Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Empty Sea excerpt

In anticipation of the official release of part 2 of the Into the Realms Series, here is an excerpt from the first chapter of The Empty Sea!

I - A Devil Overhead


          A good night’s sleep would help Daniel far more than sympathy, Eleanor knew.  But sympathy was all she could offer him right now.  He looked like he was dead on his feet as he led them through the maze of broken granite outcroppings.  He seemed to have only a vague sense of his own surroundings, but his link with Virricul meant that he had to be the one to head the group in order for the sword’s watchful eye to alert him of any trouble ahead.  The exhaustion showed on his face and in his every movement, but Eleanor didn’t need to look at him to know that he was suffering.

          It might help if he would stop to rest more often.  She had unsuccessfully asked twice already this morning if they could stop for a break, but he could tell that she herself wasn’t really tired - that she was asking for his sake.  Daniel could sense Eleanor’s thoughts and feelings as well as she could sense his, even if he wasn’t really sure why or how.

          Eleanor understood all too well what had caused their psychic link - the two of them were soulbound.  It was a process of connecting two people on such an intimate and spiritual level that they could feel each other’s feelings and sometimes even read their thoughts.  Soulbinding was a powerful and complicated magic, and only the most formidable wizards were capable of creating such a link between two people.  Yet somehow, Eleanor had managed it without any understanding of magic at all.  Despite having neither the proper magical training nor any inclination towards the magical arts, she had unwittingly initiated the binding between her and Daniel out of sheer instinct. 

          They had been soulbound for a year and a half now, ever since just before they passed through Venture Gate into the Fifth Realm.  Eleanor had used her link with Daniel to help rescue him from the dangerous forests of Ghost Valley.  Afterwards Provost Alva, the head of the Academy of Magic, told her the truth of the inherent power she somehow had inside of her.  In all the time that has passed since then, she had never managed to bring herself to tell Daniel about how she had soulbound them without his consent.  Nor had she found the courage to tell him about the promise she had made to Alva to return to the Academy of Magic to accept training to become a wizard.

          Passing through the magical gates that connected the realms was a one-way journey.  A person could only move forwards through the sequentially numbered realms, unable to cross backwards through the gates until they reached the Eleventh Realm.  Entering the land called Skyrealm granted a human traveler the ability to freely pass through all of the gates, backwards and forwards.  Eleanor had promised Alva that, once they reached Skyrealm and completed her ‘forward-quest‘, she would immediately turn back and return to the Academy. 

          Alva had even assigned Oka, their friend and an aspiring wizard himself, to ensure that she kept her word.  Oka’s very presence on their journey was based on the two conditions he was given in order for him to be allowed admission into the Academy of Magic.  Along with ensuring Eleanor‘s return, Oka had to learn how to read. 

          Unlike Eleanor who was a fellow Realmsborn, Oka was not bestowed with the gift of Realmspeak at birth.  Realmspeak was the oral and written language used by all humans in The Realms, including the humans who came from the Otherworld, like Daniel.  Newcomers all enter The Realms at the same point in the First Realm, and every human who is ever in the First Realm is granted the same realm gift.  They can speak, hear, read and write the language of Realmspeak.  Even for newcomers who arrive there from the Otherworld, a place of many different languages.  For them and realmsborn alike, Realmspeak instantly becomes as instinctual as if it were their native tongue. 

          Even those who were born in Cherry Landing, such as Eleanor, are born with this gift.  She was able to read and write Realmspeak for as long as she could remember.  But humans born in other realms were not granted this gift.  Oka, who was born in the Third Realm, learned to talk in Realmspeak as he grew up, but could not know how to read it unless he was instructed.  Illiteracy was not much of an issue in the simple town of Commonstock, where Oka grew up.  But when he applied for entrance into the Academy of Magic he was refused, despite his tremendous aptitude in the magical arts.

          In their time wandering through the Fifth Realm, Eleanor and the others had been attempting to instruct Oka on how to read Realmspeak.  He made decent progress at first, but as the months went by he began to grow frustrated and resentful towards his companions, all of whom had gained their literacy by means of passing through the First Realm.  Oka spurned their attempts to tutor him, and for the past year wandering The Labyrinth, his studies had slackened.  Nevertheless, he has held fast in his determination to deliver Eleanor back to the Academy, whether she intended to return willingly or not.

