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You know, the more I read the first draft of SuD, the more I like it. Sure I have to lock down the close third person POV (sometimes it slides to omniscient for some reason, mostly laziness on my part) and I handed the first part draft (have to transcribe the rest from my notebooks to the computer) to a friend of mine who is an avid speculative fiction reader. If he likes what he sees then I know I’m on the right track.

But for now, I’ll leave you with some a pair of cool tunes ripped from the Samurai Champloo OST via YouTube. a great way to chill on a Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy!

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Ole

—–

The Million Way of Drum

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!

😀

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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.

Art by somniturne. Click on the image for more of this artist work.

My cousin is once again at the helm of our gaming group and he has offered to run two different campaigns (alternating between them every few weeks). The first is a return to Scion, an urban fantasy game where the characters play demi-gods while the second is an offshoot of the 3E (D&D) Freeport campaign using the Rune Quest rules (Pirates, Guns and Cosmic Horrors lurking in the shadows). In order to get a feel for the characters, he sent us a series of questions:

Swords against Sorcery: Character Questionnaire

Character’s Name:

Nicknames, If Any:

What do you look like? Eye color, hair color, ethnicity, distinguishing marks or features, clothing, jewelry, and gear…

What are your hobbies?

Who and where is your family?Where are you from?

Do you have any secrets, and what are they? Why do you keep them?

What do you believe in ? Explain.

Do you live in Freeport? For how long?

If you don’t live in Freeport, why did you travel there?

What motivation do you have to stay in Freeport?

What was your Background event?

Did any other character tied to your Background event? How did he tied his fate to yours?

What is best in Life?

And I could not but answer in the form of a short story.

—–

From an article by Jonathan Jacob Tryst, for the newspaper The Swift

I made my way through the summer night’s haze inside the Salty Sailor, made all the more redolent by the thick smoke that clung to my clothes. Dodging wenches, sweeping tankards and puking drunkards I arrived at the back of the tavern. A cubbyhole sheltered a rickety wooden table, two simple wooden chairs and the subject of my piece. I convinced my boss that the paper needed an exciting story that didn’t come from the merchant side of the street. A peek at Freeport’s underbelly and to my surprise he agreed. I pushed aside the low hanging angler’s net.

“You’re late, mate,” said the stranger from under the hood of his cowl.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“Well, let’s get on with it, shall we.”

I slid a small money pouch across the table, covered by my interlaced hands. In Freeport, few will pass the opportunity to snatch gold or silver if they see it. The bag disappeared into the folds of the stranger’s cloak. I took out a roll of parchment with a tiny ink bottle and pen, “Right then, you work for The Swift, eh?”

“One and the same, sir,” I said.

“Your money, your questions, your time, and your drinks if you’ll pay for them,” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, yeah.” I ordered ale for me, and rum for him. “Name?”

“K, just K.”

“Kay?”

“No the letter K.”

“But my readers will want to know who you are?” I protested.

He raised an eyebrow with a tiny diagonal scar that matched the light brown hair that spilled from under his hood, “Those that know me, will know who am I. Those who don’t, don’t need too.”

“K it is. Well how would you describe what you do?”

“What is it that you think I do?”

He was playing games, perhaps trying to coax a few more drinks from me, although he only sipped his rum, his grey eyes darting to and fro no doubt looking for trouble. “You are a thief.”

“Gentleman thief and explorer, thank you very much.”

“A gentleman thief? I didn’t know there were different categories to thieving?”

“Of course they are. Just like no two pair of tits are the same, so it is with thieves. You have your cut purses, your merchants, your pirates and your thugs and then you have me.”

“And what exactly sets a gentleman thief apart from the rest?” I asked.

His smile widened, “You are a writer alright! Well, I liberate riches from those who have too much too give to those who have too little,” he said pointing at himself, “and do so while leaving them with a smile. Smiling men rarely give chase, mate.”

“And besides liberating wealth, what else do you do?”

“Gamble, travel, read, and romance the loveliest women my charms, rum and gold can buy,” he poked the parchment with a gloved finger, “and you can quote me on that, in that exact same order, if you please, sir.”

“And where are you from?”

“Form where else but here. I learned all that I needed on the streets of Freeport and at the gates of the Temple of Knowledge.”

“And do you have family in the city?”

He squinted, “Now that is an awfully personal thing to ask, mate.”

