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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! 😉

——-


Well, this was not suppose to happen, but it did.

The book launched a rebellion and won!

A bit of explaining is in order.

Originally SuD was meant to be 3rd person close. At least that was the plan. But no plan survives contact with the paper. I thought that was what I did when I wrote it under the feverish pitch of NaNo ’08. That’s what I thought.

Boy was I wrong!

Apparently my writing voice knows better, because it went all 3rd person omniscient on me. Oh, I thought I could fix it in the re-write, at least that’s what I kept writing on the margins with my Pilot G-2 0.7 (Red).

Did I mention that I was wrong about that?

Sorry, must have forgotten about that.

To recap, I WAS WRONG!

So eighty pages in I gave up and embrace what was already there. Might as well run with it, because it works.

Now the MC is a bit of the strong, silent and homicidal type. That I can fix. More emotion, more clarity, same amount of heroic bloodshed should do it.

But the weird thing is, that even with all the back and forth (between me and my writing voice)  about the POV, the more I read the story, the more I like it. Weird, ain’t it?

——-

And now for some Dash Berlin- Man on the Run:

Dwarfs, Elves,  Vampires, oh my! On a recent post (and many more after that) on the NaNo forums the subject of “cuddly” vampires (a la Twilight) came up. The poster said that he didn’t like the recent fad of turning vampires from monstrous blood suckers to tortured goth heroes. I responded that the vampires in my NaNo project were anything but “cuddly”.  If anything they are conniving, manipulative, psychopaths driven by a demonic urge to rape, murder and destroy.  As far from the romantic (in the modern sense of the word,  one which would cause the likes of  Lord Byron, Tennyson or Blake to spit if they heard what passes for romantic these days) vision of the tortured yet irresistibly attractive vampire heroically fighting the urge to drink virgin blood while dating the only virgin left in town as you can get.

This got me thinking about the endless parade of writers that from the beginning of time felt compelled to take familiar character types (the stoic Dwarf, the ethereal Elf or the Vampiric blood sucking terrors of the night) and change them in some way. Of course these archetypes are variations on earlier forms defined by modern writers such as Stoker and Tolkien. The idea behind the manipulation is to take the familiar and turn into something new (if not unique). Problem is that you can only make so many changes before you end up with something unrecognizable and lose whatever advantage the use of the original gave you in the first place.

I don’t frown on the practice as I have done a bit of archetype twisting in my day (about a month or so back). Yet it pains me when I see author after author fail so miserably at it. While the author might think that his improvements are “cool” the end results are trite, cosmetic and downright disappointing. The reader is left wondering why the author engaged in the exercise in the first place. So I came up with a few tips that will (hopefully) help my fellow nascent writers to avoid the obstacles on the road from the familiar to the memorable.

First a few questions. Honest answers to these questions will yield the best results:

  1. Why did you choose a particular archetype?
  2. Do you know/understand the history behind the archetype?
  3. Are you changing the archetype for purely arbitrary reasons,  that is, you think it would be cool to have rhinos on submarines?
  4. Or have you always hated the archetype in question and think you can do better?
  5. Is there more to the these changes than simply creating a anti-archetype? Are you doing this because you’re in a contrarian  mood?
  6. What is the role of the archetype in the story; accidental, background, or central to the narrative?
  7. Would your narrative goals be better served by abandoning the archetype all together?

Like I said before, familiarity is what drives many an author to choose a given archetype. This is especially true of modern fantasy and science fiction books, in all their variations. Both the author and the reader know the archetype and feel comfortable with it.  No need to create an entire elven language (unless you’re Tolkien) or describe how a vampire’s gaze overwhelms it’s victims senses. Just drop the dwarfs down the nearest mine shaft and concentrate on writing that exciting battle scene where the stalwart defenders of the underground realm battle the incoming goblinoid hordes. But we already read Lord of the Rings (OK, I saw the movies, tried reading the Hobbit and fell asleep on the their page)  so we want something more than the fall of  Moria. So the author introduces a few changes into the dwarf archetype. His dwarfs are not the dour hammer swingers of Tolkien’s lore but singing sensations to rival he likes of Elvis (Costello or Crespo). The attacking goblins go from an unorganized rabble to a disciplined army that fights for duty and honor.

But in order for these changes to stick an understanding of the archetypes in question is a must. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of western European mythology, but understanding the history behind the myth will help you preserve enough of the archetype so that it remains recognizable to the reader.

Questions 3-5 deal with the particular reasons for the changes in a given archetype. Many a writer makes cosmetic changes based on what their DMs allowed on the gaming table while playing D&D. They go for what they think would be “cool”.  But just reversing the archetype role or characteristics is not good enough. Doing things just to be contrarian or different is  a waste of time. Might as well slap a goatee on the character’s chin and call it a day.

Which brings us to question #6, the role of the archetype in your story. Cosmetic changes are great, if you are coding a video game. A player will notice something out of the ordinary, gawk at it for a second or two and be on his way to kill the boss monster. Same thing in your book if its something that lies at the bottom of page 267 where a secondary character explains why the main character should never go to beyond the Impassable Peaks of Doom (which we know that the MC will, in fact pass with some difficulty). Things change as the archetype(s) inch their way to center stage. Without a solid explanation the reader is apt to question why is the handsome yet ravenous vampire zipping from frozen packets of goat’s blood instead of dinning on warm blood of his seventeen year old date with the body of a SI swimsuit edition cover girl. Solid answers to questions 1-5 will (hopefully) prevent the local bookstore from shipping back boxes of your latest offering to the publisher.  You need reasons why the character does not fit the mold, answers that go beyond “Well I think vampires are seriously misunderstood creatures”. These reasons should have a direct connection to the story so that it lends depth to the character and through him to the narrative.

Last but not least, could you do better without relying on the archetype? Creating a new alien race that does not read like a Vulcan on steroids is hard, yet if the changes are drastic enough as to erase the fundamentals of an archetype, I suggest you abandon it all together. Go with something else. Something that fits your vision and the needs of the story. A knight that uses a gun is not really a knight, he is a gunfighter. Go with that instead.

I hope that the above helps you in some way. I can’t wait to read how the goblins barely won the battle against the singing dwarfs yet earned their respect by their honorable behavior in battle.

Until then….