Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Into my process, March 2017

Here comes a bunch of drivel about writing. Consider yourself warned.

~~~

This little story of mine, known up until this point as Turesia but subject to change, is more complex than any story I've told. There are several indicators of this. One is that I'm at about three and a half years in and just now at the halfway point of the final draft. Then again, that could easily be evidence of life distractions, a lack of discipline, or any number of things. 

Today I'm writing about the most obvious indicator, to me, that this has become complicated.

The scene I wrote last week takes place in Fohrvylda, one of the islands in Turesia. Herein, we're being formally introduced to the five individuals that make up Vretos' court - the ones who hold the power in Fohrvylda. We're also learning a little more about the political hierarchy and setting of this nation. 

The following has already been established, although we've never met these guys -

Vretos is the ruler of Fohrvylda and he appears to be superhuman in that he doesn't notice taking an arrow to the shoulder, he can withstand a 60' fall onto packed earth, and he can wrestle a Uergata to the ground.
Beastmaster Grimmet tames orcanes and other beasts of burden and battle. He goes on excursions to find monsters to fight in Keswal. He's just presented one of the most spectacular fights Keswal has ever seen by pitting five Uergatas against fifty pirates.
General Garr has a big golden mustache.
Marshal Zandar is in command of all domestic forces, including archers in Keswal. Also, his vest is too tight.
Lanista Udiari owns a couple dozen convicts who fight in Keswal, including our heroes - Torvald and Irdessa, and that dirty scumbag Kraus.

SCENE FOUR

Characters
(in order of appearance)
Beastmaster Grimmet (POV)
Lanista Udiari
Marshal Zandar
Vretos
General Garr

Setting
Vretos' lodge, in the highest stronghold in Promontory, Fohrvylda

To be established
Motive for all present characters, and a particular inciting decision

So here's my prep work for scene four -
First I needed to get a picture of the scene. Did a little image shopping on Google.
from traveleering.com
inspiration for Promontory, Forhrylda. Except the cliff should be vertical and several hundred feet high
from magicfilledtheair.files.wordpress.com
inspiration for Promontory, Fohrvylda. Also, there are more lumber-built buildings

from lonelyplanet.com
inspiration for Vretos' lodge
from pinimg.com
inspiration for Vretos' lodge
(if you ever want to see my collection of inspiring web-based imagery that I usually forget about, check out my Pinterest

Obviously, none of the above images hits the nail on the head, as far as my vision for these locations, but they do give me ideas of what sights, sounds, and smells our characters will be experiencing. I had to fill in some blanks with (very rough) sketches. I do this pretty often.
Faithless Sea on the left, cliffs rising to Promontory (second attempt felt better)
Bottom right is rough idea of Vretos' table, except it's larger than that and there's no fire in the middle
Next I have to determine whose point of view to use. I actually wrote a lot of the scene from Lanista Udiari's POV, then scrapped it. He's more rational than Grimmet, and sort of came off as a stick in the mud in this scene. Besides, he has a POV scene coming soon enough. I wasn't going with General Garr because the scene isn't very dynamic for him. Same with Marshal Zandar, even though he's a cornered and kicked dog in this scene. Grimmet was fun to write. He's something of an overgrown child (so I can identify) and he's petty and snotty and obnoxious and jealous. No fun to be around, mucho fun to write.

I need to establish everyone's mindset during the scene. That's usually in the form of an Excel document.

Finally, I have a ton of notes compiled in a Word document, with quotes and descriptions and prose that are all necessary for the scene. Not going to attempt to display that here. Currently it's 35k words and a complete mess. I delete it in pieces as I apply it to the story. 

[[I have to give a shout out to a video I referenced. It is a 20 minute intro to the nuts and bolts of dictatorships, especially cruel ones, that I believe would help EVERY fiction author \ world-builder. It's called Rules for Rulers and it flavored some aspects of Fohrvylda's government.]]



~

At last, as of late last Thursday, the scene is written, and it's in the hands of my faithful alpha reader, Ben, the other half of my writing group. The current word count for it is 4,900. This Friday, at our local Mexican restaurant, he'll tell me what worked and (inevitably) what did not. 

I'm pretty damn thrilled about the scene. It involves heftier world-building than most scenes, but I have made every effort to temper that grind with some humor and suspense. I chuckle, because this might be the sort of scene a younger me would glaze over, picking out the important bits. But it's a scene that the more analytical me would, and does, marvel over. 

Anyway, that's a glimpse into what I mean when I say, "I'm working on Turesia now." And, if there was any question, I love it. Love every aspect of it. Wish this paid the bills. Soon enough.

We're all partial to our own stories but in this moment, and for the past eight months, I'm convinced that I'm writing one of the best fantasy stories I've ever read. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Research Record - Jan 1, 2017

Because I haven't written one in a while!

Just going to record a couple of seemingly unlikely destinations my research has taken me. I'm not suggesting you'll find this entertaining... More likely, 'hmm. That's interesting' at best.

Story in Progress:

Turesia

Wikipedia pages of note:

Sailboat
Because I'm depressingly ignorant on the subject yet my story requires some knowledge.

