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Do you get writing ideas from your dreams?

I sometimes do. Vivid ideas that seem to scream “WRITE ME DAMN IT, WRITE ME!”

Had one this morning.

FBI Team in a Urban Fantasy world with no masquerade (fantastic elements are out in the open).

Two MCs- Agents Andrew Holt and Terrence Raedner.

Holt is an empath (actually he is a telepath but he suppresses that aspect of his powers). he suffers from extreme color blindness. He literally sees the world in black and white, except for those colors that highlight emotions on objects or persons.  His mind processes vivid emotional input as dashes of color, such as scarlet lips of the woman he is chatting up at the bar (she is aroused) or sickly green of a bed occupied by a couple cheating on their respective spouses. Due to his condition (and the mechanics of telepathy) he is withdrawn and careful.

Raedner is a telekinetic. He can manipulate objects large or small from a distance, fire off any loose items at incredible speeds, project powerful TK fields for protection and levitate. He can also enhance his strength and resilience through the use of his TK powers.  Outgoing and playful but with a keen mind for esoteric details and encyclopedic reservoir of  seemingly useless facts.

Da chief- Andrew Bolton. Baddass normal who carries his great-grandfather Colt Single Action Revolver, blessed by a member of the Ghost Dance. It can harm most fantastic or supernatural creatures with a corporeal body. He has seen it all, from ravenous packs of vampires to Centaur serial rapist in his 15 year career in law enforcement.

The Harpy- Special Agent Vanessa Mills. Exactly what it says on her dossier.  First non-human graduate from Quantico with high scores and a chip on her shoulder. Appears completely human, but her suits are tailored to accommodate her transformation. Her shirts and suits have slits in the back for her wings, she wears loose trousers that will accommodate the feathering, prefers heels that will slip out the moment her feet turn to clawed talons and the front of her shirts are padded for modesty, since she can’t  wear a bra. Powers include imitation of any sound heard, enhanced strength/flight (in harpy form) and can stun/disable with her voice. Works twice as hard as her male counterparts due to fantastic racism/sexism.

Sparks- Special Agent Jenny Carter Lewis. Unit cyborg and heavy weapons expert/sniper. Can interface with all kinds of tech in the field and packs a Denel NTW-20 (as in 20mm) anti-materiel rifle to hunt down the big game, such as rampaging dinos in downtown L.A. or an angry troll in the middle of a anti-fan demonstration (short for anti-fantastic). Carter is jovial otaku of all things electronic and guns, with an emphasis on gaming, working out and big guns. Former member of Marine Recon Teams and Cybercom. Studying to get his Juris Doctor and is big on privacy and rules of engagement.

That’s all I got for now. Who knows if this brainstorming, early morning dreaming will lead anywhere.

 

 

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You know that:

Sequels are never as good as the first installment.

Second acts are just place holders.

You can’t recreate the magic of a first impression.

All of these things are true, most of the time.

But not always….

This is the exception that proves the rule.

The first book of the series (Mistborn) felt like a rehash of Sanderson’s debut novel, with only enough twists to keep it interesting but not enough to make it stand out.

This book is nothing like that. The characters are far more interesting, the twists are more interesting, the stakes are even higher.

For the first time in a long time I stayed all night to finish the book, devouring page after page just to see what happened next.

I found the relationship between the principal characters, Vin and Elend is well done, believable and, dare I say it, endearing. Above all else you want these two to succeed, not simply at their individual goals but as a couple. And their character growth is well done, eschewing the typical power curve found in most fantasy stories and instead focusing on personal growth.

I was disappointed somewhat about something that happened with Elend, but I won’t spoil it for you and it is not enough to derail my enjoyment of the story.

Suffice it to say that I have the third installment in hand and will read it as soon as I can and this time I will do it on a Friday night so as to be able to read until Saturday morning! 😀

——-

And now some music by Armin van Buuren which fits Vin and Elend perfectly- Going Wrong:

Harry Dresden, private investigator and the only wizard in the Chicagoland phone book.

He has battled the Queen’s of Faerie, Fallen Angels, Demons, Necromancers, and Vampires but when an old lover returns with some surprising news, things are about to change.

Hence the title.

Harry finds out on the fist page of the book that: a) he has a daughter, and b) that the Vampires of the Red Court want to sacrifice her the way of the old Mayan Gods.

