 3, 6, 3, 6, 3, 6, 3, 6, 3. We want 5.5, 5, 6, 5, 7, 5.5, 8, 6, 8, 6.5, 8, 7, 9, 7…etc. In other words, a mountain climb rather than a machine stitch.
The kind of aftermath I’m talking about, though, is the final scene in the book. It’s the emotional wrap up for the character and the reader. It’s a ‘taking stock’ scene, and it’s the only time I would actually suggest letting a character well and truly rest, like the cool down from an extremely aggressive workout. It’s a scene for illustrating how the character has changed, not just in the way she reacts during a crisis, but in the person she is day to day.
For these kinds of scenes I like to use images or themes that link the beginning of a story to the end, either with similarity or with contrast. A miserable character in miserable circumstances starts the book in a rainstorm scene and finishes the story as a person more able to face adversity and the coming dawn. An item in the first scene, with particular meanings attached to it, appears again in the last scene. Now the item has deeper meaning.
This is part of the emotional payoff for the reader, intended to provide that ‘full-circle’ sense of coming to fruition.
This doesn’t need to be a full-blown scene. It might be a page or two, maybe a vignette. I’ve seen it done well in a paragraph or two. In fact, keeping it short is my reference as a reader. I don’t want the sense that the story is picking back up again right after I just went through all that with these characters. I want a winding down, a final note, a brief farewell.
I would end by saying again that I don't think people need to follow this structure slavishly. There are infinite variations. I do think it's extremely helpful to have a few story landmarks to guide us, though, to avoid (as Larry Brooks would say) random acts of narration.
Questions, thought, funny Friday anecdotes, my fellows?
A few quick housekeeping notes…
Head over to Wicked & Tricksy today where TL Conway (that’s trixie to you Bransforumers) is talking mentors. Damn cool post.
Over at Unsafe Haven today, I’ve just blogged about realizing I wrote a vampire story.
And finally, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m in dire need of reviews for “Dis”, on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever. Do I need to actually make a page for “Dis” on Goodreads? Probably. I better head over there and look into it. Anyway, sales are good, but there are no reviews to tempt the unwitting. :) Help me tempt in a few more unsuspecting readers, will you?
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
When I say “new strength” I do not mean to suggest that the hero should come to the final battle refreshed, healed, confident. Many times he will come limping and convinced of his own impending defeat, but he comes with the knowledge that he now has something he didn’t have before he faced himself down at the second plot point.
What do we need now for a successful resolution? I believe it was writer Larry Brooks who said it this way: the stakes of the story are paid and the reader’s emotional experience concluded. Notice nothing in there says the hero wins/loses and gets his happy/unhappy ending.
The stakes of the story are paid. This is prime Donald Maass territory. The questions he puts forth in The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and The Fire In Fiction really open up this issue and start poking around in the entrails. (Who else is going to give you that imagery, my fellows?) Has there been a sacrifice to preserve what is at stake? Has it cost the hero enough? Have there been costs for the innocent? Who must be forgiven, and who can forgive?
Can the hero fail to attain his goal? What would that look like? What would be utterly lost? What would be partially lost? What might not be lost but changed? Does the debris of defeat settle to reveal an unforeseen alternate path of resolution?
Foremost among all these considerations is this: is the hero the primary catalyst for the story resolution?
If not…why is he the hero?
All things, even the hero, must come full circle, concluding the emotional experience presented for the reader.
And on a final note, if you guys head over to my Unsafe Haven blog, you'll find a fun post on songs I would choose for my WIP's soundtrack. It's part of the What's the Score Blogfest. Check it out.