          Fortunately, the Eleventh Realm was still very far away, and Eleanor had plenty of time to decide what she was going to do.  If Daniel was still searching on his knowledge-quest by then, she wasn’t sure if she could bear to leave him.  But she couldn’t ask him to go with her back to the Fourth Realm - to forgo his mission to find out why he was brought to The Realms.  If Daniel knew about the promise, or about Oka’s role in bringing her back to Ghost Valley once they reached Skyrealm, he might make a rash decision as she knew he was capable of doing from time to time.  Eleanor knew that she had put off telling Daniel about her promise for much too long.  She just needed a little more time to decide what to say to him.

          Today however, there was little conversation during their travel.  Oka was in one of his dark moods, and had not said more than a few words to anyone all day long.  Albert had been making less-than-helpful suggestions such as burning their way through the foliage and suggesting that they vote for a new leader besides Daniel.  At first, Eleanor had tried to explain why Daniel needed to be in charge, but it was clear that their newest companion was not interested in listening.

          Even Immy was not her usual talkative self.  She and Oka had had yet another argument during breakfast, and it ended when she angrily threw the remnants of her brown stock stew at the irritable initiate.  Daniel and Albert had to separate them, as it nearly came to blows.  As the day wore on, tempers had cooled, but so had the atmosphere within the party of travelers.

          Spirits were very low.  The morale of the group had suffered a steady decline over the past several months, as their time in the Fifth Realm dragged on seemingly without end.  Back in May, they ‘celebrated’ their first anniversary of entering The Labyrinth, and here it was now in October, with no escape in sight.

          The only way for them to leave the Fifth Realm was to find Jester Gate.  Unfortunately, Jester Gate looks exactly like Venture Gate, which they have stumbled onto on three separate occasions.  Venture Gate was the portal which brought them here from the Fourth Realm, and which for now, was unable to carry them back.  The only thing that could deliver them from The Labyrinth into the Sixth Realm was Jester’s Gate, and its elusiveness was trying even Eleanor’s patience.  Just a few days ago, Eleanor had marked her 17th birthday - the second birthday she had spent here in the Fifth Realm.  That night, Daniel had solemnly sworn to her that she would not have to celebrate her next birthday in this gloomy land.

          It had been drizzly on Eleanor’s birthday.  There were thick clouds and a misty haze on and off for the past week.  Autumn was quickly forming in The Labyrinth, and if it was anything like the previous year’s, the adventurers were in store for another damp, dreary fall, followed closely by a brutally cold winter.  All the more motivation to find their way out of here.

          Finally, sometime after the sun set behind the thick layer of clouds, Daniel called the day’s traveling to a halt.  Sighs of relief came from everyone in the party, including Eleanor, who felt her pack burdening her shoulder like a great lead weight.  As Oka knelt down and focused himself to create a magical campfire, Eleanor began sifting through her pack, searching for the ingredients for their modest supper.


          Daniel was utterly exhausted.  It had been a miserable day, and they had not made very good time.  It didn’t matter much, he supposed, since they couldn’t be sure that they were even traveling in the right direction.  The area did not look familiar to him, however, and that was a good sign that they were on the right path.  They had been on the wrong path now for far too long.

          He had hoped that his exhaustion during the course of the day would help him sleep better tonight, but now that they were making camp, Daniel bitterly noted a feeling of restlessness already creeping into his body.  He was hungry, but he knew that supper would do little to diminish his appetite.  With their traveling rations run out long ago, the party had been forced to subsist on whatever they could find.  Daniel’s intuitive knowledge of realm botany helped spot edible plant life, and Virricul’s eagle-eye would spot for them the occasional small warren hare for a bit of meat.  But given the sparse pickings here in The Labyrinth, they were forced to conserve their food and water supplies as much as possible.  Breakfast was usually adequate to give them the strength for a day’s travel, but supper was almost always very light on the protein, and sometimes had to be skipped altogether.  Fortunately, a fresh supply of tasteless but edible brown stocks unearthed yesterday had replenished much of their food reserves and so they could afford a few gulps of Eleanor’s stew before bedtime tonight. 