“I don’t need any names, Master K, just something to give the piece some depth.”

“Well, The Swift is nothing if not thorough, eh? Not like that rag, the Captain’s Logbook, eh? Nothing but filthy gossip in those pages, wouldn’t wipe my arse with it even if they paid me.”

“Of course not, about that family, sir?”

“Oh yes. Eight brothers and sisters, Me Mum died young, Dad remarried twice and well he tried his best to provide for all us, but I have that many cousins, aunt’s and uncles too, so, oft I went, to the streets, to the Temple and then to sea.”

That was an interesting tidbit, “So you traveled beyond the Dragon’s Teeth?”

“Of course, can’t know the ways of the world unless you traveled them.”

“And how many enemies have you made along those ways?”

“Enemies…” he rested his chin on his right hand while twisting his half-empty mug with the other, “few, maybe. A rival here, a competitor there, but enemies, no, I’m not in the business of making enemies, mate.”

“Few people are, but Freeport being what it is, it’s bound to happen.”

“Indeed, but I take care of my enemies right quick, mate. That’s why I pack powder and blade. Slash keeps my enemies at bay, Hellhound shoots them down at ten paces and Kidney’s Stone silences the rest.”

“And those are?”

“My rapier, my pistol and my dagger, names are clear enough, I think.”

“Of course. But why do you stay in Freeport?”

“No better place in the World, none by far. Sure, you got your whores, your robber barons and your killers, but you got your gold, your ladies and your odds here too. Life is a gamble from the moment you’re born, mate. Don’t you forget it,” he said with a wink and a nod.

I was getting somewhere, “Have you met anyone of interest in your travels, Master K?”

“I met sailors, pirates and escape criminals, although it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the first two and the last was wrongly accused, or so he claimed. The lady on his arm was oh so very lovely, by the way!”

Another evasion, but I had just enough to fill in the blanks, “And what do you think is best in life, Master K?”

“A life well lived, mate!” he raised his tankard and downed the last drops of rum.

——

And now for some music:

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:

This is my entry for the February’s Fight Scene BlogFest.

Enjoy!

——–

The afternoon sun beat down on Hadrian’s exposed skin. The harsh light glinted of the naked steel of his sword. The roar of the crowd washed over him. He was their favorite, their champion. He ignored it all by counting the clanks as the portcullis rose before him. Each metallic bank of the hidden wheels counting down to the engagement. Each one bringing him closer to the fight.

Clank

“If you want her, you will have to buy her,” said the jealous lover.

Clank

“Five hundred talents at least, my boy.  Enough to make your dreams come true,” exclaimed his manager.

Clank

“Yes, I will leave with you, where ever you want to go my love. Beyond the mountains where the summer’s are cool and the winter’s quite,” said the woman he loved.

Clank

“Not this time. This time you will meet your match. My beast will feast on your bones,” exclaimed the exultant rival.

Clank

“Make it a fight for the ages, and your debt to me will be repaid in full,” said the petulant Duke.

Clank

All the reasons why he was here. One way or another this would be his last fight. Hadrian walked into the arena. He felt the sand between the toes of his sandals. The Duke sat high above him across the oval, surrounded by guards and war wizards. His girth a product of his opulence. He kept the bread and gave his people circuses instead.

And for the last ten years, Hadrian was the main attraction.

No wind blew this summer day. The red main of horse hair on top of the gladiator’s round helm lay limp.  Droplets of sweat came down his arms racing down highways of nicks, muscle and cuts. He reached the center of the arena and bowed to the Duke. The fat man smiled back and raised his hand in salute. The motion quieted the crowed. The Duke stood from his bejeweled chair. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and pleasure to present to you the Champion of our glorious city, Hadrian the Unconquered!”

The crowd exploded in wild adulation. Hadrian raised his arms, punching the air with steel sword and bronze shield.  “In this most glorious of days, the day our our city’s birth, Hadrian has consented to face his most dangerous foe. A great beast of the North, a Lyndwyrm!”

A hush descended upon the crowd. Once slaves battled beasts but gladiators fought other men. The Church tried to outlaw the games but they only managed to “reform” them. Gladiators rarely fought to the death and fighting animals was rare. Fighting such a dangerous beast could very well mean Hadrian’s death, and they did not want to see that. Not their beloved champion. But Hadrian bowed once again to the Duke and when he raised his head he gave the crowd a wide smile a smile that hid the fear that consumed his thoughts. Faint cries of “No” turned to screams of adulation.

