Download my new book free!

Phew! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

My new book, Painted, first of The Forever Series, has been released into the wilds. In fact, I’m giving the ebook away for free on my new website.

Image

http://theForeverSeries.com

I’ll put up the paperback as soon as it arrives and I have the chance to verify the lack of printing errors.

I also have a twitter feed and a facebook page.

what i’ve been working on

Hey!

So you’ve probably noticed that posts have become few and far between. Mostly, this is because I’ve spent the last year or two feeling as though I have everything to learn and nothing to teach.

In lieu of my once-common craft essays, I thought I’d post the first scene of my latest novella, Painted, which I hope to completely finish before November.

Chapter 1

Wyrren had wondered, from time to time, if things would have turned out differently if she’d been able to smile at Sebastian. But she couldn’t, and they hadn’t, and now Wyrren stood at her stepsister’s bedroom window to watch the man she loved offer another woman his arm.

The formal greetings took place on the front steps of Sebastian’s home, the Palacia del Torlo, on a cool, sunny spring afternoon. Trees laden with violet and pink buds swayed in the wind, casting lacy shadows on the drive. Lady Kartania Reise dressed in white and wore her dark hair loose. Her people, a host of women in armor stood to one side, his elite bodyguard the other. Carriages pulled away to unload the guest’s luggage. Sebastian leaned close to Kartania, a kiss or a quiet word, Wyrren couldn’t tell which.

They filtered into the palacia; two of Sebastian’s bodyguard, then Sebastian and Kartania, splendid and regal walking arm in arm. The rest followed after, finishing with a man in a long green coat. The tall palacia doors closed slowly, but with a sense of finality.

Wyrren stared at the empty front steps for several minutes more, leaned on the wall with her forehead against the window frame. She shut her eyes, listened to the sound of her breathing and the trees below shifting with the wind.

It didn’t matter anymore.

‘painted’ — draft two complete!

And my second draft of ‘Painted’ is finished!

‘Painted’ is the first of my new project, The Forever Series, a series of novellas about magic, monsters, near-infinite worlds, cursed immortals, and an epic love story. When it’s finished, it’ll be released as a free ebook online. (The sequels we’ll be selling for a dollar apiece.)

We’ve got work to do still, but in the meantime, here’s my work-in-progress painting for the cover.

round of words signup

A round of words in 80 days: A writing event where you set your own goals.

It starts tomorrow, so I’m volunteering last minute. I crashed on NaNoWriMo 2010, and since this event is a little more forgiving, I’m back at it.

So, my goal for the next eighty days is this: 250 words per day or more, five days a week.

It’s not much, so I won’t drive myself crazy on the days it just won’t come, and I get days off. And, if I get inspired, I can make much better progress.

Wish me luck!

the hero’s journey – refusal of the call

Be not afraid of greatness:
Some are born great,
Some achieve greatness
And some have greatness thrust upon them.
-William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


The third ‘step’ of the anatomy of plot: Refusal of the Call.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. The Supreme Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the ‘Elixir’

The refusal of the call. The reluctant hero. The glance back. The lingering doubt that leaves a peculiar letter sitting on the kitchen counter.

This is an odd step in the list because it can be easily omitted. It can be a sentence, a paragraph, two chapters. Or it can last most of the story. (As said, Campbell’s ‘list’ is squishy.) The reason, though, that this is an important step and belongs in the list with the rest is that we expect people to be reluctant to pursue herculean tasks. It humanizes them, for one, and it puts the road ahead in better perspective. People who charge up mountains make the mountains look small.

Tolkien used the Refusal of the Call in both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins wanted nothing to do with this mad ‘adventure’ that Gandalf had invaded his home with until the dwarves started wondering if Bilbo was too pathetic to do the job (and his regrets echoed for a long while after when things got hard). Later on, Frodo tried to make Gandalf take the ring from him– surely, such a great wizard would be able to handle such a quest better than he.

On the other hand, in George Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’, Jon Snow recruits himself for his quest, as part of the Night’s Watch. He even has to talk his family into letting him leave. Yet there is still a Refusal in his story line– first as he rides North with the watch, and wonders what the hell he’s doing. Then later his refusal is personified not as an escape home, but by clinging to the attitudes he was raised with through his training. Not all refusals directly counter the call to adventure.

Omitting the Refusal of the Call colors the tone of the story. Take ‘The Princess Bride’, for instance. The eagerness of Westley to rescue Buttercup would not be denied. He would not falter. He would not change his mind. Death itself can not stop him– all it can do is delay him for awhile.