          Eleanor was preparing the stew in a small tin pan which they had had since she and Daniel left Cherry Landing.  Daniel saw that she had fatigue in her eyes, but she labored intently on adding some flavor to the fibrous stalks boiling in a bit of water over Oka’s magic fire.  She carried a few herbs they had unearthed, along with a set of bottled spices which they had found on the badly mutilated body of a vole shark’s victim no more than a few weeks ago. 

          The new spices had rekindled the party’s interest in meal times, and everyone seemed to have a favorite.  There was a red-colored spice which had a somewhat sour taste which Albert preferred.  The green spice was extremely bitter, and only Oka seemed to like it.  Alas, it was the most abundant, and so was almost always included in the stew.  Daniel and Immy both enjoyed the tangy flavor of the gold-colored spice while Eleanor’s personal favorite was the sweet brown spice.  Eleanor was determined to experiment with the various spices along her supply of herbs in order to find a combination which everyone enjoyed.  It was proving to be a formidable culinary challenge for her.

          As Eleanor worked on her latest recipe, Albert gazed out into the misty hills that lay ahead of them, groaning in frustration.

          “Those mountains are going to be brutal to cross tomorrow.”  He complained to Daniel.  “I told you we should have taken that pass I saw earlier.  We could be on the other side of them by now.”

          “There was a nest of cloppers in that pass.”  Daniel answered wearily.  He had no desire to debate Albert’s not-so-subtle challenge to his leadership during their travels.  They had tried following Albert’s suggestions about which way to go for a time, but quickly found that his sense of direction was almost comically inept.  He seemed to have an incredible knack for guiding them in circles, and often not very wide circles, either.

          Albert shrugged off Daniel’s reply and quickly shifted topics.  “Why are you still reading that thing, anyway?”

          Daniel had just pulled Master Circle’s journal from his bag and opened it up at the place he had marked.  He was reading though the borrowed journal for the fifth time now, but still couldn’t make much sense of what Master Circle’s thought process was while he had written it so long ago.

          At the time he had scribbled his thoughts into the thick book, Harry Baum wasn’t one of the legendary Masters of The Realms yet.  Back then, he was just a young newcomer who, like Daniel, was obsessed with discovering the secret of why humans were in The Realms.  The morbid conclusion that young Harry had reached was that some force or entity was bringing humans into The Realms in order to facilitate the world’s eventual destruction.  Being proclaimed a Master made him effectively a genius by universal consensus, so it was difficult to argue semantics with him.  It was something akin to Daniel debating physics with Albert Einstein. 

          Master Circle had claimed that his theory was the natural conclusion of his life’s work in investigating the matter, and he gave Daniel his old journal which contained all of his notes and challenged the young doubter to go out and disprove him. 

          Daniel tried to ignore Albert’s casual prying, but was quickly irritated to find him poking his inquiring fingers into Daniel’s bag.

          “Knock it off.”  Daniel growled at him.

          Albert looked up at him with an innocent smile.  “Sorry, I was just curious.  When are you going to tell me what’s in the jar?”

          “Nothing worth your interest.”  Daniel insisted.

          Daniel glanced down at the mason jar in his bag.  It contained the only evidence he had to go on in order to possibly disprove Master Circle’s destruction theory.  Inside was a small growth of illuminati moss, a luminescent fungus which only grows in the Seventh Realm, and yet Daniel had found some in the Fourth Realm.  Unlike other plants and animals from The Realms, the moss had survived passing through Venture Gate, and Daniel hoped that he could somehow use it to prove that humans were not meant to destroy The Realms.

          Albert smiled and shook his head.  “You’re always so secretive.  I didn’t mean anything by it.  I was just-”

          He stopped suddenly and looked skyward with an alarmed expression.  Daniel looked up at him with concern. 

          “What is it?”

          “Did you hear that?”  Albert asked, still looking up into the darkened layer of clouds.

          Daniel paused for a moment to listen, but aside from the occasional gust of wind, could hear nothing unusual.  “What did you hear?”