Harry ain’t having any of it.

Now this book follows the conventions of the series: Client in Trouble, Harry figuring out the bad guys plans while dodging their attempts to kill him (and/or his client), final battle to stop a dread ritual. But this time Harry allies have been reduced by clever diplomacy from the Red Court and because it is her daughter life on the line, the stakes are higher than ever. The typical Dresden humor is there, as are the interfering fay, the tired gumshoe and the practical magic.

But the tension is cranked up to eleven when the odds get stacked to elebenty.  What makes this story stand out among the galaxy of exceptional Dresden stories that precede it is the decisions that Harry has to make, decisions that he has avoided or dodged until now.

Harry and his world won’t be the same.

I like the character’s growth in this one and how the story continues to expand beyond the borders of Chicago. To those who feel comfortable about the formulaic format of the series might find this expansion uncomfortable but I found it refreshing. And we learn more about Harry family both past and future in this story as well, thus deepening Harry as a character.

And the ending, well, I can tell you that I didn’t see that one coming, that’s for damn sure.

One word of warning, if you haven’t read any of the previous books in The Dresden Files series, don’t try to read this one. The first few books stood alone, but as the series has grown, so has the interwoven plot lines.  You won’t know who two-thirds of the characters are without having read the past volumes. So go ahead, pick them up and read them.

If you’re not a fan of Urban Fantasy, you will be after you read The Dresden Files.

I guarantee it.

Oh and one more thing, I want a dog like Mouse! 😉

——-

First, the kitty, because I know that Kelly likes them (and is owned by one).

Second, the reasons why I bought Three Days to Dead:

  1. I heard about it on Kelly’s Blog and decided to support a fellow writer,
  2. Wanted to expand my U/F scope beyond The Dresden Files.
  3. It had an interesting premise

Third, the review.

First and foremost, it is an fast and furious ride which is over before you can even blink. From the moment you say GO! it doesn’t stop, it even barely slows down. The characters are engaging, in fact, the author manages to create a well balanced female lead that is tough yet vulnerable without being either bitchy or whiny.  You feel for Evangeline Stone from the get go and those feelings are enhanced by what she has gone through. Not only that, the romantic subplot meshes seamlessly with the main story instead of hobbling it.

And special mention goes to the tact and skill in handling a particular scene. In the hands of another author it would have either a) averted all together, or b) given way to much information. Instead we get just enough to imagine the horrors alluded too without needing to vomit afterward.

The downside(s)?

The end was a bit too quick for me, I almost missed it and it was too neatly wrapped up, which smelled of deux machina and so did the coincidences (which are lamp shaded in the books several times). Also, the background seems a bit generic, the variations on archetypes were interesting (specially the goblins) but not enough to make them stand out from the norm. But no worries, no major info dumping occurs either, so the action flows without any major interruptions.

One last thing, which is a critique of the book, but not of its content.

The cover.

You can read my full argument against cliche covers (with bullet points) if you fallow the link above, but suffice it to say that had I know specifically looked for it, I would probably would never had bought this book just by looking at the cover. It’s interesting on its own, but fails to stand out among the rests of the offerings in the shelf. I know that as a first time author, Ms, Meding doesn’t have a lot of control over such things, but this book deserves better.

Overall, it is a good solid piece of Urban Fantasy, well crafted and above all else, entertaining. Well worth the money. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Always count on a lolcat to cheer you up.

Not!

Anyway, the comments from the second Alpha are in, and he liked it. Yay! Now it’s time to revisise and type it all up. In fact I started reading the raw draft the other day and I could not stop reading. Go figure. Am I good or what?

Or what?

Oh never mind. Well, at least the story is good enough that I don’t feel like flinging it to the nearest trashcan, so that’s a plus. So, now I have to schedule my time around working on book 2, restarting book 3 and querying book 1.

Joy!

😀

—-

I used this song to set up the mood in the first chapter of the book. Too bad it will have to remove it, because I don’t have the money to pay for the rights to it and I doubt a publisher would take a risk in paying for said rights in a book by an unknown author. Still, it fits so here it is: Living on the Edge-Aerosmith.

Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson, whose writing credits include Elantris, is the first book in the eponymous  epic fantasy/dark fantasy trilogy.