Incidentally, The Princess Bride is a strange story that doesn’t follow the pattern exactly. No mentor, no refusal of the call, no First Threshold. The Call to Adventure is behind the scenes; there must be a call to adventure, because Westley is not with Buttercup. This in itself is a fundamental flaw in the universe, and there is no more to be said on the matter. It is as if the story begins halfway through the formula. This is a good example of a very good story that breaks and stretches out Campbell’s theory, yet still has identifiable parts to it.

After I visit each of the twelve points, I’m going to go through several stories to analyze how their plots are structured. So far this list includes The Princess Bride, A Game of Thrones, and The Hobbit– something that runs with the formula well (The Hobbit), something that breaks and stretches the formula (The Princess Bride), and something amazingly complicated (A Game of Thrones). If anyone has any suggestions about a good foil, feel free to make suggestions.

Next up: Meeting the Mentor.

back on my feet

Hello Internet! … Yep. It’s been a while. What have I been up to?

Well, I fell behind NaNoWriMo, crashed and burned for the first time. It seems that writing a seven main character novel, starting at the twisted middle without a firm outline, and pressing yourself to a sprint and a marathon at the same time is stupid. Limits, I have found them.

Ever since then, I’ve not been able to write on my novel. Not one pained word, no matter how I talked myself up.

So in the three months I’ve been gone, here’s what’s happened instead:

  • My contract job didn’t call me back, and I’ve been living on carefully counted pennies and applying to work since. The silence I’ve been getting in response is really depressing.
  • I’ve been working on my chat/roleplay epic saga daily with a good writing buddy of mine. As if it were a full time job. It’s not real writing in that the prose is horrible, the viewpoint unsteady, the plot without classic novel structure, but my partner has a very different style than mine, and he’s naturally very good at action, moving plot forward, hurting the characters, and introducing new elements to a story. The story itself will never see the light of day, really, but I like to think it is teaching me something.
  • I’ve begun modeling in 3d again, earnestly working on a character from said roleplay saga. (Facial analysis, body reference sheet, modeling turn-around). I mean to complete him– texture maps of all kinds, and then rigged for animation.
  • I watched a few movies. I re-read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night. I noticed that Shakespeare always has at least two witty ‘banter’ characters as crowd-pleasers in each play, or at least, he does in his comedies.

And then today I was reading a book called ‘The Writer’s Journey: mythic structure for storytellers & screenwriters’, and something clicked on in my head. A flip of a switch, the music in the background, the rhythm of a galloping horse whilst I drove home through the rain. The whole of my steampunk novel, as a series of structured elements. The ‘journey formula’ this book describes appears, naturally, unintentionally, in my novel. And I can identify where I’m stuck, and what it must lead to to get to the next step.

I’m about ready to start writing again. I think that I know what needs to be done.

a little bit victorian

I received this morning a thoughtful critique on the prologue of ‘The Artificer’s Angels’, my steampunk novel. The gentleman in question had several good things to point out: a contradictory description, some wayward sentences breaking the flow, and imagery problems, all of which I was very grateful for.

But at the end he wrote this:

I also wonder if you are trying to emulate Victorian-style prose. If so, I think you might want to reconsider. The reason is that Victorian prose is really difficult for modern Americans to slog through, unless they are reading a book that was actually written in the Victorian era – then they recognize that they have no choice. The only other time I believe American readers would tolerate flowery prose and long, long sentences is if the writer were depicting the action from the first-person POV of a Victorian.

Now, I understand that this is an opinion, and should be weighed like all critiques. But it’s also a projectory opinion. “Other people won’t like it”, and that bothers me, especially since he said nothing at all whether he thought it distracting.

I’m not even a particularly flowery writer.

Ironically, a few minutes later I read a blog post by Mister Dave Kellet, writer and artist of the Sheldon webcomic. It included this:

One of my favorite things that Victorian writers figured out was how the inclusion of scraps of letters, telegraphs, and diary entries within their larger novels could help enhance a story and fill out a world.

Call me crazy, but I wonder if I would rather err on the side of more Victorian. Unrelated short steampunk stories between parts of the novel. Nano-fiction sprinkled here and there, to go with my pen-and-ink illustrations, my omniscient camera, and my insistence on spelling out titles like ‘Mister’. I’d not considered adding more material to flesh out the setting prior, but now I find the thought exciting.

Am I just being contrary? How does that sound, slogging modern American readers?