          Albert’s normally jovial voice grew low and tense.  “It almost sounds like … something’s flying up there.  Something big.”

          Daniel and the others listening all cast their gazes into the twilight.  The layer of clouds was low and very thick.  If there was something flying above them, it could easily be concealed from their view.

          “Virricul?”  Daniel muttered.

          Albert looked back at Daniel.  “A what?  Oh, you mean your talking sword.”

          There’s nothing up there but some soupy clouds.  Virricul told Daniel, with a tone of annoyance in his voice.

          “Virricul says there’s nothing up there.”  Daniel repeated.

          “To hell with your magical buddy.”  Albert said.  “I know I heard something up there.  It was a thumping sound, like the flapping of wings.  What makes you think your sword can hear it better?”

          “Virricul’s not my sword.”  Daniel answered coolly.  “And he can detect any living animal bigger than a rat within about a hundred yards of us.”

          “How far is that?”  Albert asked quizzically.

          “About 90 meters.”  Immy answered, still gazing skyward.  “Could there be something higher up that’s out of Virricul’s range?”

          “It’s possible.”  Daniel admitted.  “But it’d have to be pretty enormous if Albert can hear it from that far up.”

          “A firehawk?”  Immy asked hopefully.  Daniel shook his head silently. 

          “A dragon?”  Eleanor suggested with a breathless fear.  She, Daniel, Oka and Immy had stumbled on a dragon while trying to repair a dam in the mountains of the Third Realm.

          If there’s a dragon up there, it’s too high up to even know we’re down here.  Virricul said inside Daniel’s head.  Somehow, Daniel found little comfort in that.  It was only through an incredible stroke of inspiration and dumb luck that they had managed to kill the dragon back in the Thundering Plains.  Out here in the open wilderness, the five of them were sitting ducks to a creature that powerful.

          Suddenly, there was a distant, but utterly terrifying sound far in the horizon.  It sounded at first like thunder, but it reverberated with an oscillating roar that could only be made by an incredibly large creature.  Fortunately, the sound seemed to come from very far to the northeast, probably many miles away.  Still, the distance of the unearthly, moaning roar did not prevent all five of the campers from looking off into the horizon in utter horror.  Eleanor muffled a quiet whimper, and Daniel couldn’t help but shudder at the eerie wail.

          “Told you so.”  Albert whispered, his fear blunting his smugness.

          “Maybe it was something else.”  Eleanor offered.  “It sounds so far away.”

          “You know it was just over our heads a minute ago.”  Albert insisted, still keeping his voice to a loud whisper.

          Daniel sighed quietly.  “Even if it was, it’s miles away now.  And whatever it is, I think we can be sure that it didn’t see us.”

          “How can we be sure?”  Albert demanded.

          Oka spoke up for the first time.  “Because if it had seen us, we’d all be dead now.”

          Daniel looked down at the sword hilt which he clung to tensely.  “Virricul, was that a dragon?”

          I’m not sure.  Virricul answered after an unsettling pause.  I don’t think so.  I’ve never heard a dragon sound like that.

          “Who do you suppose he meant?”  Immy asked with breathless wonder.  Everyone looked to her with confusion. 

          “What do you mean?”  Daniel asked her.

          Immy looked about her companions with surprise.  “Didn’t you hear him?  He said ‘She‘s dead, she‘s dead!’”

          Daniel looked at her, stunned.  “It was just a roar, Immy.”

          She shook her head determinedly.  “No, I heard a voice.  You didn’t hear it too?”

          The others looked to each other, shaking their heads.  Immy looked at them with bewilderment.

          “Are you saying I’m the only one that heard that horrible voice?”

          Eleanor looked at her worriedly.  “All I heard was the dragon’s roar.”

          “Virricul says he doesn’t think it was a dragon.”  Daniel told them.

          “How the hell would it know?”  Albert demanded.

          “Because Virricul’s encountered dozens of dragons in his eons of life.”  Daniel snapped angrily.  “Nobody knows better what a dragon sounds like than him.”

          I can’t say definitely that it’s not a dragon.  Virricul corrected him, without any hint of gratitude for Daniel’s defense of him.  All I can say is that I’ve never heard a dragon roar like that before.

