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Another month, another Blog Chain. Since this is one has a Masquerade theme to it. I though it would be best if I hosted here. This short serves as a prequel of sorts to the main SuD storyline. Enjoy.

The rules of the Blog Chain are as follows:

Hello everyone,

A new month is about to start and I am taking on the role of blog chain host for the first time. I’ll be stealing shamelessly from my predecessor hosts so I hope you’ll give me a pass for the blatant plagiarism in this post.

This month’s Halloween inspired prompt is Masquerade.

I call it a prompt because I don’t want to limit the directions you bloggers might choose to take it. You can apply it (masks, costuming, sleights of hand, etc.) to a scene involving a character, write a short story using it, apply it to yourself as a writer, whatever. Just have fun with it!

If you are interested in participating this month, scroll down to the reply box and enter your blog’s address so I can add you to the list!

Each participant posts when his number is up. The first one will go October 1st.

Even if the blog chain has started, you can still be added to the end of the list until the month is over.

When it’s your turn, you have two days to publish the direct link to your blog post in this thread. I will remind you when it is your turn two times (after your predecessor posts and, ideally, 24 hours before your deadline both here and by PM). If you are unable to publish your entry within two days, the chain will move along to the next person. You will be moved to the end of the chain if you request it (here or by a quick PM to me), deleted if you do not.

Your post must include the list of the blog chain’s participants with the link to each blog.

The aim of a blog chain is twofold:

a) Have fun
b) Discover new blogs
This means that a true chain blogger reads and comments on the entry of the other participants.

Finally, two friendly pieces of advice:

a) Visit this thread regularly or use the subscription feature to make sure you don’t miss your turn.
b) Try to keep your post under 1,000 words. Longer post tend to receive less attention.

——
The three brothers walked down the narrow streets of London’s old city. If any of the passersby cared to take a closer look at them, they would have noticed the striking similarities among the three under their plumed, wide brim hats. The walked among the crowd, dodging vendors, horses and general effluvia that filled the streets.

“Are you sure that are guest are going to show up, Javier?” said the triplet walking on the right.

“Yes, Julian, they will come. The stench of Puritanism will drive the Lords and Ladies to decadence like flies to honey. A perfect introduction to London society. I even convinced Bloodworth to show up,” said Javier, taking the lead.

“But the political risks, Javier. The Mayor is a Republican, while the Lords are in King Charles’ camp,” said Johan on the left.

“Watch yer heads!” screamed a woman from above. The trio dodge a stream of sludge dumped from a second story window.

“The King is losing power Johan. This is an Empire of merchants, not landed aristocrats. From the African slave trade to the sugarcane plantations of the West Indies, new colonies in the Americas and just look  how the Dutch are pushing for more control of the trade routes. Kings are reaching their twilight and burghers are taking over.  Coin equals power and that is nowhere more true than here in London,” said Javier with a triumphant smile.

“Brother, could I have some coin?” asked Johan, looking in the direction of a nearby alley. Johan glanced in that direction and saw a young mother covered in grime, begging for scraps along with her two children. The older, a girl, was not more than five.

“We don’t have time for that. Maybe later,” said Javier.

“But…”

“But nothing. Control, Johan. Control!” said a stern faced Javier.

“Easy for you to say,” said Julian, covering his mouth witha perfumed handkerchief as they turned the corner near the banks of the Thames.

Carriages made their way deep into the Old City. They stopped in front of a series of shops. Groups darted from the carriages, their faces covered in elaborate feathered carnival masks. Down rickety stairs they went, into a ancient hollowed space that looked like an old roman theater, deep in the bowels of the City once known as Londinium.  There music played and couples, all wearing pearl white mask with dashes of intrepid colors dance the night away in the brightly lid center, while others gossip in the darkened corners away from the candlelight.

Javier wondered about the edges. He stopped to talk to a guest here, laughed at a joke there, winked at a lady that passed by. Unlike his guest, he only wore a dark half-mask around the eyes.  From the corner of his eye he saw his brother Johan smacking his lips. He noticed him earlier dragging one of the servant boys away. He also lost sight of Julian.

He tapped a merchant on the shoulder, “Good sir, have you seen my brother?”

The man swayed under the influence of wine, “He is wearing the fanged mask, right? Julian, yes, I saw him leave with the baker’s daughter. Pretty thing.”

“Thank you.”

He left the party through the kitchens. The streets were empty at this hour. He reached the bakery on Pudding Lane. He saw a flicker of candle light through a upstairs window. The backdoor was ajar. Javier slipped inside. He followed the familiar scent of blood. Inside the baker daughter’s bedroom he found what he expected. Johan, his features feral standing over the torn body of  the woman in question.

“You couldn’t resist, could you brother.”

“When the Hunger calls, one answers. You know that,” said Julian. He pulled a change of clothes from a bag. “I leave the rest up to you, dear brother. Time for you to indulge as well.”

Julian left Javier alone in the room with the mangled remains. The sight of a single burning candle caught his eye. The way the flame flickered and danced. The merging of the colors blue, red, yellow and white.

Fire.

His heart beat faster.

Yes, fire. To cleanse my brother’s sins. To burn away the stench of this place. To feed my soul.

He found a nearby lamp and poured the contents on the bed. The thick oil mingled with the congealing blood. Then came the long candle. With a flick of his wrist it flew until it landed on the oil soaked bed sheets, setting them alight.  He watched, entranced by the growing flames. Then he walked away, with careful steps, afraid to give in to the thrill that coursed though his veins. The old blood, the blood of the Fallen calling out to him.

The bakery burned behind him. Flames leapt to nearby buildings.

Cries of alarm filled the air.

He smiled while the City of London burned.

In the Year of Our Lord, 1666.
——-

Hope you enyoyed it and  sorry for the delay

Here is the running list of the October Blog Chain participants:

Auburn Assassin http://clairegillian.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
Hillary Jacques http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com and direct link to her post
Aimee Laine www.aimeelaine.com/writing/blog and direct link to her post
Ralph Pines https://thewonderingswordsman.wordpress.com/
Veinglory http://erecsite.blogspot.com/
Laffarsmith http://www.craftingfiction.com
PASeaholtz http://paseasholtz.com/
Madelein.Eirwen http://madeleineirwen.blogspot.com/
Amy Doodle www.mindovermullis.com
Aheila http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/ (early second half)
CScottMorris CScottMorrisBooks.com
Orion_mk3 http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/
Dolores Haze http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/
FreshHell http://freshhell.wordpress.com
IrishAnnie http://superpenpower.blogspot.com/
Lilain http://www.abigailschmidt.blogspot.com/
Semmie http://semmie.wordpress.com (near end)

——-

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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:

Glass two-thirds full or cracked and leaking the last drop of water in the middle of a desert.

The two sides of the Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism or as TV Tropes puts it:

  • In a heavily idealistic series, Humans Are Good. The starry-eyed pacifist will be able to settle wars, get people to understand each other, or destroy the Big Bad in a glowing ball of goodness entirely by accident. The cynic, on the other hand, is often depicted as a primitive who would just make matters worse, or a Knight Templar General Ripper advocating Nuke Em All as a solution to every problem without even stopping to ask any questions at all.
  • In a heavily cynical series, Humans Are Bastards. The starry-eyed pacifist is cannon fodder at best, someone who needs protection from the people who know how the world really works, or at worst a naive fool who puts everyone else in danger through his/her reckless naïveté, or who is actively working for the bad guys under the deluded impression that they’re doing the right thing and working for peace. The cynic, on the other hand, is the person who knows how the world works, the smart, street-savvy tough guy who knows that the only way to solve some problems is to beat them into submission.

Now life doesn’t work that way, at least for most of us anyway. We are always looking for a happy medium, a golden mean if you will (beware of the inherent fallacy within), but as authors we need to set the tone early in the work and go from there.

That doesn’t mean that stories full of pathos can’t have their funny moments. Nothing says “the Hero is one cool mother” like having him throw a quick one liner that tickles the readers funny bone in the middle of a ambush. Want to ground a lighthearted scene? Try interrupting it with a phone call announcing the death of a character’s close relative. The best stories play the slide like a fiddle, but in the end they remain firmly rooted in their starting position.

Of course one could skew the mood by starting on one end of the scale and ending on the other. Ending your buddy comedy with a funeral is a good way to show that life is transitory and you must live for the moment. The heroes getting the girl/peace in our time after a fight to the death to save all creation means that the characters (and by extension the readers) have earned their happy ending.

The key is to play it by ear without falling from either end of the spectrum. Too much sugar or too much blood will spoil anyone’s appetite unless they area a saccharine vampire.

If that’s the case run, run for your lives!

And now for some music:

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….