After reading it a single term comes to mind: Mirror Image. Specifically a mirror image to his first novel, Elantris. Both are set in cities full of despair ruled by barbarous leaders who care little or nothing for those who they lord over, the streets are covered in grime (whether liken or ash) and all around you the broken remnants of once proud humanity huddle in the corners waiting to die. But while Elantris focuses on the people on top (noblemen and  priests) Mistborn is told from the point of view of slaves, thieves and street urchins.

Both feature a well thought out magical system which is woven into the the plot line, so much so that Sanderson has become the master at turning his extensive world building into an key elements in his plots. Figuring how Allomancy (the use of certain allows and metals which are consumed in order to deploy certain magical powers) works is as crucial to Mistborn as figuring out how the Elantrians lost their power in Elantris. Just like his first book, Mistborn is choke full of interesting characters, especially strong female leads (in an interesting reversal, the main female character in Elantris doesn’t have any powers while her male counterpart does, in Mistborn it is the female lead, by the name of Vin who has powers that surpass all others). It also starts a bit slow only to pick up speed half way through the storyline and rush to the end (with a bit of deux machina thrown in at the last second) and the villain(s) doesn’t get as much development as they do in Elantris. Religion is also a noticeable element in the story, but not as crucial as it is in the first book.

Following the mirror image metaphor, Mistborn feels like a stand alone book (even though it is the first of a trilogy) while the ending of Elantris (which according to Word of God is a stand alone tome) feels like the precursor to a much larger story. That doesn’t make Mistborn a bad book, on the contrary, the twists are interesting, the characters are compelling and if you liked Elantris, then Mistborn is a must.

Well of Ascension and Hero of Ages are on my to buy/read list.

I didn’t know where to post this, if in my regular writing blog or in my sci-fi one, since my current WIP is science fiction, but it is really about writing, so I decided to to split the difference I post it here.

This current WIP is by far the most ambitious I tackled: epic in scope, with lots and lots of characters, political intrigue, detailed world building and multiple POVs. So it should not come as a surprise to anyone that it has been sloooooow going. Lately when I write, if I write at all, I end up writing something that in my gut feels wrong. Maybe it’s the placing withing the plot, or I’m using the wrong POV character, or maybe I started the scene in the wrong place. Feels more like a shore than a joy.

Yet I keep coming back.

Can’t help it.

Cross out entire pages, write some notes to sort myself out and start all over again.

And then something happened yesterday and today. I started the next scene and it felt right. The action flowed, the dialogue was snappy and the story moved forward.

It felt good, really good.

Sure, I’ll have to rip it apart in the re-write, but damn it felt good to be a writer. The feeling of being in the “zone”, pen fluttering wildly, thoughts flowing freely, the narrative coming together.

I missed that feeling.

What will happen tomorrow, who knows and I don’t know how long it will last, but hey, today was a good day to be a writer.

—–

It happens to all of us (writers that is), our minds overload with ideas, jamming our train of thought and skewing our writing course.

Which means, that sometimes you just have to stop, download your brain and keep going.

Yes, download, as in downloading files from/to a computer or server.

Happened to me last week. I was gong through a bit of writer’s block. No, this time around I wasn’t bullying my characters into doing something they didn’t want to do. Instead a set of ideas bubbled up from the ether and into conscious foreground. A figure stood at the mouth of a dark alley, fedora shielding him from the pouring rain and at my feet laid a dead body. Everything was in black and white except for the bright red stain of blood in the corpse’s chest.

I looked at the figure and he said “My name is John Malone, Psychic Detective.”

How can you say no to a guy with a smoking automatic on one hand?

I sure wasn’t going to try.

So the downloading began.

How exactly did I do that? Did I invent a neural interface so that my thoughts would be converted to Ones and Zeroes and travel from my squishy brain to the desktop’s hard drive.

Of course not.

Pen and paper. Lists, time-lines, notes. That’s what I’m talking about. Now, I am not to just start writing the moment an idea seizes me. I don’t keep a notebook under my pillow. I let my thoughts marinate in the deep fryer of my mind for awhile. Sometimes they disintegrate in the slop or retreat back to the ether, but this character just wouldn’t go away.

“My name is John Malone, Psychic Detective.”