          “Well, if it wasn’t a dragon, then what was it?”  Eleanor asked.

          “And why do I hear it as a voice?”  Immy added.

          Oka frowned and lowered his head.  “Perhaps it was a devil.”

          Daniel glanced over at him.  “What, you mean like some sort of demon?”

          “There’s no such thing as a demon.”  Oka dismissed him.

          Daniel shook his head in bemusement.  “Yeah, well, a couple of years ago, I’d have told you that there’s no such thing as dragons, or magic, or knobwalkers, either.”

          “It’s a new normal.”  Albert agreed.

          “I’m talking about a devil.”  Oka snapped irritably.  “It’s an entity of living magic that they say can enslave the mind of its victim.  It will speak to them and command them to do things, and haunt them until they go insane.”

          Immy’s eyes bulged in disbelief.  “Are you saying that the devil was telling me that I’m dead?”

          “If there’s a creature trying to possess Immy, then how is it that we would hear it as a loud, distant roar?”  Daniel asked dubiously.

          “I don’t know.”  Oka admitted, glancing warily at Immy.  “Maybe it’s something else.”

          The momentary glimpse of fear in Immy’s face quickly turned to her usual smirk as she responded with a sarcastic jab.  “Yeah, maybe it’s the Tooth Fairy looking for revenge on all of us.  Do you really think that you can scare me with your ghost stories, Oklahoma?”

          Oka’s eyes flared as Daniel spoke up.  “There’s no sense in making idle speculations at this point.  Whatever it was, it seems to have gone, so let’s just keep extra alert for now.  All right?”

          Eleanor nodded loyally, and Immy chuckled to herself as she sat back down to warm her hands near the campfire.  Oka watched her thoughtfully for a moment before returning to his own spot by the fire.  Albert continued to look apprehensively out towards the northeastern horizon, and Daniel couldn’t help but gaze out that way as well.

          “I think we should take turns keeping lookout tonight.”  Albert suggested to him quietly.

          Daniel shook his head.  “No, everyone needs to rest.  Besides, Virricul can keep lookout better than any of us.  In all this time in The Labyrinth, nothing’s ever snuck up on us while we slept.”

          Albert glanced disapprovingly at him.  “Well, this thing out there isn’t some clopper or vole shark.  If your little talking sword didn’t see that thing while it was flying over our heads, what makes you think it can see it when it’s swooping down on us while we’re asleep?”

          Daniel frowned.  “Like Oka said, whatever it is, if it decides it wants us dead out here, there’s not much we can do to prevent it anyway.”

          Glancing over at the bright flicker of the campfire, he added quietly.  “Even so, it’d probably be a good idea if we doused the fire after supper tonight.”

Saturday, May 4, 2013


The new e-book editions of The Other Side of the Gate and The Empty Sea will be officially released this Monday, May 6th!  Both novels of the Into the Realms Series will be available for download on iBookstore, Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook!

Outstanding work by Gerren Rabideau on the new covers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Blank Page

I officially started up writing my next novel in the Into the Realms Series last night.  Book Three will be called Pyurik’s Pursuit, by the way, and will hopefully be the best one yet (though naturally, I think the first two are very, very good as well!).  Each of these rather hefty novels have taken me somewhere around two years apiece to write, and I expect that PP will be no different.  They’re long novels, but not particularly overlong when compared to other books in the fantasy genre, I should think.  They’re all elaborate, complicated stories with dozens of characters and places to explore, with intertwining plotlines to manage, and tying it all together to make it comprehensible, let alone eloquent, is quite a daunting challenge.  But it is a challenge which I relish, and if I can one day complete the entirety of my envisioned five-book quintilogy of the series, I will consider it a major achievement of my life’s work completed (at this point, two-fifths completed). 

          So it’s on to Book Three now, and once again, I’m faced with that old familiar nemesis, the same foe every single writer has faced whenever he or she takes on a new project – the blank page.  Presumably, it should be easier when it’s a continuation in a series of books, as you should just be able to keep the story going.  Unfortunately, in many ways, series books are even harder to start.  You have to begin writing with an expectation that the reader, if not necessarily is picking up the middle book of a series to read first, is at least picking up a book in a series that he or she hasn’t read for quite a while.  A re-introduction of characters and events is definitely called for.

          But starting with a blank slate is so hard, because there’s so much to accomplish right off the bat, you hardly know how to begin.  For a novel that will ultimately be a quarter of a million words long and some 600+ pages, invariably, it’s that first page that’s the hardest to write.  Some authors prefer to start writing further in to the story to begin with, to kind of get the feel of writing the story before going back to do the beginning, but I’m generally a strict linear writer, so it’s not something I’m comfortable doing.  Time is linear, and events are always crafted by what’s come before, so my feeling is that for my stories to happen organically, my writing has to do the same. So I start with the blank page and go from there.

          Even on a slow writing night, I can usually scrape up a thousand words or so, making slow but steady progress on the job.  More often though, I’ll get close to 2,000 words or even 3,000 or more on a really productive writing session.  Last night, in Pyurik’s Pursuit’s inaugural writing night, I managed to pound out a scant 220 words.  Just two opening paragraphs which are dwarfed by this little blog post I’ve written here right now, and an opening to the book which will be chopped and carved up later on as I reread it again and again.  But the page is no longer blank, and hopefully, my next writing session will make more headway skinning that cat, and it’ll get easier and easier each time until I start to cruise into it, until two years from now, I’ll finally be finished – and then it’s on to Book Four.

          Whatever it takes to get started.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Now I mouth off on fantasy novel tropes again

This blog post is a bit of a departure from my most recent postings, most of which have been not-so-shameless attempts to promote my own work that's come out (and is yet to come out) over the past year or so.  This time, I wanted to write a little bit about some of the more common story writting patterns I've seen in reading various books in the fantasy genre over the past few years.  As both a fan of fantasy novels, and a (sometimes) writer of books of the same ilk, this is not about me trashing the whole field or even any book or series in particular.  It's simply me venting my thoughts on some of the concepts or, dare-I-say, cliches that keep popping up in some of the fantasy novels I've read. 

I've written before about some of the more common writing tropes that bother me when I read them, particularly in fantasy novels.  I'll briefly reiterate my frustration with three of the most troublesome, yet commonly-found concepts.  First and foremost, the ubiquitous fantasy plot point, 'The Prophecy'.  Where we learn, usually very early in the story, that one or more of the characters are destined to do some great and/or important thing.  And sure enough, at the end of the story, they wind up doing the very thing they were prophecised to do.  Beyond being almost ridiculously common in fantasy novels, I am oftentimes frustrated at how these seem so often to be in-narrative spoilers built right into the book.  More importantly, it effectively takes the onus off of the characters to actually strive and endeavor to accomplish the things they were fated to do, as well as the impact of the event when it happens, since we've known all along that it was foreordained.

The other two I wanted to mention from the earlier post, are related to one another.  One was the constant inclusion in fantasy stories of the 'Chaotic-Evil Race', a.k.a. orcs, goblins, trollocs, wolfins, gremlins, dark-men, or whatever the fantasy story's standard-issue horde of bipedal baddies are called in their own particular idiom.  They could be small and spindly or huge and hulking.  They'll have varying degrees of intelligence, spanning from primitive and frenzied, to deviously cunning.  Some will even have elaborate languages, weapons and armor, and even social structures.  But one thing they all have in common is that they are all vicious killers of the innocent, and they are all irrideemably evil.  They can't be civilized, reasoned with, or trusted, and whatever this world happens to be called, said world would be better off without them.  The whole point of having the chaotic-evil race of man-creatures is so that the good guys have someone to fight - and kill - in the dozens or even the hundreds or thousands, without any pesky feelings of remorse or doubt that they might have if their combatants were barbaric, misguided, or coerced human warriors.  Human foes, even particularly nasty ones, still have this link to our common humanity; they were children once, many may well have families of their own waiting for them in some far-off land.  Often, the chaotic-evil races will not only not have women and children to feel sorry for, sometimes it's pointed out that they were never even children themselves - they might have been 'born' as a fully-formed adult killing machine with no childhood pathos or familial connections to suggest any sadness at their bloody demise. But since it's inhuman monsters our heroes are slaughtering by the scores, it makes it much easier to know who's the good guys and who's the bad guys.  Speaking of which ...

'Good vs. Evil' is a trope that is hardly limited to the fantasy genre, but there are few genres in all the realms of fiction which are more saturated with the concept of there being two clear, divergent, and morally distinct sides to any point of story conflict.  There's always an evil arch-villain, bent on destroying/ruling the world, and the outnumbered, outgunned, outmatched group of scrappy, often scruffy, but ultimately good heroes who are tasked with stopping them.  I haven't mentioned any specific fantasy franchises in regards to any of these tropes yet, but I want to single out one here, specificly for skillfully subverting this particular trope:  The Song of Ice and Fire Series (known to most people specifically by the name of its first book: 'Game of Thrones').  In this series, there are very few people who are what one could call out-and-out evil.  Even the most irredeemable, assholic antagonists in the story have something to say for their defense, if not some positive, redeeming qualities of their own.  Conversely, all of the innumerable 'protagonists' of the series sport their own character flaws, wherin one can't really define them unequivically as 'good'.  Indeed, I think most fans of the series can find themselves relating in some small way to Stark and Lannister alike.  Turns out, showing characters in shades of gray doesn't diminish the readability of a fantasy series after all. 

Among the other tropes I wanted to mention was the 'Chip-in-the-Water Hero' scenario.  This is something of an offshoot of the classic 'Hero's Journey' trope, wherein a young person is swept up in events and taken from an ordinary life into a story of danger, desperation, adventure, glory and all that good story stuff.  In and of its own, the hero's journey is a perfectly good (if a tad worn) trope to start off an epic adventure story.  But here's where it is in danger of digressing into a chip-in-the-water hero story:  when the young, wet-behind-the-ears would-be hero, spends the entire course of the adventure, getting swept up in events without actually influencing them.  Often, this happens when the 'Old Mentor' (who will invariably die at some point in the story), or the 'Motley Crew of Do-Gooders' team do most of the heavy lifting, adventure-wise, while the story's 'hero' spends most of his (or her) time as simply a slack-jawed, pie-eyed witness to events as they unfold.  Granted, at some point, they're supposed to be crucial to the course of events in the story (particularly if The Prophecy said so!), but if it's just some big moment at the very end, particularly if the 'big moment' could have happened with any other particular character in the hero's place, then was it really that much of a hero's journey?

Sometimes though, in that big moment, the hero (or 'Chosen One', as they might be called) might be face-to-face with the big bad guy at the climax of the story, and defeat them with some hidden, deep-down special power inside him (or her, but whatever) that he didn't know existed until that very moment, and used that power to overwhelm the shocked, disbelieving supervillain to win the day.  This is a prime example of the 'Magic Our Way Out of This!' trope, where a seemingly insurmountable problem is overcome by convenient magical, supernatural, or otherwise fantastical means, with minimal explaination or even previous mention of the existence of such means.  The non-fantasy, contemporary (or sci-fi) adventure equivalent to this would be something akin to the hero defeating the villain at the end of the story because he shot them.  It's probably for the best that the bad guy's dead, but really, it was the wonderful handgun that saved the day.  You just pulled the trigger - something almost anybody could've done in your place.  The hero should be the hero because he (or she ... whatever!) did what nobody else in the story could've done in his place. 

There are a few other time-honored fantasy tropes that annoy me as well, like 'Proper Noun Mad Libs', 'Real World Equivalency', and the 'Plot Development Treadmill', but I think those pretty much speak for themselves.  I also get irked when novels go on and on, poetically describing a summer glade, and then only use character dialogue for clunky exposition, but that's just this grumpy old man grousing to hear himself speak, I think.

To be sure, these thoughts about the preceding subjects are entirely of my own opinion, and I hope I haven't offended anyone who disagrees with my take on them.  But, heck, if it motivates you to post a comment with your own thoughts on the subject (0 comments yet recieved in 3 1/2 years of doing this blog!), then it was at least worth it to spark a discussion on the matter.  We all have different opinions, and just because these things stick in my literary craw, doesn't mean it has to be that way for everybody.  Maybe some positive, constructive discussion would make me see things differently?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring is about to be sprunged ...

... I don't know, I don't adhere to Daylight Savings Time, so I don't know the expression.  Close enough, right?

The point being, that big things are coming up in the next few months for me and fans of my various stuff!  My extensive editing work for the 2nd edition of The Other Side of the Gate, and The Empty Sea, is reaching its long-awaited conclusion, and both books of the epic fantasy/adventure series, henceforth to be known as Into the Realms, will be released as e-books to the general public very soon.

In the meantime, feedback from last year's two e-book releases, Famous Adventurers Correspondence School, and the novella Gambit of Chance, based on the Squishy Studios web series Voyage Trekkers, have been very positive so far.  If you haven't read them yet, I hope you'll download them to your tablet or computer and check them out.  The Voyage Trekkers novella is available for free in most places (Amazon Kindle has them for a nominal $0.99), and FACS is a very affordable $4.99.  If you HAVE read them, let me know what your think!

Coming up in May is the big roll-out of the long-awaited 2nd Season of Voyage Trekkers as well, and the early reviews are very enthusiastic!  The web series premire will be on Wednesday, May 1st, and honestly, it blows all of Season One away!  Capt. Sunstrike, Cdr. Powell and Dr. Rena return of course, and we'll get to see their ship, the GSV Remarkable for the very first time.  We'll also be introduced to the scrappy little ship's patchwork crew, including their out-dated ship's robod, INFO (played by yours truly). 

There will be lots more Voyage Trekkers-related stuff transpiring in the coming weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!  We're also going back to the Phoenix ComiCon this year in late May, and I'm optimistic that TOSotG and TES will be out on e-books by that time as well.

Ha ha!  Done with shameless product promotion blog posting update!  This weekend, I'm going to do a REAL post about fantasy novel writing (and reading) that's been on my mind for awhile, so stay tuned ...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FACS Now Out on iBooks!

It's been a long time waiting, but my 3rd novel, Famous Adventurers Corresponcence School is now available for download as an e-book on the iBookstore!  You can now get FACS to read on your iPad, iPhone, or other compatable device!

I wrote the bulk of the novel during my first participation of National Novel Writing Month back in 2009, and I finished it up over a year ago.  Now, I've finally gotten it published as an e-book, and I'm very thrilled to add it to my growing list of novels. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Show or Tell

There's a little trope in storytelling known as 'informed attributes'.  It's when the story explains to the reader/viewer/listener subjective definitions of a character in the story instead of demonstrating such definitions through the storytelling.  In short, it's when the story (or a character in the story) says that the princess is arrogant or that the vagabond is hilarious, rather than showing those characters to be so through their own words and actions.

Informed attributes are almost always to be avoided by writers, and yet sometimes they are incredibly hard to resist.  The standard rule of thumb when crafting a narrative is "Show, don't tell", but it can be so much easier for the writer to just mention to the reader that the the little orphan girl is clever, rather than trying to contrive a scene to demonstrate her cleverness and hope that the reader catches the insight on their own. 

For secondary and background characters, it is sometimes unavoidable to resort to informed attributes.  In some cases, it can be necessary to simply tell the reader information about the character, and when this information is not subjective, (i.e. that they are tall, or strong, or have a booming voice), it is perfectly reasonable to add such things to a narrative description of the character in order to help the reader paint a mental portrait of them.  Even the subjective descriptions of a character are acceptable, so long as such descriptions of them are coming from another character in the story, so that it's their own opinion of that character which they are voicing, and not the iron-clad truth that it would be if it was the Narrative Voice of Absolute Fact proclaiming that the scientist was as brilliant as Einstein.

Showing or telling of a character's attributes is just another narrative land mine to be navigated as a writer stumbles his or her way through their story.  It can seem so much quicker and easier just to mention what a character is like to the reader, rather than taking time and energy away to contrive a situation where that character is shown to be how you created them.  Still, such clunky little diversions in the tale can sometimes grow into gems of their own, and you never know what you might learn about all of the characters involved, and of the writer's own perceptions of them.