Akhlut
This monster inspired the Orcanes of Turesia.

Pangur Ban
The movie Secret of Kells made me curious.

Sphaerotheriida
I wish there was a cooler name for pill bugs / rollypollies than pill bugs / rollypollies. The great beast is a variation of the sphaerotheriida.

Gigantopithecus
The latest Jungle Book movie made me curious. (They're real! Just not house-sized, as depicted in the film.)


Google searches of note:

How did brachiosaurus support its own weight?
Under Earth's current atmospheric / gravitational conditions, it couldn't have.

Chicxulub crater
The above search opened a can of worms (as these things do).
Chicxulub crater was formed 66 millions years ago by an asteroid or comet some six miles wide. It's believed to be ground zero for the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (wherein 75% of life on Earth became extinct, including dinosaurs.)

Hiraeth
I love this word. I want to use it as a character's name and entire backstory.

Boat etymology
I was naming a town.

Sacrifice etymology
Still naming a town.

Define bleachers
Not a lot of words for this, ya know? Especially of the historic variety.

Do tigers climb trees?
Yes. They swim, too.

Pig iron
Not actually made of pigs.

To make a sword from the blood of your enemies
Spoiler: by the time you have enough blood of your enemies to make a sword, you probably won't have many enemies left to swing your new sword at.

Entropomancer
I'm kind of infatuated with the concept of entropy. If you buy into heat death as a feasible ultimate fate of the universe, you'll know a) there's not a greater threat to existence than entropy and b) its incline is inevitable. A mancer whose field is entropy is, in a word, cynical.

Define Cortege
Among other things, this is an amazing song by Apocalyptica. I want to name a character this as well, based on that song.

Stridulation
This is how crickets make music. Some people say you can determine barometric specifics and thereby predict weather based on the pitch of crickets' stridulation. What people, you ask? Consonant monks of Ausgan.




Thursday, December 22, 2016

A new found respect for slow-ass authors.

Patrick Rothfuss
Fantasy Author
George RR Martin
Fantasy Author
David T List
Food Eater

I get emailed weekly from Goodreads updating me on new blog posts. I've considered sharing my thoughts on this before but hadn't. I guess today the planets are aligned. 

George RR Martin VS Brandon Sanderson!

Maybe you think you know where I'm going with this. Hear me out anyway because I might surprise you.

2011 was the year George published A Dance with Dragons, the latest novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Since then George has written a couple of novellas. The last thing he published is a collection of three previously published novellas in 2015.

When A Dance with Dragons was published, Sanderson had just released The Way of Kings, first of the Stormlight Archive. Since then he wrote and released the second entry in the series, Words of Radiance, in 2014. He recently finished book three and expects it to release in 2017. Aside from that he's written some 5-6 other novels and novellas.

Oh, I see. "HEADLINE: The author who writes SIX blog entries a week turns out no new content but the one who writes only TWO is super efficient."

No, that's not where I'm going with it. Although perhaps there's truth to be found in there...

You're about to bitch about George RR Martin's writing speed and how he blogs more than he writes.

I'm not. There was a point when I would have. When I see the above illustration, my gut response used to be - George, stop talking about everything except what people want to hear! Stop blogging so much and write the next novel. Look at Sanderson. Get his work ethic!

But the hard truth is, everything else aside,

I prefer to read George RR Martin over Brandon Sanderson. 

Sanderson has proclaimed himself a one-drafter, meaning his outline is so solid, he has such a great idea of where he's going with the story, that he can write it out, all 400k words, with no deviation to the plot.

Oh wow that's amazing! I can hardly get two characters to stop bickering long enough to fulfill their sex scene.

I know, right?
Except... his prose. Sanderson has also claimed to have "functional prose." This means he doesn't embellish the text or make it overly poetic but (and I am simplifying) he uses words as they are intended.

Unfortunately, for this reason, I find his books dull, no matter how efficiently he can churn them out. I am envious of his work ethic and happy for his success, considering how hard a worker he is. I'm glad there are people who love his work and I'm grateful he posts his creative writing lessons online for free (I've mentioned them before.)
But I need an unexpected turn of phrase that slaps my face. Witty prose that draws me elsewhere. Abrupt text that surprises me so much my inner critic is halted, if only for a moment.

As writers we each have our own goals and desires. I shouldn't compare Sanderson and Martin, but it happens. I shouldn't compare myself to other authors, as I so often do when I think about how long I've been working on Turesia. There is no timeline here. My first favorite author, the one who inspired me to create, was a slow-ass author. I mean, he had a good excuse, writing through the Great War and all that, but still.

I want my characters and world to outlive me. A good writer can hook you into reading about something you otherwise wouldn't, through magical manipulation of words. What's important to me is turning people onto the fantasy genre--and helping unlock the potential of those who already love fantasy--while building Silexare into a breathing, pulsing world.
If that takes me another draft or two, another year or two, then so be it.


Friday, November 4, 2016

WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR?

I really tried not to go political, I swear! There's no "advice" on whom to vote for here. Only advice on how to decide.


This is to everyone who is registered to vote but not sure if they will and/or undecided on who to vote for. Trust me, I was right beside ya. Here are two resources that helped me out. Both claim to be, and appear to be, unbiased. 

Survey Monkey - Who's winning the election?
This is a map of the USA, with demographics on where votes and anticipated votes are coming from, updated every day. On the left you can 'Select Map' to see how different groups are voting. Will this help you decide? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's interesting to compare certain groups. Huge disparities exist between the following -

White, No College vs White, Some College
Men vs Women
Married Women vs Unmarried Women

2016 Election Quiz ProCon.org
This is a no-drama, policy-centric look at where the candidates stand. You can go through answering questions and see what your favored candidate (or rival) stands for, or you can answer the questions for yourself and let it tell you which candidate you most closely align with (click "surprise me" to make sure you're answering without being swayed by the sliders on the right).

That's all I got! Vote for whomever, for whatever reason! Or don't! That's your right!

America!

PS. If you know of other unbiased resources that might help people decide, let me know in the comments and I will edit this post!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Research Record 9/16/16-10/10/16

Hi records.

Story in Progress - Turesia, Book 1

Googled -
Translate Volks
Horseshoe Crab - Their shells would make great armor for boots or pauldrons
Limpet images - Their shells would make great armor for scale mail
Warhound - This term is too closely tied to something else for me to use

Wikipedia'd -
Entropy (Arrow of Time) 
Ultimate fate of the universe
Fossil Trackway

Books Referenced -

(these are the same as last time and probably will be as long as I'm writing within Ausgan.)

"Plants in Hawaiian Culture" Beatrice Krauss
"Garden Ethnobotanical Guide to Native Hawaiian Plants" Amy Greenwell
"Hawai'i's Birds and their Habitats" H. Douglas Pratt
"Reef Fish Hawai'i" John P. Hoover

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Research Record 9/9/16 - 9/15/16

Hello, records. Here's what my writing led me to research lately.

Story in progress - Turesia, Book 1

Googled -

Define Rhythm - Was really searching for synonyms, to describe the dance of lehua setuars.
"Pyromollusk" - Awesome! It's not a thing yet! But maybe I shouldn't post it here...
Rain forest mammals - Specifically looking for the kind you can throw spears at.
Giant river otter
Define Resignations
Acacia Resin
Cast lots - Drawing straws is what I was going for. Casting lots is more about divination / cleromancy. Not sure how I confused the two.

Wikipedia'd -

Corm
Peccary - Rain forest mammals brought me here.
Gum arabic - Searching Acacia Resin brought me here. Not what I was looking for.

Books Referenced -

(these are the same as last time and probably will be as long as I'm writing within Ausgan.)

"Plants in Hawaiian Culture" Beatrice Krauss
"Garden Ethnobotanical Guide to Native Hawaiian Plants" Amy Greenwell
"Hawai'i's Birds and their Habitats" H. Douglas Pratt
"Reef Fish Hawai'i" John P. Hoover


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Research Record 9/2/16 - 9/8/16

I remember reading a Michael Crichton novel when I was younger and thinking, "These details seem really specific and accurate. How the hell does he know all this stuff?"

Later in life I learned that authors who want any sort of authenticity in their writing have to do a shit-ton of research. Later still, I experienced it myself.

the dream team
When I wrote A Sawmill's Hope, it was largely about subjects with which I'm familiar, hiking, rivers, ruins, camping, etc. The monsters I wrote were based on years of unintentional research, then some intentional research. For the alchemy in the book, mostly contained to the chapters involving Seltys, I stopped writing for months, while I journeyed to the corners of the internet to study alchemy (see this particularly useful hub).

**Actually, I just remembered a disturbing path my research took during ASH. Darke needed to know the best way to kill prey with a projectile weapon. My most useful resource was here- Mechanics of Terminal Ballistics. I'm pretty sure all the research I did on this subject boiled down to two lines of text on the second page of the book.**


So, here and now.


I want a way to keep up with what I research, and when I researched it, and why. Maybe it'll be interesting to more than just me. If it catches on, I'm going to make semi-regular posts, maybe weekly. I'm filtering out all researched topics that aren't writing related. If I'm able to make this regular, I'll probably come up with a better format. Til then -

Research Record 9/2/16 - 9/8/16

Googled - 

"Bin Laden Quotes" - Because I'm writing a character who zealously believes in mass murder as an acceptable course of action.
"Define Eulogy"
"Squid with a Shell"
"Giant endoceras"
"Drop bears" - This is a hilarious concept. Check it out.
"Define Litany"
"Ancient Hawaii"

Wikipedia'd - 

Cameroceraus - "Squid with a shell", and "Giant endoceras" led me here.
Moonshine - The tribes of Ausgan (a nation in Turesia) make their own whiskey.

Books Referenced -

"Plants in Hawaiian Culture" Beatrice Krauss
"Garden Ethnobotanical Guide to Native Hawaiian Plants" Amy Greenwell
"Hawai'i's Birds and their Habitats" H. Douglas Pratt
"Reef Fish Hawai'i" John P. Hoover


I'd be interested to know your research habits, be it for writing or not!