The Duke smiled in turn. “Let the match begin!”

A panel slid open on the arena floor. A gigantic worm slithered from within the bowels of the arena with lighting speed. It’s beaked head raised to the heavens. It gave a ear splitting screech. Hadrian stared his at the dun colored, slime covered opponent.  “Not the brightest idea you ever had,” he said at loud.

The beast turned down toward Hadrian. It’s beak like maw split open, spitting twin streams of viscous liquid that met in mid air. The gladiator raised his shield in time to block the attack, but saw in horror as the sun came though the wholes left by the corrosive spittle.  He dropped the disintegrating shield just in time to see the wyrm descend upon him. He rolled to his left. The razor beak snapped in the air, spraying sand everywhere.

Hadrian stood with a kick stand, just to be battered by the powerful stroke of the wyrm head. The strike sent him flying against the masonry wall of the arena.  Hadrian shook his head, trying to clear his clouded vision before the wyrm’s beak snapped him in two. He danced around the wyrm, using his size to stay under the wyrm body. But his attacks had little effect. The combination of the slime and the beast thick hide turned body piercing stabs into glancing blows.  He drew thick, putrid smelling blood where the sand clung to the underside, neutralizing the ooze. Yet each strike only made the lyndwyrm angrier. Hadrian ducked and weaved careful not to slip in the trail of slime left by the wyrm. He ran until he reach the wall beneath the Duke’s seat. The wyrm charged him. At the last second Hadrian moved out of the way. The stadium shook with the impact. The beast reared it’s head, then spit anew. A pair of war wizards gesticulated wildly over a burning brazier. Columns of fire intercepted the acid raining down on the crowd.  A guard stepped forward, crossbow in hand. The Duke glanced at him. The guard stepped back but kept the crossbow at the ready.

Hadrian traced the slime path way back to the wooden door from which the wyrm entered the arena.  Once he felt wood underneath his feet, he angled his sword to catch the sunlight. The reflection shone on the wyrm’s black eyes. Enraged it dove down on Hadria. He rolled to his right. The worm struck the door, destroying it in a shower of splinters. It thrashed in sheer desperation. Hadrian crouched nearby waiting his chance. As the beast liberated it’s head, Hadrian slashed at the exposed eye. The dark eyeball exploded on contact with Hadrian blade.  The beak missed Hadrian’s head by mere inches.  Hadrian moved back and forth, taunting the creature by darting away at the edge of its damaged vision. It came down, again and again until Hadrian saw his opening. On the last attack, he rolled on his back and the jumped, holding his sword in an overhead two handed strike. This time the blade sunk deep into the wyrm’s head. The creature tried to pry his tormentor by shaking its head from side to side. Hadrian held on as much as he could. Then he slid down on the wyrm’s back.  He landed with a thud on the ground, covered in blood, sand and slime. He turned in time to see the lyndwyrm collapse in a heap a feet away.

He calmly walked to the beast, retrieved his sword and raised it defiantly. The crowd went wild. “Hadrian! Hadrian! Hadrian!”

Every bone in his body ached, but he had won. He would miss the adulation and the excitement, but not the fear.

Undefeated.

Unconquered.

And for the first time in ten long years, unchained and unafraid.

——

Well that’s my entry. I hope you like it.

I came across the Fight Scene BlogFest on Random Writings (hi Carol!) which lead me to Crimso Ink post. The goal is to write and post a fight scene of reasonable length as part of the BlogFest. Since I written about fight scenes before, I thought I give it a try.

Here are the rules:

1) In the next 2 weeks, write a blog post about the Fight Scene Blogfest to spread the word! Why? Because it wouldn’t be very fun if no one knew about it. Duh.

2) Post a link to your blog in the McLinky at the bottom of this post so we can all jump to your blog and devour your Fight Scene!

3) Tweet about it if thou hast a twitter. Remember to use the brand new hashtag: #FSBlogfest
4) Not a story writer? Find your favorite movie/tv/book fight scene. The one that had you on the edge of your seat and wincing when a blow landed.

You should go to the original post (link above the rules) to enter your blog into the McLinky widget. The BlogFest kicks off on February 1st.

Good luck!

And now another AMV from my favorite anime- Samurai Champloo, which happens to have great samurai fight scenes too!