Notes, yes notes:

Setting: Grant City, U.S.A. Midwestern City, Alternate Earth, 1920s-1930s.The Great War lasted until 1920 and ended with the occupation of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Anatolia (modern day Turkey). Revolution spreads throughout the world. European Empires bankrupt. Prohibition becomes the law of the land, gangland violence and racial tensions are on the rise.

Main Character: John Malone-Psychic Detective. Psychic powers are all variations of empathy. Also suffers from an extreme form of colorblindness.

Influences: Comic Books, Crime Stories, Early 20th American History, Film Noir, The Dresden Files

Genres: Diesel Punk, Short Story, Alternate History, Science-Fiction, Comic Books (Watchmen and Sin City).

And so on. By writing it down I can clear my mind and refocus on my current WIP. I can also tell if it’s just a straight shot in the dark or something I can work with at some later time. Think of it as a bit of mental (not as in crazy mind you, although…) Spring Cleaning.

Rubbish out, clean air and useful thought patterns in.

At least I hope so. 😉

—–

Final reminder that the “Behind the Headlines” Blogfest kicks off tomorrow, April 5. Can’t wait to read what you wrote.

—–

And now for some music by Chicane-Saltwater:

This is the first  post in the Behind the Scenes series. Each one is a sneak peak behind the world building mechanics of SuD.

All posts marked (WB) refer to world building.

———

What is the Beyond?

The answers to this question are many, and like all answers to the most fundamental questions of existence they are all incomplete and therefore useless. Their only purpose serves to illustrate the thinking of those who give them and she very little light over the subject itself. I can only say that all the things that lie in the Shadows of Men and Things come from the Beyond.

The Beyond is a catchall term for the source of all supernatural things in our world. Depending on who you ask it can be an alternate reality, different dimension, a universe outside our own, Dreamland, Heaven, Hell, Hades,Valhalla, Sheol,etc.  All those places that lie beyond our knowledge or understanding, and where supernatural things dwell.  Spirits or Demons dwell in the Beyond and project themselves into our world (sometimes referred as the Mortal Realm). The stronger the being the more it can impose its will on our world and bend or break the rules, while weaker forms must conform to existing archetypes and labor under the limitations imposed by them.

From a world building point of view, a undefined space for the supernatural allows for all myths to be true thus giving me the ability to have different religious and philosophical traditions  (both real and imagined) co-exist harmoniously.  The key is keeping the different interpretations straight, accurate (up to a point, this is not a post-graduate  theological/philosophy text). The conflicts arise not from the very nature of the supernatural, but of how different individuals, groups and cultures  see it. Another thing to keep in mind is that regardless of their respective mythological sources, the rules under which these entities operate in the Mortal Realm must have some consistency, otherwise it reads off like a cheap excuse for not doing the work.

Well, that covers the concept of the Beyond.

Do you prefer a mix and match of things or do you try to focus on a specific mythos (original, derived or real world)?

——-

A week ago I met a friend of mine for coffee. We talked about life, politics and eventually, writing. I explained the premise of SuD and how it was based on multiple philosophical, religious and cultural references from Enoch to Cervantes. When we got to the part of the “vampires” he stopped me. “Demonkin? Interesting stuff with the Hunger, but why not call them Nephilim?”

And you know what? He had point.

I called them vampires for a lack of a better term, even though they did not fit the mold (deconstruction or not). These guys are not vamps. Leeches of human society, yes, but not vamps. So I went back over the research material (in the web, yes I know) and I found the following:

1It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful.

2And when the angels, (3) the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.

10Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.

11And the women conceiving brought forth giants, (7)

12Whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labor of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them;

13When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them;

14And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, (8) and to drink their blood.

Okay, so that last bit is vampiric. But they are a) sons and daughters of fallen angels (demons), b) grew to great stature (size, power, wealth), c)born out of lust, d) devourer and destroyer of all things upon the Earth.

Yep, why twist an existing archetype beyond recognition (shame on me for breaking one of my own rules) when another exits that fits even better with the themes in the book?

Which goes too show you, oh gentle reader, that a little perspective is a good thing. Writing is a solitary process, but finding someone you trust to take a peek can and does help. It may be just a name change, but it’s the difference between an awkward term that doesn’t fit and one that embraces the theme(s) central to the narrative.

As that same friend was fond of telling me, “Life is in the details. Because life is made of little details.”

And now for some music: